Saturday, 18 August 2018

HSM Challenge 8 - A Skjoldehamn hood

The August challenge for the HSM is "Extant originals - Copy an extant historical garment as closely as possible". When I first saw the challenge I really thought that I was going to skip this challenge. I knew that I would be busy sewing for Medieval week and NärCon during the summer, and to be honest there aren't that many extant originals for the 16th century, or rather not extant originals that are possible to make with a limited time and budget. When preparing my Viking costume I realized that it could be good to have something warm, and I had seen a lot of hoods called Skjoldehamn hoods, and then I also realized that they are actually based on an extant original. 

Not only was this a preserved original that would fit my Viking costume, but there has been a whole MA thesis in archaeology about the Skjoldehamn find, and it was available for free.  It is in Norwegian but with a lot of pictures and illustrations.

Nye tanker om Skjoldehamnsfunnet by Dan Halvard Lövlid

First an introduction about the find. In 1936 they found a body buried in a bog in Skjoldehamn, northern Norway. The bog had preserved the clothes, and gave unique insights into a male viking outfit, or is it? Dan Halvard Lövlid has in another essay, The Skjoldehamn find in light of new knowledge argued that it is likely that the clothes worn are more likely of a Sami origin, Sea Sami to be precise, and that even if it's likely a man it can't be dismissed that it is actually a woman that was buried in Skjoldehamn. What is clear is that the burial is dated to the 11th century and that the clothes have elements that point to both Norse and Sami traditions.

In the rest of the post I will go through what Lövlid writes in his thesis, and my choices and execution of the reconstruction.

Fabric and thread
The original is made out of a dark brown wool twill and sewn with wool threads in different shades of brown and gold.

I did not have acess to brown wool, so instead I have made it out of red wool twill. I have used wool thread in brown, gold and white. This makes my stitches very visible, compared to the originals, but they also show clearly how I have made them. Since this is a reconstruction I think it adds some interest to actually see the seams.

The cut out fabric


The pattern consists of three pieces, and here I made a mistake. I didn't understand how it was made just from reading the text, until I was well into reconstructing the hood and it was too late to change my pattern mistake. The original is made out of a square main piece and two smaller squares. I have made mine from a long rectangle and two squares.

I did a miniature version of both patterns to show the differences.

My shape of the pattern is to the right and the original shape is to the left. As you can see there are two cuts in the square piece, but it is not completely cut through.

The original was folded, the cuts acted as one opening for the face and one opening to add the front gore into, the hood is then sewed together at the top and the back. My rectangle is simply folded and leaves the front open, and you only need to sew the back together, since the top is a fold.

The different way of approaching the cutting of the pattern is due to saving fabric. For me, using a modern fabric on 150 cm width it's more economical to cut one long and narrow strip all along te width of the fabric, but fabric woven on a handloom is not as wide and then it is much more economical to use a square piece of fabric.

Lövlid has the measurements of the hood in his thesis. The body that was buried was between 155 and 160 cm, and since I am 162 cm I decided to reconcstruct the hood with the original measurements. Now the hood has been distorted and the back is not as well preserved as the front. I have made all the missing fabric symmetrical with the front, and I have also made the square gores symmetrical, even if the original today is not perfectly symmetrical.

The main piece is 1 m long and 25 cm wide. The two gores are squares with a side of 25 cm. The distortion of the original shows one side of 23 cm and one of 28, I decided to use a measurement between them.

The gores

The front gore is attached to the main piece by placing it under the man fabric, and fold the main fabric over the gore. It is then sewed together with fairly big stitches. On the inside the raw edge has a whip stitch with a filler thread to protect the edge.

The main piece is folder over the gore.

The seam from the right side

The felled seam on the back
The back gore is different. The left side has the main fabric folded over the gore, but on the right side the gore is folder over the main fabric. Lövlid mentions that the right side is a selvage and that this could be a reason for the different fold. I didn't have a selvage edge on my fabric, but I would also like to add another possible reason. I'm right handed, and it was easier and quicker for me to sew the seams when they were folded in the same direction, compared to the mirrored folds on the front.

The top  and back seams

The original has the edges of fabric folded down and then whipstitched together. Since I only had a fabric fold it wasn't really necessary for me to sew them together, but I simulated the top seam with a pleat and then I added a whipped seam on the top of the hood.

Under the top seam there are several distinctive seams. One seam go all along the front, one seam goes just a third of the way, and a third seams goes all along the top, but then loops around the shorter seam. They are all done with running stitches.

The back seam is sewn with big slanted stitches. My stitches actually ended up too small compared to the original.

The top seams gives the hood a distinct mohawk-like style, but they also fit the hood closer to the head of the wearer. That there are more seams in the back could be a sign that it simply was too big for the wearer and that it had been adjusted for the fit.

