Here’s the detailed breakdown of the 900AD Viking style outfit, quick version. With links!
In terms of a specific pattern, I’m going for an eastern style keyhole neckline, ankle-ish length, and I’ll probably go with rectangular sleeves solely because I don’t feel confident about making tapered sleeves. (If you’re wondering why I’m not worried about the fabric cost - I’m 5’2”, and I’m rarely bigger than a size 12 in any store. A high-neckline ankle-length dress (while in heavy-soled boots, mind you) for me would be…ehhhh…130cm, tops? I may take that length up even further, depending on what boots I end up with.) Unfortunately, the image on Hilde Thunem’s page about serks in the section on a Birka-inspired serk is…really tiny. (She has notes as well on a Haithabu/Hedeby serk, but it looks a lot more complicated - especially the sleeves.)
“Linen was generally undyed and tabby-woven, although some linen twills have been found in the Danelaw. Look for plain tabby weave when you’re searching for linen or linen-substitutes.”
Fabrics: medium-weight pure linen, medium weight linen-cotton blend, medium weight cotton of correct weave.
In terms of actual fabrics, I’ve got options:
The two Lincraft fabrics; first the ivory homespun, then the linen-cotton shirting.
The two DK Fabrics options - two colours of pure linen.
The three Remnant Warehouse fabrics - the linen-cotton blend, the pure linen, and the raw cotton jersey. I expect the jersey won't work out, because it's stretchy, but we'll see.
This would be the absolute ideal fabric, but honestly, there's not much point to spending this much and paying shipping too when I can get pure linen locally. (Also, what's with the ruler? The image doesn't display big enough on their site to see threads per mm.)
The real linens all seem to be about the same price, so I’m probably going to go with DK Fabrics’ real linen, because I don’t have to pay for shipping. The Lincraft shirting is weirdly rough (compared to the dyed colours in the range) though their homespun isn’t too bad.
I’ve found these options for trims, but I’m not sure about them. Either 30mm endless dog design, or a more basic brown and pink design. The endless dog trim comes in a narrower red version, which I think would be better since it’s on a serk.
There’s also this gorgeous striped silk dupion or equally gorgeous striped silk chiffon, though the chiffon may be too light. I won’t need much, so it can be expensive per m. (I’m also eyeing this shot silk taffeta but it might not be the right colour or weight. Still pretty though.)
DK Fabrics has this dragon brocade in dark blue but dark blue on the serk, with the blue apron dress? Too much blue, I think.
The fabrics, in order of appearance - teal/black satin suiting brocade, teal/purple shot taffeta, striped chiffon, striped dupion, viscose gold/purple thistle brocade, dark blue Chinese dragon brocade.
The nice thing is that I don’t have to match up the pattern too well, because the Vikings apparently didn’t:
“Edge treatments show an interesting similarity across the entire Viking world. If the edges are hemmed, then the hems are most commonly left unadorned, although one or two decorated ones, such as the tablet-woven hem on the tunic of the Evebø jarl, have been found. But a large number of edges, especially at wrists, jacket flaps, and necks, were ornamented by strips of silk samite. Samite was a product of Byzantium, a thick, rich, silk twill that was woven in patterns that were often elaborate and multicolored. The strips cut from samite and used to decorate Viking garments did not follow the directions of a pattern; some surviving strips seem to have been cut by someone with a healthy disdain for the weaver’s intentions! Once cut into strips, sometimes the silk was treated like bias tape (i.e., enclosing the raw edge of the garment material), and sometimes the edges of the samite strip were folded under neatly and the whole piece sewn down (i.e., like trim) on top of the garment material. This is probably the single most common element in Viking Age garment decoration.”
Apron dress (or smokkr, or smock)
In terms of design, I like Hilde Thunem’s interpretation of the Haithabu find, also known as the Hedeby find, because it looks a lot simpler and easier than her interpretation of the Kostrup find. The Kostrup smock involves pleating, and the last time I did pleating it was on a much better-quality sewing machine than mine, with an experienced instructor. As much as I’m sure it does go a long way towards getting a nice tailored look…nah.
