Viking Age Tunic

This is my husband’s newest fighting tunic. It’s based mainly on the tunic found on the shore of Søndersø in the Krugland bog near the city of Viborg in Denmark. This tunic was worn as an outer piece of clothing in the 11th and 12th centuries. The Kraglund tunic has been carbon (14-c) dated to 1045 to 1155.

On left: Extant Kragelund tunic
On right: My husband in his new tunic

A tunic such as this could have been worn by either a man or woman as everyday clothing. If anyone doubts that women also dressed in this manner during this time period, check out the latest information on the Skjoldehamn find. The find included what we would consider a Viking man’s outfit, but DNA tests have proven that the skeleton in the outfit was a woman. Here’s a translation of Dan Halvard Løvlid’s thesis It was originally written in Norwegian as his master thesis in archeology from the University of Bergen.

Back to the tunic . . . It varied in length and could be as short as hanging to the mid-thigh or as long as hanging to the ankle.  I chose to make this one hang to near knee level.

Its construction is very similar to many other tunics, which date to a similar era, also found in and around Denmark, such as Bocksten Bog Man’s Kyrtle and the Skjoldehamn Kyrtle.

I based my pattern off the work of Marc Carlson, who based his off the work of Hald in Nockert. All of this can be found on Marc’s site:

Some things that make this particular design unique amoung the extant tunics from that time:

  • Body:
    • No shoulder seam, indicating that the main body piece was one long piece of fabric.
    • Two gores in the front
    • Two gores in the back
    • Two gores on either side.
    • Neck-hole has a “V” shape to it (as opposed to the more common rounded one).
  • Arms
    • 3 piece construction with no underarm gussets. This part was tricky to pattern out since the illustration isn’t to scale.


    I like the way it turned out. As a fighting tunic, the 8 gores in the bottom give it a-lot of flow and room for movement. The arm construction, which I hesitated in doing because of the lack of armpit gussets, moves quite well too.

    I used linen in the construction, both the fabric and the thread. Although the original is wool, the Viborg tunic, from the same time, is all linen and was found only 35 km away from this one. Given the area they were found in, I’m pretty sure that an all linen tunic of the time would have been an undergarment. Since we live in southern Louisiana and it’s very hot here most of the year, I chose to make this outer tunic from linen and not from wool.

    I’m happy with it, and better still he’s happy with it. I will probably create at least one more fighting tunic in this construction. I know I took pictures of the creation, but I can’t seem to find them at the moment. When I do find them, I’ll add them to the post. I really need to organize my project pictures better!

On Yer Heade Part III: Women’s Headgear in the14th Century

This is the third post on figuring out which hats go with which outfits, or at least that is how the idea started. I wanted to look more period, and one way to do that is by wearing the appropriate headgear with your garb.

I sorted and categorized, and then I put together my notes into a class handout. What you see here is an expanded edition of my class. It should help you look more period, however you do have to know what century your outfit is from.

Head accessories explode this century, which is why I’m  breaking this century into two posts – one for the women and one for the men.

Women’s 14th Century Headgear

  • Veils
    • The simple veil is still around and not only worn by the lower class, but you rarely see the simple veil worn by the wealthier women.  It can be worn by itself or held down by a circlet.
    • Simple Veil
      From the Smithfield Decretals

    • Veil with decorated edge
      From the Codex Manesse

    • Simple veil held down by flowers or possibly beads or pearls
      From the Codex Manesse

  • Veil with Something Else
    • More frequently than seeing the simple veil, we often see a veil worn with another piece of headgear.
    • I have deeper explanations of these additional elements in my “On Yer Heade Part II”
    • Veils with Gorgets
      • A gorget covers the neck. It was a tube that draped around the neck and sometimes covered the upper chest.
      • Veil with a gorget
        From the Smithfield Decretals

      • Veil with a gorget
        From Queen Mary’s Psalter

      • Veils with gorgets
        From the Romance of Alexander

    • Veil with a Fillet and/or Barbette
      • Wealthier women often wore veils with more decorative elements such a a fillet and barbette.
      • It also gives you something on which you can secure your veil.
      • Again, refer back to “On Yer Head Part II.”
      • Veil with a fillet (cloth crown piece) and barbette (piece that goes under chin and over head)
        From the Codex Manesse