Face opening

The face opening has the raw edge turned  once and then whip stitched down with a filler thread. The original has filler thread in different colours. It is unclear if it is done for a decorative effect, or of it it is simply a case of using left over pieces of thread. 

I used white filler thread for most of the hood, but switched to a more golden colour for the last third. I used pieces of thread that had been leftovers from the other seams. The fact that the change in filler thread is in no way symmetrical makes me think that it was not a design choice, but simply a way of using up small pieces of thread.

Bottom edge

The bottom edge is left unfolded. The raw edge is whipped down, with stitches that wary considerably in size.

Smaller stitches to the left, bigger to the right

Some stitches were 1,5 cm big, but most stitches were between 0,5-0,8 cm. I actualy thought the edge with the bigger stitches looked better than the smaller ones.

One of the sides of the front gore has small buttonhole stitches, the other side is not preserved but I chose to continue the buttonhole stitches on the other side of the gore as well.

Braids and tassels

On both sides of the hood there is a braid, that ends in a tassel. The left braid is preserved in its full length, the right side is shorter and lacks the tassel. The original is a four double stranded braid, meaning that in total 8 threads are used, made from brown and green wool thread. I used brown and white thread to make the braid. The original tassel is a heavily fulled green fabric. I used a piece of wool flannel. Since it wasn't heavily fulled I dunked it in some warm soap water and squeezed it to full it more. The tassel is sewn to the end of the braid with large stitches.

Dunking the tassel in water and soap
The left braid is 19 cm, including the tassel. I chose to use the same measurements for the right tassel.

The finished braids.

The braids with tassels are sewn to the front of the hood. There has been an argument about their purpose. If they were made for tying under the chin, then the right tassel would have needed to be a lot longer than the left one. Lövlid argues that instead they were possibly tied behind the head of the wearer, to open up the hood and make it easer to see. It is also possible that they were just there for decoration.


On the original hood there are a few strands of thread left quite high up under the top seam on both the left and right sides. They are not connected to any other seam, and the thread is clearly visible against the fabric. The thread is very loose.  Lövlid speculates there might have been some kind of decoration added to the hood. I chose to add a small glass bead on each side. This is in style with Norse decorations, but if the hood is more connected to the Sami culture I think that some decoration in silver would have been better.

The finished hood

Me wearing the hood with the side braids left hanging

 Me wearing the hood with the braids tied in the back. The tassel also helps so that I didn't need to make a full tie or bow, I simply twisted both braids around each other and the tassels kept them from unraveling.

The fit of the hood

The hood is tight, it will possibly loosen up with wear, but now it's snug. I should not wear any elaborate hairstyle under it, since it is going to be ruined when I pull it on and off. The snug fit will be comfortable when it's cold and windy. To tie the braids behind the head definitely helps with making the field of vision bigger.

The collar portion is not very well fitting. Even if I am about the same height as the person that was buried, I have a bigger chest, and possibly wider shoulders. It bunches up and doesn't lie flat around the upper body at all.

Some reflections

This was an interesting project. I would actually say the quality of it is worse than what I would normally make. I would not do such big and uneven stitches, and I would use waxed linen thread instead of wool. Copying a piece that I feel is of not the best workmanship was a good experience though, and it made me realize that the quest for perfection that a lot of us costumers have, actually isn't always the most accurate method of working. Seams can be badly done, but still serve to keep the garment together, and then they are good enough. 

Just the facts

The Challenge: 8 - extant original

Material: 1 m of red wool twill
Pattern: From Lövlid's thesis on the Skjoldehamn find
Year: 11th century
Notions: thread: wool thread, yarn, two beads
How historically accurate is it? This is the most accurate piece that I have ever made, it still has some speculation in it and I am not sure on how my thread would hold up to VIking age thread. I will put it up as 90% accurate
Hours to complete: 10 hours
First worn: August 11th at Medieval Week in Visby.
Total cost: From my stash

Final thoughs
Accurate, but not good looking. That was the general reaction when I wore my hood on the one cold and rainy day in Visby. At the moment I'm not sure if I'm going to keep it in this state, or if I should remake it into something better looking. I would lie to make a more even bottom edge, add some larger gores and possible change top seams. At the same time it is fun to have a garment that's ugly, but it's supposed to be that way. We will see what happens with it in the future.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Medieval week in Visby

I got home after Närcon, made a viking costume, set out to visit a lot of castles in Sörmland, and then I headed off to Medieval week in Visby. The Medieval week takes place in the beautiful walled town of Visby on the island of Gotland. It had it's heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries, was besieged by Danes, Swedes and pirates in the 15th and 16th centuries, and has a lot of the medieval city centre still intact. It is a world heritage site as well. Every week in August they host the Medieval week, which is the biggest Medieval event in the historical costumers calender. I had never been there though, but when I got offered a bed in a house within the walls I never hesitated.