(Yes, I’ve read into all the back and forth over who has the most accurate interpretation. No, I’m not wading into that; I’m not a weaver and my majors are international studies and philosophy, not history or anthropology. I’m just going for the one that looks easiest to pull off in the time I’ve got. I can quibble over accuracy when I have more than two months to get it done.)
Fabrics, as per Carolyn Priest-Dorman: twill weave wool in plain muted light to mid blue; twill weave suiting blend preferably winter weight, twill weave heavy cotton.
So, this is really hard. Blue should be my best bet, since the Danelaw regions were more like England and the far west coast (where red was apparently more likely):
“Speaking of colors, the documented colors in the Viking textile palette included the following: deep reds from madder, blues from woad, two varieties of yellows, greens from overdyeing with yellow and woad, purple from a variety of sources (madder/woad, lichens, lichens/woad, lichens/madder), and deep brownish/black from walnut hulls. Other colors are likely to have been used, such as the range of golden-browns available from a variety of plant sources, but they have not yet been identified on surviving textiles. Additionally, the uneven distribution of archaeological finds of various colors suggests that certain areas may have used different predominant colors: purple in Ireland, red in the Danelaw, and blue in Scandinavia.”
Guess what colour is apparently not at all in fashion in suits anymore? (Actually, trick question, mid to light blues and reds are almost impossible to find in suiting fabric.)
There are…not a whole lot of options here either. At least, in non-bank-breaking. (It’s also mildly hilarious, since Australia is internationally famous for wool! I can get yarns and raw wool in every colour and grade you can think of, but not fabric.
No, I’m not at all salty about this, whatever made you think that?)
An accurate interpretation of the author's opinions regarding wool fabric availability in Australia.
Cheap options are The Remnant Warehouse’s lavender poly-cotton suiting or dark blue poly-cotton gabardine. Lincraft has ponte knits (no good as they’re stretchy and the wrong weave too I think), or better poly-wool suiting but that blue is too dark, and the lighter blue is too greenish to my eyes; their red might be okay, but I can’t find any of these three colours in my local store to check. (My local store is one of the smaller ones though; I’ll hopefully have an opportunity to go hunting at a bigger store soon.)
The two Remnant Warehouse offerings - lavender suiting, and 'officer blue' endurance gabardine.
The three Lincraft offerings - winter wool/nylon blend suiting in Navy, Mineral or Red.
Another non-wool option is The Fabric Store’s light denim. Or possibly, any other light or mid-toned denims in a fairly light weight, if I can find some that aren’t stretchy.
While sure, it's not wool, it would look close enough...right?
What I’d really like is either of these from The Fabric Store - twill weave wool/nylon coating in ash blue, or their midweight merino jersey in ash blue or storm blue, or marsala if I did a red (though it may be a little too blue-toned). Jersey might not be correct, but there’s really not much around in twills that contain a good percentage of wool and are the right colours.
The twill weave suiting blend, and the three 180gsm jerseys. I'm honestly not sure if jersey weave is suitable - it doesn't look at all like the twill weaves I've seen - but at least it's wool. I like the storm blue better, but the suiting twill only comes in that one colour. Marsala might be a little too blue-toned, but it's a really, really nice red.
Finally, DK Fabrics does have this grey marle wool and Fabric Muse has this Italian worsted suiting in a mid grey which could potentially be over-dyed in blue. But, they may well be too expensive for a first attempt at such a pattern.
muffled sound of my bank account sobbing
So…I’m improvising as best as I can.
Socks and gloves
I am spoiled for choice in yarns here. I’m looking at cream, brown and grays, in real wool or close to. While I’m aiming for less ‘perfect’ colours of wool (figuring that real sheep’s wool, like real people’s hair, doesn’t come in perfectly even colours) I’m flexible given my options.
(Yes, Hilde Thunem finds that both socks and stockings are more likely to be sewn from cloth, but I’d really like to try my hand at nalbinding. Besides, I’m having enough trouble as it is getting my hands on decent wool fabric. At least yarn is easy to find!)
