Advanced · Historic Advanced · Historically Focused

Aethelwynne of Grimfells

Location: The Shire-March of Grimfells

Category/Level: Historically Focused/Advanced

About Aethelwynne: I joined the SCA last February, so I’m still very new! I sew regularly, both for work and for fun, and have been creating historical costumes for about 10 years now. I originally started with Victorian-era costuming, and worked my way back through time to early medieval, which is now my absolute favorite period of history to study. Besides sewing, I also participate in heavy combat and archery with my local group. This project does directly tie in to my persona, a 10th century Anglo-Saxon woman. I think the sewing itself will be easy for me, but the bits I’m hoping to do, specifically the embellishments on the gown and wimple, will definitely be harder as I’m still learning to tablet weave and embroider!

Her Project: I’m planning on making a late 10th-early 11th century, high status Anglo Saxon women’s outfit. It will consist of a plain linen smock/chemise, a green wool gown with pale yellow silk trim, brown wool cloak, and white decorated veil. Due to the inclusion of silk and the color of the wool, and the planned embellishments on the veil, this outfit could have been worn by royalty, high noble status, or wealthy abbesses/nuns. It isn’t based on one specific illumination, but I have taken different image references from “Dress in Anglo-Saxon England” (drawn from sources such as contemporary religious texts and the Bayeux tapestry) and picked various elements as my inspiration. It won’t include heraldry or awards because I have none yet (joined just before all the covid cancellations). This is an outfit I’ve wanted to make for a while; I have a few normal “everyday” gowns that look nice, but I want something extra special to wear to court or have for big events.

Final Photos

Her final thoughts on her C3 experience:

I really enjoyed this challenge! I tried to make my clothing as accurate to the evidence as possible, and I’m pleased with the final look of the outfit. I’m happy to finally have something more extravagant to wear to events, that would have plausibly been something a 10th century Anglo-Saxon woman could wear. I was able to improve my tablet weaving significantly by doing this project, and learned which areas I need to work on for future weaving. Once it’s safe for events to start again, I look forward to getting some wear out of this outfit!

Layer 1

This is the shift I’ll be wearing as my base layer for my 10th century female Anglo-Saxon outfit. I made it out of a medium weight linen; I prefer this weight over handkerchief linen because it doesn’t seem to cling to the body as much when it’s hot out. I hand sewed the entire shift, with backstitch in the higher stress areas and a running stitch everywhere else, then felled all the raw edges on the inside; the sewing is pretty much invisible on the exterior. The pattern is a simple T-tunic style, with underarm gussets and side gores, following the cutting example from “Dress in Anglo-Saxon England”. The sleeves are nearly a yard long, with extra fabric to bunch up along the forearm as seen in period artwork of women. It isn’t specified whether this was a style worn by all classes of people, or if it was a way to show how wealthy a person was to afford extra fabric, but in most of the artwork women and men of this period have pleats or bunching along their arms, so this is the style I’m going with. It’s a little awkward to put on as I have to bunch the sleeves before I can pull it over my head, but I love the finished look. The construction went as planned, but the one thing I would do differently next time is cut the sleeve looser right below the elbow. I tapered the width a bit too much so it’s a little tight once I push the extra fabric onto my arm. Hopefully as I wear it the linen loosens so it will be more comfortable. Overall, I’m pleased with how this came out and ready to work on the main gown!

Layer 2

This is the second layer of my 10th century high status Anglo-Saxon outfit. It is a gown made of green worsted wool, and trimmed with gold silk that I’ve embroidered with wool and silk thread. This is cut in the same manner as my shift, following a t-tunic style layout. It’s entirely hand stitched in green silk thread. I sewed the seams with backstitch along the arms and shoulder seam, and running stitch along the gores. I then folded the raw edges toward each other and whipstitched those edges together, forming a mock French seam. This technique is documentable during the period. The facings are made of silk charmeuse that I’ve had in my stash for years. I embroidered it by couching down a fine wool yarn with silk floss, then adding French knots in between the lines with the same wool. This was my interpretation of a common design seen on Anglo-Saxon clothing in period artwork, where two parallel lines have small dots or circles running between those lines. This is seen along hemlines of gowns, sleeves, and cloaks, but I also added it as a neck facing. Everything went as planned, but the one thing I would do differently is find a stiffer silk to make the facings. I used the charmeuse only because it was what I had, but it was so thin and easily warped as I worked with it. This made the embroidery difficult; I used linen underneath it for some structure and had to keep it under tension as I sewed. If I were to do it again, I would use something like taffeta, that won’t wiggle off grain so much. As it is, the embroidery looks decent, but it was particularly hard to get it even on the neck facing due to the charmeuse so I’m not entirely happy with that. Overall, I do like the gown, and I’m glad to finally have something fancier to wear to special events!