The view from the house, with one of the church ruins just beside it

The part outside the wall where most unofficial events took place
Just like NärCon this is basically a festival, with loads of concerts, courses, lectures, a big market, and a lot of official and unofficial event organized by different groups. It was not a very historically accurate event, the majority of people were dressed in different kind of LARP-clothes or fantasy inspired gowns. Of the historical fashions present you mostly saw the vikings and the German landknechts, with a bit of 14th century thrown in.

A typical scene at Medieval week are a group of people sitting down drinking and eating and just hanging out.

A lot of my clothing choices were depending on the temperature, it was just as warm as at NärCon.

 I mostly wore my shortsleeved teal 1490's gown, but on Tuesday, when it was just 24 degrees, I started out in my full green 1520's gown. I did knechtify it a bit with the wulsthaube, hat and hiking up the skirt, to blend in with all the other knechts and trossfrauen.
 I spent Tuesday and most of Wednesday with Anna and Henrik, and Anna had chosen to go as a pirate during the week. She ended up in the stock though.

 On the hottest days I wore y 1520's undergown, with my big sleeved shift. Together with a wet linen scarf it made the temperatures bearable, the ice cream helped too. The breeze from the sea also helped if you sat down along the waterfront.

 The only photo of me in my viking is from the the Gotland Museum. I'm thinking that I'm going to shorten it. It is a correct length, but the length traps the air under the skirts and if I want to use it as a hot weather alternative a shorter skirt would be better. I also added some beads that I had picked up on the market.

 On Wednesday it was the day of Knecht march, and it was impressive to see almost 150 people marching by in full costume.

A lot of the events that go on aren't on the official program, but I managed to find a link to an unoffcial program.

 On Wednesday evening there was a nerd quiz at a bridge.

 On Thursday I managed to see a group representing the Roman Senate trying to conquer the Scots, the Scots had even built a wall around their picknick area.
 Just after the Romans had tried to conquer Scotland there was a kind of football gae between "barbarians" and "saracens". This has of course nothing to do with historical accuracy, but it was really fun to watch.

On Friday I felt quite full though, and I spent most of both Friday and Saturday days at the house, mending things and just reading book. I didn't feel that I "had" to go any specific event. In that way it was the most relaxing days of my holidays this year.

A rose in the evening on the way home through Visby.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Närcon report

Or what I did on my vacation. It's been an intense three week period for me, basically going non-stop from NärCon, a roadtrip with my mother and then Medieval week in Visby. I will try and summarize them, and lets start with NärCon.

Närcon this year was hot, the temperatures rarely dropped below 27 degrees, and that definitely affected the costumes. Närcon had actually gone out and ased people not to bring their warm and heavy costumes. As such there were a lot of more casual costumes walking around.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon. I chose to wear my Bellossom cosplay, since it's comfy and easy to wear. We watched Ann-Sofie and Mattias compete in their first cosplay competition (novice level) and Mattias won the "best stage impact"-award. They were cosplaying Tintin and captain Haddock, and they were so popular the whole weekend.

Niklas wore his Zeb Macahan costume for the first time, and of course he chose Texas chili for dinner.

It wasn't uch fun wearing Bellossom without any other pokemon cosplayers, so I switched to my remade Her Universe Endor dress instead.

A lot of Närcon is really cosplayers taking photos of other cosplayers.

 On Friday and Saturday I trooped with the Nordic Legions. It was too warm to be able to do a lot of trooping, but we did march through the area twice a day.

I spent most of Friday and Saturday wearing my Melisandre. It was actually quite comfortable, like walking around in a big bathrobe.

The heat and walking around all day really killed my feet though, despite wearing a pair of extra comfortable walking shoes under Melisandre's gown. I didn't get any blisters, but they were swollen and really tired. I brought them back to life by washing them in cold water every evening and sleeping with them elevated.

This year I had friends in all the levels of cosplay competition, so I made sure to watch them all. On Saturday evening Anna and Henrik were really nice and gave me and Tom backstage passes to the Nordic Championships, where Henrik competed with his Benny the Lego figure.  It was really nice to be able to look at the competing costumes up close, and admire the workmanship that goes into the best cosplay projects in the Nordic Countries.

I was really bad with taking photos this year, but here are some of my favorite costumes of the weekend.

My absolute favorite was Tomtemor from my absolute favorite childhood story Tomtebobarnen. Overall it's evident that some of the most popular costumes at NärCon are the ones that goes back to childhood memories and children's stories, or later TV-shows.

 I stumbled upon a whole group of Les Miserables cosplayers. It is my favorite musical.

