Sunday, September 9, 2018

Skoldehamn Socks--Finished!

The finished pair of socks.
In wear.
Here is the pair of wool socks I made, based upon the socks in the Skoldehamn find.  I've included photographs of the socks alone, both right-side out and inside-out, as well as showing them on my feet.

Each sock is made from only two pieces of cloth, but it took me a surprisingly long time to figure out how the pieces had to go together to fit my feet. Once I did so, however, the socks went together quickly.  I seem to have twisted them in sewing them together, just a little, and both are a bit large in the heel and narrow through the toes (which is no surprise, since I have very narrow heels relative to the width of the front part of my feet).  Overall, though, the fit is good if a bit closer than I prefer.  However, I think that if I put the socks on my clean feet right after I wash them, while they are still wet or at least damp, I will obtain a more comfortable fit.
In wear, from the side.

I have more sensitive feet than average, but even so the under-the-foot seam did not bother me as much as I expected.  I attribute this primarily to the qualities of my wool (which had been pre-washed before it was sent to me).  The wool is both soft and surprisingly stretchy, and I think those attributes enabled me to get a satisfying result; I'm not sure it would be possible for me to get a comfortable fit using the Skoldehamn pattern with stiffer cloth.
Inside-out (on the left) and right-side out (right).

The original socks were worn with leg wraps, which extended over both the trousers and the tops of the socks.  However, so far as I have been able to ascertain, the Skoldehamn shoes were pretty low--no higher than the top of the ankle bone at the sides.  Both pairs of shoes I use with my Viking costumes come up well over the ankle bone.  As the picture shows, they are high enough to support the open sides of the socks without leg or foot wraps or other ties.

Worn with the Viking boots I usually wear.
The Skoldehamn socks also appear to have been worn with pieces of wool wrapped around the foot; Hilde Thunem notes that it's not possible to tell whether the foot wraps were wrapped directly over the naked feet before the socks were put on, or were simply wrapped over the outside of the socks.  I don't have enough fabric left over from this project to try to make proper footwraps, but I may look through my stash to see if I can find enough wool fabric to make some and then try wrapping them at least over the outside of the socks, because the socks fit too closely for an inside-the-sock approach to work.

As the above comments imply, this project turned into more of a learning experience than I had anticipated, and took longer to complete than I'd expected (Susanna Broomé's booklet classifies the socks as an elementary level project) .  However, it was still a success, since I got a usable set of socks out of it, and was a short project despite the minor difficulties.

After I finished the socks, it occurred to me that this project also falls within the ambit of the HSM challenge for August--Extant Originals.  However, since the Skoldehamn originals are not complete, and I finished this pair in September, not August, I prefer to submit my socks under the September challenge.  

Sole-side up.
The Challenge:  September--Hands and Feet

Material:  100% woven wool fabric, in a 2/2 twill weave.

Pattern:  Susanna Broomé's pattern for the Skoldehamn socks (part of the clothing of the person whose remains were found at Skoldehamn) in her booklet, Smaller Garments.

Year:  Late 10th-early 11th century CE.

Notions:  White linen Guttermann thread from my stash; I drew each thread across a cake of beeswax for ease in sewing.

How Historically Accurate Is It?:  About 80%.  The actual Skoldehamn socks have survived only as incomplete pieces.  Photographs of those pieces, along with detailed descriptions in English, can be found in Hilde Thunem's article on Viking age hose, here.  For my socks, I acquired a similar wool twill, and have sewn the socks in running stitch with the seam felled by folding over the sides away from the running stitch and whipstitching them down, consistent with the seams on the originals.

But my pair differs from the original in certain respects.  For example, some of the original sock pieces have blanket stitch along the edges instead of folded-over, overcast edges, but I decided to go with the whipstitching all of the outside edges down instead because I am more comfortable with that technique.  Also, because of the shape of my feet (as noted above), I altered the placement of seams some.  In addition, I used linen thread instead of wool thread, and double-folded all seams and edges, instead of simply finishing seams by folding the edges away from the location of the running stitches and whipstitching across the raw edges.

