11th C Viking Fabric and Hood

Handwoven Fabric for 11th C Viking Hood By: Jahanarabanu Vivana (EM Hume)
  • Wool-
    • Harrisville Designs Shetland weight S-spun
    • Colours: Marigold and Red- these colours most closely approximate weld and madder dyes (Regia Colour Equivalent chart and my own dye experience)

Wool was a commonly used fiber by the Viking, Europeans and right the way through to the Near East. Wool was a commonly used fiber for making garments, particularly garments that are aimed to keep the wearer warm, such as the intended hood. Therefore wool was a logical choice for material. Priest-Dorman (2001) writes that weld appears in Medieval Dye recipes during the Middle Ages, along with young fustic, saffron, broom, sawwort, trintaneal, and buckthorn (aka Persian Berries). Preist-Dorman notes that young fustic and saffron give warm shades, while the others provide colder shades of yellow. Madder was in use throughout the Middle Ages. Collingwood writes that madder was used to produce red  in several bands found at Birka and various other Viking sites. Jorgenson (2002) notes that madder was used by the Migration Era Vikings to produce a rich red color, citing a chieftan's burial find from 5th C Norway. The red threads of the cloak were dyed using Madder, imported to Norway from elsewhere (Jorgenson, 2002). The inner tunic being a solid crimson in colour, showing the use of red in both warp and weft. Joregenson states that this was dyed using either kermes or Polish cochineal.  Ostergard (2004) cites a Greenland find (see Figure 1) showing a fabric swatch with yellow warp and red weft. Ostergard does not say what dye was used to produce the yellow in this fabric.

  • Rigid Heddle Weaving
  • Hand sewing
Methods and Tools
  • Weaving method: the fabric was woven in a 2/1 diamond twill (See Figure 2 for my draft)
  • Kromski Rigid Heddle Harp Loom
Looms Vikings used warped weighted vertical looms. Whereas I have used 2 heddle on a rigid heddle loom. Rigid heddles have been discovered in much earlier Roman graves, therefore they were in use prior to the 11th C. However the extant rigid heddles have been either found only in fragments or in narrower widths. As I do not have a warp weighted loom, nor the space to build one, I chose to use my rigid heddle loom as this is a more reasonable loom to fit in my house. Rigid heddle weaving is also a style that would have been used by my persona (7th C Persian). This method also simulates weaving on a simple drawloom, or an early horizontal loom. A variety of looms were used throughout the Middle Ages. The Vikings are famous for their use of warp weighted looms, perhaps the most widely known Medieval loom. The warp weighted loom is comprised of a set of uprights and one beam, which holds the woven cloth. The warp is hung from the upper beam and weighted with stones or ceramic weights. This loom would have been used to produce the fabric used for hoods, tunics, accessories and the like. However a variety of other looms were used in other regions. The Egyptians developed both a horizontal loom and a vertical loom. The horizontal loom is developed first, as early as the Middle Kingdom period (Harris, 1995; Jenkins, 2002; Weibel, 1952). This loom is made by staking out two beams and using a fixed heddle, which may have been wide rigid heddles (Harris, 1995; Jenkins, 2002; Weibel, 1952). The rigid heddle loom is a modern version of this loom, the main difference being the revolving beams and the make of the heddle, which is why I chose this method for weaving this fabric. Other looms used throughout the Middle Ages include the two beam vertical loom, developed by the Egyptians in 1500 BC (Harris, 1995; Jenkins, 2002). This loom is made using two vertical uprights with two horizontal beams, which hold the warp. This loom includes one or two rods with leashes that are used to manipulate the warp and thus create the weave. It is very similar to the tapestry loom used by Egyptians as early as the 6th C to weave tapestry decorations for clothing and later by Europeans to weave large wall hangings. Finally the treadle loom, which is a foot manipulated horizontal loom, and the drawloom. The treadle loom was developed by the Chinese two to three centuries before the Christian Era (Harris, 1995). This technology arrived in Europe by the 13th C and would not have been in use in Europe at the time of this hood (Harris, 1995). The development of the drawloom enabled incredibly complex fabrics to be woven. The drawloom was either developed in China or Syria (Harris, 1995; Weibel, 1952). The complexity of fabrics woven in China and Sasanid Persia provdie the evidence that the drawloom was developed in this area of the wold in or before the 7th C (Harris, 1995; Weibel, 1952). The drawloom is a fantastic device, which allows the warp threads to be freely raised in regular complex patterns (Harris, 1995: Weibel, 1952). The drawloom was used by a weaver with the asistance of untrained children or slaves (Weibel, 1952). Drawings of drawlooms provide evidence on how these looms were operated (Harris, 1995; Weibel, 1952). A drawloom is not very practical for use in a modern life, as it is very time consuming to warp and use by one person.
Weaving Ostergard and Jorgensen agree that a variety of weaves were used by the Vikings. These weaves vary from simple tabby weave to complicated twill weaves. Contrary to what one might assume the simple tabby weave is not very common as Viking weavers were very accomplished (Jorgenson, 2002). Jorgensen (2002) states that the 2/2 twill was most common during the Migration Period (400-600 AD). According to Jorgensen (2002) wool 2/2 twills predominate the Migration Era's finds. The diamond twill comes into extant finds beginning in the 7th Century (Jorgensen, 2002). Jorgensen distinguishes between the Z/S diamond twill, which is only found two to three times in Scandinavia and the more prominent Z/Z diamond twill, where Z-spun yarn is used as both the warp and weft threads. Ostergard (2004) states that lozenge/diamond twills are amoung those used by the Vikings. Ostergard (2004) writes that one 2/1 (Z/Z) diamond twill fragment was found in Norse Greenland (See Figure 1) and that many of such fabrics have been found throughout the Viking Era. Ostergard believes Figure 1 was a swatch sent to a merchant in Greenland, she stated that the fiber and the dye (madder) are not native to Greenland (2004). I was looking for a challenging and sumptuous fabric to weave, which is why I chose the 2/1 diamond twill. Ostergard (2004) notes that the coarsest fabric found in Norse Greenland is set at 10 ends per inch (epi) and the finer setts around 25 epi. This fabric is sett at 15 epi, which is what the threads need to achieve a nice twill effect. Therefore this fabric would be of medium fineness at this time. Hood This fabric will be used to make a hood. The hood design is based on the Skjoldehamn hood (Løvlid, 2009). The extant hood is made from three pieces, two gores and a quadratic main piece. Only the back gore is completely intact, the measurements of which are 28.4 cm (11") x 23.5 cm (9.25") This hood was carbon dated to 995-1029 AD (Løvlid, 2009). This particular hood will end up being made from four pieces as I did not leave enough room for waste and sampling on this original warp so a second piece had to be woven for the main body of the hood. I feel that although this does not completely replicate the extant hood, the effect will be the same. I also feel that essentially this hood is made using geometric construction, so by using two rectangular pieces the geometric construction is still keeping with the same style of construction.
Artistic Design

