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During the Viking Age, a number of women’s head adornment accessories were in fashion including scarfs, woven headbands, caps and hoods. In the Norse settlement located at what is now Dublin, Ireland a distinctive hood-styled cap made from a small rectangle folded in half lengthwise and sewn up the back edge was popular. A point at the rear crown of the cap (rather than rounding the rear off to fit to the skull) seems to be unique to Dublin, while similar (rounded) versions have also be found throughout other parts of the British Isles .
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Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
Documenting the recreation of an archaeologically plausible ‘Head Cap’ from Viking Age Dublin,
Ireland (circa 900-1000 AD)
Apprenticed to:
Master Sven ‘Redbeard’ Einarsson
Master Mischka Petrovich Valadesque (Deceased)
Barony of Blatha An Oir • Kingdom of An Tir
Viking Age Head Cap
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
1
Summary:
During the Viking Age, a number of women’s head adornment accessories were in fashion including scarfs,
woven headbands, caps and hoods. In the Norse settlement located at what is now Dublin, Ireland a
distinctive hood-styled cap made from a small rectangle folded in half lengthwise and sewn up the back edge
was popular. A point at the rear crown of the cap (rather than rounding the rear off to fit to the skull) seems
to be unique to Dublin, while similar (rounded) versions have also be found throughout other parts of the
British Isles1.
This type of garment is particularly interesting to me because my persona is of Norse decent living in the
Norse settlement at what is now Dublin, Ireland during the Viking Age circa 900-1000 CE. I endeavored to
create a reconstruction of a garment that would have likely been worn by someone similar to my persona,
allowing me to practice utilizing period garment sewing techniques and make a valuable addition to my
personal reenactment wardrobe.
Materials:
100% linen fabric
100% linen sewing thread
Hand made sewing needle.
Block of 100% beeswax.
Period style steel snips.
Method:
1. Finger-ply sewing thread.
2. Cut Material to size.
3. Secure Fabric edges to prevent fraying.
4. Hem up the edges.
5. Sew seam down the back of the cap.
6. Stitch the crown of the cap.
7. Make ties for cap.
8. Sew ties onto cap.
Conclusion:
I learned a lot from this project about how the people of the Viking Age worked fibers into textiles and
constructed their garments different from how we do it today. They were very conservative in their materials
and would waste as little as possible by weaving their materials to size and by using small seam allowances and
hems compared to that utilized in modern-day garments. The Norse also took great care to sew evenly and
efficiently using what many would consider to be tiny stitches, allowing for stronger seams. They also
increased garment durability by sealing their raw fabric edges and seam allowances to prevent fraying much
like we use sergers for in modern times.
In the future, I would like to expand on similar projects by spinning my own thread and then weaving it into
fabric using period methods. I also plan to experiment in both period natural dying and embellishment. I will
continue to practice my stitching using a period needle to allow for better consistency and quality in my
reconstructions.
1 (Ewing 2007)
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
2
Table of Contents
SUMMARY: ............................................................................................................................................ 1
TABLE OF CONTENTS ...................................................................................................................... 2
INTRODUCTION: ................................................................................................................................ 3
MATERIALS: ......................................................................................................................................... 3
METHODS: ........................................................................................................................................... 5
Make Thread ................................................................................................................................................................ 5
Cut Material ................................................................................................................................................................. 5
Secure fabric edges .......................................................................................................................................................... 6
Hem up edges ................................................................................................................................................................ 7
Sew a seam down the back of the cap ............................................................................................................................. 8
Reenforce and seal exposed edges .................................................................................................................................... 8
Stitch crown of cap ......................................................................................................................................................... 9
Make cap Ties ............................................................................................................................................................ 10
Sew on Ties ................................................................................................................................................................. 10
CONCLUSION .................................................................................................................................... 10
BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................................................................................................................. 11
APPENDICES: ..................................................................................................................................... 15
Excerpt From
Extant Bronze / Iron / Viking / Medieval age Hats
Caps
Headbands
By: Jennifer Baker .... 15
Excerpts (Placeholder2) from
Viking Age Clothing
By: Charlotte Mayhew ............................................................ 16
Image from:
Caps, Scarves, Hoods and Hair nets
.................................................................................................... 18
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
3
Introduction:
During the Viking Age, a number of women’s head adornment accessories were in fashion including
scarfs, woven headbands, caps and hoods. In the Norse settlement located at what is now Dublin,
Ireland a distinctive hood-styled cap made from a small rectangle folded in half lengthwise and sewn
up the back edge was popular. A point at the rear crown of the cap (rather than rounding the rear
off to fit to the skull) seems to be unique to Dublin, while similar (rounded) versions have also be
found throughout other parts of the British Isles2.
