The straw hat is perhaps the most beloved item in my medieval wardrobe. Here I’ve gathered some of the illustrations I’ve found showing the use of them. There are a lot more out there but I decided to only feature a few where I could pinpoint the original and dating to a trustable source. All the images should link to their original source at The Morgan Library/British Library/etc when you click on them. My general observation is that this is an item mainly shown worn by people working out in the fields harvesting, like in calendars showing the months of June and July. Both men and women working in the fields are shown in straw hats, with or without a cap or veil underneath.
Some of the earliest illustrations I’ve seen are from the 1240s, and they pop up on a rather regular basis until 1500(which is where I stopped searching). Some straw hats, like the very distinctive Maciejowski hats, didn’t pop up all throughout the medieval period unlike like some of the more generic round and broad-brimmed designs; so when choosing a particular shape I’d recommend doing more research. Note that the “yellow pointed hat” pilleus cornutus -the medieval version of the jewish Kippah, can sometimes be mistaken for a straw hat in illustrations. And if anyone have any written references to straw hats I’d love to know!
The Herjolfsnes (Ikigaat) finding Museum No. D10624, or Nørlunds No. 99, consists of four pieces of a braided wool cord. I had a lovely afternoon reading up on it and making one, and here is the result.
The four pieces of wool cord are 14, 12, 14 and 4,5 cm long and the width is either 7-12 mm or 15 mm. In the book “Woven into the Earth” by Else Østergård the width is noted as 15 mm on page 106 and 7-12 mm on page 230, so somewhere in between is probably right 🙂 It is a three strand braid where each strand consists of four threads, each of 1,5 mm thick 2-ply (2Z1S) yarn. The color is not preserved and described as currently reddish-brown, but originally the three strands had different color shades. On two of the pieces there are knots where the braid is tied around itself.
It is described by Østergård as representing a utilitarian object that was probably widespread and common, and it was found near D10588 (Nørlund No. 52). Østergård states that “…Both (braided cords, D10624 and D10622) were undoubtedly used as belts around the waist to hold together loose-hanging garments such as D5674, D10594 and D10595.” Although few of the Ikigaat findings are carbon dated the garment D10594, as Østergård mentions, is a wide garment with buttons that is carbon dated to 1305-1375.
Context and visual references:
My first thought when reading about it was to question why it was assumed as a belt, had I ever even seen an illustration of a braided cord belt? Down the rabbit hole the answer was that there were a few illustrations I had seen time and time again with belts looking like cords, I just never noticed before. The Van Der Weyden image below is the only possibly relevant illustration I found showing detail, but if you happen to have any ideas please let me know! I still haven’t found a cord/braided belt that I think will serve as a very good visual reference for how this braided belt was worn, and I have yet figure out why Østergård was so certain it is a belt. (Although I totally take her word for it, reading “Woven into the Earth” is like Christmas, my birthday and New Years at once.)
One factor might be that other belts are scarce in the Ikigaat material. From both the light of historical illustrations and a practical context you’d need a belt to do manual labor in clothing cut to this fashion. The two buckles found (in Sandnæs and Umiiviarsuk) were carved in walrus tusk and at Nipaatsoq a brass buckle was found with a piece of leather that might have been a belt. In “Klær og formspråk i norsk middelalder” by Marianne Vedeler she describes “a now green/blue braided cord is found under the garments right armhole. It is about 0,4 cm wide and about 9 cm long, braided from four threads. It continues in one end.” -found in Uvdal C. 34866/2851 Grav 33. (Vedeler, Page 128. my rough translation.)
The second question coming to mind was – how long was the original? The combined pieces of 44,5 cm wouldn’t make much of a belt for an adult. With only a few illustrations as reference and no one really matching time/area I decides to go with 160 cm more or less because that is the minimum a belt of mine must be. The braided Skjoldehamn belt might perhaps serve as a piece of the puzzle, but it is both dated much earlier and the discussion is still on as far as the Sami and/or Norse origin is concerned. Next try I’ll use the Skjoldehamn belt as a reference for length if I can’t find anything more relevant, and if I actually manage to find a description specifying the whole length of the thing! I probably just haven’t searched in the right places, but judging the museum replicas the belt was pretty long.
