A Psychadelic Viking Tunic

I am so far behind on blogging.  My husband and I closed on our house on May 7th, and we’ve been painting ever since.  I just got back from Costume College, and while I promise I’ll have a post on that soon, I feel like I need to wrap up my loose ends on my Historical Sew Monthly projects.  So without further ado, here is the Birka Viking Tunic I made for my husband!

Birka Viking Tunic

Birka Viking Tunic

And here are the Historical Sew Monthly Facts!

What the item is (and how it is a product of war or a lengthy period of peace): A Viking Tunic and Undertunic from the Swedish Trading Island of Birka. The Viking Age is often regarded as an era of war and conflict, but in the eastern Viking world, it was a time of peace and trading. Viking Traders often travelled to Constantinople to trade furs for silks and other goods. Many varied items from many cultures have been found at Birka, including Chinese silk, a Bhuddha figure, Christian crosses, and a ring with an Arabic inscription.

The Challenge: April: War and Peace.

Fabric: Overtunic: 100% linen in a pink and green herringbone. Undertunic: 100% linen.

Pattern: Widely accepted theorized Birka Tunic pattern, based on grave finds.

Year: 900’s.

Notions: Thread.

How historically accurate is it? Well, it is dyed linen. There are some finds of dyed linen from the Viking Age, but linen doesn’t survive well in graves. I know it is possible to get these colors on linen using Viking Age dyes, but it would be extremely expensive. As this is a tunic for a wealthy trader, I think that is acceptable. Really, I used the pink and green herringbone because WHO COULD PASS THAT UP? The cut is definitely right with what we know. About 70%.

Hours to complete: I cut this out last fall. Really only about 5 though. It still needs trim but I’m calling it wearable right now.

First worn: For pictures.

Total cost: $40? Ish? Can’t recall what the herringbone cost but it was not terribly expensive.

And here are a few other pictures.  I don’t have any construction pictures of this one because I didn’t think to take any.

Side View

Side View

He Made that Seax

He Made that Seax

Isn’t that a pretty seax?  He made it.  My husband is so talented!

Birka Pouch

Birka Pouch

He made that pouch too.  He’s very artistic.

So there you have it!  I just really love this fabric.  I have an apron dress made of the same fabric that I need to finish weaving trim for.  Hopefully I’ll get that done before Hostfest this year.  I’m currently working on some really complicated wool trim in pink and green for this tunic which should be done by then as well.

Published in: on August 5, 2015 at 6:51 pm  Comments (2)  

Fabrics-store.com Top Talent Showdown!!!

I have entered a sewing contest!  My favorite linen source, http://fabrics-store.com/, is having a contest in which you can enter a photo of a garment you have made with linen from their store, and others can then vote on the entries and determine the winner!

I have entered the 1150’s Swedish Medieval Dress I made this spring for my honors thesis, as I bought both the linen for the underdress and the overdress from fabrics-store.com.  (The blue linen is the nicest linen I have ever worked with!)

So, dear readers, what does this mean for you?  If you have a Facebook account, go here: here and vote for my dress! You can vote once a day until July 11th, so please go vote and vote often!  If I win, I will receive a gift certificate to buy more wonderful linen and make more beautiful items for my blog!

Of course, I had to take some better photos of my dress for the contest, so here is a selection of photos.

I Feel Pretty

I Feel Pretty

Maiden in Blue

Maiden in Blue

Shepherdess

Shepherdess

Being a Shepherdess

Being a Shepherdess

"Little lamb, who made thee?"

"Little lamb, who made thee?"

This is now the 1150's. . .

This is now the 1150's. . .

Published in: on July 2, 2011 at 11:39 am  Comments (3)  

Tablet Weaving

Back in March, I picked up a book on tablet weaving and a bundle of fifty cards.  I got some wool and linen yarn, and intended to start weaving within the next couple of weeks, but I never got around to it.  The summer passed, I kept seeing my book, envisioning tablet woven edging for my Viking clothing, and wanting to weave, but it never happened.

Yesterday, I finally started weaving.