  • Barbette and Fillet Combo
    • You can also see the barbette or barbet (piece that goes under the chin and over the head) and fillet (cloth crown) together
    • Again, for a more full description refer back to “On Yer Head Part II”
    • Barbette and Fillet
      From the Manesse Codex

    • Barbette and Fillet with braided hair
      From the Smithfield Decretals

    • Barbette and Fillet with a Crispenette (hair net) over braided hair
      From the Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux

  • Braids or Templars
    • This is the century of elaborate braids or templars, which were braids worn on the sides of the head (think Princess Leia, but with braided buns).
    • The diversity in the braids is limited by the imagination. Nearly every braid picture I found was at least slightly different from the others.
    • Feeling inadequate because you don’t have hair long enough to braid? Then use hair extensions to make the braids and pin them to your own hair. And yes, it was actually done in period too.
    • Dropping Braids with a braided back
      From the Romance of Alexander

    • Bun-like Braids
      From the Romance of Alexander

    • Braids wrapped around head
      From the Smithfield Cecretals

    • Braids wrapped around head
      From the Visconti Hours

    • Dropping Braids with a Fillet
      Head of a French Noblewoman

    • Braids with coronet and something I can’t identify hanging down the sides
      From statue of Marie de France daughter of Charles IV of Franc

    • Braids
      From the Romance of Alexander

    • Dropping braids with a braided bun
      From the Smithfield Decretals

    • Braids
      From the Smithfield Decretals

  • Birgitta’s Coif or Huva
    • You can still see the coif that is referred to as Birgitta’s coif. The only extant piece we have of this particular headgear was supposed to belong to St. Birgitta.
    • I have a full write-up of the coif and instructions on  making it in another post: St. Birgitta’s Huva
    • The cap I made on the left and the extant piece on the right.

    • From Taccuino Sanitatis

  • Crespinette
    • A crespinette or crispinette is a woven net that is worn over the hair. The hair is often braided under the crespinette. Wealthier women would have had gems or beads woven into it or have had it made with precious metal.
    • Crespinette
      From the Codex Manesse

  • Hoods
    • The Fourteenth Century sees hoods becoming popular with women. You mostly see the open hood variety – a hood that is not closed under the chin.
    • A common misconception is that these hoods are a later period Dutch hood. I’ve seen this hood far more often in the 14th and 15th centuries manuscripts made in western Europe, especially in France.
    • If you want to make one, a good tutorial to start with was posted on
      • They call it a London Hood, but I’ve also seen it called a French Hood, and it doubtless has many other names.
    • Hood with floppy top
      from the Roman de la Rose

    • Open hood with floppy top
      from Codex 2592

    • Open hood with a possible coif underneath
      From the Roman de la Rose

    • Open hood with a contrasting color for the lining
      From Roman de la Rose

    • Back view of hood
      from the Romance of Alexander

    • Open hood. The lady to the right is wearing templars.
      From the Romance of Alexander

    • Open hood
      From the Romance of Alexander

  • Ruffled or Frilled Hoods
    • One last headgear category that emerges this century is the ruffled hood.
    • It’s mostly seen in effigy statues rather than in manuscripts.
    • It’s very similar to the open hoods seen above, but the front edge has elaborate “ruffles,” which look very much like smocking.
    • Here is a more thorough description of the hood:
    • Ruffled hood
      Effigy of Johan von Hozehausen

    • Ruffled hood
      Effigy for Catherine of Warwick

      This is by no means a definitive list of women’s 14th century hats. There were many other types of headgear worn in this century. Especially if you look at manuscripts and statues from specific regions, you will find headgear that was worn in only one or two areas. But this article gives you a place to start.

More 16th Century Blackwork Fill-in Pattern Analysis

Oh my, I haven’t posted in a few days. It’s nearly Halloween – my favorite time of year. I’ve been, among other things, having fun with the kids. We were invited to one of their teen friend’s Halloween themed birthday party, and so I decided it would be the perfect occasion to go as something really scary. Unfortunately, I didn’t count on a side-trip to Walmart  for the friend I was riding with to pick something up. Let’s just sum it up and say that children screamed, I felt bad, and you may see me on the People of Walmart page.