As a sidenote I visited the exhibition “Na, maid dal? – Samisk kulturarv på vei hjem” at Alta Museum last year, and got to get a look at a beautiful kofte (kirtle), bought in Øksfjord 1910, and the pattern construction could have been taken straight out of the Herjolfsnes-findings. Especially the “A-lined” side gores, length and sleeve construction. I’m not going to go more into it now, but my guesstimate is that next to cultural exchange, pattern construction techniques(and sewing techniques) that makes sense when working with fur has had a big influence on both textile traditions.
My try: I used three shades of wool yarn, each thread two-ply and 2Z1S, which means two threads spun (spunnet) the right and twisted (tvunnet) together to the left to make a two-ply yarn, 1,5 mm thick. In this case that made a cord that was 7 mm wide, but that would depend on how tight you make the braid. If you look at the close-up photos you can see that the original looks pretty tight, and also that the threads of each cord were ordered before braiding similar to what you do when flat braiding. I started out with 3 x 4 lengths of 160 cm yarn and braided from a fixed point on my wall. I also added knots to the finished braid based on the interpretation that the belt might have had knots distributed all over with approximately two knots per 44,5 cm, which along with the simple knotted off endings is a complete guesstimate and might very well not be correct. But the whole thing did make for an easy project and a practical belt, so I am happy.
Thank you for reading and let me know if you have any thoughts!
“Woven into the Earth, textiles from Norse Greenland” by Else Østergård, 2004, Aarhus University press
“Medieval garments reconstructed, Norse clothing patterns” by Lilli Fransen, Anna Nørgaard and Else Østergård, 2011, Aarhus University Press
I finally finished my new veil and wimple, just in time. Last year (2016) at The Battle of Wisby/Medeltidsveckan i Visby I found some absolutely lovely handwoven light cream colored silk. I also got to attend an awesome workshop called “Veils, veils, veils! – Veils, wimples and how to wear them” by Elina Sojonen; and finally the layering and construction of veil-wearing started to make sense! It was so windy we almost blew away, but the workshop was great fun: like a Tupperware girl’s night only ogling hoods and veils and wimples!
Photo by Stian Green taken at Hamar Middelalderfestival 2017
I got to try it out at Hamar Middeladerfestival, and best of all Cathrine had randomly brought her lovely crown and I got to borrow it! It is made by Lorifactor and fit perfectly, although I admit to having a bit of a “princessmark” on my forehead the next day 😉 With the new veil AND a crown I was giggling and jumping around clapping my hands like a six year old at christmas, having way too much fun^^ I attended the festival with Frilansene Compagni d’Norvege, and Stian Green took these photos before I went to go sit with the nobles during the tournament. It’s funny, because this is my tenth year at Hamar with Frilansene, but I never saw a full tournament before I started sitting with the nobles a few years back; I was always off somewhere working in the kitchens or babysitting. I have to say it’s fun to see the tournaments like that, and I feel very lucky.
Photo by Stian Green taken at Hamar Middelalderfestival 2017
Inspired by the workshop I made the wimple extra long, longer than my old one that always crept up if it was windy. The veil itself is a full circle that I folded in half. I really like that shape, but this is probably the last time I’ll make a circle in silk fabric: sewing the edged was a real hassle and it was really hard on the hands so I had to spread the work out for weeks and weeks. Linen kinda wants to be your friend most of the time, but silk has got way too many opinions of it’s own for my taste. I think I started the edging three times and removed the stitches before I found a half decent way of doing it. In the end I went for a simple double folded edge with white silk thread. The wimple is about 120cm X 60cm, the veil 120 cm across.