I picked out a pattern from my book and changed it just a bit so I could have three colors, instead of the two it showed.  Not content with the very basic patterns in the book, I picked one of the prettier ones further in.  Knowing my limits, I didn’t pick this pattern, but I did choose one in which half the cards are threaded to the right, and half to the left.  I had blue, green, and off-white yarn, and decided to use the off-white as my base, the blue as the pattern, and the green as the accent and the weft.

Tablet weaving is a warp-faced weave, so I had to measure out my warp in the colors for the pattern accordingly– 30 threads in the off-white, 16 threads in the blue, and 2 in the green.  Since the pattern I had chosen would show the weft thread at each reversal of the card-turning direction, I used the same green for the accent and for the weft.   This pattern uses twelve cards with four holes each.

Tablet Weaving Pattern

Tablet Weaving Pattern

Once my warp was measured, I combed the colors together, and threaded my cards.  Unknown to me at the time, I threaded them all backwards, so I ended up with a jagged-edge pattern instead of the smooth curvy pattern I had envisioned.  But I didn’t figure this out until I started weaving.

Since I have no loom, I literally tied myself into my work.  I sat on the bed, with my belt on, the warp and working end attached to the belt, and the end of the warp knotted and looped around my right foot.  This looked just a little ridiculous.

Modus Operendi

Modus Operendi

In no time at all, I was weaving. However, I soon noticed that my pattern wasn’t smooth.  For a while, I thought the book had a typo in the directions, but soon realized my cards were just threaded backwards.  Since the pattern was still pretty anyway, and I had learned from it, I continued for another few hours, until I ran out of warp, and finished a 6-foot length of tablet weaving.

Diamond Pattern

Diamond Pattern

After Weaving About Five Feet

After Weaving About Five Feet

I am certainly going to be tablet weaving more in the future, and will continue to post pictures of my work.

As for the nålbinding I kept mentioning a while back?  I have finished a hat and a sock, but I keep forgetting to take pictures.  I will have some soon, I promise.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Making of a Medieval Gambeson

In the summer of 2009, I was asked by a friend of mine, Develon, if I could make an authentic Viking-Age Gambeson for him to use in live steel combat.  As I have done many sewing projects in the past, and have a specialization in historical clothing, I agreed.

After researching various styles of gambesons and arming coats in use throughout the middle ages, we decided that a quilted layered linen gambeson would be the best choice for the late Viking age, as it would consist entirely of materials easily available in Viking Scandinavia, and as layered linen gambesons were commonly used by the poorer classes as armor by themselves, unlike later quilted and stuffed gambesons that were primarily worn under other armor, whether chain or plate.  Henry Skodall, a German historian, in his report on armor during the Norman invasion, states that “medieval Steppwämse [gambesons] were not padded, but by countless layers of linen were to hold the arrow fire.”[1] Images in the Bayeux tapestry reflect this, with some armor appearing to be chain mail, some appearing to be ring mail, some appearing to be scale mail, and some appearing to be various forms of quilted gambesons.[2]

Bayeux Tapestry Detail

Bayeux Tapestry Detail

Bayeux Tapestry Fight Detail

Bayeux Tapestry Fight Detail

However, there are few extant layered gambesons which could be looked at for construction methods and sewing techniques, and very few historical accounts of such gambesons aside from illuminated manuscripts and tapestries, making it more difficult to construct one correctly.  So, the only option, after researching and finding next to nothing concrete on early, or pre-14th century Medieval padded armor, was to create our own from what is known, and then test its effectiveness.  As Elizabeth Wayland Barber said in Women’s Work, textiles and textile products are most difficult to learn about, as few survive.  Thus, it is often necessary to recreate textiles and clothing in order to learn how they were made and why.[3]

It was decided to cut the gambeson in the ‘T’ tunic style, which would eliminate bulky shoulder seams and create a stronger cloth as a whole, and to cut every fourth layer on the bias, that is, with the weave of the cloth at a forty-five degree angle to straight, which is a feature found in some extant layered linen gambesons, and would cause the quilted cloth to be stronger and resist being pierced by arrows and other such points better than so many layers of straight cloth.  The layers on the bias would also create more ‘stretch’ in the layers, which would again make the layering and quilting stronger.  Unlike many reproductions of quilted gambesons which are available to purchase or see today, and are usually stuffed, it was decided to make the gambeson at least twenty-eight layers thick.  This seems like a lot, but there are references to gambesons that had up to thirty layers.  Indeed, the only way a gambeson of plain quilted linen could provide much padding on its own or much protection would be if it were incredibly thick.

