Monday, September 11, 2017

Bronze Age Zipper?

The video to the right of this post is a recent Internet discovery of mine.  It shows a modern replica of Bronze Age sword belt and purse,  found in a grave at Hvidegården,  Denmark.

Ørjan Engedal, a professor at the University of Bergen and an archaeologist who is also an artisan, made a bronze sword with a scabbard, a small leather bag, and a sword belt, based upon the Hvidegården find.  The bag, or pouch or purse or whatever you want to call it, has an unusual closure.  The closure is a series of closely-spaced, alternating leather loops through which a long bronze pin is thrust.  The result looks much like a modern zipper though the method of closure is simpler in that no slider is used.

The Hvidegården grave was actually discovered in 1845; a brief article about it in Danish may be found here. Apparently the grave is thought to be one of a shaman or wizard, based upon the odd contents of the "zipper" pouch; they include (as best I can make out from Google Translate's English rendition of the article) a razor, a small wooden cube, a seashell from the Mediterranean, and part of the jaw bone of a squirrel.

It seems to me that the existence of this pouch is some support for the position that "there is nothing new under the sun."  In other words, the idea of a zipper-type closing certainly was possible before the zipper as we know it was invented; it probably did not become an acceptable closure because, with Bronze Age technology, it was fiddly and awkward to make and a bit awkward to use.  A technology spreads when the infrastructure necessary to support the manufacturing process and the materials needed are readily available and result in an easy-to-use product that fills a common need.  That is as true for clothing and bags as it is for computers and cars.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Theory About Spiral Tubes

About a week ago, I passed along a link to an article on about the historical use of tiny bronze spiral tubes as a clothing decoration.

My husband, who reads my blog posts via Google Plus even when they are extremely esoteric, found the idea of decorating one's clothing with woven-in metal bits prone to tarnish intriguing.  "How could you possibly clean them?" he asked me.

I observed that such ornamentation was almost certainly confined to one's best clothing, which would be seldom worn and carefully stored.  But he pointed out that likely over time the rings would tarnish badly, anyway, unless they were carefully cleaned from time to time, and they certainly could not be removed to do so.

For some reason, I remarked that spiral-ornamented garments were made from wool, and that perhaps the natural lanolin in the wool helped prevent tarnishing.

That's when my husband came out with the following theory.

Perhaps the owners of such spiral-laden garments buffed the spirals, from time-to-time, with lanolined wool fabric or fleece.  Such a coating would be much more likely to protect the tubes from tarnish, and would not damage the fabric to which they were affixed.

The beauty of this theory, to me, is that its plausibility could easily be tested.  Make a garment (or even ornament a sample piece of wool) with spiral tubes.  Brush the tubes with a lanolined cloth, and store.  Make a control garment, or sample, and store it separately, without touching the tubes with lanolin.  Check both at intervals (every 6 months, say, for a year or two), and see whether the lanolin makes a difference to the amount of tarnish on the tubes.

That sounds like a great idea for a short paper.  I should perform the experiment and write it up some time.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Spiral Tubes

From Katrin Kania's blog I recently learned that there is a good, publicly available (but short) article on about the use of tiny, spiral bronze tubes to decorate clothing.

In general, though the time frame when such ornaments were used varies widely by region, the countries that have used this technique are those around the Baltic Sea. The article itself may be found here.  

Although the text is brief and general, there are some wonderful photographs accompanying the article of surviving finds with spiral tube decoration, some of which I have not seen elsewhere. This article and its photos are particularly recommended to those interested in Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, or Finnish clothing of the early to late Middle Ages.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

More Short Tutorials--Early Period

It's no secret to any of my readers that my favorite costume interests lie with the early period, which I think of as from the dawn of humanity until the high Middle Ages.  Today's crop of tutorials consists entirely of projects appropriate to early period costume.
  • From Jenn Culler's blog there are two simple and fun projects.  
    • First, a tutorial on how to make a peplos dress that hangs more appealingly than a pinned sheet of fabric (what's called a "bog dress" in the SCA). The technique is not documentably historical, but also cannot be ruled out on the basis of archaeological finds. 
    • Second, there is a tutorial for making a Bronze Age Dress based upon a design suggested in this article by Karina Grömer, Lise Bender Jørgensen and Helga Rösel-Mautendorfer. The article discusses different ways to recreate the clothing of a woman buried in a Middle Bronze Age grave in Winklarn, Austria.  (Other potential reconstructions of the Winklarn woman's costume are suggested in the article, for those who might be interested.)
  • From opusanglicanum there's a tutorial on how to stitch the acanthus motif from the Mammen find.   
  • From Ragnvaeig's LiveJournal there's a tutorial on how to stitch the linked circles motif from the Oseberg ship find.
  • And, finally, from Anna's blog, Anachronistic and Impulsive, there is good information on how to make ancient Roman garb for both men and woman. Note too the current post where Anna seeks donations because she and her husband are in financial difficulty due to unexpected calls on their savings. 
All of these projects would be good to work on during a hot summer, if it is summer where you live.  Enjoy exploring them!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Völva Costume--A Few Thoughts About The Cloak

Slowly, (especially since my spouse has a regular income again), I have begun to think about reviving long dormant costume projects.

I have been thinking about the cloak that I need to make for the völva costume.  My assumption, based upon other surviving garments of the same period and upon the description in Eric the Red's Saga (e.g., the fact that the völva's cloak has "straps") is that this cloak should be a semicircular cloak.  However, my last attempt to make a semicircular cloak, the Byzantine mantion I made some years ago, fits poorly and is hard to keep in position in wear.

