fredag 15 januari 2016

Back to the fourteenth century

As I find it hard to resist a challenge, I had no choice but to join in on the #herjolfsneschallenge. My aim is to make a new and improved set of 14th century garb to be used in the Battle of Wisby-camp coming August this year ( as well as to go more in depth into the Herjolfsnes finds, as they are plain at first sight but intriguingly complex in sewing techniques and details.

The original as presented
 in Östergård
Starting small, I got this lovely hand-woven striped fabric from Maria, just about enough for a small hood. Looking through Woven into the Earth by Else Östergård, I decided on the hood Nörlund No. 78 (D10606). This particular hood is one of the best preserved and it has been radiocarbon dated to 1380-1440, a tad bit late for the garb I´m making but the type is very generic. And since the challenge is to be as true to the original as possible, I started with a mockup with the original measurements.

The first mockup looked right enough.

Some essential measurements are however not stated in the book, such as the width over the neck. Winging it did not work. It got way to narrow to get over my head. So onto next mockup, and then some...

As I finally got a mockup that worked, I was pleased to see that the original measurements were mostly still there. Time to cut the actual fabric, and that is always excruciating when you have only that amount of fabric that has been custom made for you.
The final mockup
The fabric is a lovely yellow twill with green stripes, all plant-dyed and handwoven, inspired by striped fabrics from the 14th century as can be seen in the London finds for instance. Striped fabric also showes up in Tartu, Estonia (see Mervi´s pictures here:
The hood cut out of Maria´s lovely striped fabric

I was very happy when Mervi showed these finds since Tartu is way closer to Wisby than London, and I aim to make something probable for a 14th century woman living on Gotland.

As everything was cut all that remained was the sewing part. The original pieces of clothing in Herjolfsnes were sewn with a twisted wool thread. In Medieval Garments Reconstructed the sewing threads from Herjolfsnes are described as specifically made for stitching, S-twisted of two Z-spun threads and rarely over one mm in diameter. It is also stated that it is virtually impossible to purchase this kind of thread for sewing a reconstruction. Hence I chose to use a two-ply thin brown wool thread, most likely a lot thinner than the original,but found easily available in my sewing basket. The stitches of the originals are also described in Medieval Garments Reconstructed as very fine and no longer than 5 mm. Since I tend to make small stitches this was right up my alley.

Sewing the pieces together was done rather quickly, and I was happy to see the project progressing. Then came the not so fun parts. like felling all the seams inside of the liripipe in order for them not to fray on me. And the liripipe has two long seams, giving me four long sides to fell... This called for some aiding equipment. When all seams where done and felled and the hood had a shape I finally got to the fun part, the decorative stabstitching. The original hood has two rows of fine stab stitching along the bottom hem and around the face opening. This is a time-consuming part of the project, but well worth it in the end. These are the sewing details that really makes these garments.

Stab stitches along the hem
It took three nights in front of the telly to finish the hems, and it was so much fun that I had to set an alarm in order to remember to go to bed (real life has to come first, like kids getting to school and me getting to work) but late yesterday evening it was finished.