Just from Lincraft, I have these options:
Grays: Mondial Bio Lana 100% organic wool in Charcoal or Stone, Lincraft Superwash 100% wool in Silver, Lincraft Cosy 100% wool in Grey Marle or charcoal, Lincraft Baby Merino 100% wool in silver, or Lincraft Coaster 70/30 wool/alpaca blend in Charcoal.
If I feel like going further afield, from Spotlight:
4 Seasons Pure Wool 8ply in shiitake, oats, linen, or charcoal.
Patons Dreamtime 4ply in donkey, moccasin, charcoal or cream.
4 Seasons Superwash 8ply in ecru or charcoal.
4 Seasons Pure Wool Entwine 8ply in putty, ecru, dark grey or cream.
Cleckheaton Country 8ply in bone, brown or beige marble.
4 Seasons Merino 4ply in charcoal or cream.
If I really wanted to splurge, I’d go to Bendigo Woollen Mills and look at their Classic or Luxury yarn lines. (Sadly, the Collaboration line seems to be close to disappearing, though there’s a nice dark brown in there.) They also do a well-reviewed wool/bamboo blend, and Pony ergonomic crochet hooks (which, unlike the cheap ones I got from eBay, actually have steel hooks and thus are actually useable). Or, even better, I’d look at some of the lines on IWoolKnit - I’m especially intruiged by the Millpost Superfine undyed hanks for socks, even if the colour looks far too even to my eye. They also have the GGH Lacy wool/silk blend line and Jo Sharp silk/wool blend line which I want to try just because. Platypus Yarn also has a few undyed options. Eco Yarns has some undyed hanks as well, in 4 and 8 ply, plus White Gum 4ply and WOOLganic 8ply. But, these are for when I’m very confident with making them - and the hypothetical future where I have this kind of money! (Granted, I could probably barter or sell nalbound (?) and knitted socks, stockings and mittens…)
This is a rhetorical GIF, don't answer it.
I’ll probably crochet these, purely because I’m not feeling confident about getting the hang of nalbinding in time. (I can get a set of bone nalbinding needles, but I have some big darning/tapestry needles at home that’ll take 4ply bamboo yarn. I’ll see if I can get 4ply wool yarn into them before I go buying a set of nalbinding needles.)
I’ve used this pattern to successfully make some bamboo yarn handwarmers (and less successfully, a bamboo yarn fingerless glove - I wasn’t very good at counting my stitches, plus I just don’t have the patience for doing fingers now) and I feel pretty confident in using it to do some mittens. (As a sidenote, Cathy Raymond has a post here about why two-finger mittens aren’t confirmed for Viking garb.)
I’m still hunting for a good crochet sock pattern though - I’m going to try this pattern from Ravelry first, but I would really like to do this pattern using moss stitch as it looks a lot denser and thus warmer.
Update 05/04: I’ve gone with my existing 2 balls of 4 Seasons Merino 4ply in charcoal for the mittens (which I found last night while entering yarns on Ravelry). For socks, I’ve picked up two balls of Mondial BioLana in ivory, though I also grabbed a ball of Lincraft 8ply cotton yarn for practice (as the pattern specifies 4ply, and I don’t know what I’ll need to do to adjust). I was very tempted to get Baby Merino instead, but the socks don’t need to be that soft - and Bio Lana is pretty soft as it is. OTOH, I’ll see how the 4 Seasons Merino goes after it’s washed, because it’s kiiiinda scratchy at the moment - I may get some more Bio Lana in charcoal instead if it’s a bit much. I also need to find out at what step I should re-lanolize the wool for the socks - lanolizing them will give them some extra water resistance, and even modern boots can’t keep water out very well (as I’ve learned many times).
Yay for floor pics! We'll see how the 4 Seasons yarn goes; I prewashed the wool yarns today."
Also, depending on how quickly I get it done and how confident I am with the patterns, I may do a couple of pairs of gloves, and aim for 4 pairs of socks (one for each day).
I can’t find any online listings, but Global Village at Adelaide Central Markets has striped brushed wool blankets (I have one, it was $30). While I do need to investigate if they’re useable as mantles, I have one in a cream, brown and green stripe, and I’m not averse to trimming off the fringe and such.
Another option is a suitable throw rug; this one from IKEA might be ok.
