HSM #4 – Warriors and peasants

For the War & Peace challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly (link leads to The Dreamstress’ introduction), I chose to go quite simple, and make a coif out of leftover fabric. I’ve heard somewhere that the medieval man’s coif originated from a warrior fashion – the hat to keep the hair out of the chainmail hood – and then got to be everyman’s hat because the knights were cool. I haven’t been able to find a source for that though, so I can’t claim it as a fact. If anyone can say yay or nay to that theory, please let me know in the comments! Medieval manuscripts are however quite full of pictures of men wearing coifs, both warriors and peasants, as well as almost all other classes, quite often under other headwear. So that means that I could perhaps claim that both themes of War and Peace fits into this rather modest headwear – which to our modern eyes probably looks mostly like a baby cap.

To find medieval images, I usually go to the Larsdatter links page, and here is a full page with links to men’s coifs. Images in the Maciejowski Bible depicts both knights and warriors and farmers wearing coifs. I recommend zooming these pictures, you’ll discover amongst other things soldiers dressing for battle in a hurry.

Now, onto the sewing. I cheated a bit with the pattern and used another coif from ”Say it with a coif” (Säg det med en coif), which I got last year when I donated some linen to them. The coif speaks in medieval runes. Can you guess what it says? (Suggestions can be left in the comments – and I will reply to them! 🙂 )

The coif pattern (traced from another coif)

The coif pattern (traced from another coif)

So, the coif is basically sewn from two pieces – as easy as it gets, really. I found some white linen thread too, so the stitches are quite hard to see on pictures, but here’s the inside:

Trying to show the stitches

Trying to show the stitches

The two sides are sewn together and then the seam allowance is felled to the side. Then I hemmed it all with a narrow hem. Done! (I didn’t take any work shots. Sorry about that. I’ve not been very good at documenting things these past months…)

Finished coif on ironing board

Finished coif on ironing board

The Challenge: War & Peace

How does it fit the challenge? It is an item that was worn both by warriors and more peaceful people, but I find the theory that the fashion originated from the need to have something under a chainmail hood rather plausible. People without coifs tend to get their hair stuck when they try on chainmail hoods. At least in our days. (I saw it happen only yesterday…)

Fabric: Hemp/nettle blend

Pattern: Taken from another coif

Year: Medieval – from at least the 12th century onwards to the 16th, according to the images on Larsdatter’s page.

Notions: Linen thread, bees wax

How historically accurate is it? On me: Not at all. On a guy: Fairly, say around 70 %

Hours to complete: About 3 or 4. Handsewing is not something I can do fast…

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: Leftover pieces from other projects, so not much, but difficult to say.


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HSM #3 – Stashbusting (part 2)

The stashbusting challenge of The Historical Sew Monthly was for me a chance to sew a coat or a kaftan that has been waiting to be since 2008. I actually bought the fabric with a different coat in mind, in the style of late 15th century, but that coat would require much more fabric, so a couple of years back, I changed the idea into a Viking style kaftan. My stash and the beginning of the sewing process is described and depictured in this post.

Whenever you tread onto the road of Viking garments, you realize that there is not much to go on in the area of primary sources. To be honest, I’d like to replace the term ”historically accurate” with the term ”historically plausible” when it comes to recreating Viking Age garments. I don’t deny that there’s a lot of knowledge even in the small pieces of disintegrating cloth that has been found. I’m an archaeologist, and small leftovers from the bountiful artefacts that once was is usually all we have to go on, and especially if you also know the craft that made the pieces you’re studying, you can tell loads from small pieces! But when those damaged, small pieces of cloth is reconstructed into whole outfits, with the help of how buttons, brooches and other ornaments are placed in excavated graves, and sometimes, if you’re in luck, with period depictions of humans/deities, then a lot of conjecture will naturally come into play. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, since the alternatives are to either ignore the archaeology and other sources altogether, or not to re-enact at all and ignore the practical knowledge base from experiments and re-enactments. Neither of which is a scenario I’d like to see. I just think that in these circumstances, the words ”accurate” or ”correct” give a false impression of absolute truth, and can we please just call the same thing ”plausible” instead! Or to put it in other words, this rant is my personal pet peeve about the words we use, not the actual actions behind them, since everyone I’ve come across who has discussed the level of accuracy in historical re-enactments are perfectly aware of – and always state – the fact that 100% accuracy can never be obtained. So again, I campaign for the word plausible!

