An early medieval hood
Entry for Southron Gaard Baronial Arts & Sciences Championship A.S. LV (55) – Textile Arts, Costume.
Summary: This is a woollen early medieval style hood. The construction of the hood itself is based on the well-known 11th Century Skjoldehamn Hood. It has the addition of a tablet woven band with a fringe woven in which is somewhat reminiscent of the equally famed, but much earlier, Orkney Hood. Both the hood and the tablet band were woven by myself with wool spun and dyed myself. The following documentation will address each of these components in turn.
There are four different fibres used in this hood:
1. A white Corriedale wool was used for both the salmon and yellow dyed wool. Corriedale is a relatively modern crossbred sheep based on Merino and Lincoln breeds and originally bred for meat and medium strength wool in New Zealand and Australia. As you can see it is quite hairy – this fleece being on the ‘stronger’ end of the spectrum.
2. Black Gotland. The Gotland is a favourite of handspinners as it produces a fine, lustrous wool in a variety of ‘colours’ from silvery grey through to a deep black. It has often been claimed to be a ‘period’ sheep but truly it is the Gute breed that the Gotland has been developed from that is a ‘Viking’ era breed. The Gotland can produce ‘throwbacks’ to this Gute breed and so can be considered a relatively old breed if not completely period.
3. Brown Romney. Another favourite with handspinners, the Romney evolved from medieval longwool types of which the Romney and Leicester breeds are early examples so again can be thought of as a relatively old breed.
4. Tan Alpaca. The brown Romney has been ‘softened’ by the addition of some moderately fine tan Alpaca. The Alpaca is of course a South American animal which would have not been contributing its fibre to woolen products in the medieval period.However there are plenty of non-sheep fibres such as goat hair showing up in period cloths.
All of the fleeces were obtained by myself, washed, carded, spun and plied on either a wheel or spindle. The output of the wheel and the spindle are identical to my eye so I don’t distinguish.
The Gotland and Romney/Alpaca blends are undyed, however the Corriedale was dyed in two separate batches, with Madder (salmon) and Tansy (yellow).
Madder (Rubia tinctorum) was the ubiquitous source of red dye in medieval to pre-modern period. R. Tinctorum is native to Asia Minor, the Caucasus and Greece but was heavily traded across Europe by Roman time. It’s the roots that give the colour. It is found in numerous scientific studies of textiles such as:
- Coppergate: Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate, Penelope Walton, 1989, pg 400-401. “Madder was by far the most common dyestuff in the textiles of both sites”. This find deals with material from mid-9th to mid-11th centuries in Norse dominated York (Yorvik).
- London: Textiles and Clothing, Elizabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard & Kay Staniland, 1992, pgs 199-201 The appendix: The Dyes by Penelope Walton, pg 200 “By far the most common dye was madder, which was present in 45% of the 1330-40 group…”
Tansy Tanacetum Vulgare is a tall growing flowering Eurasian plant with bright buttony flowers in the late summer, in fact a common name for it is buttons. It’s known as an insect repellent but also gives a vibrant golden dye from the leaves and flowers.
Period yellows are difficult to document as
- Many plants give a yellow dye so it is likely that locals used whatever was available
- Yellow doesn’t seem to have ever been a popular main colour, probably because it was so easily available and stronger colours were more prized (e.g. blue, red, purple, black).
- As a result yellow is probably most used with blue (woad, indigo) to create greens.
Known yellows include the ubiquitous Weld and Broom but as tests haven’t been developed for all the different sources of yellow we simply can’t say what they didn’t use.
Given Tansy’s presence in the region and its mention as an ingredient in cooking (there’s a dish called tansy) which shows an awareness of its properties, I’m happy to use it as a yellow.
The pattern for this hood is based on the 11th Century Norweigen Skjoldehamn hood. Note that I am not trying to replicate this period hood and many of the details of my hood are different – I simply used it for the pattern layout.
There is an excellent write up of the Skjoldehamn hood at https://nattmal.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/skjoldehamn-hood/ and it is very well known and frequently reproduced so I will keep the details here brief.
