Viking Shield

When does painting a shield begin to mesh with costuming?  Of course, we all know that a shield was often critical to identifying one on the field of battle, but how does a girl who primarily sews end up painting a Viking shield?

When she gets a blank shield and buys paint.

A while back, I traded Chris, one of the blacksmiths in Skjaldborg, a pair of hand-stitched wool pants for a couple of shields for myself and Kyle.  Of course, they were plain, and I needed to come up with a design to paint on mine.  Kyle announced almost immediately that his shield was going to be ‘plain green and yellow’.  I, being a woman, wanted something prettier than a plain shield and couldn’t decide on colors.  I had an Old Norse quote I wanted to put on my shield ever since I first found the quote, but other than that. . .  How to decorate?

I eventually decided I wanted to do some sort of a Norse serpent design, similar to those found on the many runestones throughout Scandinavia, and to put my runes with my quote in the main body of the snake.  So, I then researched the type of art common during the time I portray as a Viking, the Jellinge Style, and came up with several pictures of runestones, brooches, etc.  It was all very confusing.  So, I picked one, with a fairly common style of snake head, ignored the rest, and just went from there for my own design.  After all, most Vikings who carved runestones made their own designs according to the shape of the stone, and there were no set patterns for certain shapes, so why should it be that way for a shield?

Shield Design

Shield Design

Once I had this design figured out, which took me about an hour and a half, I copied it onto my blank shield.  That took about another hour.  I am definitely not good at drawing, so it takes a long time to draw things and get them to what I want them to look like.  Also, in the course of this day, (it was a Thursday), I bought paint for our shields– hunter green and pale yellow for Kyle’s shield, and a dark red and blank for mine, since I was also going to use the yellow.

Saturday, we decided to paint them:  (You can faintly see my drawn-out design.)

Ready to Paint

Ready to Paint

And after edging every single line with red:

Edged Out

Edged Out

This all took about two hours.  I had started out with a decent size brush, but ended up have to switch to a smaller art brush in order to not make a mess of every line on the shield.  So, I just used the little brush to edge things out and then painted in the larger areas with the larger brush.  (This is about the time Kyle finished painting his shield, actually, or about half an hour before I got done with the edging.  He stayed around and kept me company, though.)

Red Paint is Done

Red Paint is Done

(This was about the time I realized I would be out longer than I originally thought, being two and a half hours into painting, and went inside to change into a sleeveless shirt to avoid a farmer’s tan.  That didn’t work out quite like I thought it would.)

So now you can finally see the design in full, although the loops in the snake aren’t properly defined.  Next, I painted in the yellow:

The Snake is Yellow!

The Snake is Yellow!

The yellow paint kept getting a scum on the top, which Kyle had to fix for me by often closing the can of paint and shaking it.  Also, the scumminess made me have to go inside to wash my brush about every half hour.  So, I got done with the yellow about 5:30 in the evening.  I started the painting at 1:00.

Next step was to paint the black outline of the serpent and the runes.  I had to trace in the lines where the black paint should go where the loops intersected with a pencil, and I was ready.  This was the most tedious part of the whole project.

Black Outline is FINALLY Painted

Black Outline is FINALLY Painted

I started the black outline outside, but after a while I realized two things:  first, I was sunburned just on my right side, due to the positioning of the sun and the fact that I had not moved from that place by our front deck all afternoon.  Also, I was getting cold.  When an old sweatshirt still didn’t warm me up, and my hand locked up and wouldn’t move anymore, I figured I was too cold and hungry to keep going outside, so I packed everything up and went inside.  Kyle cooked supper, and I kept painting on the kitchen floor.  After supper, the outline was finally finished, and I penciled in the runes to check the spacing.  Then, I painted the runes, which took another hour.  I finally finished about 10:30 at night, when all was said and done.

Finally Done!

Finally Done!

The runes read:  “Munr ver harðri, hjarta bitari, hugr ríkari, síðan várr þrek minka.” and “Kristr em herra.”
“The mind must be the harder, the heart the keener, the spirit the greater, as our strength grows less.” and “Christ is Lord.”

Now that is done, I can continue with my other projects, and start hoping that the men of Skjaldborg don’t see fit to destroy my shield in the first battle it is in– not that battle scars are a bad thing by any means!

Oh, and Kyle’s shield:

This one only took a little over an hour. . .

This one only took a little over an hour. . .

Much easier, and still cool.  Maybe my next shield will look more like this. . .

Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm  Comments (8)  
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Project Updates!

No, I’m not going to talk about my Nalbinding this time.  Sorry.  I have a few other things I promised to show here, so here they are:

Remember the Gambeson?

Develon's Gambeson

Develon's Gambeson

If you remember, I entered this Gambeson in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Medieval and Renaissance Studies Paper and Project Competition.  It tied for first.  With an interpretive dance interpreting the history of civilization.  It was a silly dance.  BUT I GOT FIRST!!!

Me and Dr. Levin, Head of the Med-Ren Program

Me and Dr. Levin, Head of the Med-Ren Program

That was at the program, after it was announced that I had won.  I got a 75-Dollar gift card to the Nebraska Bookstore here on campus as a prize, which I have already spent on ordering in some awesome books on Norse Clothing.  Hopefully, I won’t read these books and find out I’ve been doing everything wrong!!!

Also, if you remember, I was working on a new underdress and apron dress for my friend Jessica to wear at this year’s Tivoli Fest.  I have finished it!

Jessica the Herbalist

Jessica the Herbalist

And a close-up:

Detail of Neckline, Etc.