Sorry about that little rant. Let me show you some pictures instead!

Layout of the whole kaftan

Layout of the whole kaftan

I based the pattern on the simple ”geometrical figures pattern” for clothes. It’s very similar to the diagram presented in Skogsduva’s blog post. I didn’t do it exactly after this diagram though, but made some changes. I did not divide the front and the back piece, making it one long continious piece. The sleeves were made by one measurement on top and one for the wrist, making them shaped by those means rather than that described in the blog post. Also I didn’t do a gore for the back, but only for the sides. The reason for this is simple: I wanted to save fabric. Fabrics were expensive, and if you weren’t making an even number of kaftans from the same fabric, you would get unnecessary fabric waste from three gores, as you get two triangular gores from a rectangular piece of fabric. On the other hand, the same logic might have caused a fashion to show off your wealth by your clothes, and take care to add that back gore…

Two gores from one rectangle

Two gores from one rectangle

So how does the whole thing look then? Well, it won’t be entirely ready until the Accessorize challenge in July, but here’s how it looks midway through.

The classic image of this blog, a garment hanging on a door...

The classic image of this blog, a garment hanging on a door…

If you look closely at the hem, you can see that it’s rather wonky. The lowest hem is folded double, which was unnecessary with this thick fabric, so I will pick it up and (hopefully) make it better before I’ll consider myself completely done with the sewing.

The kaftan is perhaps more of re-enactment fashion than a part of a Viking woman’s warderobe. The evidence for the male kaftan in the Viking Age is a little bit more supported by the source material such as depictions, but the female kaftan is pretty much guesswork. The kaftans on Vikings were probably also a fashion connected to the eastern Viking routes, so it’s perhaps more probable in places like Birka, where there are many eastern influences in the material. Here is one page I found about re-enactment kaftans, and the different interpretations that can be made. The idea that women only wore a shawl fastened by a brooch is however in my view made by someone who never spent a few months in the Scandinavian winter… The shawl may very well have been the outermost garment, but the snow and rains of the Scandinavian winters would, in my opinion, have meant that there was need for a fairly waterproof and warm outer coat, perhaps made by vadmal, for both sexes… As a side note, if I remember correctly from environmental archaeology studies, the Bronze Age Scandinavia was warmer than present day, but during the Iron Age the climate got cooler, and the Viking Age is the last part of the Iron Age here in Scandinavia, so the winters would have been rather cold. Another, less serious side note is that when I was a young teenager living in Northern Sweden, you did not wear a hat until it was below minus 15 degrees celcius. This fashion was however disregarded when I got older and wiser, and less concerned about admitting that I was cold… So perhaps it was the same thing with the shawl vs. the coat/kaftan…? 😉

The Challenge: Stashbusting (it was due March 31st, I’m so behind on the documentation!)

Fabric: Dark madder red wool. In stash for 7 years, which makes me feel a bit better about the 2 months delay of the blog post!

Pattern: Rectangles, rectangles made into triangles, and squares.

Year: Broadly aimed towards the 8th-11th century CE

Notions: Linen thread, bee’s wax

How historically accurate is it? Not a clue. Perhaps more of re-enactment fashion, however it’s historically possible (or even plausible) in fabric (madder was imported early, and there are native plant roots that also give a red colour) and pattern. It’s also hand sewn, but I don’t think my skill of hand sewing matches the skills of a woman my age in that time…

Hours to complete: More than I’d like to admit… (I didn’t keep count, but it felt like ages…)

First worn: Not yet. It’s not completely finished yet either…

Total cost: I don’t remember. Does 7 years in stash make it free? 😉

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Life in a nutshell.

