Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns
Introduction · Else Østergård 9
The historic textile discovery 9
The Herjolfsnes garments are sent to Denmark 10
The study 11
The Norse Greenlanders’ patterns 12
Technical information 13
Garment types 15
Producing a hand-made
reconstruction · Anna Nørgaard 17
Treatment of the wool prior to spinning 19
The fabric’s quality 22
Footweaving and tablet-woven piping 33
Braided cords 34
Buttons and buttonholes 35
Using the tables 35
Table: Color and thread 35
Table: Seams and stitching 36
Reconstruction of Patterns · Lilli Fransen 39
Table of Reconstructed Patterns 40
Museum No. D5674 44
Museum No. D10580 50
Museum No. D10581 58
Museum No. D10584 66
Museum No. D10585.1 74
Museum No. D10586 82
Museum No. D10587 88
Museum No. D10593 96
Museum No. D10594 100
Museum No. D10596 106
Museum No. D10597 110
Museum No. D10600 114
Museum No. D10602 118
Museum No. D10606 122
Museum No. D10608 126
Museum No. D10608 126
Museum No. D10610 130
Museum No. D10613 134
Museum No. D10616 138
List of Abbreviations 143
The ‘cut’ and ‘fit’ of a garment are terms that we use today in connection with the cutting and sewing of clothes. We know what size we use and we expect that a garment is cut and formed so that it fits our body.
In the Early Middle Ages the cutting and production of a piece of clothing was associated with a great deal of mystery, and how the Norse, who lived on the edge of the world’s society, so to speak, could carry out this profession under such primitive conditions is just as mysterious.
As the photographs and measurements in this book illustrate, several of the Norse garments are sewn to fit closely to the body, but with a large fullness at the bottom of the garment and sleeves with ‘set-in’ sleeve seams that are formed to give ease of movement. The practical liripipe hoods with shoulder cape, and stockings (either with or without feet) resembled the prevailing fashion further south in Europe. In the Patterns Section of the book, the 800 year old garments are spread out side by side with the more recently sewn reproductions.
MEDIEVAL GARMENTS RECONSTRUCTED – NORSE CLOTHING PATTERNS is the result of a cooperation between three textile experts: Pattern Constructor, Lilli Fransen, MSc Clothing Product Development; Weaver, Anna Nørgaard; and Conservator, Else Østergård. Because of our different backgrounds, each of us has of course taken a different approach to the Herjolfsnes garments, but common to us all is the joy of working with these garments. Our gratitude goes to the National Museum’s Department of Conservation in Brede, which, among other things, has contributed economically to the photography in the book. Our thanks must also go to photographer Robert Fortuna from the Department of Conservation for an inspiring cooperation and for taking splendid photographs of the new garments. Also, museum conservator Irene Skals deserves much thanks for her illustrative material. We are indebted to TEKO Design and Business School in Herning for their generosity in sponsoring the fabric to be used for the sewing of the many new garments, hoods and stockings; and to specialist-teacher Ingrid Andersen, who has sewn the named garment parts. We wish also to thank photographer Werner Karrasch from the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. And, last but not least, we are extremely thankful to Chief Curator and the Clinical Faculty, Shelly Nordtorp-Madson, from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, who has had the rather awesome task of translating the text from Danish to English.
By Else Østergård
The many garments, hoods, and stockings described in Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland, (Aarhus University Press, 2004), were discovered during an archaeological excavation at the site of Herjolfsnes in Greenland nearly 100 years ago. At that time the find was described as the single-most greatest historical textile event in Europe. Here in the far north European fashion was followed, just as it was in the far south of Europe. With the finds from Herjolfsnes it became possible to see well-preserved examples of medieval clothing and gain an insight into how children and adults had dressed 800-900 years ago. Readers of Woven into the Earth have, since its publication in 2004, made it clear that they desired additional pattern drawings, with instructions on how to produce a garment either as an exact reconstruction or as an adapted reconstruction. Therefore, in this latest work, Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns, which contains significantly more measurements and illustrations, we have endeavoured to meet these requests. To produce a garment as an ‘exact reconstruction’ means that the garment must be constructed of hand-spun and hand-woven wool, and sewn with the kind of stitches used in the original garment. However, should one wish to sew a garment as an ‘adapted reconstruction’, one is free to choose both cloth and production methods.
Instructions are included for reconstructing one of the Herjolfsnes garments: the pattern pieces must to be laid out and cut from the hand-woven cloth to be sewn by hand. The result is a very durable garment – just as the originals were. There are also instructions for machine-sewn garments in other types of fabric: linen, for example, which when constructed in the “Norse Greenland Style”, can become an accurate-looking copy. The pattern book can be seen as a supplement to Woven into the Earth, but can also be read and utilized without previous exposure to it.
The historic textile discovery
It was archaeologist Poul Nørlund from the National Museum of Copenhagen who made the momentous discovery in the summer of 1921. He had been chosen to lead an excavation at the ruined church at Herjolfsnes, which lies in the southwestern part of Greenland in Nanortalik Municipality. The ruin was about to be lost to the encroaching sea, and a large portion of the cemetery had already vanished, leaving behind human bones and textiles that from time to time were gathered up from the beach below the ruins.
Nørlund’s excavation was not, however, the first at that site; digs were conducted as early as the 1830s after a garment was found on the beach, which was believed to be the jacket of a sailor lost at sea. It was not until Nørlund’s 1921 excavation however, that it was discovered that the so-called jacket did not belong to a modern, drowned sailor.1 The background of the above excavations is found in the Icelandic Sagas as well as other medieval manuscripts, which tell how the Vikings braved the dangerous journey of exploring Greenland’s coasts. We know of Erik the Red and Herjolf Bårdson, who in 981 sailed southwest from Iceland to Greenland, to settle permanently with their households and livestock. Their descendants, later known as Norse Greenlanders, lived there for nearly 500 years. And it was not just a small group of expatriates who survived;2 at the beginning of the 14th century, when the population was at its largest, there were at least 3,000 people residing in Norse Greenland.