Detail of Neckline, Etc.

Jessica is going to be portraying an herbalist from Norway, about the beginning of the tenth century.  There are a few details of her costume that are different from mine, namely, there is no dress proper in her kit– just the underdress and an apron dress.  That is a more Norwegian aspect than my dress, which is from about the same time in Sweden, and has three layers.  Also, she is poorer than I am, so the materials of her dress are a lot rougher, especially that of the underdress.  However, her dress is a lot more fitted than mine, particularly in the apron dress.  This is something that came about in Norway sooner than in Sweden, since Sweden had more contact with Eastern Europe and Norway had more contact with Western Europe.  The straps are also wider, and she has a bit of embroidery in plain raw linen thread along the top of her apron dress, which was actually used to hem the top edge– it took exactly the same amount of time hemming it normally would have, and looks much nicer.  Her underdress is unpleated, and the neckline is oval, rather than keyhole-shaped.

As she is poorer, she has my old pewter brooches, which are earlier than her persona in style, and Swedish to boot, but we will be doing our best to fix that at a later date.  However, her pendant, which is also pewter (or at least I think it it is) is Norwegian and from her time period.  Also, she has a nice string of beads, which pretty much everyone wore, but they are in the more common colors of blue and black, rather than bright reds and greens, which were more popular in Sweden.

Also, she has a silk cap– not correct at all for a poor herbalist, but first of all, I can’t wear it with my hair color, and secondly, we are going to explain it away as an heirloom or gift and have her only wear it on very nice occasions.

So there you have the updates on what I have been doing!  Later, when I finish my hat, I will show you my nalbinding, I promise.

Published in: on May 6, 2010 at 11:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Ravensborg: Return of the Sun 2010

On the weekend of April 22-25, my little brother Kyle and I went down to Ravensborg Viking Fortress in Missouri for the Viking Celebration of the return of spring.  It rained.  THE WHOLE WEEKEND.  So much for sunny spring weather!

Aside from that, however, it was a good weekend.  We spent the whole weekend living like Vikings, and got a better idea of what life would have really been like dodging leaks in the roof and mud puddles.  The hem of my good white underdress was about 6 inches deep in mud spatters by the time the weekend was over.

Of course, Kyle had a birthday the weekend after we went to Ravensborg, so he got new Viking kit a little early for his birthday:

Taking His Aim

Taking His Aim

Thinking Over the Archery

Thinking Over the Archery

So, as you can see, he is quite a rich Viking– bright red tunic with yellow embroidery, undertunic, baggy wool pants, leg bands, and all the other things that make a Viking respectable.  All of it is completely hand-sewn and embroidered, so it is almost one-hundred percent accurate!  I didn’t think the red would come out quite that bright, but I suppose it was inevitable.  I just hope it fades out a little bit, and if that fails, I know it won’t fit him this time next year, and I can make him something a bit more understated.  His undertunic is already a bit too small– I took his measurements a month before I made his kit, and while I made the overtunic big enough for him to grow into, I made the undertunic his size.  Big mistake.  He almost outgrew it, while the “too-big” overtunic is the right size.  I guess I know what I’ll be doing before the next Viking event!

As for myself, I just sewed a lot while I was there- there isn’t much to do while you are sitting inside.  First I worked on a Byzantine tunic, before any of the public got there.  It is a really bright saffron-colored cotton, and while colors like that did exist in the Viking age, I decided it would be best to keep it hidden when the public was there so as not to confuse them.

Sitting and Sewing

Sitting and Sewing

Later, when it stopped raining for a while, I sat outside and worked on an underdress for a friend of mine.  Notice my new bling!  (Yup, I got new brooches.  They’re pretty.)

Sewing Outside

Sewing Outside

I didn’t finish the underdress until this week, but I got a great start on it at Ravensborg!  Making something all hand-sewn is a bit of a new thing for me, something I hadn’t done much until the gambeson.  Granted, I knew how, and had done a few smaller projects like aprons completely by hand, but a dress?  A tunic?  A gambeson?  A pair of pants?  These are all things I had never done completely by hand before and now have.  I still don’t have the nice 16-stitches-to-the-inch standard that the pioneer women of 1800’s America held themselves to, but I do have a fine strong stitch, and I have actually found that making slightly larger stitches and back-stitching every few stitches holds just as well and is less likely to pucker.

Here is the list of my sewing projects finished in the month of April:  the gambeson, two pairs of Viking pants, two tunics, one undertunic, an underdress, a linen pillowcase, and a lot of mending– all by hand.  I never got my sewing machine out his month.  I feel accomplished!

Of course, it wasn’t all sewing down at Ravensborg.  Kyle and I also fought a bit.  It was fun.

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry

Fighting in the 'Circle of Honor'

(That’s not Kyle, just for the record.)  And then I ‘died’.

Dead Flicka

We also did some shield wall battles.

Guess which one I am?

I am not a very good fighter yet. . .  I need practice, and practice, and practice.  At least Kyle and I now both have saexes and shields, so we can practice a little at home.

Saturday morning, we got to ride around in the lake in the Yrsa, Sam’s Viking boat.  It was fun, except Kyle was afraid of falling in the water, since he can’t swim that well, so he didn’t go.  He sat on the bank and watched.

The Yrsa

All in all, it was a great weekend, and we made a lot of friends in the Jomsborg Vikings from Texas!

High Table at the Feast

Here are a few more favorite pictures from the weekend:

Kyle and Inga

Sunset

Surveying the Land

The Mead Hall

Later, I will tell you about my foray into Nalbinding. . .

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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