I, Cody, and Kyle have joined a Viking group.
It all started last summer when the Skjaldborg Vikings were featured at the Swedish festival. I was naturally very excited for three reasons: 1. I have always liked the Vikings. 2. I am Swedish, and thus descended from Vikings. 3. I saw the Skjaldborg Vikings once upon a time when I was about thirteen at the Nebraska Renaissance Faire, and have wanted to be a Viking ever since. (True story.) So, John convinced me to join, and this spring I made costumes for me, Cody, and Kyle, and we decided to go to Tivoli, a Danish Festival in Elkhorn, Iowa. It was a lot of fun– I got to warp a traditional warp-weight loom and begin weaving, Kyle learned a little about fighting, and Cody helped me with cutting heddle ties and kept me company while I was working on the loom.
Of course, I would like to enumerate all of the crazy things that happened that weekend, but I really should talk about the kits I made. Since I love to work with textiles and clothing, I thought I would make our kits as elaborate as possible just by nature of the color of the garments (which would have to be colors commonly available) and the contrasting embroidery thread. Also, since I portray a textile worker, I made undertunics for all of us, which would have been a status symbol in Viking Scandinavia.
Kyle’s kit was the end result of a long story that began at Christmas, when he asked for a sword. Mom said it was okay, so I found him a sword and Kory and I split the cost for his Christmas present. When his birthday rolled around, he asked for a Viking costume. I decided I could make him one, as he was also interested in joining Skjaldborg, so I found a pattern and material and made his kit.
The first thing I made was his undertunic. I had some osnaburg left over from the Mary Ann Talbot project, so that was what I used. I used a basic Viking tunic pattern, and left out the gores for the skirt of the tunic, as it would be under his outer tunic and they would not be necessary. Instead, I left the sides open as slits. I sewed the undertunic by machine except for the hems and collar, as they would show.
Next, I made his outer tunic. He originally wanted a dark red, but I couldn’t find anything in both the right color and the right type of material at Hancock’s, so I went with a dark blue. As he is a kid who will probably grow out of this in a year or so, and also liable to be rough on things, I didn’t get real linen, but instead got a polyester that looked and felt like linen. Unfortunately, it frayed more as I was sewing it.
The pants were about the most frustrating item to make, even though they were completed in one day. The pattern I was following was very odd and didn’t seem to call actual body mechanics or measurements into consideration. Finally, I made my own pattern that was somewhat workable, and just put the pants together with a drawstring at the waist. They were made of a grey wool I had had for quite some time, and that Kyle had wanted me to use for him at some point or another for quite a while.
(Not shown is Kyle’s cloak, which is basically a rectangle of dark grey wool that is pinned at his right shoulder.)
AfterI gave Kyle his costume, I still had a few emendations to make on his costume, including red embroidery at the collar, a white glass bead and buttonhole at the collar of his undertunic, and a gusset in the crotch of his pants, to keep them from getting ripped out again. The sleeves were also too long, and had to be hemmed shorter. Also, just this morning, I finally made him some leg wraps out of red wool, so his pants won’t be so baggy at the lower edge.
Cody’s kit was the next project. I made all of the pieces in pretty much the same way as Kyle’s, except I did put gores into the skirt of the undertunic. It just made more sense in his case. I also used real linen for his tunic, a lovely forest green which just so happens to be his favorite color, but I used the same kind of material for his pants as for Kyle’s tunic, except in brown. Someday, we will get real linen or wool, but I was running short on cash at that point, as it was the end of the school year. I embroidered the collar and cuffs of his tunic with a creamy-colored linen embroidery thread, in the same pattern as the embroidery on Kyle’s tunic. It was a pattern that archeologists found embroidered on a silk tuic with gold thread in a ship burial somewhere in Scandinavia (not sure the tutorial actually said where) and I copied linen on linen for Cody’s tunic. It turned out very nice.
After his first fitting, I had to admonish him not to do ninja kicks and put a gusset into his pants too. I forsee this as a standard feature for all Viking pants I ever do in the future. He still doesn’t have any leg bands, but I think there is quite a bit of wool left from Kyle’s pants that should work for him.
My kit was naturally much different than Kyle’s and Cody’s. It consists of an underdress or shift, an overdress, and an apron dress. By the time I was done with Cody’s kit, I only had a week in which to do my costume, so at this point I did not do any embroidery at all on my overdress or underdress.
For the underdress, I used a fine white linen and cut the majority of the underdress quite large. I then soaked the underdress in water and tied it up lengthwise, sleeves separate from the body, so it would acquire fine pleats while drying, just like the ones often shown on contemporary drawings. I was quite happy with how it turned out, as linen wrinkles easily if you just look at it, so planned wrinkles turned out to be a good idea.
The overdress was my next project. When I had gotten my fabric at Hancock’s, there was only two and a half yards left of this beautiful blue linen, so I got it all and prayed it would work. It took me an entire morning to cut it out, just from all the double-checking. As it was, I only cut out the main part of the dress, the sleeves, and two rather small gores for the skirt. Luckily, I had planned to make the sleeves and the skirt shorter than that of my underdress, to show off the pleating and snowy whiteness of my linen, which was a fashionable feature of women’s clothing.
My apron dress was made of some dark red wool I had acquired who knows how long ago and made into a cloak, a Swedish bodice, and a terrible jumper that I only ever wore once. So, for this project, the jumper had to go! I cut it off right below the fusible interfacing that I used by mistake and hemmed the top edge. I added small white shoulder straps, and my apron dress was done! The bottom edge had a lovely fringe that had been woven into the material, so I left that as it was.
My Viking Jewellry
One of the Skjaldborg guys at Tivoli gave me the necklace with the pewter pendant and a silver bracelet, and another gave me the pewter brooches and a pewter bracelet. The beads and earrings were mine, and were approved for Viking use by another gentleman in the group who has done a lot of research on the Vikings.
All in all, the kits turned out well, and I can’t wait to make more Viking gear in the future!
Looking Fierce-- Except Cody!
The Vikings at Tivoli