Layer 3

This past month I worked on my 3rd layer, a wool cloak. Anglo-Saxon women of the 10th century wore mantles (poncho like garments, basically a piece of fabric with a hole cut in the center for pulling over the head) and cloaks; I prefer cloaks since they’re a bit more versatile- for example, you can fold over part of it to use like a hood, or you can use it as a makeshift blanket at camping events, so this is what I chose for my outfit. I used a thicker wool broadcloth, and construction was easy enough; I cut the fabric to length, and the fabric doesn’t fray, so I left the edges as-is. Period artwork tends to show women in plain cloaks, but written accounts mention more decor on clothing than what is seen in the drawings. This is in contrast to artwork of men, who are shown in decorated cloaks. The trim I used on layer 2 (a contrasting band with dots/circles along it) is shown in multiple images of men in the 10th century, and as there is ample artwork with women wearing this trim on their gowns, I figured it would be reasonable to decorate the edge of my cloak this way as well. I tablet wove a band in yellow wool directly to the bottom edge. For the dots seen in pictures, Dress In Anglo-Saxon England mentions that this could be embroidery or jewels sewn on; I chose the latter to contrast with my second layer. The cloak is wrapped around the shoulders and closed over the center of the chest with a brooch. The construction all went as planned; my only gripe is that I settled for glass beads on the trim, as that was what I had available locally. These were used in period, but after the challenge I might try to find flatter or smaller gemstone beads to replace them, as high status people would have likely used gemstones rather than glass on their clothing at the time.

Layer 4

My final layer is called a fillet or binde, which was a woven strip worn across the forehead underneath the wimple/veil. This band was worn by married women of all social standings in 10th century England, with finer materials used for fillets worn by wealthy women. My fillet was tablet woven in silk thread, using a “pickup” method seen in archaeological finds from England. How this works is that the cards are “rocked” back and forth; two holes on each card have both white and blue threads in them. To make the pattern, you turn the cards, then manually lift each thread in the correct sequence before throwing the weft and turning the cards again. This technique is slower, but there’s more freedom in the designs you can weave. The patterns I chose are from a fellow reenactor’s website; she used patterns from existing Anglo-Saxon embroidery and stone carvings, so this is something that could have existed during the period. Making it up went as planned; I’ve made fillets before using this technique so I had no worries there, but this is the most complex pattern I’ve ever woven, so I really had to take my time and pay close attention to what I was doing. The big thing I still need to work on with my weaving is keeping the tension even- the beginning of the band is slightly narrower than the end, but it’s not terribly noticeable. Overall I’m very happy with it, and think it really adds nice detail to my outfit!

Layer 4+

This non-judged layer is a part of my headgear (a tablet woven fillet). It is a linen wimple that I decorated like the wimples seen on page 224 in Dress in Anglo-Saxon England, which shows a group of nuns in elaborately jeweled headdresses. The wimple is a cone shape with one seam that joins the edges together. To decorate it like the picture, I fingerloop braided multiple lengths of silk thread- one for each edge of the wimple, and two to go from forehead edge to the back- and dyed them golden yellow. Once they were stitched on, I added pearls from forehead to back as well, between the two rows of silk braid. I think it looks much nicer than just a plain wimple, but doesn’t take attention away from the woven fillet or dress.

The other accessory I’m wearing is a tablet woven belt, made prior to this contest. It’s woven in wool and linen, and I wear this belt with most of my outfits. It seems, based on artwork, women in the 10th century wore belts if they wanted to; some pictures actually do show a belt or sash along the waist. I like the look of the gown cinched in a bit, so I’ve chosen to wear a belt in the final photos.

Bonus Points