Overall, the resulting pair of socks is by no means a copy of the originals, but is, I think, made with appropriately historical techniques and materials.

Hours to Complete:  About 5 hours.

First Worn:  I tried them on while sewing them to help adjust the fit, and wore them for a bit before taking the photographs with this post to see if wearing them helped make them more comfortable.

Total Cost:  $10.50 (including shipping) for the 18 inch (approx. 46 cm) by 29 inch (approx. 74 cm) piece of wool fabric I used.  I already had the pattern, and the linen thread.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Behold...a Sock!

The first sock!
I have finished the first sock of my pair of Skohldehamn socks.  A picture of the sock appears to the left.

The project is taking longer than I expected because, even though each sock is composed of only two pieces of cloth, it took me a while, even with the directions, to figure out how to orient and sew them together properly.  I also came to realize that the socks would not work with a less stretchy fabric than wool.

When I finish the other sock, there will be more pictures and explanations.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Getting Dressed in the 14th Century

This week, I found a fascinating pair of videos on YouTube, meant to illustrate how Europeans from all walks of life would have gotten dressed, and what they would have worn, in the 14th century.  They are fascinating because they show not only the items of clothing that would have been worn, and how they were put on, but also plausible reconstructions of where they would have hung, or been laid, overnight while the wearer was sleeping.  

The video embedded on the left shows Piers the Ploughman.  A second video shows two working women, dressing and helping each other dress, here.  Both are based upon images found in the Luttrell Psalter, a 14th century illuminated book of prayers originally commissioned and owned by  Sir Geoffrey Luttrell; it now resides in the British Library in London.  The channel in question, CrowsEye Productions, has "getting dressed" videos for other eras as well, including World War I and the 18th century.  The Luttrell Psalter is especially useful to show everyday life in the 14th century, because many of the images therein do just that; they show scenes from life on a manor like Sir Geoffrey's manor in Lincolnshire. Another reason why the Luttrell Psalter is an especially appropriate series of images for CrowsEye to bring to life is that CrowsEye Productions is based in Lincolnshire!

CrowsEye has made vidoes showing folk getting dressed in other periods, namely, the 18th century and World War I.  Their Patreon page states that their ultimate plan is to make videos showing people getting dressed from many different periods of English history, from the Viking era to World War II, but they are seeking suggestions as to which period to tackle next.   Anyone who has followed my blog will easily guess that it's Vikings I'd like to see next!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Back to the "Touchwood Belt"

While I'm working on the mittens and socks for my völva outfit, I figured I should make sure I have a "touchwood" belt.  My new belt is shown to the left of this post.

As I discussed in this post, it seems likely that the "touchwood" referred to in the saga is dried fungus, used as tinder.  I considered purchasing some actual fungus, but figure that I don't really need to spend the money to buy enough to make a belt, just for costuming purposes!  However, I misplaced the felt strip I originally bought for the belt, so I purchased a larger piece of felt in a much lighter shade of brown on Etsy.  I cut three strips from the felt, each a bit longer than my waist measurement, knotted them on one end, braided the three together, and knotted the other end.   Then I pulled on the ends to stretch the braid, making it look a lot less like felt.  To fasten it, one sticks the bigger of the two end knots through one of the gaps in the braid.  

I claim no historical accuracy points for this item, because no one knows for certain that tinder fungus was used for belts in the Viking Age, let alone how such belts may have been constructed or what they looked like.  But the idea of a traveling shamaness having firemakings with her person at all times seems very appropriate.  I should keep an eye out for evidence that shamans in other shamanic cultures made belts out of tinder fungus, though.

It occurred to me, after making the belt, that real fungus shows pronounced areas of darker and ligher color which might be simulated by tea-dyeing the belt.  That might be worth doing yet; I need to consider the matter some more.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

New Project--Skoldehamn Socks!