After all was decided, Develon ordered the linen—forty yards of plain, tabby-weave, unbleached canvas-weight linen.  Once it arrived, I cut it out according to measure:  seven layers with sleeves, seven on the bias, and the other fourteen layers straight with no sleeves.  (It was decided early on to only cut a fraction of the layers with sleeves to allow for greater mobility of the arms.)

Cutting Out the Gambeson

Cutting Out the Gambeson

The layers were then laid out together, alternating straight cut with bias cut pieces in order to make the fabric stronger. As the material was too thick to pin the layers together, the layers were then tied together in a grid with heavy string, much in the manner that a comforter is tied, to stabilize the layers and keep them from shifting while being quilted.

Laying Out the Layers

Laying Out the Layers and Tying the Gambeson

The next step was the quilting of the gambeson, which took approximately 34 hours.  The lines of quilting were made three inches, or 7.62 centimeters, apart.  The gambeson was quilted entirely by hand with a steel needle and rough, unbleached linen thread.  To make stitching easier, the thread was waxed with natural beeswax.

Working on the Gambeson

Working on the Gambeson

Once the gambeson was entirely quilted, the edges had to be bound, gussets inserted under the arms, and lacing panels put on the sides to facilitate lacing eyelets to fasten the gambeson.  Unlike some stuffed gambesons, which were tied up the front, we decided early on to lace this one up the sides, which would allow for a closer fit and better protection, less weight, and the ability to wear this gambeson easily under a coat of mail.  So, the edges were bound, using the same running stitch that had been used for the quilting.  Gussets for the underarms were cut out, much the same way that gussets would have been cut for a standard ‘T’ tunic, but instead of being sewn in one piece like a standard tunic, they were folded over and stitched as separate panels, allowing lacing eyes to adjust the fit on the arms as needed.  Leather strips were sewn into the edges that would come under the most strain, those of the side lacing panels, and eyelets were sewn in—six in each side lacing panel, and seven in each underarm gusset, again with waxed linen thread.

Final Stages of Work

Final Stages of Work

Finally, a collar was cut out in the form of three strips on the bias, which allowed the fabric to curve smoothly around the round edge of the neckline and gave the collar a thickness of six layers, and binding was applied to the edges of the neck slit.  The collar was top-stitched on the edge to attach it to the gambeson itself, then stitched through all layers to make it stand up.  Leather lacing was cut out to lace up the sides, and the gambeson was completed!

Develon's Gambeson

Develon's Gambeson

However, our work was not done yet.  To simply make a correct gambeson was not enough if we did not test it.  So, a 15 by 18 inch (38.1 by 45.72 cm) ‘test piece’ was made, of exactly the same materials, layers, stitches, and quilting technique as the gambeson itself.  Viking period correct arrowheads were ordered, both bodkins and broadheads, and placed on cedar shafts with hand-tied goosefeather fletching.

Broadhead and Bodkin-Point Arrows

Broadhead and Bodkin-Point Arrows

Develon already owned a 45-pound wooden bow and a Viking-age reproduction spear, sharp, as well as a couple of hand-axes and a sharp sword, which were also used in the test.

The primary goal of the test was to ascertain the effectiveness of the gambeson as stand-alone armor and when coupled with chain mail.

(In the following, piercing refers to an arrow or other weapon breaking some layers of the gambeson, but not all layers.  Penetration refers to a weapon breaking or cutting through all layers, and amount of penetration refers to the part of the blade that came out the other side.)

The test piece was hung vertically from a wire flush against a stack of standard square hay bales.

Readying the Test Piece

Readying the Test Piece

A test shot was fired at just the haybales without the test piece, and the arrow nearly went completely through the bale.

Firing the Longbow

Firing the Longbow

First Two Shots

First Two Shots

A succession of arrows were then fired at the test piece from 30 feet with the following results:

1.  Bodkin-tipped arrow, 16mm penetration.
2.  Broadhead-tipped arrow, cut all the way through (However, this was on a seam between two haybales.  May have been a lucky shot or due to absolutely no resistance behind test piece.)
3.  Broadhead-tipped arrow, 13mm penetration.
4.  Bodkin-tipped arrow, 36 mm penetration.

