Saturday, August 22, 2015

Toddlers Skjoldehamn hood, Out of your comfort zone

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to participate in a SCA demonstration at the local Ren Faire. Since there were a bunch of spinners allready coming I decided to dust off my weaving skills, warp up my mom's rigid heddle loom in plaid for yardage, and sit and weave. The plan was to use the resultant plaid yardage for hoods for the kids, or maybe a kaftan for Jade. I figured I could do the sewing part of it for the "out of your comfort zone" challenge since sewing with handwoven scares the crap out of me and is something I've mostly avoided. Alas I had a major warping problem with the loom, and then life intervened but I did finally finish the first of the hoods this week (just in time to to take it to show and tell at another SCA demo!)

Rigid heddle looms are great for portability, but unless you want to fuss with pickup work, they just do plainweave, and they only have one reed (you may be able to purchase more reeds of different sizes, I am not sure.) so you're kinda stuck with what you've got. I had been given several cones of weaving yarn, and I wanted to use those since it was a demo piece and I might be letting other people test drive it. With the combination of available reed and available yarn, the fabric ended up a little bit more open in weave than what I'd hoped for, and there were a number of small issues with the evenness of the weave in the earlier portions (before mom and I decided it was a lost cause, rolled the whole remaining warp off, and re-dressed the loom. Life lesson learned: Do not dress a loom in haste because you will repent it at leisure.) Looking at the finished product with my mom, we decided that although it wasn't 100% wool, it would probably full up some and that fulling would solve both the openness of the weave and make the few areas where the tensioning was a bit dicey less visible. So into the wash it went. It fulled up surpisingly well, and got a lovely fluffy nap. it's so nice fulled that I'm strongly considering warping up the big loom for diamond twill with the two remaining cones and making some yardage for myself. As a plus the few small problem areas where I really struggled with the tension basically dissapeared and I won't have to cut around any sections.
Fulled yardage drying in the sunshine

Before and after fulling
With my yardage done I started looking into construction methods for the Skjoldehamn hood, which is a great extant garment from the viking Era. The whole find is fascinating for viking era garment folks, because, since it is a bog body, the clothes are unusually well preserved. There's been a lot of misidentification of the era of the corpse (originally they thought it was a much later era because in the 1930's they thought no one wore hoods before the 14th century evidently?) And argument over the sex and ethnicity of the body (including the somewhat standard identification of sex by grave goods without reference to bone structure) The most current hypothesis is that it's most probably a viking woman from between the 8th and 11th century, with a later date more probable. This is a find where I am really hoping that increases in technology will allow us to have more information in the future. 

The original hood
The hood was originally made of 3 pieces of buff wool fabric woven in a 2/2 twill. One piece folded legthwise made the hood, seamed at the back and top, and slit all but a couple cm up the fold to make room for the front gore and to form the face opening. Square, or almost square, gores were inserted front and back to make shoulder room, resulting in the distinctive front and back points on this hood. The square hood top was stitched to lie closer to he head, resulting in a distinctive "cockscomb" appearance. Cords by the ears were likely used to tie the hood back from the face, or close it more tightly around the face to conserve heat.
Cutting out handwoven is TERRIFYING. 

I decided that I wanted to come as close to the original construction techniques as possible, at least with the first hood, to see how the original would have worked as it came together. I did have some hurdles. First my fabric, woven on a narrow loom, was not wide enough to construct the hood with a lengthwise fold. Second, even fulled, my handwoven was not thick enough to make a great cold weather garment, so I was going to use some lightweight wool (possibly a wool blend, I didn't light any on fire to know for sure) I had in the stash as a lining.  

With those factors in mind I measured my older sons head, and the distance from his crown down to where I thought the hood should end on his shoulders. I also measured how far down I thought the opening should be in the front, and used a loop of measuring tape to be sure that an opening of that size would fit over his head for him to put the hood up and down. With that done I got out my precious handwoven and prepared with much trepidation to cut. Because the fabric was relatively narrow, I cut one long piece for the hood with a fold where the top hood seam had been in the original. Then I cut two square gores, matching the plaid with the hood. Then I laid these pieces out on the lining and used them as a cutting template. Working with handwoven really drives home why patterns using squares and rectangles were popular. Even the small pile of scraps leftover from cutting this out made me sad! 