This type of garment is particularly interesting to me because my persona is of Norse decent living
in the Norse settlement at what is now Dublin, Ireland during the Viking Age circa 900-1000 CE. I
endeavored to create a reconstruction of a garment that would have likely been worn by someone
similar to my persona, allowing me to practice utilizing period garment sewing techniques and make
a valuable addition to my personal reenactment wardrobe.
Materials:
My Materials:
Period materials:
100% Linen fabric
o Store Bought (Machine Woven)
Silk, Wool, and/or Linen Fabric
o Hand Woven from hand-spun
Fibers
100% Linen Sewing thread
o S-plied from 2 separate Z-spun
threads
Silk, Wool, and/or Linen
o S-plied from 2 separate z-spun
threads (Hand Spun & Plied)
Hand-made Steel Sewing needle
Hand made sewing needle
o Most often constructed from
metal, bone, or a quill
Block of 100% Beeswax
Block of 100% Beeswax
Steel Snips (of a period Style)
Steel Snips
Linen Fabric:
While many of the surviving caps of this style were made of silk and wool,3 linen was also widely
used in the manufacture of garments during the Viking Age as well leading me to believe that it is
plausible that a cap of this style could have been made out of linen in period.
2 (Ewing 2007)
3 (Jones 2006)
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
4
As I currently do not have the resources, skills, or appropriate tools to hand-weave my own fabric at
this time, I purchased a piece of 100% Linen fabric with a natural brown (un-dyed and unbleached)
finish for this project.
Linen Sewing Thread
To make my own linen sewing thread that would best-match the project itself and the archaeological
record for sewing threads used in period, I finger-plied 2 Individual Z-Spun threads together in an
S-spin (Fransen, Nøragaard and Østergård 2011). The individual Z-spun threads were obtained by
pulling individual strands from the aforementioned store-bought 100% linen fabric.
Hand Made Sewing Needle4
A hand-made steel sewing needle was made by Master
Sven ‘Redbeard’ Einarsson in his shop to use in the
construction of this garment. There are many
archaeological finds that support a wide variety of bone
and metal needles.
My choice of making a steel needle with Sven was
made simply because that was the material on hand,
however it was based on typical needles of the period.
Block of 100% Beeswax
Beeswax has been used for generations to help lubricate threads for hand sewing allowing for less
thread breakage. While at this time there is no surviving trace evidence in surviving garments to
support the use of beeswax in this manner during the Viking age, balls of beeswax were found at
Coppergate and in some ship burials from the period.5 Consequently, it could be deemed plausible
that they would have used it for the same purpose in their time.
Steel Snips6
While my Steel snips are
store-bought and machine
made, they are made in a
period design, appearance,
and material commonly
found during the period.
4 (Historiska museet 2001)
5 (York Archaeological Trust 2014)
6 (Historiska museet 2001)
Figure 2: “This pair of iron shears was among the items uncovered during an
archaeological dig just outside Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
5
Methods:
Make Thread
Normally in the Viking Age, thread was spun and plied together using a drop spindle.7 It usually
consisted of 2 individual Z-Spun threads together in an S-spin.
My Process:
1. Pull 2 individual threads from the weft of the material.
2. Using my thumb and forefinger, I twisted the fibers clockwise to ensure they got a S-Spun
twist as sewing thread was in period.
a. I did find it handy to rub my fingertips with the beeswax to keep them tacky while
working with the linen threads.
3. To ensure the threads did not later become un-plied I wound each individual thread around
a card until I was ready to sew with the thread.
Cut Material
Surviving caps of this fashion are made from pieces of material that range from 17-18 cm (6½-7 in)
long by 48-60 cm (19-24 in) wide.8
My Process:
1. I cut the material roughly to size using my period styled snips.
2. I pulled the cut fibers away to ensure a perfectly squared rectangle piece of fabric.
7 (Ewing 2007)
8 (Ewing 2007)
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
6
a. This resulted in a fuzzy border around all of the edges, so I trimmed down the fuzz
to make the piece easier to work with.
