Handcrafted History

Historical and modern handcraft mixed with adventures


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The Viking Amber Project

This is my latest just-because-it’s-nice project. I wanted to make a viking outfit on a certain theme; so I chosed my amber necklace and worked from that one to create a whole outfit.

Some pieces you might recognise from before; the shawl is my first handweaved project, and the apron dress is in fact the orange dress that I have cut out and redid into an apron dress since my shoulders and back have become a bit bigger (hello gym!) To make straps and a supporting band around the upper hem I made a tablet woven band and sewed it into place.

I also made a bit extra to wear as a headband, looks kind of cute, and is practical for keeping your hair in place and for pinning a veil to it. It is tied in the neck with a knot. I got the idea from a grave in Birka/Björkö were there was a find of the same band on both clothing and skull, though I didn’t read how the band on the skull was arranged or if it was sewed onto something.

The hairdo is inspired from an Iron age find of a woman having her hair in plaited buns (aka Leia buns almost) but to achieve a more historical look, a bit of fake hair could be applied (women seem to have had more and longer hair when washing and chemicals weren’t the thing). It is also a bit messy from having a rest in the tent earlier.

The jewelry is based on findings from mostly Sweden, the brooches from Öland, and some of the bronze items like the needle case is from Historiska Fynd. The glass beads I have made myself, the amber necklace and some other jewelry is bought on different viking markets. Amber beads is found in several graves; if you want to use amber in your viking outfit look for big, regularly shaped beads, or faceted ones. The small nuggets are very modern, the viking lady seemed to prefer her beads big and luxurious.

About the layers: the linen shift is barely visible and over that is a hand stitched woolen dress of uncoloured wool from Medeltidsmode. The apron dress is made of thin wool and have tablet woven bands on it. The coat is made of a wool, also from Medeltidsmode, and hand stitched with woolen thread. Wearing several woolen layers is a good way of staying warm in the autumn season, but they get a bit heavy, so for comfort I used my tablet woven wool belt to fasten the skirts at the waist, so my hips could carry some weight from the outfit.

To keep the shawl in place I fastened it with the brooches; in this way my neck stays warm but you can still se the rest of the outfit and the jewelry at the front. For a warmer look, I use a small brooch to fasten it at the front beneth my breasts.

Historically? There is sometimes a different amount of loops or fabric underneth the tortoise brooches in finds, indicating that several layers of clothing was held in place by the brooches, and sometimes more layers on the bottom or the top of the brooches. But there is also several graves with clasps or brooches at the front of the body with fabric in them, suggesting that the woman wore an other garment that fastened at the front, like a cloak, shawl or coat. But really, there is much we doesn’t know for sure- so this is a “suggested way of wearing viking clothes” and not a “we now this for sure-outfit”.

Without the coat and with the shawl pushed back. Still comfy and warm, without having to hold the shawl in place by myself.

 

Putting on the shawl. Here you can also se the knot at the neck for the head band.

Dramatic and cool viking woman! Yeah! (I was having a bad cold at the moment, but you can always pretend)

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Tutorial Apron Dress

One of the dresses that I still like after using for many events, is my viking age apron dress (it’s actually one of my oldest piece of historical clothing). It´s made of a tabby woven wool and the construction of the dress is inspired by the find from Hedeby. The pattern is made by 4 pieces and is quite simple, you´ll achieve the fitted look by making small adjustments according to your body.
As you probably already noticed, there are amazingly many different variations of reconstructions and suggestions on how the skirts may have looked, and I also think there were different variants during the viking age. However, I decided to imitate the find from Hedeby, as this has a piece of a probable seam preserved, and gives a suggestion of how the skirts/panels may have been assembled. After reading some discussions on the website Historiska världar and looking at gold figurines, I also chose to do it with a trail, with overly long skirts. That’s my interpretation of the trail on the figurines and picture stones and I was curious about how the fabric would fall with such a model. After a while, however, I cut off the excess fabric that made the overly long skirt, since I got irritated about the trail dragging mud everywhere and getting in my way. It was a nice view though, the long skirt trailing behind.

hängselkjol2

Here is a list of what you need, and some easy steps to follow to make one of your own!

What you need:

  • 2-3 m *1.5 m fabric (2 m= small, 3 m=large)
  • scissor
  • measuring tape
  • markers for fabric
  • pins
  • needle and thread or a sewing machine
  • a friend to assist with the final adjustments on the dress

The measurements you need:

  • Armpit-hemd (3) (as long as you want the dress to be) + 3 cm sewing allowance at the bottom, and 5 cm at the top if you would like to make the dress with the higher look (like my green one) when measuring from the armpit; start as high up as you can get under the arm. you will cut out space for your arms movement later.
  • Width around your body (1) (the widest part of your body, often around your chest/over the breasts. Divide this measurement in 4 and then add 4cm to each piece (seam allowance and leisure of movement)
  • Armpit-waist (2) (in this case, your waist is your slimmest part of your body, after which the dress is going to get wider)

I chose to make my dress rather figure close, but a more loose style will make it possible to wear a pair of underdresses under it, which can be nice during colder weather. The dress is built by 4 pieces of the same size and shape. They start out straight and then gets wider at the waist.

The amount of fabric you need depends on your measurements, but I drafted up three different ways of putting your pattern pieces out on your fabric, depending on how much fabric you want to use.

For the draft to work you need to have a fabric that is 150 cm in width, and that you doesn’t need a longer dress than that. 1F + 2F is the two side pieces, 3B + 4B is the front and back ones. The bottom-left draft shows how you can use the fabric in an effective way by doing a gore in one panel.

The upmost pattern takes 250 cm of fabric, and gives you a dress lining of 80cm *4= 320 cm. You can absolutely do with less; the one at the bottom- right gives you a lining of about 270 cm, using just under 200 cm of fabric. This is for a small-medium sized person. If you have a larger size, remember to add width not just to your upper area but to the skirt as well, to make the dress drape nicely and give you space to move.

After cutting the pieces from the fabric (but before you cut them after your figure) you will want to bast them together in order to try the size and fitting. The dotted lines on the picture above indicates were you can make the dress a little bit figure close (waist/under the breasts, under the armpit and at the back). When you try out the dress, remember to have your shift/dresses underneath so it wont get to small. If you’re using a modern bra during your viking adventures, then also wear it during fitting sessions.

When the dress is done, I usually make the straps in the same wool fabric as I made the dress itself. Make them as narrow bands (folded double) and sew them on to the back of your dress at the same position as your bra straps would be- this will make them lay comfortable on your shoulders. In the front you may sew them down to the dress if you haven’t got tortoise brooches yet, otherwise use these to fasten the straps to the dress. I prefer to do a loop at the end of the strap, and then another one at the front of the dress; these you can clearly see in finds from the viking age, and it also makes it easier to use the brooches without damaging your fabric.

If you want, decorations is a nice way to spice up your apron dress. A tablet woven band, a small piece of silk fabric or a silver thread posament is find-based decorations from the viking age. Good luck with your sewing!

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