I’m still behind on taking pictures, and on writing up a piece of the history behind my March HSM project, and on writing up the project blog post with the pictures that I haven’t taken yet… Sometimes these things just happen. Or rather, they don’t happen, as the case may be…

So instead I wanted to share a comic I found with you, made by Maria Smedstad. I really related to this one in particular. If you want to see more of her work, you can find it at Emcartoons, which is also where I found this one.

caloriesAnyways, I hope to be back on digital track with the challenges soon! (Ever the optimist!)

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Stashbusting part 1

I’m late with the challenge, once again, since my stash project was too big to bring on travels. So I’ll just give you some pictures and get back to it when it’s completely finished! As luck would have it, my War and Peace idea is faster to make… (I’ve already seen in the Facebook photo album that somebody else had the same idea as me, so it’s not unusual either!)

Anyways, back to the stash. This is my stash. I was extremely proud of my not-so-large stash, until I remembered that there are some boxes in the basement too….

Stash. Some of it.

Stash. Some of it.

This is once again a rectangles-triangles-squares project, but this time it’s all hand-sewn and I’ve gotten a new favourite stitch, which you will get to see in the more official post of the project. I need to finish one side and then onto the hemming, then it’s done until the Accessorize challenge. What is it, you may ask? Well, it’s for a Viking outfit, a much popular but not un-disputed kaftan for women. The disputes are really interesting too and I’ll write a larger post of it in the near future, since I think it’s a really interesting but in fairness also a rather tiresome debate, so I don’t have time to do it justice right now.

Squares and rectangles, some of which are waiting to be triangles...

Squares and rectangles, some of which are waiting to be triangles…

I have come a longer way than shown on the photo above, but I seem to have misplaced my camera somewhere so I don’t have the other progress photos on my computer yet. So until next time, scatterbrain over and out.

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Vad jag gör när jag verkligen inte vill diska

(For the non-Swedish speakers: This post is all about what you could do when you really want to avoid washing up and ignore the mountain of dishes in the sink…)

När man inte har en diskmaskin så kommer det garanterat tillfällen då disken på diskbänken känns som ett oöverstigligt berg och ingenting i världen (inte ens pepp från en kompis via telefon) kan få en att ta itu med detta. I sådana fall finns det bara en sak att göra, nämligen hitta distraktioner.

Man kan exempelvis byta jord till sin krukväxt (notera singularisformen) för första gången i sitt (och plantans) liv.

Eller så kan man göra fler brickor till framtida brickbandsprojekt (för instruktioner på hur man kan göra dem billigt men inte särskilt eventvänliga, klicka här).

Större och förhoppningsvis bättre brickband är i sikte!

Större och förhoppningsvis bättre brickband är i sikte! // Tablet weaving tablets for future projects

Eller så kan man hitta en helt ny hobby och få lite dille medan man fortfarande har kvar materialet. I mitt fall var detta att jag kom på att jag köpt billig metalltråd för smyckestillverkning på utförsäljning, och med hjälp av två tänger och en wirework-tidning började jag leka lite. Det var kul. Mycket roligare än att diska.

Första försöken i smyckestillverkning // First attempts at jewellry making

Första försöken i smyckestillverkning // First attempts at jewelry making

Nu är jag dessutom svinpeppad på att beställa hem ringbrynjeringar och nörda in mig lite till i detta. Ska höra med en jobbarkompis om varifrån de brukar beställa ringar.

Men tillslut så kommer ju den där tiden då man inte kan ignorera disken längre. Så då får man ringa en vän och ha sällskap medan man tar itu med berget (som dessutom känns lite mindre oöverkomligt nu när man gjort lite andra nyttiga saker innan).

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HSM #2 – Blue late post

I wasn’t on time for the deadline of this blue project of the Historical Sew Monthly, but I wasn’t as late as this blog post! (Eh, I’m the first one to admit that’s not the best excuse ever…) Anyways, the mitten season is over and I present to you The Blue Take-What-You’ve-Got-Project:

Blue mittens in twined knitting (and yes, before the next mitten season I will have fastened the threads!)