Secure fabric edges
To secure and reinforce the edge of the fabric, sewers would use a special stitch called the “singling”
stitch.9
Figure 3: 10
My Process:
a. Using my period needle and finger-plied sewing thread, I followed the same process
as shown above to secure all four sides of the piece of fabric as I had no selvedge to
9 (Østergård 2009)
10 (Fransen, Nøragaard and Østergård 2011)
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
7
work with as they would have if the piece had been woven to size.
i. This did pull the fibers on the edges of the fabric a bit tighter together
resulting in a few fuzzy ends so I used my snips again to trim down the
edges.
Hem up edges
To secure and reinforce the edge of the fabric, sewers would use a special stitch called the “stick”
stitch.11
Figure 412
My Process:
a. Using my period needle and finger-plied sewing thread, I followed the same process
as shown above hemming first the short ends of the cap, then the front edge of the
cap that will wrap around the face.
11 (Østergård 2009)
12 (Fransen, Nøragaard and Østergård 2011)
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
8
Sew a seam down the back of the cap
Seams were sewn using a running stitch with a seam allowance of no larger than 7mm and the length
of the stitches averaging 1-3mm.13
My Process:
a. Using my period needle and finger plied sewing thread, I followed the same process
as explained earlier, seaming up the back of the cap.
Reinforce and seal exposed edges
In period, enclosing an extra thread or two along the edge using an overcasted whipstitch would
reinforce any exposed edges of fabric.
My Process
b. Using a whipstitch, I overcasted over all the exposed edges on my cap to reinforce
the edging on the fabric.
13 (Østergård 2009)
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
9
Stitch crown of cap
Many surviving caps of this type show a small, discrete running stitch across the crown of the cap.14
My Process:
a. Using my period needle and finger plied sewing thread; I used a running stitch across
the crown of the cap to secure the crown in place.
a. After finishing this, I found the point to be quite floppy and unattractive, so
I pulled the stitches out so that the point could stand on end.
14 (Ewing 2007)
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
10
Make cap Ties
I was unable to find any surviving evidence of exactly what type of materials were used to tie this
style of cap. I believe either a braided or woven cording would be the most logical option.
My Process:
a. I braided some cotton yarn to create two ties, as I have yet to source a good linen
thread to weave proper cording for this piece.
b. To secure the ends I tied small knots in them.
Sew on Ties
Due to the lack of evidence on the cap ties, exacting placement is somewhat archaeologically vague.
It is believed that they would have been positioned somewhere between halfway down and the
bottom corners.15
My Process:
a. I decided to opt for a tie placed at the bottom corners to allow for the ties to easily
secure the cap tightly to my head.
Conclusion
I learned a lot from this project about how the people of the Viking Age worked fibers into textiles
and constructed their garments different from how we do it today. They were very conservative in
their materials and would waste as little as possible by weaving their materials to size and by using
small seam allowances and hems compared to that utilized in modern-day garments. The Norse also
took great care to sew evenly and efficiently using what many would consider to be tiny stitches,
allowing for stronger seams. They also increased garment durability by sealing their raw fabric edges
and seam allowances to prevent fraying much like we use sergers for in modern times.
In the future, I would like to expand on similar projects by spinning my own thread and then
weaving it into fabric using period methods. I also plan to experiment in both period natural dying
and embellishment. I will continue to practice my stitching using a period needle to allow for better
consistency and quality in my reconstructions.
15 (Ewing 2007)
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
11
Bibliography
Arbman, Holger. The Vikings. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books, 1995.
Ashdown, Charles H. British Costume from Earliest Times to 1820. Mineola, New York: Dover
Publications, Inc., 2001.
Baker, Jennifer. Extant Bronze /Iron / Viking / Medieval age Hats- Caps - Headbands. February 2008.
http://nvg.org.au/article.php?story=2008032806363487 (accessed September 18, 2014).
British Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Vikings. New York, NY: William
Morrow and Company, Inc., 1980.
Chartrand, R., K. Durham, M. Harrison, and I. Heath. The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder.
Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2006.
Clewley, Shiela, Julie Ferris, and Conrad Mason. Life and Times in the Viking World. Boston, MA:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.
Daily Mail. Shining a light on the Dark Ages: 1,000-year-old household objects and tools made from iron, bronze
and bone found in 'one of most significant digs ever'. Associated Newspapers Ltd. November 29, 2012.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2240467/1-000-household-objects-tools-carved-
wood-iron-significant-digs-ever.html (accessed September 10, 2014).
Delaney, Connie. Spindle Spinning from Novice to Expert. Lexington, KY: Kõkõvõkõ Press, 1998.
Ewing, Thor. Viking Clothing. Stroud: The History Press, 2007.
