Wednesday, December 11, 2019

More Ways to Wear the Veil

I still haven't managed to get photographs taken of myself in my gray wool veil, but it occurs to me that I have a quantity of white linen that I'm highly unlikely to use for the bathrobe I originally planned to make out of it.  

It would be simple to make a wimple and a band to pin around my head.  Each of these items would open different possible looks for wearing the veil.  At the rate I'm going, I could easily make more items before my husband has time to help me with the photos.  The wimple could serve as my item for the "Re-Use" category in next year's HSM, which makes the idea of crafting a new one more attractive.

Friday, November 29, 2019

A New Necklace for the Völva

The completed necklace.  I may trim the cord later.
After months of dithering, I have finally assembled what I  consider to be a reasonable necklace for my völva costume.  See the photograph with this post.  The bead colors shown are pretty close to the actual colors, though the brown fabric in the background is very grayed out for some reason.

For reasons of cost, most of this necklace consists of glass pony beads, which I was able to obtain very cheaply in a reasonable size.  (Beads of that shape and size have been found among Viking age remains, but not typically in the quantities that I'm using.)  I've also added a few beads that look like bone, but appear actually to be glass, to give a little variation to the strand (and because decorated glass beads were more than my budget can presently manage.  That was one reason why I took so long to complete this project).  The two big blue beads near the ends are actually made from polymer modeling clay, but they don't look obtrusively anachronistic, so I included them in the finished product.  

In light of the absence of large, fancily decorated beads, my völva is clearly not wealthy as völvas go.  But then, there is no indication that the völva in Eric the Red's saga was unusually wealthy except for her gem-ornamented cloak. Making my version of that cloak will be a project for another time.

It occurred to me while I was finishing the necklace that it applies for the current Historical Sew Monthly ("HSM") theme which is "Above the Belt", so I'm providing hat information below.

The Challenge:  November--Above the Belt

Material:  Glass beads (with two polymer clay beads added), leather cord.

Pattern:   None needed.  I did attempt to stick with types consistent with bead types I've seen in pictures of Viking age bead finds.

Year:  Viking age, that is, early medieval.  Roughly ninth-eleventh centuries CE.

Notions:  Same as materials, see above.

How historically accurate is it?  We don't know what Viking beads were strung on since they are usually found loose in the grave, with the stringing material disintegrated and vanished.  Glass beads of similar shapes have been found in Viking age graves, not always with beads, and collections of a comparable number (50-60) and similar sizes have been found.  On the other hand, polymer clay didn't exist in the Viking age.  Maybe 75%.

Hours to complete:  About a half an hour for arranging and stringing (somewhat longer to decide what beads to purchase, but I didn't keep track of that).

First Worn:  Tonight, to see whether the strand is long enough to remove without untying it, and whether I can make a hood that is open enough for the beads to be visible.  (The answer seems to be "yes"; the necklace is longer than I thought it would be.)

Total Cost:  About $15.50 USD; approximately $2.50 for the leather cord at my local JoAnn Fabrics store, and $13.02 (including shipping) for all the beads but the two polymer beads.  Those I've had for years; they were purchased for a project that never worked out.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Historical Sew Monthly--Possible Projects for 2020

The Dreamstress has just announced the monthly themes for 2020's Historical Sew Monthly ("HSM") on the FB private group. All of the 2020 themes have an overarching objective--sustainability.  That is, engaging in historical costuming in a manner that is less wasteful of energy and other types of natural resources.  

