Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wish List of Items for Viking Sewing Box

* A spare shuttle (I like the kind that double as beaters) for tablet weaving. My current one is attached to a half-finished project that I really should complete sometime. :-)

* Period-style snips for cutting thread. (on back order!)

* Period-style shears for cutting fabric. (I'm not sure whether Historic Enterprises' 4-inch-long spring shears are adequate for that purpose, but they would at least fit into my box).

* A needlecase.

* Possibly, a ring thimble. Turns out Historic Enterprises makes a 14th century design that's probably little different from any available in the Viking Age for only $5.95 USD. (This item remains only a "possibly" because I'm still not convinced that Viking women used thimbles, let alone metal ring-type thimbles.)

While I was looking for period-style shears, I found this site by SCA member Coblaith Muimnech, describing how she assembled a medieval sewing kit for a gift exchange. Interestingly, the thread holders she documented and made are similar in form to the ones I just bought on EBay. That was very satisfying.


  1. Would you mind giving me the dimensions of the wood bobbins?

    I asked my wood working husband, and he said he said he could make some for me, if he had the dimensions. The EBay listing gives height & width, but not depth.

  2. I don't know the depth (i.e. thickness) of the bobbins; all I know is what's in the EBay listing (I haven't received them yet, you see). I can let you know how thick they are when I receive them. However, from the pictures they appear to be very thin.

    I wouldn't be restricted by the thinness of the EBay set, though. I'm ordering those because my husband isn't a wood worker. Coblaith made bobbins that are thicker, and perhaps more practical than the EBay ones--hers looked to be about a half-centimeter thick from the pictures on her website.

  3. At first I figured that Viking women *had* to have used thimbles, because of the thickness of the fabrics they sewed by hand (i.e. thick wool and perhaps leather). I've personally sewn deerskin gloves by hand, and that would have been impossible without a thimble.

    But then I thought otherwise. The needle might not have worked well with a thimble. Their hands might have been callused enough that this wasn't an issue. And they might have used a thimble that wasn't worn on the hand; I've seen modern quilting thimbles that were "wielded," for lack of a better term, rather than worn. I've even used a makeshift version (a handy hard surface) when I've had no thimble but had to push a needle through a thick spot.

    Best of luck in your research endeavors! Get in touch if there's anything you want me to get or do for you while I'm at CostumeCon.

  4. I think it may depend partly upon what you're sewing, and partly upon personal preference.

    Supposedly in Roman times makers of sails used a kind of disk-shaped device, to help push a needle through heavy canvas. That makes sense to me, though I can see why you wouldn't find a lot of evidence for that practice in Viking times in the archaeological record.

    On the other hand, textile tools used by women *do* show up, regularly, in the archaeological record, but except for a tallish bone ringpointed out to me by pearl, there doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence for the use of non-leather thimbles, ring-shaped or otherwise. On the other hand, small leather objects of thimble size likely would not survive in the soil or would otherwise be missed in the archaeological record.

    In addition, it's possible that only men did the kinds of sewing that would make a device to protect the hands while forcing a needle through tough objects desirable, and that Viking women simply didn't use thimbles, period. For my own part, I have seldom used them. I have never been comfortable using a modern, dome-shaped thimble when doing modern embroidery or other forms of sewing. I've never tried a thimble ring; that experience might be different.

    Finally, thanks for your offer re: CostumeCon! I've just put in several orders for textile-related items though, and I expect to receive both during the event. The only thing I can think of to ask for right now are pictures of the costumes *you* wear/make/exhibit there! If I think of anything else, please let me know. Have a good time!

  5. I received the "floss bobbins" today. They are 6 mm thick.

    I am a little disappointed. They are not really wood. They are some kind of fiberboard with a fake wood-grain finish on one side and a plain, matte, wood-color without any grain on the back. But they look durable enough, take up less room in the sewing box than spools, and look more period overall.