Farry, Michael. Viking Dublin The Archaeological Evidence. July 2000.
http://www.ncte.ie/viking/dubarch.htm (accessed September 10, 2014).
Franquemont, Abby. Respect The Spindle. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press LLC, 2009.
Fransen, Lilli, Anna Nøragaard, and Else Østergård. Medieval Garments Reconstructed Norse Clothing
Patterns. Langelandsgade: Aarhus University Press, 2011.
Gerritsma, Brenda. Women's Head-coverings in North-Western Europe in the Viking Age. February 01,
2008. http://www.scribd.com/doc/34086286/Women-s-Head-coverings-in-North-Western-
Europe-in-the-Viking-Age (accessed September 18, 2014).
Graham-Campbell, James. The Viking World. New York, NY: Ticknor & Fields, 1980.
Haywood, John. Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2000.
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
12
Historiska museet. "Bild 28655." Historiska. 05 07, 2001.
http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/bild.asp?uid=28655 (accessed September 10, 2014).
Jesch, Judith. Women in the Viking Age. Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press, 1991.
Jones, Heather Rose. The Surviving Garments Database. April 29, 2006.
http://www.heatherrosejones.com/survivinggarments/index.html (accessed September 10, 2014).
Mayhew, Charlotte. Viking Age Clothing. September 2011. http://www.olvikthing.org/wp-
content/uploads/2012/07/Viking-Age-Clothing-pgs-31-34.pdf (accessed September 11, 2014).
McDonell, Zoe. Viking Age Headdress with Gold-Brocaded Tablet Woven Band. 2008.
http://as.tirrigh.org/files/Viking-AgeHeaddresswTabletWovenBand.pdf (accessed September 2018,
2014).
National Museum of Natural History. Vikings The North Atlantic Saga. Edited by William W Fitzhugh
and Elisabeth I Ward. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.
Okey, Shannon. Spin to Knit. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 2006.
Owen-Crocker, Gayle R. Dress in Anglo-Saxon England. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2004.
Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. New York, NY: Harper & Rowe Publishers, 1965.
Raven, Lee. Spin It Making Yarn from Scratch. Loveland, Co: Interweave Press, 2003.
Reader's Digest. Journeys into the Past Life in the Viking Age. New York, NY: The Reader's Digest
Association Limited, 1996.
Sanborn, Margaret. Viking Age head-coverings. October 24, 2013.
http://ciarsstitchintime.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/viking-age-head-coverings/ (accessed
September 18, 2014).
Schomp, Virginia. The Vikings. New York, NY: Franklin Watts, 2005.
Seaver, Kirsten A. The Last Vikings. New York, NY: I.B. Taurus, 2010.
Simpson, Jacqueline. Everyday Life in the Viking Age. New York, NY: Dorset Press, 1967.
The Viking Age Compendium. Caps, Scarves, Hoods and Hair nets. February 24, 2013.
http://www.vikingage.org/wiki/images/a/a7/Cap_size_comparisons.jpg (accessed September 10,
2014).
Walsh, Penny. Spinning, Dyeing, & Weaving. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2010.
. The Yarn Book. Philidelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
13
Wolf, Kirsten. Viking Age Everyday Life During the Extraordinary Era of the Norsemen. New York, NY:
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2004.
York Archaeological Trust. How did they Live? 2014. http://jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk/who-were-the-
vikings/how-did-they-live/ (accessed September 11, 2014).
Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth Textiles from Norse Greenland. 2nd. Aarhus: Aarhus University
Press, 2009.
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
Viking Age Head Cap
15
Appendices:
Excerpt From “Extant Bronze / Iron / Viking / Medieval age Hats Caps
Headbands” By: Jennifer Baker
Location
Items Name
/ Cat No.
Description
Date
Dublin
Ireland
E172:14370,
DHC40
Cap
The primary material is silk
Description: Tabby z/z loose weave, dark reddish gray.
Rectangular hood/cap, finished dimensions 160mm wide,
270mm high, upper back "point" stitched to follow head
but not trimmed. Ties made from sewn fabric tubes.
Patched. Woman's grave
early-mid
10th c. per
Heckett
2003
Dublin
Ireland
E172:10540,
DHC32
Cap
The primary material is wool
Description: Tabby weave z/z, open weave, dark reddish
brown. Rectangular hood/cap, finished dimensions
180mm wide, 230mm high, upper back "point" stitched to
follow head but not trimmed
Woman's grave
early-mid
10th c. per
Heckett
2003
Dublin
Ireland
E172:11205,
DHC33
Cap
The primary material is wool
Description: Tabby weave z/z, open weave, very dark
brown. Rectangular hood/cap, finished dimensions
170mm wide, 225mm high, upper back "point" stitched to
follow head and slightly trimmed. Front edge has couched
woolen cord.