There’s also a number of options through Remnant Warehouse. I need to read up more on Viking age patterned fabrics though; the Bobbi Stripe lines or Harry Checker plaid look the most likely based on this information but honestly, I’m not sure:
“The stripes tend to be narrow, and the plaids or checks are tiny. Things that read as modern, such as pinstripes, might actually be a much better choice than plaids that would be better suited to a kilt.
Were I to come across a larger, two-tone plaid or check in a heavy fabric, I think it might suit well enough for a cloak or blanket, but I would not choose to use it now as textile for a garment such as a tunic, dress or pants. The larger checks from Haugen in Rolvsøy, which is a coarse textile, as well as the coarse, loose wool from Værnes seem better suited to those types of applications. (And I would, at this point, only look at items with two colors, as seen in those fabrics as well as the Thorsberg and Skjoldehamn cloaks, rather than a plaid of many colors.)” (emphasis mine)
Some possibilities in wool flannels from The Remnant Warehouse: Bobbi Stripe in Red Brick, Bobbi Stripe in Acorn, Elephant Check in camel/blue or Harry Checker. Out of all of them, I honestly think the darker Bobbi Stripe is probably best.
It’s probably obvious from my talking about shawls, but I’m not going to try to do one of the ‘caftan coats’, at least not this time around. Rebecca Lucas points out that while there’s evidence of the coats at Birka, they might still have been worn by women living elsewhere in the 9th Century:
“While the 9th century Oseberg tapestry and 10th century Rolvsøy tapestry seem to show roughly contemporary dress with a rectangular mantle and brooch on the breast (figure 1), it appears to have been unfashionable in 9-10th century Birka. Meanwhile there is evidence for mantles being worn in the 10th century female Danish burial at Hvilehøj, from Hedeby harbour and 11-12th century Barshalder, implying that shawls may still have been worn by women outside of the trading centre of Birka.”
Already got some! I have a pair in cream as well, if needed.
I’m also very lost on this one. I may have to spring for a leather belt, even though women’s belts were likely woven; granted, Rebecca Lucas has documentation of metal fittings for belts.
For a woven belt, the best I can do is this black cotton webbing. They’re just…not really a thing, I think. I might have some luck in men’s webbing belts, but I don’t think I’m going to find much somehow.
Filet+veil or cap
For the filet, I’m thinking this silk dupion or this heavy silk twill - both stiffer, more structured fabrics, which might work better for a headband-type thing. (Again, won’t need a whole lot so I can afford to get nicer fabric.) If I’m stuck with a lighter satin, I’d probably have to get some interfacing to hold it up.
Silk organza, silk georgette, silk dupion, silk twill. I figure pure white is going to be too stark against the serk, so I'm going for off-whites. I thought DK Fabrics had a gold dupion as well, but apparently not; if one comes up though, it'd be much nicer than paying postage.
If I go for a cap, I’ll probably use something that holds a bit better like muslin or cheesecloth. Wandering Elf has this excellent post on Viking women’s caps, and I especially like the Rogers arrangement at the bottom right - it looks very logical. If I did that arrangement, I’d use the silk dupion for the headband.
For pins, I thought I’d be clever and go looking for plain hijab pins…turns out, those are quite hard to find; most are very highly decorated. The best I can do would be these silver stick pins (which don’t have the protective end cap) or these pins which also appear to lack a protective end cap. I could get these fairly cheap capped pins and try to pull the diamond off, but I’m not sure how they’re secured. I think I’d be best off finding some capped stick pin blanks and making my own end decorations.
Going to go hunting for some thrift store ankle boots; I’d really like to find something in the Oseberg 172 style but I’m not betting on it. And I’m trying to avoid paying new prices as well, but…well, we’ll see.
I have some proof for these, here:
“The one exception can be found in one of the Psychomachias (British Library, MS additional 24199, fol. 12r.). In this image the vice Superbia is shown on horse back with her dress riding up her leg and around her lower leg is a wrap with ties at the ankle.”
