HSF 11 – Squares, rectangles and triangles: A 3000-and-some-hundreds-year-old pattern.

Helloooo internet! This is a very belated post, and I have almost every excuse in the book. You have already heard that I’ve moved house and that I’ve basically got no furniture but have to sit on a gym ball to sew, and I’ve been busy at work, and on my spare time I went to a wedding and a festival rather than sitting on my gym ball sewing. But, I’ve also been sick. I kid you not. And it turns out it’s not really all that comfortable sitting on a gym ball sewing for a long period of time… Well, only two more weeks (or max 3) and then my furniture will arrive. Together with my fabrics and sewing machine. Yay!

Link to introduction

Link to introduction

But, now to business. This challenge (due approx 2½ weeks ago) was one of the challenges I had looked forward to most. I had seen pictures of shirts from the Bronze Age made from one rectangle of fabric, and I’ve been keen on trying it for 3 years now. Originally I had planned to make it from absolute scratch, starting with making the fabric on a warpweighted loom (or perhaps even spinning the wool myself too). As you may have guessed by my introduction of excuses, however, that wasn’t going to happen this time. I had instead found a piece of fabric in my stash that I think I bought about 10 years ago, and since it was only a small piece, it became the not-as-accurate-as-originally-planned-Bronze Age shirt.

The rectangular piece of fabric

The rectangular piece of fabric

My main sources for the pattern come from diagrams in former course material, based on depictions in Ancient Danish textiles from bogs and burials and Tyg och funktion. This webpage from the Danish national museum also shows a closeup of one of the bog finds, the Egtved girl’s dress. As I didn’t find anything about which stitches were used, I mostly used whipstitch as it could possibly be one of the eldest stitches, and it also felt logical.

The pattern emerges

The pattern emerges

So, on the picture above, you can see a hole for the head, and the sleeves being cut below that so the lowest part of the fabric form the back, or rather lower back, of the shirt. But this piece of fabric was sufficient for longer arms than those of the Egtved girl’s shirt. So, with support from a diagram of a find from Borum Eshøj, I cut off a rectangular-ish piece. Still entirely within the challenge!

One piece cut off and pattern ready to go

One piece cut off and pattern ready to go

With support from the Borum Eshøj find, I also cut an off-centre ”slash” down the neckline to make sure I could get my head through. I started by sewing the back piece together by a felled-seam-allowance-seam (no idea what to call that in English…) and then I sewed the arms together, and together with the back, by whipstitch. I think the shirt might be on a larger scale than the finds, since it has long sleeves, and it won’t show off my belly when worn. This is because of the width of the fabric I had. I can’t really complain about that though, it turned out rather comfy!

Done - front of the shirt

Done – front of the shirt

Lessons learned from this project:

  • I actually want to make the larger Bronze Age project, with weaving the fabric myself and all. It’s awesome how little waste comes from this pattern, and I think even less would come if I aimed for shorter sleeves.
  • You can’t sew for long periods of time unless you have a comfortable work space.
  • I like to have back support.
  • I should probably exercise my back muscles more.
Back view showing where the seams are

Back view showing where the seams are

The square facts:

The challenge: A belated 11 – Squares, Rectangles and Triangles. A Bronze Age shirt.

Fabric: Stash, I think it’s a wool blend. The twill type weave would strictly speaking be more Iron Age than Bronze Age (tabby weave would have been more accurately Bronze Age).

Pattern: Taken from the analysis of bog finds from Danish Bronze Age clothes.

Year: Bronze Age, possibly around 1350 BCE, since I’ve taken inspiration from the Borum Eshøj find.

Notions: Waxed linen thread. Don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but it’s what I had…

How historically accurate is it? I haven’t done a vast amount of research this time, but the Egtved find is in tabby weave, not in twill, and I think the fabric is a wool blend. So the fabric isn’t very accurate, though there might still be some twill weaves from the Bronze Age. (I can’t load the larger images from the Borum Eshøj finds, so I can’t see the weave of them.) The pattern is accurate, although it might be on a larger scale than the Bronze Age finds. It looks good though. Colours are accurate, since they are natural sheep wool colours. About 70-80 % perhaps?

Hours to complete: Not very many, but many days since there were many pauses between the hours!

First worn: On trials at home.

Total cost: All stash and can’t remember.

A Bronze Age tomb

And today, as luck would have it, I strolled by a Bronze Age tomb

One day, I will force a friend to go with me and make a proper HSF photo shoot in all the right environments. The Bronze Age shirt should look nice around this Bronze Age tomb (which I visited after opening hours, hence the closed door).


3 kommentarer

Filed under Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge

3 responses to “HSF 11 – Squares, rectangles and triangles: A 3000-and-some-hundreds-year-old pattern.

  1. Better late than never finished! And what a fantastic project! Such an intriguing pattern – it looks so strange, but makes so much sense once you put it together. I actually prefer to ‘soft’ try projects like this – now you know exactly how big you want it to be, and how you want the sleeves to be, you can better plan for your actual weaving. Even ‘soft’, I am so impressed. And envious that you have Bronze Age tombs to walk past. Where I’ve lived 800 years is ancient, and even 200 is pretty darn exciting.

    • Thanks! The wierdness and yet logic of the pattern was probably what made me want to try it out. And you’re so right about the ”soft trial”! I think this also could be an experimental archaeology project of discovering when square armpit gussets are plausible in the history of clothing. On one of my sketches there were gussets added, but I couldn’t find it on the extent garments – though I really didn’t see any underarms on them…

      I work at a 500 years old castle, so I agree that even some hundred years is exciting! But it really is mind boggling (is that the word??) to walk around a construction that is rather well preserved being over 3000 years old.

      • Edit to my own comment, after re-visiting and joining the guided tour of the tomb, I can say that yes, the tomb itself is around 3000 years old, but what you see on the photo is remade since the excavations in the 1930’s…


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