In 2019, I managed all of 1 1/2 projects (the "half" being a not-very-historical project to provide a component for my long-planned volva costume) for the HSM.  This year, I hope to do better.  Below  is a brief summary of the monthly themes and what I hope to do with them.  Text in quotation marks are part of the Dreamstress's explanation of the theme.  (I will edit this post to provide a link to her blog post on the subject after she posts the material there.)  The text in italics is my comments about what I might do with each theme.
  • January: Timetravelling Garments: "Create an item that works for more than one historical era, or that can be used for both historical costuming, and modern wear."  Pretty easy, since many garments that would do for the Viking Age will work for much of the Middle Ages and, in many cases, for earlier or later periods.  My D-shaped veil is a good example, but that's already completed.  Maybe the planned mittens (or the hood) for my völva costume would serve.
  • February: Re-Use: "Use thrifted materials or old garments or bedlinen to make a new garment. Mend, re-shape or re-trim an existing garment to prolong its life."  I still need to let out and expand my old Hedeby apron dress to make it wearable again, and I believe I've found the rest of the fabric I'd used which I'll need to make new gores.  Wish me luck!
  • March: Green: "Make something in a shade or shades of green. If you can also make it ‘green’ in the figurative sense, even better!"  I love green, but I don't really have anything I can use to make a suitable project that is green, even in color, except for my (diminishing) supply of green yarn for the nalbinded mittens I wanted to make.  I need to think about this one.
  • April: Local: "Support your local industry and your local history by making something that (as much as possible) uses materials made locally, or purchased from local suppliers, or that features a garment specific to your part of the world."  Great idea!  Wish I could think of a project that I could do in this manner.  More thought needed here as well.
  • May: Basic: "Make a garment that can be used for many occasions (like a shift, or the classic ‘Regency white dress’), or a simple accessory that will help you stretch the use of an already existing garment."  Another easy one.  I still need that white wool shift for my völva costume.
  • June: It’s Only Natural: "Make something inspired by nature, or use natural fibres and materials in a way that stretches your usual practice (e.g. natural dyeing, using cane instead of plastic whalebone for corsets/stays etc.). Or challenge yourself and do both!"  Maybe I can teach myself how to spin, and nalbind something small using the yarn I make?
  • July: No-Buy: "Make something without buying anything. Whether it’s finishing off a UFO, using up scraps of fabric from earlier challenges in the year, sewing entirely from stash, or finding the perfect project for those small balls of yarn, this is your opportunity to get creative without acquiring more stuff."  Still easy since I have lots of UFOs (unfinished projects).  The völva shift, my calendared linen shift from last year, my sprang cap, all qualify.
  • August: Celebration: "Make something for a specific historical celebration, make something generally celebration worthy, make something that celebrates a historical hero, or just make something that celebrates some new skills you’ve learned."  Perhaps the cloak for my völva costume? It would require me to do a kind of nalbinding with wire to make the holders for the stones to ornament the cloak, which would be a new skill for me, and it would certainly be a celebration-worthy garment for a notable saga character.
  • September: Sewing Secrets: "Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a make-do or unexpected material, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance)."  The HSM has featured this theme before and I still don't have a good idea how to work it into a suitable project.
  • October: Get Crafty: "Make use of your own skills or learn a new one to make something from scratch rather than buy material." More thought needed here as well.
  • November: Go Green Glow-Up: "Be environmentally friendly and celebrate how your making skills have ‘glowed-up’ as you’ve used and practiced them by taking apart an early make of yours that no-longer represents your making skills, and re-making it so you’d be proud to use it. It can be as elaborate as a total re-make, or as simple as getting the ribbons or buttons you didn’t have time to source at first. You could even take something from a challenge made earlier in the year, and fix the tiny things you weren’t totally happy with."  Fixing flaws in my Hedeby dress might well qualify.  Maybe.  If I pull this off, that would be a new skill of sorts, since I have never tried to refit a previous costume before.
  • December: Community: "It is the season of giving. Create an item that honours or supports the communities around you, whether Real Life or online."  I think I have an idea for this one.  Maybe.  More on this at a later date, hopefully.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


The fourteenth NESAT (North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles) is coming up. It's scheduled to take place May 18-22, 2020 in Oulu, Finland. It has been organized in collaboration between the University of Oulu, Aalto University, and the University of Helsinki. The schedule, including names and topics of persons who will be presenting either posters or papers, may be found here