(Ingrid Nilsen’s blog also notes that legwraps provide important ankle support that is lacking in Viking footwear. Since I’m already prone to jarring/rolling my ankles in low-cut footwear, if I’m going to ever wear Viking-style turnshoes then these would be a very good idea. I doubt I’m going to have the time to learn how to make turnshoes at all, let alone make a pair that fit in the style I’m after, but in the future I’ll see how I fare and decide if legwraps are enough to compensate for shoes with poor ankle support.)
It’s hard to find fabrics that look about right (based on the images from this source). There’s this herringbone wool flannel which might not be the right weight anyway. Another option is this serge tweed gaberdine which is fairly wide, so might be usable.
Wool flannel (its name says it's herringbone) and the serge tweed.
There’s also this throw rug from IKEA but ouch, that price.
Sure, it looks close, but this throw rug is also $79. Not sure I want to cut it up...
So, I found this website which has given me quite a few options.
Likewise, this site also has three options - plain, slightly fancier, or a late Roman-style fibula brooch. I’m thinking the last one is right out (I want one anyway though) but the others aren’t appreciably different to the first site’s options.
For turtle brooches, I’m quite dissatisfied with what I’ve found online that isn’t super expensive. This set is unfortunately based on a Finnish find, and from my other sources I should be cautious about using Finnish finds because they’re quite different. But, this set is based on a find in Suffolk, England - so also not really the right area. (Trefoils were apparently more likely to be used in England as well - not in the Haithabu/Hedeby region.)
And eBay also has this round brooch - it’s too big, but it’s a start for a serk closure.
I also need to find some pins for my veil. Not ring pins - those were only found in men’s graves, and look too chunky for veil pins.
I’ve drawn from this blog post for tips and Hilde Thunem’s documentation of the Kostrup find, plus these pictures of the beads from the Haithabu find (though, they’re quite small - I’d like some closer pictures if anyone has them). This page from Viking Answer Lady is another good source, and I’m going to be looking for glass beads along these lines. (The best source is probably Matthew Delvaux’s work on bead colours which gives me a good idea of colours to look at - deep, saturated, and leaning towards the warm end of the spectrum.)
Unfortunately for me, the best I can do for some foil-lined beads above seed/bugle size at Need4Bead would be the Indian mixed ‘plain’ beads, which might not be very period.
I’ll probably go for opaque glass beads for jet-look, and I’m not sure what I can do for carnelian/amber look. I do have some carnelian beads already, but they’re very smooth rounds. I also have some hand-cut coins, but I don’t know how they’ll go either. I definitely can’t afford proper amber beads - chips is the best I can do on my budget, and apparently they are not period.
This one I’m going to have to DIY. I’m thinking a beef shank bone is probably the best size; marrowbones are too big, and lamb leg bones look too small. I’m hoping to get a couple with bones of about 15-25cm length.
After taking off the meat and removing the marrow (which, based on past experience with beef marrowbones and a dog who loves the marrow, may require the assistance of a drill - we’ll see), I’ll scrub the bone with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Several people have suggested doing a dilute bleach rinse as well, to improve the colour or further sanitize it - I don’t want a nice, bright white bone, but I can see the advantages of doing one last anti-microbe sweep.
Then, I’ll have to take to it with my Dremel tool to get the rest of the shape going. The images here seem to imply that the needle cases were only about the length of the hand - so, maybe 10-15cm tops. I might be able to salvage a piece to plug the bottom of the case, though I’m going with a horizontally-hanging case as proposed by Rebecca Lucas - not only does it make more sense (needles don’t always want to stay in a pincushion, and gravity doesn’t help) but it might let me store more stuff.
Needle case contents and other accouterments
Another reason I’m using a larger-diameter bone is that I want to be able to store quite a bit in there. In addition to needles (in a pincushion, which I want to create as part of the ‘lid’ piece) I need to be able to take some pins (in another pincushion) a couple of nice big darning/tapestry needles (for nalbinding), a couple of cards of thread (black, dark blue, red and white extra-strong), a thread/seam ripper, and some tiny safety pins.
Jennifer Baker seems to have fitted quite a lot into her sewing box, but a lot of that just isn’t going to fit into a little needle case. I’ll have to think about a nice box like this for the future though.