 Rincewind from Discworld was there. One of my dream cosplay projects would be Cheery Littlebottom from Discworld, but I don't dare to a big project that is based on literature, and where there are no images. As a Discworld fan I could definitely recognize the worst wizzard in the world.

There weren't a lot of Game of Thrones costumes around, but at least I met a Jaime Lannister.

NärCon is really inspiring though, and since it is a cosplay festival it's possible to play around with the cosplay format. I have a few ideas for fun costumes for next year, so we will see what happens.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

A viking for Visby

This year I'm going to the Medieval Week in Visby for the first time. Since I haven't done a lot of medieval costuming I realized in the spring that I wouldn't have enough clothes for a full week. I then decided that I would do a quick viking costume before the event.

I cut out the shift earlier in July, it's a basic square pieces with gores shift. I will say though that for a busty girl like myself this is not the best shift. It's really tight over the bust, since the gores are too narrow at the top to widen it over the bust, and if I want to make the front piece big enough to be roomy over the bust, well then the shoulder seam end up almost at my elbow. It works though, even if it's more medieval than viking, and not as roomy as I had planned. It's made in unbleached linen, I have sewn the main seams on machine, but felled and hemmed it by hand.

Over the shift I've done a classic Viking apron dress. I made it from the leftovers of the green wool of my 1520's outfit, which also dictated how wide I could make the dress.

Instead of using a pattern I cut the fabric in four equal pieces. There are finds from Hedeby/Haithabu that show that the dress were made with shaped pieces and not just squares. I then simply pinned the fabric until it was tight just above the bust. I made it just tight enough that it almost falls down, but not quite. Under the bust I made an angled seam that met the edge of the fabric, to get as much width as posible out of the fabric. I'm not totally happy with the fit, but it will do, and I can adjust it later. All the long seams are sewn on machine, and since the wool doesn't fray I haven't done anything to finish the seams on the inside. That is also in case I want to adjust it later. It's hemmed at the top and bottom by hand.

The dress is held up by two sets of straps. Each strap is made of two loops of fabric, the same as the dress. The shorter loop is at the front and th longer in the back, I've placed them approximately where on the same place as bra straps.

The loops are connected by brooches in the front.

All vikings love bling, so of course I needed to bling up my costume. I started with the decorating the front with a piece of yellow silk, leftover from my handmaiden gown. The strip of silk is a nice background to the beads that I added in the front. The beads come from three different necklaces that I already had, but never used.

The green beads are proper reproduction of viking beads. They are a prize from when I was 11 and competed on national TV with my knowledge of vikings. (Kvitt eller Dubbelt for those Swedes who remember that show). I failed on the last question so I never got the prize money, but I got the full prize table, wich included these beads. The necklace with blue and yellow beads are bought at a Viking market, so at least inspired by proper viking beads, the topmost necklace are just random beads. I strung the beads up on a piece of leather string, and got rid of the most modern looking beads.

This is the finished ensemble. My tortoise brooches are the most glaring inaccuracy, since they are way too small compared to actual finds, the also have a modern pin in the back instead of the hooks that should connect the loops of the straps. Still they cost a fraction of the prize compared to a proper pair of tortoise brooches.

All in all it took me a day to make the apron dress, the shift has been a work on and off during the summer. It's a passable Viking costume, and that was my goal with this costume. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

My NärCon costume plans

The biggest cosplay event of the year is here, and I'm finished and ready to pack my costumes and head to Linköping Thursday-Sunday. This year we are suffering a drought and heatwave in Sweden, and for the week they are warning of temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, or more. This has of course affected my costume plans, but not so much.

I will bring three costumes with me to NärCon this year.

Admiral Daala

I will be trooping with the Nordic Legions. When I planne this costume I had NärCon in mind, I just happened to finish it earlier.

Heat adjustments - none, but it is a fairly loose jumpsuit and I'm using my own hair and no wig. I'm also going to be with stormtroopers who suffer a lot more in the heat, so I think we will take a lot of water breaks during the trooping.


My new costume for NärCon will be Melisandre. I think this will be costume that I'm mostly walking around in when I'm off trooping.

Heat adjustments: I didn't line the sleeves, I will have room for a linen shift under and I'm going to bring a pair of black plain shoes, instead of wearing the black boots that I had planned. I've also made a bag of the same fabrics so that I can always carry a water bottle with me.


I chose this costume due to the temperatures. I wanted a third costume with me and I think this will be the most comfortable one. It's light and breezy and I can fit a linen shift under it. The headwear keeps my hair off from the neck, I can even wet it down to keep cool, the big flowers also shade my face.

Those are my costume plans, I will definitely bring quite few changes to normal clothes though, in case I simply can't be in costume when it's that warm.