Of special interest to me, given my fascination with the Viking Age and European prehistory are the following. All descriptions come from the NESAT XIV area of the NESAT website.
  • Katrin Kania: Tablet-Weaving: Weaving Complex Patterns Without Paper Drafts.
  • Ulla Mannering, Eva Andersson Strand, Charlotte Rimstad & Ida Demant: Fashioning the Viking Age – the tools, textiles and costumes.
  • Mervi Pasanen: It´s all about details – Finnish late iron age dress finishing and accessories.
  • Alexandra Makin: A recreation of the early medieval St Cuthbert maniple.
  • Jana Ratas: Spiral tube decorations on ancient clothing in Estonia and neighbouring countries on the Eastern coast of Baltic Sea.
  • Sue Salminen: Ravattula Dress project.
  • Maikki Karisto, Heini Kirjavainen & Jaana Riikonen: Fibres & Dyes, Bands & Seams - Preliminary results on Ravattula costume ca. 1200 AD.
  • Tuija Kirkinen: Microfibers evidence the use of skin garments in the 11th century inhumation burial 56 in Luistari cemetery, southwestern Finland.
Annika Larsson is presenting a paper about silk samite textiles found in Boat Grave 36 at Gamla Uppsala. In light of some of Larsson's stranger theories, I view her upcoming presentation with a bit of trepidation, but hope that it will at least contain useful information about archaeological finds with which I am not familiar.

I have not succeeded in obtaining copies of the conference volumes for NESAT XII and XIII, though I've seen and obtained some of the papers involved from  NESAT XIV looks as though it will concentrate heavily on my periods of interest and I'm excited to see what information is reported in it.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Follow-up: Elizabeth I's Rainbow Portrait Gown

The Rainbow Portrait (public
domain photo found on
Wikimedia Commons)
As a follow-up to my post on the Bacton Altar Cloth, here's a video about current efforts to make a reconstruction of the elaborately embroidered gown Elizabeth I is wearing in the Rainbow Portrait.  That reconstruction, when completed, will join the Bacton Altar Cloth at the exhibition at Hampton Court Palace.

For the curious, further information about this famous portrait can be found here, here, and here, which are three different sections of the same web article.  Another analysis may be found here.

The  first article I linked to above makes the bold and interesting claim that the painting had to have been done by a French miniatures painter by the name of Issac Oliver, because the features shown on the Queen are those of Oliver himself!  (Note:  Current scholarship does not agree that Oliver was the person who painted the portrait.)  A photograph of the portrait is shown to the left of this post.  As always, clicking on the photograph should bring up a larger and clearer copy of the image. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Tablets at Work

Tonight, I was trying to find a page on that was referenced in someone's Instagram about a new book on the use of bows and arrows by the Vikings.  The link given on Instagram was dead, so I started looking through all the book reviews  I could find on EXARC. 

I still haven't found out anything about the bow-and-arrow book, but I did find a review of a book which is indisputably relevant to this blog:  
Wollny, Claudia. Tablets At Work. (Claudia Wollny Edition 2017).
Tablets At Work, which is written in both English and German, is a 704-page, self-published tome that includes over 900 tablet weaving patterns.  The EXARC reviewer noted that these patterns "can be followed without having to understand in depth weaving techniques." From the review, it's clear that Ms. Wollny intends this book to be a one-stop education on how to perform every possible tablet weaving technique, including how to design one's own patterns.  The book is proof of the success of her pattern design methods, as the EXARC reviewer states that all of the patterns are new and can't be found elsewhere.*  And there are lots of photographs of bands made from Ms. Wollny's 900 patterns, too!  Like EXARC, TWIST (Tablet Weavers International Studies and Techniques) also gave this book a glowing review, which you can find and download here.

If you have 49,50 Euros to spend and this book sounds interesting or useful to you, you can buy a copy from Ms. Wollny's website, here.  (She even takes Paypal.)  I have looked a bit for other places to find it, and her website appears to be the only place from which one can presently obtain this book.  Although 49.50 Euros strikes me as an amazingly reasonable price for this much information (to say nothing of the photographs!) I am sad that I can't justify spending that much money right now,  given how little tablet weaving I done or tried to do, even though it may well supersede Peter Collingwood's classic work on the subject.