I suspect, on the basis of the shapes of the surviving semicircular cloaks from the Viking age, that the fact that my mantion fits poorly does not mean its design is anachronistic.  Far from it; I'd bet that most semicircular cloaks in the early Middle Ages fit poorly, because a simple semi-circular design fails to take the protuberance of the shoulders into consideration.  It occurred to me that, if I want the cloak to be secure when simply tied on with long straps, I must do something about the shoulder problem. I would like to experiment with techniques that might make this cloak fit better, even if such techniques are not documentable to the Viking age.

One possibility would be to shape the relevant area of the cloak to my form with seams, stitched on the inside of the garment.  That could be worked out by pinning the seams first to check for fit.  I'm thinking that a few seams, radiating outward from (roughly) the center of the neck notch and reaching downward about 6 inches may work.  In that case, it might be possible to achieve a decent fit with  a simple circular neck-notch.

The idea would be to cut the neck notch and sew the fitting seams first.  Finishing the neck could be simple.  I am thinking of cutting a long piece of silk, a bit more than twice as wide as I want the "straps" to be.  The idea would be to use the strip to bind the neckline by placing the center of the silk strip against the back center of the neck notch, fold the fabric over each side of the neck notch, and stitch it down around the neckline. (Yes this will take some folding and tweaking, but might be worth it.)  Then stitch down the rest of the length of each strap, fold the edges inward and stitch together along the folds.  In other words, the silk strip would be fastened to the cloak all around the neckline, and the rest would serve as long straps.  That way, the straps would be unlikely to rip away from the cloak.  The sketch to the left above should give a better idea of what I mean.  (N.B.:  The two different pieces are not drawn to the same scale.)

This concept assumes, of course, that my piece of fabric is large enough to cut the cloak as a semicircle; I don't recall exactly how big it is.  If the fabric is not wide or long enough, it may make better sense to try to cut the cloak as a series of pie-shaped wedges and stitch them together to create a better-fitting shape.

If anyone has comments or thoughts about these ideas, please let me know in the comments.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Paths Less Traveled

It's the middle of Summer where I am, so I figured it was time for something completely different.

Here are links to some very interesting websites containing information about historical clothing that is off the beaten track of ancient Rome/migration period/medieval England and France/Renaissance etc. costume.  Most of the historical periods covered by the websites below are hard for the beginning researcher to find information about. They should help people wanting to explore truly different areas of clothing history, and at the very least they are interesting to read!

1.  Clothing in the Netherlands, 1480-1610:    Between the two of them, Margaret and Karinne show the rest of us how people in the Netherlands dressed between the late 15th and early 17th centuries. I first met Karinne through the now-defunct MedCos forums, and her skills have, if anything, improved since then. Go here to explore Margaret and Karinne's creations and research.

2.  Sarmatian Costume:  Here's an interesting alternative to all those Elizabethans, Vikings, and Romans:  a Sarmatian persona!  The Sarmatians are a Central Asian people who migrated into Southern Russia and the Balkans and settled there between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.   Jess Miller-Camp's blog, Sarmatian in the SCA, has interesting information about her research into Sarmatian culture, including her work on Sarmatian costume.  You can find the blog here.

3.  Middle Byzantine:  You may be familiar with Timothy Dawson's Middle Byzantine site, Levantia, but Anna, of Anachronistic and Impulsive, covers much of the same costuming ground from a somewhat different perspective.  The blog's home page is here.  As a side note:   Do not miss her post about making ancient Mesopotamian costumes for herself and her spouse!

4.  Medieval Korea:  This information about how a 16th century CE Gisaeng might have dressed is available due to the research skills of Rebecca Lucas LeGet.  Find it here.

5,  Medieval Japan:  There are a number of pages out there on medieval Japanese costume, but this one is fairly detailed and well-organized--for men's costume.  There are places for information about women's costume, but they have not been written yet.  You'll find the index here.

Enjoy the extra reading, and have a good summer (or winter, if you're in the Southern Hemisphere).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Even More Diamond Twill Sources

Recently, I've found a few more sellers of diamond twill cloth on the Internet.

The Mulberry Dyer, a seller of natural dye substances and naturally dyed yarns and fabric in the United Kingdom, sells madder red, yellow, and blue diamond twill wool "off the peg" at £35 per meter and cochineal red, green, and black diamond twill wool for £45. Go here for the fabric purchase page. 

Plateau Imprints Archaeology and Heritage Consulting sells a diamond twill blend, 50/50 silk and wool, using dyed and woad-dyed fiber, from their Facebook page. A piece 70 cm by 200 cm costs £30.

Nornilla on Etsy sells fine diamond twill wool fabric for $45.51 USD per meter.  All of the fabrics of this type are two-toned and in the photographs appear to have a slight sheen.

Finally, and surprisingly, advertises two-toned diamond wool twill fabric for 400 Czech Koruna--about $17.00 USD--per meter! At that price, it's not surprising that they are currently sold out of this product.

In other news, I have learned that the diamond twill wool sold by Stas Volobuev, who sells fabric from his Facebook page, has very small diamonds indeed.  The photograph I've seen appears to indicate that three diamond motifs can fit across the diameter of a U.S. penny (a length of a bit more than a centimeter).  My understanding is that the price is about $30.00 USD per meter, but you can always check with Stas yourself.

I still have my rose-red herringbone twill to make into an apron dress, but it's good to see that diamond twill is slowly becoming easier and cheaper to obtain.