The original hood was put together by folding back the seam allowances and then whip stitching over the seam. Because I was using a lining, I modified this to a technique I had seen on the wonderful inspiring blog Before the Automobile where the edges of the the outer fabric and lining are folded in towards each other, the pieces are lined up, and sewn with a tight whip stitch through all four layers. This ends a nice neat finish on both the inside and outside. Because it treats the two layers as a single layer, it is essentially the same construction technique as the orignal in finished effect. The original hood was seamed with matching woolen thread. I sewed mine with the same thread that I used for the white portion of the plaid. 
Front gore and small front seam beneath hood.
Rear hood seam and back gore

The finished effect of this method is an almost invisible outside seam, and a very tidy whipstitch effect on the inside. It also goes quite quickly, and keeps the lining from shifting or bubbling in the finished hood. The only tricky bit was lining up the plaids on the one side of the gore and at the back of the hood. Because I wove the plaid by eye, and because of some of the tensioning issues that I had, there was a little easing involved. It wouldn't have the big deal without the lining, but it was tricky to ease both layers evenly at the same time. Doable, but tricky. Thankfully it was also one of those things that is much more easily accomplished in hand sewing than in machine work.

All that remained was finishing the hood opening, the edge, and sewing the "cockscomb" Figuring out exactly how to do this was a bit confusing, because all of the scholarly works on the orignal garment are in a language I don't read, so I was depending on secondary sources, amoung whom there is some dissagreement  as to the details of the finish work. I went with what I felt was the most accurate of the works I could find, which cited the most of the scholarly works, and which I felt like matched most closely to what I could see in the photos available of the orignal piece. Alas this was the finishing solution which I found the least asthetically pleasing as well, but you can't be picksy choosy when it comes to how people decided to finsih their garments a thousand years ago I guess? I may try the second (innacurate I'm convinced) finishing option on the second hood for my second son.

The original hood was hemmed around the edge with whip stitch made paralell to the grain of the fabric, and no evidence that the fabric was folded over before stitching. I repeated this, although I kept my stitches closer than what I could faintly see in the original hood to keep the lining from fraying. The original was hemmed with matching thread, so I used the white weaving thread again to make the hems.

The only minor problem I ran into was at the front and back tips, where the stitches wanted to slide off to the sides. I reinforced this with a little darned area at the inside which is out of sight but keeps the threads from slipping.

The original hood opening was finished by turning in and whip stitching with a contrasting color of thread, or actually several contrasting colors of thread. I turned the exterior fabric over the lining, and whip stitched it down with red wool. While I was doing that I also (unauthentically but practicaly) tacked across the bottom of the face opening with the same red wool to reinforce the opening (where a child hauling it on and off will invitably get it stuck and tug to get it loose).

The "cockscomb" effect that makes this hood so unique looking was obtained by using basting stiches in matching thread. I put the hood on my son and pinned it close to his head, but loose enough that he can still push back the hood, and then stitched along the line of the pins with the same white wool. A little steaming and pressing later, and it was ready for Crash to wear. He is very excited about it and was sad that I won't let him wear it in the middle of the summer and give himself heat stroke.

I'm calling this one a sucess even if it's REALLY late for the challenge I started it for. Crash loves his hood and I enjoyed the reconstruction process. I very rarely sew anything completely by hand, and it was a really enjoyable experience. The finished product I feel like really has the look of the orignal hood (although it's missing the ties by the ears, I may add them later) in spite of the slight differences in design and construction. 

I would like to give credit where it's due, and note that this was the secondary source I chose to take most of my information from. 


  1. I'd love to talk to you more about this hood - I've made several, and have some research I can share with you. When it is made exactly like the original, there is absolutely no fabric waste. I love it! ~ Ose

    1. I'd love to see your research on it, I had a bugger of a time finding stuff, and ended up using mostly photos of the original and secondary sources. I had very little waste, and most of that was where I had to cut off uneven selvedge areas, which were my fault, or where the fabric wasn't quite wide enough to lay out the pieces side by side. I'm going to make a second one for my other son, and would love to talk to you about it before I do though! (I'm tablet weaving trim for it right now.)

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