Thursday, January 11, 2018

New ATR Articles About Clothing Reconstructions

For those of my readers who have, or can get, a subscription to Archaeological Textiles Review, be advised that Issue No. 59 of that publication is out.  For those who do not and cannot get a subscription, two of the articles in Issue No. 59 are available on
The Lendbreen tunic is a long-sleeved, longish shirt, probably for a thin, smallish man or an adolescent boy, that was found in the ice near Lendbreen, Norway; it is dated to the third century CE.  The Lendbreen project actually made two reproductions:  one for the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo and the Norwegian Mountain Centre in Lom.  The wool of the Norwegian Villsau sheep was chosen because these sheep have a coat with both fine and coarse fiber.  The wook was hand rooed (i.e., plucked from the sheep) but spun by machine to save time and cost.  Fabric for the project was woven on a warp-weighted loom and sewn by hand emulating the period stitches used.  The two tunics took a total of 804.5 hours to make.

In contrast, Ida Demant's reconstruction of the Egtved girl's clothing from the Bronze Age (a short wool blouse and a corded skirt) took surprisingly little time to make.  The corded skirt (actually a skirt made of separate plied cords incorporated into a waistband, as the article itself points out) took an estimated 30-35 hours to make.  Demant does not discuss how long the blouse took, but it was woven in a simple tabby weave, and the sewing involved is not complicated, as I learned when I made a cruder version of the same garment.

Both articles look fascinating and I plan to plunge into them in greater detail.  People interested in reconstruction of historical clothing, as well as people interested in Scandinavian Iron Age and Bronze Age clothing, owe it to themselves to study these accounts.  


  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome!

      ATR (which used to be called "Archaeological Textiles Newsletter" or ATN) recently put ALL of their back issues from No. 1 through 57 on line on their website for FREE download last year. You should go back and look through those (ATR/ATN has the tables of contents for all their back issues on line too). Their current plan is to put all new issues going forward on their site for free download, after a time lag. So you'll eventually be able to read all of Issue No. 59 so long as you have an Internet connection.

  2. Ooooh, interesting.

    It would have been especially good if they'd done a sample of the spinning so that they could calculate the time that would have taken, too. That said ... I'm not sure you'd manage to find anyone doing production-level spinning without a wheel barring perhaps S. America (where the spinning tradition/technique is different anyway). So, arguable as to whether any estimate even if done would have been valid.

    1. Actually, the Lendbreen project DID do some sample spinning for just that purpose! (I hadn't caught that part of the article when I wrote my quick post). Here's what Professors Vedeler and Hammarlund reported about it:

      "At the same time, a spinning experiment was conducted: 10 hand-spinners from across Norway were given 50 g of the processed fibre material to spin a yarn with the same diameter and degree of twist as observed in the original tunic.1 On average, it took the spinners c. 11 hours to comb and spin 50 g of the wool, making an average amount of 292 m per 50 g. The spinners had very varied experience, and the time they used also varied significantly, from seven to 17.5
      hours. From this, it can be concluded that, despite the careful sorting and preparation process, short hair,
      kemp fibres and small lumps still present in the wool made it difficult to spin an even yarn. About 2.5 kg of
      wool was used to make yarns for the reconstruction of two tunics. Based on the results of the spinning experiment, hand spinning the yarn for the reconstruction would have taken about 270 hours for one tunic or c.
      540 hours for both."