Now on to the other fun stuff.

I’ve been continuing work on my needle case. It’s slow going, but my repeats are more consistent and I am picking up a bit of speed.

Blackwork Needle-case as of 10-21

The ruler should give some perspective on the size. Each repeat is about 1 cm by 1 cm. That’s a-lot of tiny stitches. It’s based off a pattern I analyzed here:

I’ve also been analyzing other blackwork fill-in patterns from 16th century pieces. I have two more from the same piece as pattern #1 (see needle-case above). It’s an English 16th century pillow-cover  from the Falkland Collection at  Victoria & Albert Museum

16th century pillow-cover from the Falkland Collection at Victoria & Albert Museum.

This little piece here:

16th Century Blackwork Fill-i9n Pattern 2

can be done in either direction.  It’s a really easy pattern, but the simplicity doesn’t mean that it isn’t very nice when used. It reminds me of seeds on a strawberry. The pattern itself is simple to recreate – alternating dashes.

Blackwork Fill-in Pattern #2

My third fill-in pattern is the last one from the same pillow-cover. It’s more complex than the one above, but it’s still fairly simple – diamonds and stars.

16th Century Blackwork Fill-in Pattern #3

My analysis may have an error, but I like it my way. If you look near the upper right corner, you can see that the diamond has a vertical line going through it connecting the center to the stars above and below, but I like it better with the space open.

16th Century Blackwork Fill-in Pattern #3

I’m hoping to finish up my the embroidery on my needlecase this week. I clamor about the time it is taking, but I need to realize that it’s not the project I’m working on but learning the art. Learning a new art does take time.

Making the 16th Century Flemish Working Class Woman’s Gown Part 1: The Documentation

This gown or overgown was worn as the outer most piece of full body clothing in the 1540’s to 1560’s by working class Flemish women in Antwerp, the largest city of Flanders at the time. This first note of two will describe the features of this specific type of 16th century Flemish gown. Since no extant gown from this place, time and social class exists (as far as we know), I’m mainly using paintings done by two artists who painted many portraits of Antwerp’s working class. Pieter Aertsen’s and Joachim Beuckelaer’s paintings captured so many aspects of the working class’s life. Through these, we can glimpse the everyday activities of a class of people that are rarely noticed.

My second note in this series will focus on how I made my version of the gown.

On left: Pieter Aertsen, Cook in Front of the Stove
On right: My gown

Let’s start with the top of the gown and work our way down.


  • Seam on shoulder nearer the back than the front
  • Loose fitting: the outside edges are not necessarily form fitting


  • Possibly constructed using a solid piece of fabric and cutting the armhole out of the top middle. No side or back seams present.
  • Inside edge skirts the outside of the breasts adding some support to the bosom
    • Joachim Beuckelaer’s “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary”

  • Tapers inward on the laced part
    •  Joachim Beuckelaer’s “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary” – above
    • Pierter Aersten’s “Vegetable Vendor”

  • Laced edges do not meet & are laced together using metal or fabric loops
    • Pierter Aersten’s “Vegetable Vendor” – above
    • Joachim Beuckelaer “Allegory of Negligence” – above
  • Spiral laced
    • Joachim Beuckelaer “Allegory of Negligence” – Above
    • A great tutorial on spiral lacing is Jen Thompson’s The Zen of Spiral Lacing

Under the Apron

  • What goes on under the apron is less evident.
  • Looking at details from Hieronymus Francken’s “The Witches’ Kitchen.”
    • The front opening seems to be open down past the navel, almost to the groin. Yet it only has lacings for the area from the waist to the top.  You can also see this in Johann Theodore de Bry’s illustration.
    • by Johann Theodore de Bry

    • Hieronymus Francken’s “The Witches’ Kitchen.”



  • Gathered in the back with large, loose pleats
    • Bueckelaer’s “Flight into Egypt”

    • Pieter Aersten’s “Cook in Front of the Stove”

And that is all.

Coming soon . . . How I Made My Gown

From Thrift Store to Garb Post 1: A Child’s Viking Tunic

My attitude is that you never should HAVE TO buy new fabric for children’s garb. You can find better and cheaper fabric by looking with a creative eye and an open mind at your local thrift store. At least that’s what I do.