Arrow Shot Number 4

Arrow Shot Number 4

5.  Bodkin-tipped arrow, 15 mm penetration.

Shot Number 5

Shot Number 5

Penetration of Shot Number 5

Penetration of Shot Number 5

6.  Broadhead-tipped arrow, 7mm penetration.

Arrow Comparison

Arrow Comparison

Shot 6 Penetration

Shot 6 Penetration

7.  Broadhead-tipped arrow, 37mm penetration.
8.  Broadhead-tipped arrow, 9mm penetration—broke arrow.
9.  Bodkin-tipped arrow, 7mm penetration.

Shot Number 9

Shot Number 9

10.  Bodkin-tipped arrow, Bounced off, minimal piercing.

After ten shots were fired, a piece of 16-guage zinc-plated riveted steel chain mail was added on top of the gambeson, to compare with damage inflicted on the gambeson only.

Chain on the Test Piece

Chain on the Test Piece

16-Gauge Riveted Steel Chain Mail

16-Gauge Riveted Steel Chain Mail

Shots were as follows, again from 30 feet:

11.   Broadhead-tipped arrow, bounced off, dented one link in mail.

12.  Bodkin-tipped arrow, 7mm penetration, broke one link.

13.  Broadhead-tipped arrow, small pierce, did not penetrate.  Broke two rings in mail.

14.  Bodkin-tipped arrow, 2mm penetration, broke two rings.

After the shooting was concluded, we decided to try a spear against the gambeson, to see how it would hold up to the significantly greater force of a spear.  Develon threw the spear from 20 feet with chain mail over the test piece.

Throwing the Spear

Throwing the Spear

15.   Sharp throwing/sparring spear, thrown.  Small pierce, damaged chain mail, bent tang of spearhead seventy degrees.

We then removed the chain mail from the test piece, and repaired the spear.  Erik, who was also helping to test, then threw the spear again from 20 feet.

16.   Sharp throwing/sparring spear, thrown.  Small pierce, no penetration.

Damage from Spear on Gambeson Alone

Damage from Spear on Gambeson Alone

Develon then thrust the spear at the armor in order to see if the spear could pierce the gambeson if there was steady pressure behind the spear.

Spear Thrust

Spear Thrust

17.   Sharp throwing/sparring spear thrust, small pierce, no penetration.

Next, we attempted to damage the armor with both sharp hand-axes and a sharpened sword, and failed to cause any damage to the test piece.  To dispel doubts about the sharpness of the sword, with one easy swing it was embedded into a block of wood, and stuck there on its own accord.

Sword in a Woodblock

Sword in a Log

In all, there were 17 piercings or penetrations on the front of the test piece, and 12 on the back of the test piece.

Front of Test Piece Post Testing

Front of Test Piece Post Testing

Back of Test Piece Post Testing

Back of Test Piece Post Testing

From these results, it is possible to see that the gambeson is more effective against bodkin arrows than against broadheads.  While the arrows would still pierce one’s skin to some extent were you shot while wearing it, a gambeson would be vastly superior to one’s tunic or even chain mail on its own, as the arrows tended to break links in the chain mail and then proceed to pass right through.  However, broadhead arrows, which were more easily stopped by the chain mail, tended to slice right through the layers of the gambeson.  The multiple bias-cut layers of the gambeson worked excellently against the bodkin arrows, as they pierced more than cut, and the bias layers caused an elasticity that resisted the piercing points of the bodkin-type arrows.  As for the other weapons used, they appeared to be futile against the gambeson, but would have caused a great deal of bruising and broken limbs, ribs, etc., a condition that would have been easily dealt with in the Middle Ages, as cuts and infection were more to be feared.