I can see in hindsight that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to balancing the veil. It falls back, exposing more forehead than I would like, even with the crown. I started with basic Pippi Langstrømpe braids, added a linnen band as if I was starring in the next Karate Kid movie and fastened it with a single pin at the back. (Here is where I go wrong, because I never get the band low enough). I pull the braids around so they lie on the sides making small Leia -style earmuffs, fastening them with hairpins; and put a Birgitta hood over the whole thing. Then it’s time for the wimple fastened to overlap nicely with no seams on the top of my head, and then finally it’s veil time!
And I have to add this photo at the end here, because I lost track of time later in the evening and forgot that we were shooting for the next days battle, so I attended it a bit overdressed! No better time has ever presented itself to sing: “She’s beauty, she’s grace, she’ll shoot you in the face” 😉
Photo taken by Rasmus Rasmusson at Hamar Middelalderfestival 2017.
I have wanted to make playing cards for using in camp when on reenactment adventures for a while, and finally this week got around to do it while hiding from a mountain of laundry from last weekends Hamar Middelalderfestival (Hamar Medieval Festival) 😉
This deck was an experiment, so let me just say it is not an attempt to be accurate up close. I just used materials I had available; like leftover watercolor paper. I am going to go by a specialist arts/paper shop next time I’m in town and find some more proper cardstock to layer into new cards, and some lacquer so I can get a more sturdy and accurate look. I still haven’t managed to find a picture of the back of this deck, which was painted red; but when I make a full scale deck I will figure something out. The deck I made was 8×5 cm – the original deck was 19,5×12 cm.
“In the paint layers of the Stuttgarter Kartenspiel an impressive range of pigments has been detected: white lead, chalk, lead-tin yellow, yellow lake, green basic copper sulphate hydrate, copper green, azurite, vermilion, red lake, minium, charcoal black, and lamp black. A considerable variety of different metal applications results in the splendid appearance of the playing cards: poliment twist-gold, unpolished silver and gold leaf on a white ground, mordant gilding, gilding with mosaic gold, and glazing of twist-gold and mosaic gold with red lake have been observed.” (WoPC, see link to article below)
The original deck is a beautiful work of art, and I can’t wait to make a set that really gives them their deserving credit, although I’ll likely not hand paint a set, when I take into consideration how much time it took to just print all the cards! An enormous effort must have gone in to them originally, and I think it’s fantastic that something like this has survived. Even better, there are several medieval decks that have made it!
Cutting out the deck by hand was a bit of a challenge – but I managed to keep within the range of +/- 1 mm. I luckily had a corner cutter, which saved me a lot of time and made for an even result. I am pretty impressed with the print quality my cheap HP printer can manage. I first marked with a pencil and then used a mat, rulers and a utility knife to cut them out. After a while I noticed that the ordinary 2B pencil was smudging the cards, so I cleaned them up and switched to a 4H which worked perfectly.
And here is where things get really anachronistic. First off, there are three missing cards, second there is no joker card. If I was going to make a deck of cards, I wanted to make a deck that you could play both modern and historical games with, so I added my own joker card. And since, well; I was doing something anachronistic anyway, well, I went with my all time favorite illustration of a medieval knight, even though it was made later in the 15th century. The Joker/fool illustration is from Jean Froissart’s “Chroniques, Vol. IV, part 1” (the ‘Harley Froissart); from the Netherlands made between 1470 and 1472.
In addition to the improvised joker cards, there were three cards missing: The knave of the falcon suite, 4 in the duck suite and 9 in the hound suite. Since I happened to lack a proper photo editing program on my computer right now I went with the KISS -method of Keep It Simple Stupid and edited them in Paint. It really is quite amazing what that little program can do. As you see here, I removed the falcon of the knight to make a knave and added to the 3 and 8 card. It’s a simple way of fixing it that leaves me with a full deck to play with.