One of the patterns in Susanna Broome's booklet is a pattern for cut-and-sewn socks like the ones that are part of the Skoldehamn find.  Though the experts still debate whether the Skoldehamn find is Viking or Sami, the socks are a practical item in a style that would have been useful for people living in either culture, so I have decided to sew a pair to wear as a part of my völva outfit.

I found some splendid, soft, heathered, cream-and-light brown wool cloth from an Etsy vendor that should be perfect for the purpose--a picture of the cloth can be seen to the left.  As usual, click on the image for a larger version that gives a better view of the weave.

Susanna Broomé's pattern indicates that because the top of the stocking is not closed in the center, the socks need to be worn with leg wrappings or puttees.  I'm not sure if that's true if I wear them with boots that come up a little way on my leg.  I need to think about that some more.  This should be a quick project to make, though.  I probably will finish it in a few weeks at most.  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Materials for the "Catskin" Mittens

Here are the materials I am going to use for the "catskin" mittens for my völva costume. A photograph showing both the leather I am going to use as the "outside" and the white faux fur for the "inside" appears to the right.

In her book, Primitive Shoes, Margrethe Hald devotes quite a few pages to leather mitten finds from areas in the Arctic and subarctic, such as Canada.  All of them have a very similar appearance to the Akranses mitten; a rounded top (with the palm-side gathered to the back side) and a set-in thumb.  The pattern of a garment, originally made from leather, being made in the same shape in fabric much later in time after suitable fabric is available, has occurred a number of times in clothing history.  The most recent example of which I am aware involves the tunics worn by the women of the Amerind tribes of the central American plains..  After the whites began trading cloth to them, they continued to make cloth dresses in a similar style to the deerskin tunics they had previously worn.

This is going to be an interesting project, though a challenging one.  With the exception of a tiny pouch I have never sewn leather before, not even the thin soft stuff I have selected here, and it will be interesting fitting the outside and inside layers together.  It seems reasonable to begin with the inside "fur" layer, because once that is made it will set the size for the leather part, since the inner fur layer will have to fit inside the leather one.

EDIT:  (8/3/2018) Clarified my thoughts about Amerind women's deerskin tunics by reining in a couple of runaway sentences in the text above.
EDIT:  (8/10/2018) Corrected a fact and made a grammatical change for better readability.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Sigtuna Bag

I have found a photograph of the wooden frame that inspired the frames on my Viking bag.

The photograph belongs to Tomáš Vlasatý. Tomáš runs a website called Projekt Forlog, which features articles, mostly in Czech but sometimes in English, about various aspects of Viking age material culture.  Google Translate does a pretty good job with the Czech articles, and I commend them to the attention of any Viking era enthusiasts among my readers.  Readers interested in helping to support Tomáš's research can donate on the Projekt Forlog page or on the project's Patreon page, here.

Tomáš confirmed that the Sigtuna frames are 480 mm (48 cm or nearly 19 inches) long.  He also told me that the frames are in Sigtuna Museum in Sweden, and still have textile fragments clinging to them.  Because he was clearly unhappy with the fact that the chart I found had ended up on Pinterest without his permission, I asked only to link to the photograph of the actual Sigtuna frames, which you can see here. He obtained the information from Anders Söderberg of the closed Facebook group “Doba vikinská – Viking Age”.  The textile bits clinging to the frame look like the remnants of a coarse wool twill.

So my frames are based upon the Sigtuna find and are very small in comparison with the originals.  However, finds from Birka and Hedeby include designs made in different sizes, so it is not impossible that a small version of the Sigtuna frames might have existed.   But next time, I'll be a bit more cautious and do more checking before taking a casual representation about a "based on a find's" provenance for granted.

EDIT (7/29/2018):  It occurred to me that the size of the original Sigtuna frames and the number of slots in them shows that those frames had to have been used for quite a large bag.  A smaller bag can be attached to frames by sturdy stitching, but a large one that will be holding a number of heavy articles must be attached to the frames more solidly.