The one disadvantage to quilted layered linen over a later stuffed gambeson is the cost and labor.  While a stuffed gambeson can even be made mostly from scraps and waste fabric for the stuffing, with minimal ‘good’ fabric for the shell, a quilted layered gambeson would require about forty yards of good linen fabric, a good deal more than the four or five required for a stuffed gambeson.  It would also require a great deal of labor—this gambeson required nearly sixty hours of skilled labor to construct, and that was from the fabric.  (My finger turned greeny-blue from my brass thimble.  I call it the badge of a seamstress.)

Greeny-Blue Finger

Greeny-Blue Finger

In an early medieval society, the linen would not only have to be quilted by hand, but the linen would have to be spun and woven into fabric first, before the gambeson could be constructed.  To give one an idea of how labor intensive that would be, one must realize that it takes about ten times as long to weave a piece of cloth as it does to make something from it, and about ten times as long to spin the thread for a piece of cloth as to weave it.  However, as the linen gambeson is made from a lower grade linen, we can surmise that it would only take 5 times as long on each count.  Still, this would be a phenomenal amount to labor to construct a gambeson.  However, when compared to the cost of shirt of chain mail, which would cost as much as a small farm, the cost of a gambeson would significantly less.  For the amount of protection a layered linen gambeson provides, it would be a viable piece of armor for a lower-class fighter.


[1]Skodall, Henry.  “Schutzausrüstung Zur Zeit Der Schlacht Von Hastings”  http://www.reenactment.de/reenactment_start/reenactment_startseite/diverses/kitguide/kitguide.html  Accessed March 2010.

[2] Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry at the Museum of Reading.  http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/Bayeux27.htm  Accessed March 2010.

[3] Barber, Elizabeth Wayland.  Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years. 26.

UPDATE July 2011: This style of gambeson, custom-made, is now available for sale here from Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle.

Published in: on April 1, 2010 at 9:21 pm  Comments (21)  
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Viking Brooches

A Viking friend of mine– here’s shouting out to Develon!– has offered to make me some brooches and other assorted pretties in partial payment for a linen gambeson.  Having never made a gambeson before, I am still not sure exactly how hard it will be, but I have made more complicated and detailed things before, so I think it should be an interesting experience.  Also, it will be nice to have some challenging busywork like quilting twenty layers of linen and two of wool for evenings when I am just plain sick of studying.  More on the Gambeson when I get the material and it starts to take shape.

As for the brooches, I can’t decide exactly what I like or really want to have Dev make for me.  So, here are a few ideas:

For starters, Kyle and Cody need cloak pins of some sort– I think some penannular brooches, not too complicated or ornate, would be just the ticket– preferably made of bronze so they are stronger.  Maybe something like this:  (Excuse the fuzziness of the picture.)

Penannular Brooch

Penannular Brooch

(My scanner was broken, mostly not working actually, but I had to take pictures of the things I liked out of the Viking Books rather than getting the lovely pictures I really wanted.  That is why some of these are fuzzy.)

As for brooches for myself, I would like a couple of “Tortoise” brooches, as they seem to have been more commonly worn than the round style I currently have, and at any rate I would like to upgrade from pewter to bronze, as it looks nicer and is a little stronger.  If I get the tortoise brooches, they would probably be something like this:

Trefoil, Tortoise Brooches, and Equal-Arm Brooch

Trefoil, Tortoise Brooches, and Equal-Arm Brooch

However, if I remember right, the open spaces are hard to do, so I’m not even sure I want or need the tortoise brooches at that rate.  Round ones like these below might be better:

Borre Style Round Brooches

Borre Style Round Brooches

I really like the one on the right, especially if it were done in bronze.  I am not sure what the loop below it was for, but I presume it was for hanging needle cases, knives, ear-spoons, etc.– all a respectable Viking lady needed on her person at all times.  This one would also be appropriate, as it is approximately from the era that I portray, and very distinctively Viking, with the very typical gripping beasts.

For the last item I am interested in, I would like a brooch for clasping my cloak.  While I really like the trefoil brooches, and the story behind them.  (Apparently they were made originally by stealing a mount from Frankish Sword Belts and adding a pin to the back.  “Hey honey, look what I brought you from the raid!”)  However, I really prefer the equal-armed brooches for the purpose of a heavy wool cloak.  I like the larger one in this picture about the best:

Equal-Armed Brooches

Equal-Armed Brooches

But, again this brooch is so incredibly ornate that I can’t even begin to imagine what it would take to make it– so much for “primitive technology”!  Still not certain on this one, so I will need to ask Dev what he thinks would be possible.  Also, I think the original was gold, so this would have been a rich lady’s piece.  I know I portray an upper class lady, but I’m not sure I’m that rich!