The finished deck, ready to be used 🙂
My main source for good quality pictures of the cards was this page that contains all sorts of awesome historical playing cards, I recommend taking a look! : http://cards.old.no/1430-stuttgart/
Well that does describe the current state of my textile-history-nerding quite well, I think. Let me explain:
With every subject I’ve ever studied, there will once in awhile come a moment where something just ticks into place, and leaves everything Topsy-turvy. I remember when I first figured out how write a paper for school, the pieces somehow placing themselves magically into a new understanding of the text as a whole. Everything got more complicated and complex over night! This, it would seem, is a bit like what has happened the last weeks preparing this years medieval reenactment season. I might have grown a few new brain cells, because looking back I am rather, ehrm, embarrassed of my own research. Turned out, when I really looked at it: half of the illustrations that have been my “go to” sources were either the wrong period, I can’t find the original source of it or it turned out to be simply… Italian! And the fashion difference there is often quite severe, so goodbye old friends and hello new!
In a way I’ve started over, trying to leave behind all the stuff I “just know” because I once learned it – and go back to the sources: extant textiles, illustrations and written sources. A very humbling experience that I am very exited about – even though my OneNote library is a mess and a bunch of things will need to be started over!
So here it goes: I accept that I have made mistakes and will make plenty more – and probably always be embarrassed with what I made and wrote ten years ago.
If I had to name my favorite garment for reenactment use, the competition between a good hood and a straw hat would be a fierce one. I made this one using fabric I bought at a medieval festival last summer; plant dyed hand woven wool. For thread I found some leftover buttonhole-silk I had used on a dress I made years ago.
The pattern was made based on D10597 from the Herjolfsnes finds, or Herjolfsnes no. 66. I was lucky enough to have a comrade-in-hoods over for a medieval skiing-event this winter, and also copied the pattern from his hood, which gave me a good reference for size. I wanted to use this hood for 1308 -events, and therefor chose to modify the original Herjolfsnes liripipe. Other than that the Herjolfsnes pattern was good as gold, and my hood is cut on the straight grain same as the original. Because the fabric was loosely woven (and quite expensive, as all hand woven fabrics should be!) I chose to double-fold the seams, with two rows of stab stitching at the edge.
The Maciejowski Bible served an inspiration and gave visual guidance when I was modifying the liripipe. Here you see Ruth and a servant accompanying her during the harvesting of the wheat.
I love how the liripipe makes a little tail! Before sewing it I had (for once) actually tried to make a “master plan” for my projects this summer; hood, purse, bag and cloak. Only the red hood came out as planned, but I’ll throw in the sketches for good measure!
For anyone interested I recommend the book “Medieval Garments Reconstructed” with enthusiastic joy! It has inspired plans for many more “hoodlum” -projects in the future 🙂
References and sources:
Nörlund, Poul. “Buried Norsemen at Herjolfsnes: an archaeological and historical study.” Meddelelser om Gronland: Udgivne af Kommissionen for ledelsen af de geologiske og geogrfiske undersogelser i Gronland. Bind LXVII. Kobenhavn: C.A. Reitzel, 1924.
“Medieval Garments Reconstructed” Norse Clothing Patterns By Lilli Fransen, Anna Nørgaard and Else Østergård
Some projects seem to last forever.
Last summer (2015) finally started on my golden silk brocade gown, and it has taken me a year to finish and publish the draft for this blog post: but here it is at last. The gown is very highly inspired by the Uppsala gown, also known as Queen Margrete’s golden gown. I wanted to write a post about what sources I’ve used and some considerations I’ve made in my adaptation. I have made several massive alterations, but the end result is very much based on my interpretation of the original gown.
The Original: The original dress is carbon dated to 1403-1439, although scholars and nerds alike disagree about for what occasion it was used. Maybe it was used by Queen Margrete as a child bride at 10 years old, for a statue at her funeral, or used by someone else entirely.. The gown is quite probably modified from it original size, or at least that would explain some of the weirder aspects of how the pieces are put together. For more information about the gown, the fabric and about Queen Margrete: check out the books and articles listed further down. I did send e-mails to the authors of blogs listed, but unfortunately most of them have been inactive for years.
