Skjoldehamn Find Project: Where is Skjoldehamn

Almost a year ago, King James and Queen Joan of Gleann Abhann announced that Baron Gellir Gunnarson, one of my best friends, would be elevated to the Order of the Pelican, one of the highest honors in the SCA. Being me, I wanted to dress him.

That started my Skjoldehamn project, which is thankfully coming near an end. The end will be at Kingdom A&S in September. At which point, poor Gellir will get to take the dang thing home with him.

 

Not that I did not love playing dress-up, but this simple tunic has taken so many hours that I now hate this shade of blue, which was once my favorite!

Granted, I am a slow seamstress, but the main issue was making this tunic entirely authentic to the Skjoldehamn find, including the itty bitty stitches they used in the seams. Not realizing how tall my friend is (in my head all people are either shorter than me, taller than me or way taller than me), I had not realized how many linear yards of internal seams there would be.

Since I don’t even research half-assedly, I also translated enough research on the Skjoldehamn find to use as a masters degree dissertation! Be prepared to be overwhelmed with as many aspects of the Skjoldehamn find as you can imagine.

Why my fascination with the outfit from the Skjoldehamn find?

Much of the background information on the find itself and the clothing is not in English, but in Norwegian. Most of what I now know and now find fascinating, I didn’t know when I first started researching it. The Skjoldehamn outfit initially appealed to me because it is one of the most complete Viking-age outfits that we have ever found.

The clothing items include:

  • Overtunic
  • Undertunic
  • Pants
  • Hood
  • Leg wraps
  • Woven belt

And that’s just the cloth items!

The items individually are well enough preserved that there is a wealth of information to gain from them. Even with all of this, the clothing, until recently, the Skjoldehamn clothing was not well researched or documented. Why?

I do not know for certain why this find has been ignored, but by the end of this journey I will share my thoughts on the subject.

Let’s start with some background.

Background on the Skjoldehamn Find

Timing

The body was discovered the same month as the first Viking-age clothing was found in Sweden – June 1936. This is 2 years before Agnes Geijer writes her definitive work on Viking-age textiles focusing on the Birka find, Die Textilfunde aus den Gräbern. Clothing and textiles, at this time in archaeology, were not considered important. Everyone focused on the weapons and artifacts.

Place
Skjoldehamn is located on the northern tip of Norway on the coast of the Norwegian Sea. Thanks to Google Maps, we can get an idea of how far north this place is.

 

I’ve circle Skjoldehamn in red. Skjoldehamn is located on the island of Andøya in the cluster circled.

It is not a very pleasant place. Saying it is cold is an insult to cold places.

For example, today here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana the high was 84°F, felt like it was 93, and it rained almost all day. Hot and rainy is typical southern Louisiana weather in June. 84°F for June is actually fairly cool, but I suspect that most places in the US are closer to the mid 70’s.

The high in Skjoldehamn today was a whopping 45°F and felt like 39°F. It also rained there, but, while our low tonight will be 70°F, their low is 27°F and feeling like 5°F. 5°F!! In June!!

That area of Norway is bleak, even for Norway, and under snow a good portion of the year, yet it does have a long history. Traces of a medieval road connect Skjoldehamn it to southern areas in Norway. Even back in the Viking-age, people traveled to this remote location. In the 1930’s, Skjoldehamn was a fairly sparsely populated farming village. It was old, but not as old as many other villages.

The island of Andøya, where Skjoldehamn is located, does not have much lumber for burning. Most people burn bricks of peat for warmth. Peat is compacted partly decayed organic matter found in bogs or peatlands. Bogs are pretty common in northern Europe and burning peat is common too. Scotland is well known for its peat bricks, and it is the spring water filtering through the peat that gives Scotch its earthy flavor.

That’s where I’m going to leave you today. Next I’ll tell you a nice bedtime story of why the find got so f’d up.

Esperanza de Navarra

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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 http://www.ceilingpress.com/Resources/SkjoldehamnFindInLightofNewKnowledge.pdf. 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: http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/kraglund.html

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!