Woman's grave
early-mid
10th c. per
Heckett
2003
Dublin
Ireland
E190:7431,
DHC35
Cap
The primary material is wool
Description: Tabby weave z/z, open weave, very dark
brown. Rectangular hood/cap, finished dimensions
160mm wide, 220mm high, upper back "point" stitched to
follow head but not trimmed.
Woman's grave
mid/late 10th
c. per
Heckett
2003
Dublin
Ireland
E172:10959,
DHC37
Cap
The primary material is silk
Description: Tabby weave z/untwisted, light olive brown.
Rectangular hood/cap, finished dimensions 170mm wide,
390mm high, upper back "point" stitched to follow head
but not trimmed.
Woman's grave
mid/late 10th
c. per
Heckett
2003
Dublin
Ireland
E172:13590,
DHC39
Cap
The primary material is silk
Description: Tabby weave z/untwisted, dark yellowish
brown. Rectangular hood/cap, finished dimensions
155mm wide, 240mm high, upper back "point" stitched to
follow head but not trimmed.
Woman's grave
mid 10th c.
per Heckett
2003
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
16
Excerpts (Placeholder2) from “Viking Age Clothing” By: Charlotte Mayhew
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
17
Viking Age Head Cap
Lady Kára Agnarsdóttir
18
Image from: “Caps, Scarves, Hoods and Hair nets”
Figure 5: Cap size comparisons from Viking Age Archaeological Finds.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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This book addresses a somewhat neglected area in research - the role of women in the Viking Age (800-1100). Archaeological evidence is brought together in the first chapter, on life and death, whilst the second chapter looks at runic inscriptions. Chapter 3, on female colonists, uses evidence of names, of both people and places, and includes a section on the settlement of Iceland. Texts are then presented of a non-Scandinavian view of Vikings, looking at international contact, visitors to Scandinavia, and Viking women outside Scandinavia. The last two chapters tackle the most copious body of material: the visual and verbal artworks of early Scandinavia. -C.Lloyd
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There is a great text in the Welsh laws that tells us that a man who killed another, and who wished to make proper amends, paid one-ninth of his victim's blood-price to the offended kindred. His mother and father paid another ninth, and his brothers and sisters a further ninth again. The remaining two-thirds was to be found by the kindred to the seventh degree – some recensions say the ninth – and two-thirds of that in turn was to come from the paternal kin, one-third from the maternal. The blood-feud group in other words was ego-centred, differed from individual to individual, and was elaborate in structure. Descendants of the great-grandparents of great-grandparents on both sides would be involved.
British Costume from Earliest Times to 1820
  • Charles H Ashdown
Ashdown, Charles H. British Costume from Earliest Times to 1820. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2001.
Extant Bronze /Iron / Viking / Medieval age Hats-Caps -Headbands
  • Jennifer Baker
Baker, Jennifer. Extant Bronze /Iron / Viking / Medieval age Hats-Caps -Headbands. February 2008. http://nvg.org.au/article.php?story=2008032806363487 (accessed September 18, 2014).
The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder
  • R Chartrand
  • K Durham
  • M Harrison
  • I Heath
Chartrand, R., K. Durham, M. Harrison, and I. Heath. The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2006.
Life and Times in the Viking World
  • Shiela Clewley
  • Julie Ferris
  • Conrad Mason
Clewley, Shiela, Julie Ferris, and Conrad Mason. Life and Times in the Viking World. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.
Ages: 1,000-year-old household objects and tools made from iron, bronze and bone found in 'one of most significant digs ever'. Associated Newspapers Ltd
  • Daily Mail
Daily Mail. Shining a light on the Dark Ages: 1,000-year-old household objects and tools made from iron, bronze and bone found in 'one of most significant digs ever'. Associated Newspapers Ltd. November 29, 2012. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2240467/1-000-household-objects-tools-carved- wood-iron-significant-digs-ever.html (accessed September 10, 2014).
Spindle Spinning from Novice to Expert
  • Connie Delaney
Delaney, Connie. Spindle Spinning from Novice to Expert. Lexington, KY: Kõkõvõkõ Press, 1998. Ewing, Thor. Viking Clothing. Stroud: The History Press, 2007.