I can’t find any not-obviously-modern spring shears that aren’t gigantic and/or expensive, so I’m going to take some embroidery scissors with me instead. They’ll have to go in my basket though, as I’m unsure of the legality of wearing them openly in NSW (plus I’d have to make a sheath). I’ve seen quite a few in shops that look similar to this find, linked from Jennifer Baker’s post and this related scissor find.
You’d think that with an Ishka 20 minutes’ walk from me, this would be easy.
Apparently, not so.
My best bet seems to be this basket from Target, or this nearly identical basket from Big W, and yet another similar basket from Kmart if it comes down to it. There’s also a similar basket at IKEA so I’m honeslty spoiled for choice, though it looks like the IKEA basket is the smallest of them.
They're not quite identical, but they're all very close, aren't they? Top is Target, then Big W, Kmart and IKEA.
But, because I want to go to Ishka, I kind of want to pick up this lockable cigar box. I have a few valuables that need to come with me, and this is one way to keep them very safe - though, I need to check the depth first.
Update 05/04: Bought the Target basket in the end. And carried my fortnight’s shopping home in it. It held up, so it’s good. I also got this black plastic water bottle from Aussie Disposals (not listed on their site) which I’m going to make a leather cover for so it looks period-ish and I can have water whenever.
It's an army surplus bottle, but for some reason Aussie Disposals is possibly not going to continue stocking them. I plan to make a leather cover for it; while it might not be strictly 9thC Viking, it'll be versatile. Holds about 1L as well.
If time permits, I’ll make a proper belt pouch with a lid flap, to store my vital stuff in (like my phone, meds, cash and ID). For now, it’s most likely to be a basic drawstring pouch.
For a pouch, I’ll be drawing on information in this blog post but I doubt I’ll be able to use real fur for the flap (though I do have some faux fur kicking around that I was going to use for a vest back when those were trendy). I’ll probably do the rest in a heavy fabric, since I don’t feel confident in working with leather yet.
For buttons, I’ll get some cheap wooden toggles from Lincraft. Once I’m confident, I plan to track down some sources of cleaned deer antlers in Australia, and then I can make my own antler toggles!
Which I almost completely forgot about.
Now, fun fact - the Vikings didn’t do forks in the 9th century. You had a spoon and a knife, and you…worked with that, I guess. So I’m a little torn there - on the one hand, I kiiiiinda might need a fork. On the other, it’s kind of hard to get two-tine dining forks (not salad forks!) individually. (I’m drawing on these images reposted from the museum at Hedeby to get an idea of what I’m after; cannot remember or find where I read that the Vikings didn’t do forks, but I definitely read it somewhere…)
So, a non-fork set would be:
A set with a fork would be:
There’s also this set with a skewer instead of a fork and no spoon for $35, making a full set $77.10. Clearly, my best bet is to either get individual pieces of cutlery, or get the 3-piece set - but I still have to find a bowl and plates, and it’d help a lot to not have to buy the horn mug (at least just yet).
For a bowl, I’m looking at these mango wood bowls if they come back in stock in time. Kmart also has these sort of rustic looking plates, and Target has reactive glaze mugs. The latter two do not look period though. I’ve trawled the websites of Myers, Harris Scarfe, even Ikea, and I can’t find much. But I haven’t scoured every op shop of Adelaide’s northeast yet, nor begged on various local buy/sell/swap Facebook groups, so…we’ll see. I also have yet to ask about loaner feasting gear.
Mango wood bowls (currently OOS), rustic-y plate set, and reactive glaze mugs. I...really don't think the latter two are going to work out, somehow.
I have a black steel candle holder and some beeswax tapers I can bring as well, if they’re needed. The holder probably isn’t period, but it’s a candle holder. (My copper one looks even less period, and the ceramic one got broken.)
Update 07/04: I can’t find the link again, but apparently, a bowl on its own should be fine. And the mango wood bowls might be back in stock!
As always, slide into my DMs if you have comments or questions.
Also, friendly reminder that I am perpetually running low on money, so seriously, any donations that can be slung my way (monetary or otherwise) would help a lot. Even just pointers to stuff I can’t find if it’s cheap.
An accurate representation of university students generally, and this student specifically.
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