This fabric is woven with a yellow warp and a red weft. This design was chosen by the end recipient Eldgrimr. Eldgrimr chose this combination from the colour twill sampler that I wove using my slightly larger rigid heddle loom. This sampler has proved invaluable in making colour choices, such as this. There is evidence, noted by Beatson, of the use of both colours in weaving and the use of a light warp and dark weft in extant Viking textiles. I created my own draft using my knowledge of weaving drafts, twills, and rigid heddle weaving, see Figure 2.

Figure 1
This figure can not be included here due to Copyright, please see Ostergard, 2004 pg 70.

Figure 2 Lozenge/Diamond Twill

References:Collingwood, P (1996). The Techniques of Tablet Weaving. Gilliland Printing. Arkansas City, KS. Geijer, A. (1979). A History of Textile Art. Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications. Harris, J. ed. (1995). 5000 Years of Textiles. British Museum Press. Jorgensen, L.B.  (2002). Scandinavia, AD 400-1000. Jenkins, D. ed.The Cambridge History of Western Textiles. Cambridge University Press. Løvlid, D. H. (2009) Nye tanker om Skjoldehamnfunnet. Dissertation (Figure Notes have English translations). Universitetet i Bergen. McKenna, N (September 2001). Madder Dyeing. Medieval Textiles. Issue 29. Ostergard, El (2004) Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland. Aarhus University Press. Denmark. Priest-Dorman, C (September 2001) “A Grass that Grows in Bologna”: Dyeing with Weld. Medieval Textiles. Issue 29. Uzzell, H. (2006). Regia Colour Equivalant Chart. Weibel, A.C. (1952) Two Thousand Years of Textiles: The Figured Textiles of Europe and the Near East. The Detroit Institute of Arts. New York.