Luckily for me, one of our local thrift shops (America’s Thrift) sorts everything by size. The easiest way to find good, period fabric, such as linen or wool, is to start with the largest sizes and work your way down.

For example, when I made this tunic:

I searched through women’s clothing looking for the largest red linen shirt or skirt I could find. The red linen shirt, I settled on, was made with a very nice lightweight, tight weave linen.  For the contrasting neck and sleeves, I found an off-white linen skirt. I wasn’t using much fabric for the contrast, so any size would have done fine.  Both purchases together cost about $2.50 – I also look for deals even when thrift store shopping.

Little known thrift store tip, many, many people buy linen clothing because it looks great at the store with the sizing still on it. Then they don’t know how to care for the linen and get rid of it. I find countless brand new items of linen clothes all of the time. My entire mundane wardrobe is nearly all linen (I live in southern Louisiana, so do you blame me for wanting to stay cool?).

Once you get home with the item you are going to re-purpose, wash it well in warm water. And dry the heck out of it. Any warping of the fabric or fading of the dyes you want done before you cut it.

The linen shirt I found. I think it was either a 1X or a 2X in size. 100% nice linen.

Now iron it flat. Cut it along the seams into as many large flat pieces you can. Even if those pieces have seams, as long as it can lay flat, leave those seams in.

Blouse cut into flat pieces. There is still a seam running down the back piece, but since it laid flat, I left it.

Now use those pieces to cut the pieces you need for the item you are making.

Pieces for son’s Viking tunic. Reverse the front and back pieces – I confused them when labeling and am too lazy to relabel!

I have a method for patterning tunics using only the person’s measurements. I have an idea that all garb construction can be reduced to mathematical formulas. It’s just an idea right now, but one type of garb at a time I’m working the math out.

My tunic method mostly works. I still need to tweak it a bit in places, but I’ll definitely post my method once I have it just right. I used my method making this tunic, and it fit my son perfectly.

Mostly sewn tunic

After much experience, I found it easier to make the neckline before the sides are sewn up on a tunic.

Neck line basted onto tunic.

Each family member has a basic neck pattern for tunics and such. I make it with craft foam since it’s more durable and flexible than paper.

I also have a mathematical formula for making neck holes. I’m still working on that too.

Another tip, leave the center neck hole in the neck piece while basting it to the garment. It makes it much easier to pin the garment and neck together. Remember, pin the right side of the neck line to the wrong side of the shirt.

Neck hole trimmed

I cut the hole out of the neck. I’ll trim the seams a bit closer to make it fold over easier.

Keyhole neckline turned right side out

Turn the neck line piece so that the right side of it is showing on the right side of the tunic. I then placed a small row of stitches around the hole to stabilize the fabric. These stitches can be removed once you are done with the neck, but I left them on as decorative stitches.

Hemmed and finished.

I added a decorative row of blue stitches and another of white stitches along the edge to tack the hem down.

All that’s left is to sew up the sides.

Before I sew the sides and hem the bottom, if I want to add any embroidery or other embellishments, I do them now. It’s easier to embroider a flat piece than having to stick your hand in and out of a tunic.

finished tunic

Here it is all done. I did a bit of split stitch embroidery on the neck and cuffs to spruce it up.

Besides the embroidery, it took me all-in-all about 2 hours to make the tunic. My little dude loved it, and I’m very happy with it.

Needle Case – 6th Time’s a Charm

Started working on my needle case. To give myself more practice with working this blackwork fill-in pattern,  my needle case cover will be made up entirely of the pattern. To add an extra degree of difficulty (as if that was necessary), I’m using linen that isn’t an even count weave. The first six repeats of the pattern are all flawed. Some more than others. Mostly because I miscounted a thread or didn’t see a thread. But the 6th one, that is perfect – or at least as perfect as an uneven weave will allow.

My perfect repeat is on the bottom right. It’s so pretty!!!

Being so happy about finally stitching the perfect repeat, I tried another repeat from this same fill-in patter. It came out flawless too. I am possibly catching on!!

My perfect little dude and its mate. (Yes, I’m personifying my embroidery. It gets me through a-lot of stitches.)