Blue mittens in twined knitting (and yes, before the next mitten season I will have fastened the threads!)

This project is really more on the Historically Inspired side of things. There are extant examples of blue mittens or gloves in twined knitting from the 19th or early 20th century, but they are not like my mittens. If anything, the extant examples are fancier, since blue was an expensive and desirable colour. If I remember my facts correctly, the blue knitted socks and mittens were knitted in white yarn first and then dyed blue. There are even examples of folding and sewing the parts of the garments that wouldn’t be shown together, just to save the colour in the vat for more garments.

Another thing that puts this project on the historically inspired side is that I used rather thick knitting needles. Many, perhaps most, of the extant garments in twined knitting are made on rather thin needles. This photo shows the difference, the thin one is of a size normally used in twined knitting, the thicker the size I’ve used in this project.

The difference of knitting needle thickness

The difference of knitting needle thickness

Like I said, the blue colour was attractive and expensive, and if someone, like me, had a blue yarn and started knitting with it, but then realized that there weren’t enough yarn for the whole project, they might have done something similar to what I did and taken another colour in the thumb, which is the last part of the mitten to be knitted. But to be honest, I don’t think that this approach would have been the historically used one. I think it more likely that if you had a bit of blue yarn, you would instead have used it as a pattern-making colour on a white glove (together with other colours). And if you wanted a pair of blue gloves/mittens/socks, you would have dyed the finished white garment, perhaps to avoid wasting blue yarns. So, the mindset of this project might have been historical, to ”take what you got”, but the finished project might have looked odd in the historical reality. Hence a historically inspired piece!

Second mitten in progress

Second mitten in progress

And as a side note; it’s really difficult to take action pieces when knitting!

The Challenge:  Blue

Fabric: Not really… Blue and green woollen yarn

My pattern (click to see better) (not a proper description)

My pattern sketch (click to see better)

Pattern: Made up, based on a ”basic mitten” pattern in the out-of-print edition of ”Tvåändsstickning”

Year: Inspired by 19th/early 20th century farming communities of county Dalarna

Notions: Knitting needles size 3 (Swedish (and European?) sizing system)

How historically accurate is it? Well, the technique is accurate, but due to the large knitting needles and the look of the finished project, I’d say it’s historically inspired and not accurate.

Hours to complete: Did not want to count. Twined knitting takes longer than regular knitting…

First worn: Apart from trials, not until next winter season. (It’s spring time now! Yay!)

Total cost: From stash, yarn cost approx 33 SEK, which is about € 3-4.

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If I were to be interviewed about my progress of the Historical Sew Monthly… #2

… this is how it would look (once again, all slightly self obsessed and not an actual interview):

Another deadline getting closer. What are you making this time?

I’m making something that feels a little bit like a cheat project, because I’ve used the knitting technique before in other challenges, and other projects. The only thing different is the thing which makes it fit the challenge: It’s blue. Almost completely blue. Or at least that’s my intention.

Your intention?

Yes, I’m not quite sure I have enough blue yarn to see the project through. I might have to do some improvising with the final rows.

Will you be finished in time for the deadline?

I hope so. I was well ahead of things, but since spring came so early, knitted winter wear doesn’t feel as important anymore, so the project has had a kind of hibernation during the challenge time too. But it’s great to have the monthly challenges, which allows for slight hibernation and still gives you the kick needed to not let it transform into a UFO!

So, you’ve mentioned ”cheat project” and ”hibernation” in this interview – are you at all invested in this project?

I am, only it got tough to keep the inspiration when I don’t really need the finished items until the end of the year. Next project will be something a little bit more new though, so that works as a motivator as well. Finish the blue project, then get on to the stashbusting one!

You still haven’t said what your project is.

No, it’s a pathetic attempt to get a cliffhanger in this post!

Well, tune in some time next week and you will see if I had enough blue yarn, and what the project actually is…

Yeeeah… I don’t think this cliffhanger thing is working this time, sorry about that!

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