A clothed body was discovered in a bog near Skjoldehamn (Skjold harbour) on the Norwegian island of Andøya. During its latest examination, done by archaeology student Dan Halvard Løvlid, in 2009; it underwent an AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Dating) and was re-dated to 1050-1090 AD, placing it in the late Viking period.Løvlid references above: Dan Halvard Løvlid – Nya tanker om Skjoldehamnfunnet, Institutt for AHKR Universitetet, Bergen, 2009
The pattern of the original hood … consists of only three pieces (Løvlid, 2009); one rectangle and two squares, approx. 30-60 cm wide. The squares, which were used as gores in the front and back of the hood, had been left un-curved thus widening the skirt of the hood to fit over the shoulders, giving the hem a measurement of approx. 138 cm.
The main part of the hood was folded lengthwise and stitched together in the back and on the top. It was also split up the middle to form the facial hole and to insert the front gore (Løvlid, 2009).
The fabric of the original hood is a woolen 2/2 twill in a dark brown shade with a dark grey warp and a lighter grey in the weft. The warp was made from the coarser and stronger outer hairs of a fleece, while the weft was woven in the softer under-hair.
To minimise cutting the woven fabric I made this hood at precisely the width of the pieces required. This meant that I only needed to cut it twice, to cut out the front and back gores. As a single strip of weaving I calculated the following:
- 2cm seam allowance,
- 132 (33×4) cm body,
- another 2 x 2cm seam allowances,
- 33cm front,
- another 2 x 2cm seam allowances,
- 33cm back,
- a final 2cm seam allowance.
I did a sample hood in linen to get the size correct – I had noticed that many of the hoods for sale seemed oversized for their models and wanted to get a close fit. I also did a weaving sample to get an estimate on draw-in and shrinkage and this was calculated into the above 33cm units. The final hood is 31cm wide.
The use of different yarns for warp and weft is also well documented in the Greenland finds of around the same period. It allows the weaver to use a stronger wool for the weft, which is under tension during the weaving process and also has to be somewhat resistant to abrasion with the repeated lifting of warp threads. It also allows for an attractive two colour weave which can be particularly effective in twill weaves.
My hood uses the Brown Romney/Alpaca blend for the warp and the Black Gotland for the weft. The cloth is woven in a 2/2 twill as in the original but rather than a straight twill to result in diagonal across the hood I made this a “point” twill, where the direction reverses after a specific number of warp threads. To be even more spectacular I broke the repeat at the reversing point to make it a ‘Herringbone’ weave in the body of the hood. Because I could I then did the same reversing with a break in the final third of the weaving resulting in a ‘broken diamond twill’ – the classic high-end Norse weave – for the front and back sections.
The Tablet Weaving
Not being content with fancy weaving I also added a tablet woven trim. This is not entirely for show, the tablet weaving will also stabilise the edge of the hood.
The wools used are detailed above. The tansy dyed Corriedale is used for the main weft and the outer warps, the black Gotland for the background, the madder orange dyed Corriedale for the dragons and the brown Romney/Alpaca for the fringe – it’s actually waste from the weaving.
The dragon design is from 10th – 11th Century Tablet Weaving patterns by Emeluna Edizioni © Silvia Consolini 2018, a PDF booklet. It’s widely used and based on a find from Dublin. It uses a missing hole technique for the pattern area where only two of the holes in the card are filled which means the second colour sometimes peeps through as small dots. I used normal four threaded cards on the edges for strength and the difference is palpable.
It also uses a draft which normalises itself – by which I mean every forward turn is eventually matched by a backwards turn. Many period patterns seem to do this and its very useful as your warp ends never get so tightly twisted that they need undoing. Only the edge warps occasionally need to have their direction reversed and you can see these clearly as a bump on the edge.
As with any weaving the completed items were warm washed and pressed before being sewn together.
The four raw edges on the hood were hemmed before the whole piece was whip stitched together with the brown Romney yarn. Whip stitch is frequently used in period sewing when there is no need to finish raw edges as here. The tablet weaving was sewn on last using the tansy dyed Corriedale yarn to match the edges of the tablet weaving.