There was a point in time when I thought, “Blackwork looks easy enough. It’s just black thread on white fabric” and “Counted stitch embroidery is a joke! I mean, how difficult is it to count threads.”  As it turns out, it’s pretty damn difficult. I have a whole new appreciation for you cross-stitchers! And I have certainly said a few choice words to the past me that had such thoughts.

Types of Needles and Plans for a Needle Case

During a trip to JoAnn’s Fabrics yesterday, I bought several sizes of tapestry needles. Their blunt ends, I found out, work better with certain types of embroidery, such as blackwork. Since the tips aren’t pointed, they are less likely to pierce a thread.  My discovery was that in any type of counted stitch embroidery (example: 2 threads up and 4 threads to the left), you want your needle to go between the threads of the fabric rather than through a thread. The blunt ends push the threads aside instead of piercing it.

My next step in this journey is to learn what the different types of needles are better for doing. After all, they wouldn’t make different styles, sizes and types if there wasn’t a reason.

A large part of learning something new is discovering the un-obvious and learning those things you never knew mattered, or sometimes never knew existed. It’s not just about mastering those steps that you know of, but learning all those little details, new terminology, and minor bits about which you’ve never heard.  Sometimes it’s the little things, those things that no one thinks to explain because anyone who’s done it for any length of time knows, which I find frustrating. Types of needles are one of them.

When it comes to the basic needle, there are 4 aspects of needles that are important:

  1. Point type
  2. Eye type
  3. Length
  4. Width

Point Types

  1. Sharp
    • As the name implies, they have a sharp point. These are the most common type of hand-sewing needles used.
  2. Ball point
    • Good for knit fabric since it is less likely to snag the threads and un-do the knitted fabric.
      • Ball Point or Knit Needles
  3. Blunt
    • Used for projects where you go between the threads. The blunt point pushes the threads to the side so that it is not pierced.
      • Tapestry needles are blunt

Eye Types

  1. Small Round Eye
    • General sewing needles. Eye is large enough to fit normal sewing thread.
      • Sharps: general purpose sewing. Sharp with small head that is good for working with normal sewing thread.
  2. Long Eye
    • Better for sewing that uses multiple threads, thick threads or yarn.
      • Embroidery or Crewel Needles: have long eye and a sharp point
      • Tapestry Needles: have a long eye but a blunt point. Generally a little on the thicker side. Can pass through fabric without piercing the individual thread. Good for blackwork or other counted stitch sewing.
      • Chenille Needles: Large eye and thick like a tapestry needle, but with a sharp point. Used for going through thick, closely woven fabric with multiple or large thread, like ribbon or wool embroidery.


  1. Short
    • Work with tiny details
      • Quilting Needles: short and sharp. Good for small stitches used in quilting or going through thick fabrics that need small stitches, such denim or when hemming pants.
  2. Medium
    • General use. Most things you do can be done with a medium length needle.
  3. Long
    • They are made for hat making, but can also be useful in any circumstance where large basting stitches are needed.
      • Milliner Needles: long and sharp with a small eye. Since the eye is not much bigger than the shaft, it can also be used for beading.


  1. Thin
    • Light-weight fabrics so that the hole made is tiny and doesn’t affect the fabric much.
  2. Thick
    • In some work, like embroidery, you want the hole in the fabric big enough for the thread to pass through without a problem. Especially with using silk thread, you don’t want the thread to struggle being pulled through.
    • Some needles have a sharp point with a thinner body that tapers up to a larger head, even a diamond or triangular shaped head. These are good for getting through fabric that needs a sharp point and making a large enough opening for the thread to pass easily through.

Now what does all of this have to do with a needle case? Now that I have so many types of needles, I want to use the correct one for the correct circumstance. Thus, I need a way to organize them. Now, if Jo-Ann Fabrics had simply had a decent needle case yesterday, I would not be here. Since they didn’t, my need for a simple needle case has become much more complex. I now want a needle case that organizes my needles by type and size, has a pocket for my embroidery scissors and looks like it could be found in the 14 to 1500’s. It doesn’t have to be historically accurate, but I don’t want it to be glaringly modern.

That’s what I’m working one today. Pictures will follow.