If historical tablet weaving is closer to your heart than even the best manual of techniques, Ms. Wollny is also selling another book of hers, also written in English and German, which is her publication and translation of a notebook found in a 15th century Poor Clares convent in Nuremberg that contains hundreds of brocaded tablet weaving pattern. Ms. Wollny's book publishes the nuns' notebook but does not stop there; she also includes, according to her website, "a basic course for brocading, web pages in a modern form (?), a motif overview and a dictionary."**  That book, roslein und wecklein, may be purchased for 29,90 Euros here.  According to the webpage Ms. Wollny only has a few copies of this book left, so act quickly if you are interested!

EDIT: (11/7/2019) Ms. Wollny also sells her books and other things on Etsy, here.

*    Though it's unclear whether this claim is based on the author's statement, or on some other information.
**  The quotation is what Google Translate made of Ms. Wollny's German.  I have so little knowledge of German that I have no basis on which to render an opinion concerning its accuracy.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The D-Shaped Veil--Complete!

My pretty hem!
At last my veil is finished, as you can see from the photographs accompanying this post.

I didn't quite manage to finish it during September.  I thought I would, till I came down with food poisoning on the evening of the 27th, and spent most of the weekend (after the vomiting stopped) in bed!  I thought of finishing it on the 30th, when I was feeling better, but even so I didn't think I could get the photographs taken and uploaded in time, so I decided to wait.

The first few photos show:  a close-up of part of the hem, right-side out; a close-up of the hem, wrong-side out, and the veil, lying flat, as a whole.  My stitching was not perfect, but the result looks fine after ironing the veil and hem carefully.  (Note:  the fabric is a pale light gray; the photo showing the hem from the right side comes the closest to showing the true color of the fabric.  I have no idea why the fabric looks so green in the photograph showing the wrong side of the hem.)

The not-so-pretty part.
My husband has been frantically busy with work, so I haven't gotten any photographs of the veil in wear.  In addition, I haven't been able to find my hlad or my wimple.  Perhaps it's just as well that the other accessories are going missing--it would be awkward to feature so many images in a relatively short post. I will post photographs of me wearing the veil eventually, but for now I'll just say that, of the techniques I tried, I like Edyth Miller's way of pinning the veil the best, whether or not it's provably period. Her technique produces the nicest looking result and requires the fewest accessories to achieve.  Overall, I'm satisfied with the outcome of this project.  This veil is certainly wearable, and I'm sure I'll find uses for it.

The September challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly is "Everyday."  After I saw Hvitr's post about her St. Birgitta's cap, which she submitted for the September challenge, I realized that my veil also qualifies.  It's made from wool, a common medieval fabric, and it's short--practical for every day.   So I will be posting photographs of it on the HSM Facebook page, eventually.

The Challenge--September: Everyday 

The whole thing.
Material: A piece of pale gray wool (blend?) gauze, roughly 19 inches (48 cm) by 30 inches (76 cm), donated by a reader of my blog (thanks again, Alison!).

Pattern:  I was inspired by Elena's post on her blog, Neulakko.  It's a D-shaped veil, as the photograph taken of the veil spread out on a flat surface shows.

Year: Medieval period. It's tough to be more specific than that.  Elina, who made the veil that inspired me, reenacts the 14th century, but similar veils crop up throughout the medieval period all over Europe, and might even have been worn by Viking women.

Notions:  Guttermann brand silk thread, in a pale gray which perfectly matches the fabric.

How historically accurate is it?  The whipstitch I used was certainly known in the medieval period, and wool is a period fabric. However, I'm not sure that my veil fabric is pure wool, and I don't have any leftover scraps to perform the bleach test on. Further, I'm not perceptive enough to determine from period artwork whether that artwork confirms the use of D-shaped veils, but the final appearance of my veil is not a bad match for at least some period art.  So 50-60%.

Hours to Complete: About 3 hours.

First Worn: Trying it on; my husband has yet to take photographs of me in it, because he is working on an important project.

Total Cost: Less than $4 USD--the cost of the silk thread I used to hem the veil.