Location: Canton of the Towers, East
Category/Level: Historically Focused/Advanced
Project Update Blog: Built Fjord Tough
About Tasha: I’ve been in the SCA for about 20 years. Sewing is one of my main activities, but really, if it involves textiles, string, or some combination of the two, I’m in. I started hand sewing all my garb several years ago when I realized that I hated machine sewing, I wanted my garb to fit better and last longer, and I couldn’t hear the movie I was streaming over the sound of the sewing machine. In addition to sewing, I also do leatherwork and am a regional combat archery lieutenant. This project does tie into my persona in that I believe it’s the sort of thing I wanted to make for my late husband, both in and out of persona. I think it will be a challenge both because I haven’t really made menswear at the level I am at with womenswear, and because I will be drafting at least two new patterns (shirt and pants) if not three (the coat). It will also be a time management challenge, since the holidays are smack in the middle of this process. This is going to be fun!
Her Project: I’m planning to make a set of men’s clothes from Viking Age Sweden, built to fit me. I started fighting a few years ago and I still don’t have a proper pair of pants (track pants from Target Do Not Count). I really want to figure out how to draft a pair of late Viking Age trousers for myself, both to add that skill to my repertoire and to have a pair of pants to fight in.
I’ve also bee fascinated by the Viborg shirt for years, and am extremely excited to adjust the pattern to fit me and to use the very interesting stitches I’ve found to flat line the bodice. I’ll also be making a wool tunic with my tablet woven trim, a coat to go over everything, and a leather belt and pouch. I hope to spin the wool thread to sew the coat and tunic as well, and if I can find the right fabric, I may even dye it for the tunic.
I made a version of the Viborg shirt adapted for my figure, using instructions from the pamphlet “The Viking Shirt from Viborg,” by Mytte Fentz. The original was made for a man with a 32″ chest — I am not that size or shape. It was found at the bottom of a posthole in Viborg Søndersø, Denmark, in the center of Jutland. Because it wasn’t found in a grave, we have no idea who wore it or why it ended up there — it could have been a sacrifice of a valuable garment for the future stability of the building… or not.
The front and back of the torso section is lined, but the sleeves are not. There are flaps hanging from the front and back as well, and the edges of these extend a couple of inches to wrap around the body, with the back overlying the front. These are also unlined. The shirt has a square neckline, with an ingenious arrangement of flaps at the neck with slits at either front corner and ties arranged so as to pull the slits closed for warmth.
I made it out of 5.3 ounce bleached linen from fabrics-store.com, because it was in my stash. I adapted the measurements to accommodate my curves, making it longer in the front of the torso and longer over the buttocks in the rear, as well as making it bigger through the bust and shoulders. I used a mix of linen and silk thread to sew it — I ran out of linen and had silk on hand.
I finished the main layer of my outfit: a pair of wool trousers based on the Thorsberg Trousers, and a tunic based on the Kragelund tunic. The trousers, while harkening back to the much-earlier Thorsberg find, are also found in digs dating to the 10th c in Hedeby. They would have been worn by men, though given the nature of the vast majority of the Hedeby finds (Wadded up between the planks of a ship and covered in tar), it’s impossible to know what social class wore them. I’m inclined to say everyone did.
I’ve never drafted trousers before, and they are *really* hard to pattern by yourself. I really could have used help fitting the back and hips, but I did my best. They’re still about four inches too big in the waist; given my waist to hip ratio, even a belt won’t hold them up comfortably and allow me to get them on and off easily, so I think when I finally rebuild them, I’ll want some sort of fly. It’s not attested to in period, but needs must.
I first made a mockup out of muslin, basting and rebasting and remaking pieces till I got it where I thought I needed it. Then I traced the pieces onto heavy paper, cut them out of a brown and yellow herringbone wool, and sewed them with handspun thread. I usually sew wool by sewing down the seam allowances and then whipping the seam together, but for extra strength, particularly in the seat, I sewed the seam and then pressed both seam allowances to the same side and sewed them down.
I greatly overestimated the rise I’d need, even after cutting off quite a lot. Currently they are 3-4 inches too long in the crotch and about that much too big around. It’s going to require some reconsideration to fix the issues. Other than those fit problems, however, I find them quite comfortable and would be willing to make more… once I get the pattern sussed out.
I found the tunic much easier, since I’ve made similar garments before. I like to draw cutting layouts before I go to the fabric, and I drew layouts with the tunic body in one piece and with a shoulder seam, and for a knee-length tunic, it was actually more economical of fabric to do the body in one piece.
I cut the gores in such a way that I needed to sew them all together up the middle, and I did that using a lapped seam (cited in Die Textilfunde aus dem Hafen von Haithabu by Inga Hägg, 1984). The side gores were inserted into the seam, but the center front and center back (CF and CB) gores were inserted into a slit… sort of. Using chalk, I drew a line down the center of the body panel, starting where I wanted the tip of the gore. Then I drew stitch lines down the edges of the gore using a 1/2″ seam allowance. I lined up the edge of the gore with the line on the body panel and stitched it down. Then I cut the line, flipped the gore to the inside of the tunic, lined the edge of the gore up with the cut line, and sewed the other side in. I reinforced the top of the gore with knotted buttonhole stitch. Rather than the pointy and sharp tip that people seem to strive for in the SCA, the tip of my gore is rather rounded, but it hangs beautifully, looks great, and best of all, was incredibly easy to do. I’ve avoided CF and CB gores for *years* because they intimidated me — well no longer! I am the BOSS of I found the tunic much easier, since I’ve made similar garments before. I like to draw cutting layouts before I go to the fabric, and I drew layouts with the tunic body in one piece and with a shoulder seam, and for a knee-length tunic, it was actually more economical of fabric to do the body in one piece.
Once the gores were in, I pressed the seam allowances to the outside of the gore, snipped away the underside seam allowance to reduce bulk, and sewed down the seam allowances with either an overcast or herringbone stitch, depending on how much I felt I needed to baby the edges (I use herringbone when they seem likely to fray). I used handspun thread as much as I could, but eventually my dwindling supply of thread bumped up against my dwindling supply of time and I finished the rest of the tunic with commercially made Burmilana wool blend thread from MadeiraUSA.
The sleeves were next. I sewed in the gusset and sewed shut the sleeve, then sewed it to the body of the tunic. Again, I turned seam allowances away from the gusset, graded down the underside seam allowance, and sewed down the seam allowances. Then I cut the sleeves to length and tapered the sleeve from elbow to wrist… or at least that’s what should have happened. On the first sleeve I tapered first and cut to length second, then needed to retaper as it wasn’t close enough, and then needed to move the elbow point as it ended up somewhere near the top of my ulna.
Then I put in the second sleeve inside out and discovered my mistake after finishing the seam allowance, so I had to cut it out, flip it, and carefully resew so I didn’t destroy the tiny amount of remaining seam allowance. It went really smoothly, but had I been paying actual attention to what I was doing I wouldn’t have had to fix it and put myself a day behind.
I bound the neckline and cuffs with some silk dupioni I had in my stash. It looks nice, bound edges were known in period (though perhaps later than the Viking Age), and it’s SO much less bulky than a turned hem. I did turn the hem at the bottom, pressed it with steam, and stitched it with a herringbone stitch because it’s practically invisible and very very flexible.
I am SUPER happy with the tunic, medium happy with the trousers, and when I put the whole thing together with my shirt and put on legwraps, shoes, and a belt, it all looks REALLY good. I will definitely be wearing this when I need to be outside in cold weather at an event.