My golden gown:
There are many theories about the hows and why’s and when’s, and I looked at all the source material and pictures I could find to form my concept of this dress. First off is the fabric: I’d like to be able to buy actual gold fabric but alas: I bought a farm instead. The fabric I used was not even a proper reconstruction of a medieval fabric, but a modern silk fabric that in my opinion was similar enough to pass. Off course I think the fabric is more than beautiful enough in it’s own right, and I do think that stiff quality it has is somewhat similar to the original golden fabric.
Another quite striking problem was the difference between my actual proportions and the original measurements of the gown (Check out Marc Carlsons site for the original measurements). I could take “the gist of it” to get the right difference between the waist and the edge of the skirt; and I did use the actual height (Because that’s how we roll in the shire), but the waist and arm measurements were way off.
The silk brocade fabric is bought locally in Oslo, I suspect it’s the kind of fabric used for grooms coats in Pakistan. The quality is really rare to find here, because it has that stiff texture that most modern silk fabrics lack. It’s been laying in my sewing room for the last three years and I guess it’s mostly fear of ruining it that has kept me from actually making the dress. I had five meters, width 75 cm (Original fabric width 60 cm) – and used most of it, only saving a little so that I can re-do the sleeves sometime in the future when I figure it out.
The original sleeves are mostly interpreted as Grand Aissette sleeves, but I couldn’t get my head around how the fit was suppose to be based on the existing pieces. My solution for this was making an ad hoc mix of what was left of the Uppsala sleeves and the existing complete grand assiettes sleeves on Charles De Blois’ arming jacket (1360).
My gown is lined with linen in the bodice in accordance with the Uppsala gown. As you can see in the pictures I’ve lined the bottom edge also, with a 10 cm strip of linen. I am not really happy with this way of doing it, so I will hopefully find a better (and more accurate) solution before next summer. I did this for wear and tear: because I’ll be using the gown horseback riding, in outdoor living history setting and generally be walking all over places silk gowns aren’t suppose to go! It is made for parades and shows and late night banquets: but not so costly I can not use it out and about. Where there is reenactment, there is usually mud, horse poop and dust as well, and I think it would be a waste to not feel like I could wear it whenever.
I lined the sleeve edges with a strip of the same linen I used for lining the bodice, and used natural dyed linen thread for sewing. I did that based on the detailed photos of the original seam you can see below. As no sleeve edges were preserved this is more or less a pure guess.
All pieces were cut on the straight fabric grain, except the pieces used in the sleeve gussets. I had to turn the two gores in the very back upside-down because I didn’t really have enough fabric for the skirt width: so you can see the shine of the fabric doesn’t quite match in the back. A compromise, but it works.
Headdress to match:
For my headdress I chose to use this statue of a young noblewoman as a starting point and inspiration. I’m sorry to say I don’t know where it’s from, so if anyone know please tell me! As the pictures clearly show; I have a rather hard time making veils stay where they are meant to, but I have worked on my veiling technique since 🙂
Research and sources:
First and foremost, the book I’ve used for research is this one:
Geijer, Agnes, Anne Marie Franzen and Margareta Nockert. Drottning Margaretas gyllene kjortel i Uppsala domkyrka. Stockholm: Kingl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, 1994. [The Golden Gown of Queen Margareta in Uppsala Cathedral]
Welcome to my blog, A Knight’s Tailor. This blog is connected to my main site skredderpunsvik.no, that for those of you not in the (Norwegian) knowing means “Tailor Punsvik”, Punsvik being my surname.
The point of this blog is to have a place to write more in detail about my sewing projects. I am educated as a woman’s tailor and I’m very interested in historical and traditional textile crafts. I design and sew some modern clothes but nowadays I mostly make stuff for myself and other reenactment and living history -enthusiasts.
And yes: several of them are knights.
The main site and Facebook page (Skredder Punsvik) are both in Norwegian, but since I’ll be more project-oriented on this blog I decided to do it in English. I don’t know how many times I think I’ve finally found right the resource about some historical piece of clothing – only to find it written in a language I can’t comprehend. As the reenactment community is wast and full of lovely people who’s published websites has helped me enormously over the years I wanted to at the very least make this as available as possible.
I hope you enjoy and do send me feedback if you have any.