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 my socks fit too snugly 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.


  1. These are so cool! I'm sure I've seen similar socks in early medieval paintings.

    1. Cut and sewn socks all look pretty similar, even if the patterns for making them differ.

      The points at toes' end and heel look a bit odd, but don't really affect how they feel in wear.

      I think I would cut the toe portion a bit larger, next time I make a pair of such socks (if I do make another pair). For now, I'm just pleased to have gotten a project done and learned a few new things.

  2. This is a wonderful work and it gives me hope to do ist by myself - sometimes!

    1. Hi, Marled!

      I think that any project feels complicated if you haven't done it before! These at least could be done anywhere once the fabric is cut. All you need are the two pieces of cloth per sock, a needle, thread, and something to cut thread with.

  3. Thanks, both of you, for your kind words about my work!

  4. Dës Soverunge sinn ganz genee erstaz! ""