So there we have it– I have ideas, but can’t decide a thing!  Good thing fabric choices are easier– you get what the store has and go from there!  Let me know what you think about the brooches, and I will post with my final decisions.

Published in: on August 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm  Comments (2)  

Vikings!

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

Kyle's Kit

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

Cody's Kit

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

My Kit

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

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!

Looking Fierce-- Except Cody!

The Vikings at Tivoli

The Vikings at Tivoli

Published in: on August 14, 2009 at 10:12 am  Comments (1)  

My First Costume Attempts

Once upon a time there was a fourteen-year-old girl who made a drawstring skirt for 4-H.  As she was riding with her mom in the car on the way home, her mom suggested that she make a Civil War dress for 4-H the next year.  Not being one to deny a challenge, she agreed that would be nice and began planning, ever so slowly, for the next year. . .

Yes, that is how it all started.  My mom suggested I make a Civil War Dress, and, as I loved both history and sewing, I did.  But it was a little more complicated than that, because the story actually starts long before the blustery March in which I began the Civil War dress.  Six months before, on a sandbar on the Missouri river, I was talking with my friend Ashley about the upcoming movie The Return of the King, and how it would be so much fun to “dress up” for that.  It didn’t take too long for me to turn to her and say “If you go with me, I’ll make you a costume too.”  I was fourteen, and so sure about my awesome costuming skills then that I now have to laugh.  So, a few weeks later, she and I and another friend went to the fabric store and got material for our dresses.  I was to be Eowyn, Ashley was to be an elf, and our other friend was to be Arwen.

I made the Arwen dress first.  It was lavender, and had a dark, almost ‘burnt’ purple cloak to go with it.  The dress itself had a nearly square neckline and large sleeves.  It had to be done first so she could use it in a play, so I spent many evenings trying to finish the gold embroidery on the sleeves, neckline, and cloak.

Next, I made my own dress, since it was similar to the Arwen dress.  It was dark green, and had a red wool cloak with fringe on the edge of the hood and bottom.  I had ordered gold clasps for our cloaks and gold trim for my dress that very closely mimicked the trim on Eowyn’s dress in The Two Towers.  It had a verywide v-neckline and large sleeves as well, quite a bit too long and flaring too late, because they hang weird.  (I could fix that quite easily now, but feel it is almost sacrilegious to do so!)  I was inspired when cutting out the fabric for my dress to use the pieces left over at the sides as gores to make the skirt wider.  This chiefly worked because the way I cut out the dresses was rather strange, but a good way to avoid a zipper and other fastenings.  From the shoulders to the waist the dress was straight (to be gathered in with a belt while worn), and then the dress flared out to the width of the fabric– not very wide.  In adding the gores, the skirt of my dress was made more flowing and a little more flattering.

My Eowyn Dress

My Eowyn Dress

Finally, I made Ashley’s dress.  Hers was the prettiest and the best done, and took me twice as long as either of the other two dresses.  The main part was cut the same as the others, but in two layers, with quite different sleeves.  The inner layer of fabric was a pale blue satin, with tight sleeves, while the  outer layer was white chiffon with sleeves that hung straight from the shoulders to the hem.  Her cloak was dark blue with silver embroidery.

Did I mention that I made another dress at this time?  Another friend decided to jump on the bandwagon a few weeks before the movie, so I scrambled to get her dress done while laid up with the flu.  I will not hesitate to say that it was not quite as good as it could have been, but I was still learning.  She was going to be Galadriel, so her dress was white, with a white cloak.  Another friend of mine had her mom make dresses for her and her sister, while another used a dress she had worn in a play.  And, a guy I had never even met until the night of the movie party showed up in a costume he had made himself!  (Yes, Cody, now the love of my life.  Funny how these things work!)

The Costumed People at the Movie Theater

The Costumed People at the Movie Theater

But what about the Civil War dress?  I’ll tell you about that next time.

Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 4:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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