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.

On Yer Heade Part I

Period Head Coverings OR, alternately, What Hat Goes with My Outfit?

Part I: Early Period to 12th Century

I’m not a “Cover your head!” Nazi, but I do think that it adds to the Medieval-esque feel of an event when more people wear the correct hat.

For most of the SCA period, head coverings (head-ware) was not considered optional by either sex. It’s called interchangeably head-ware, headgear, head covering or hats.  Unlike today where we wear hats for special occasions or to keep the sun off of our head, head coverings were a part of everyday life, especially for women.  You would not step out of your front door without wearing proper headgear.

There was a small time (mid-12th century) when it was acceptable for women not to cover their heads, but for the most part through the ages all older or married women covered their heads.

What was the purpose?

Modesty: There are even a few cultures today which require their people to cover their heads outside of their home.

Lack of hygiene: Their hair was as hard to tame as ours can be. Imagine trying to fix your hair if it is really long and hasn’t been washed for weeks or months. Sticking it all in a hat seems sensible.

Identification: Headwear gave clues to class and occupation. Different classes of people wore different kinds of head coverings. In later period, sumptuary laws were made forbidding lower classes to wear the same head covering that the aristocracy wore.

When in doubt

  • For male, wear a coif. If early period, women can too.
  • For female, wear a veil

Early Period

For both Sexes:

  • Coif
    •  
    • A rectangle of cloth, folded in half. Point in back can be curved or left pointy.
    • Ties partly up front sided.
    • Not terribly sure, but it is guessed that the color was white or unbleached linen.

For Women

  • Headrail
    • A headrail is pretty much a long rectangle of cloth wrapped around your head.
    • From looking at period sources, it can be a variety of colors ranging from bleached linen to red to blue.
    • It’s very similar to the modern hijab. In fact, the best directions I could find on wearing one is for a hijab: http://thehijabshop.com/information/how_to_wear.php
    • The Encomium Emmae Reginae, 1041-2.
    • Cotton Claudius B IV, folio 10, from the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch in the British Library, 11th century.

For Men

  • Birka Cap
    • Based on a woolen cap found at the Birka site

12th Century

 For Women

There was a short time period where women had the option of not wearing a head covering.  Starting around 1125, some women began to appear in public with their head uncovered. Their hair, however was not loose, but parted down middle and plaited (braided) in various ways. By the late 12th century, women were back to covering their heads.

For Men

  • Coifs
    • The coif is still around, but it is now more form fitting. It’s also higher in the back than it is at the ear area. Straps can still be thin or wider.
    • Unknown Miniaturist, French around 1180. Fécamp
      Harvesting and_Pressing of the Grapes

  • Closed Hoods
    • Simple hoods began showing up at this time. Closed fron at the chest (no buttons), so it needed to be loose enough to slip over the head. The hood, at this time, covered the shoulders and had no tail.
    • The colors could be about anything, although red was common. You also see decorations the hoods – this one has a contrasting front and bottom edge.
    • Unknown Miniaturist, French (active c. 1180 at Fécamp)
      Feeeding the Pigs with Acorns

  • Combination of hood and coif
    • The coif and the hood could be worn together. It’s not definite if a coif was always worn under the hood, but combining them is not uncommon.
    • Phrygian Cap
        Yes, the Smurf hat is still around

Tomb plaque of Geoffrey Plantagenet (1113-51) from the Cathedral of St. Julien, Le Mans, c.1151-55.

  • Basic Birka-like Cap
    • The basic cap is also still here. It’s a bit shorter and has a more defined band around the edge.
    • Hunterian Psalter
      England: c. 1170

To Be Continued

The pencil drawings were found at: http://sites.tufts.edu/putajewelonit/2011/09/21/glossary-of-english-hairstyles-headdress/

I apologize for using pictures without giving credit. These come from a class handout that I taught on period hear-ware, and I did not document my pictures at the time. If you recognize any, please let me know and I’ll give credit to the artist.

Other sources: