The Viking apron dress from Køstrup in Denmark (10th c.) has several different interpretations. Here you will get my contribution.
Especially I found it interesting to work with the technique behind the pleating, and also the way the tablet woven band are attached at the topp of the apron dress. – Experimental archaeology.
I have used one of Hilde Thunem’s collections and read it with my “crafter-eyes” What is written with NON-ITALIC is from Hilde’s paper. What is with ITALIC is what catch my crafter- eyes and I use directly in my reconstruction. What is in Bold is my comments.
The apron dress from Køstrup (grave ACQ) By Hilde Thunem (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The majority of the textiles inside the left brooch came from a smokkr. These fragments (x541) of woollen tabby was made of two-ply yarn (19-27/11-16 threads pr cm)
According to Lønborg the smokkr had been dyed blue, although no mention is made of whether the dye was identified chemically or just visually through a microscope. The upper edge of the smokkr had been finished by folding ca 0.5 cm of the cloth over and stitching it in place (with a running stitch according to Lønborg). Unfortunately, I was not able to determine whether the fold ended in a raw edge, a selvedge or had been folded again to hide the raw edge.
That Lønborg suggest that the upper edge is turned 1/2 cm to the back and then stitch in place I find hard to believe. The warp in the Vikings fabric was hard spun and in this plain 1/1 weave it would fringe a lot without any sort of secure, UNLESS it is secured with another fabric attached to it. That could be a vegetable fabric between the woollen apron and the woollen Tablet woven band. The fabric would be long gone.
Af selekjolen er så meget bevaret, at man kan se, at kjolen har været lukket fortil og har været afsluttet opadtil af en ca. fem mm. bred søm, der er syet med forsting. I selekjolefragmentets ene ende ses resterne af et gauffreret stykke, der har siddet midt mellem fiblerne, velsagtens for at give kjolen vidde. Gauffreringen ser ut til at være fremkommet gennem en simpel rynkning med en hørtråd.
Liisa Rasmussen and Bjarne Lønborg: Dragtrester i grav ACQ, Køstrup
Simple wrinkling? I think it’s done in the Warp Weighted Loom with an additional shift doing the weaving. It is much more precise and much faster than sewing with needle and thread. And then boiled or steamed. Then the pleating will be nice and permanent when you take out the wrinkling tread.
One end of the smokkr fragment had been pleated with tiny pleats, 2-3 mm deep and 3 mm wide. The pleated part is currently approximately 7.6 cm long. The longest pleat is torn 4.3 cm from the top of the smokkr, so we don’t know whether the fabric only was pleated near the chest, or if the pleats ran further down.
Lønborg suggests that the pleating was created by drawing the cloth together in pleats by a single linen thread. It is unclear from his description whether he believes that the thread was removed afterwards, or if it is still present.
I was not able to spot the thread if it was there, but the fabric is tightly pleated with little space between the ridges. In addition, there were no information in regards to which side was the outside and which was the inside of each fragment. Finally, I am no textile expert, and so may not be able to interpret all that I am seeing.
If the fragments are puzzled together they make a piece roughly 25 cm long, running from the middle of the dress, under the left brooch and down under the arm. The fragment reaches only 10 cm down from the edge, and so give little information as to how long the smokkr was.
In the picture of the remains I cannot see if there has been a seam beside the pleating too. It would make the heat treatment a lot easier if you just had what was supposed to be pleated into the pot. Heat process “remembers” namely also on the folds which naturally would come at the rest of the dress.
I think the pleating have been added all the way down. Partly because it is much easier to heat treat a piece where everything should pleated, because what should be smooth will be wrinkled and these wrinkles/curls will be permanent.
– Unless you have a pot with a base of at least 120 x 40 cm, – the fabric length and width, and the Vikings had unlikely that.
In addition, golden foil’s, gullgubber, in several locations shows that the pleating was all the way down. -As Here on a golden foil from Helgö:
As usual, the smokkr would have been fastened to the brooches with fabric loops. Unfortunately, during my examination I was not able to determine the exact position on the fragment where the lower loop from the left brooch had been fastened.
In Charlotte Rimstad’s article there is a slightly fuzzy photograph with the brooch placed in relation to the smokkr pieces. I have marked the position (as far as I can determine) onto the better quality photograph by Ewing. If her placement of the brooch is correct, the pleating doesn’t start immediately after the brooch. Instead, there is approximately 6-7 cm with unpleated cloth between the brooch and the pleated part.
Endvidere ses på den anden side af fibel x505, mellem fiblen og armhulen, en lodret sammensyning av to ægkanter.
Liisa Rasmussen and Bjarne Lønborg: Dragtrester i grav ACQ, Køstrup, p 176- 177
There is a vertical seam (ca 1.9 cm long) connecting two cloth edges on the large fragment. The seam is placed between the left brooch and the armpit, roughly 4-5 cm from the brooch (provided Rimstad’s positioning of the brooch is correct).
The right brooch
According to Wielandt (as summarised by Rimstad), there were two loops (x543 and x518) made of woollen tabby inside the right brooch. In addition there were a couple of linen strings (x545 og x546).
Derudover fandtes et sæt brede lærredsvævede uldstropper (x543, x518) og nogle løse tråde af hør (x545 og x546).
Charlotte Rimstad: Vikinger i uld og guld, p 18.
Lise Bender Jørgensen have examined both the woollen loops, and have reported on the details of each textile. Unfortunately, there is a discrepancy in the numeric codes used by Wielandt (in Rimstad’s summary) and by Bender Jørgensen. Wielandt assigns x543 to one of the loops within the right brooch, and x544 to some linen fragments within the same brooch. Bender Jørgensen does the exact opposite. I haven’t examined either of the fragments, so I cannot say who is correct.
According to Bender Jørgensen x518 was made of tabby with 17/10 threads pr cm (Z/Z thread). Loop x544/x543 was made of tabby with 18/18 threads pr cm (Z/Z thread).
The loop x518 appears to be 1.1-1.4 cm wide and torn at a length of 3.8 cm.
If those is only 3,8 cm high they will nor show mor than normal over the apron because they also my be attach to the apron.
The left brooch
Charlotte Rimstad: Vikinger i uld og guld, p 18
When examining x569 I found that the loop strap was 1.0 – 1.3 cm wide. The loop in its entirety would have stretched from the top of the smokkr, past the tablet woven band and around the needle inside the brooch. Only the piece that ran between the top of the smokkr and the tablet woven band remains. It is currently 3.9 cm long. I am not able to tell from the fragment where it was fastened to the smokkr.
According to Rimstad, Wielandt also states that there were two slimmer loops of linen tabby at the bottom(x572) and top (x703) of the left brooch respectively.
Only one of these is mentioned by Lønborg. He reports that there was a 5 mm wide, blue, linen band in the left brooch, made from four layers of linen tabby (22-26/20-24 threads pr cm), folded and whip stitched along one side. According to him, the band was fastened by folding it around the needle in the brooch, instead of having a loop at the end.
I fibel x505’s ene side er bevaret dele af et ca. 5mm bredt, blåfarvet hørbånd, fremstillet av 4 lag ombukket lærred med en kastning langs den ene side, der tolkes som rester af et bærebånd til ophængning af nøglen og kniven. <…> Det smalle hørbånd fra fibel x505 er entrådet og har trådtal på 22-26/20-24 pr. cm.
Liisa Rasmussen and Bjarne Lønborg: Dragtrester i grav ACQ, Køstrup, p 177, 178, illustration p 178.
I find it very interesting that there is blue linen in the found. Here it is inside the brooches where preservation conditions are better, but perhaps there has been more linen in apron dress, -now disappeared.
Currently, the linen band x572 has fragmented to a degree where it is impossible to see how it once were fastened to the needle. As for the other linen loop, there is no fragment x703 in Odense Bys museum’s list of textile fragments from grave ACQ.
Construction of the woollen loops
Lønborg agrees with Wielandt’s observation of two woollen loops within each brooch. He have examined the way each loop has been constructed.
According to him, two of the straps were made from the same fabric as the smokkr. They were folded and whip stitched along the side (as shown leftmost in the illustration).
Then there was one strap with a linen core (made by folding linen cloth) where the smokkr fabric had been folded around the core and whip stitched along the side (rightmost in the illustration). Possibly because they did not have sufficient smokkr fabric left to make a strap the usual way? The last strap was folded and whip stitched along the side, but was made from a less finely woven woollen tabby than the smokkr.
Among the remains was a 13.3 cm long and 14 mm wide fragment of a tablet- woven band (x584). The warp is a two-ply woollen yarn, originally dark blue. The weft is missing, which indicates that it might have been a linen yarn. The band is patterned, with several figures made out of coloured woollen thread. Lønborg believes that the band’s original length was 20 cm, and that it ran between the two tortoise brooches along the top of the smokkr.
According to his description, the band was whip-stitched to the front loops (but not to the smokkr itself). There were two woollen strings running along each side of the band and whip-stitched to the loops. It is uncertain whether they were fastened to the tablet-woven band in some way. However, stitches in the two lower strings indicate that they were stitched to each other and to the smokkr in at least one place.
Mellem fiblene, langs selekjolens vandrette søm, har et mørkeblåt, ca 14 mm bredt mønstret brikbånd af uld været anbragt, oprindeligt ca 20 cm langt. Brikvævningen er udført som tohulsbrikvævning med totrådet uldtråd i trenden, mens islætten, der i dag ikke kan iakttages, har sannsynligvis vært av hør. Mønstrene der er fremstillet i uldbrochering, er udført med forskjellige tråde i forskjellige farver, der desværre ikke kan bestemmes, men som i dag fremtræder i rødlige, brunlige og gullige nuancer.
Båndet har været hæftet med kastninger til selekjolens forreste stropper. Langs begge sider af brikbåndet er anbragt to uldsnore, fastsyet med kastesting til stropperne, men hvis eventuelle fastgjørelse til brikbåndet er usikker. Sting i de nederste snore og i selekjolen indikerer dog, at disse snore et enkelt sted har været hæftet sammen, både indbyrdes og med selekjolen. Liisa Rasmussen and Bjarne Lønborg: Dragtrester i grav ACQ, Køstrup, p 177- 178.
Lønborg proposes that the band was created by a two-hole tablet weave, and that the the pattern was constructed using a brocading technique. He draws the pattern as a set of geometric shapes.
While this specific pattern is unique, there are similarities between parts of it and other tablet woven bands from the period.
A woman’s grave from the 10th century at Birka (grave 965) contained several tablet woven bands, whereof the patterns can be found in Agnes Geijer’s reporton the Birka textiles. One of these bands has several figures similar to the left one on the Køstrup fragment (light blue in the pattern above), while another band from the same grave has an “unfinished swastika” similar to the Køstrup figure found in second position from the right (grey in pattern above).
Finally, the central figure in the Køstrup band (violet in the pattern above) can also be found in a woollen band worn by the man buried at Mammen in 970971.
According to Lise Ræder Knudsen, who examined it, the woollen band had been woven in a 3/1 double-faced broken twill using 17 tablets. Båndet fremstår i dag med 38 trendtråde. Der har været en kantbrik yderst i hver side trådet med 4 nu rødlig brune uldtråde, herefter fra begge sider 5 brikker med 2 tråde i hver af samme garn som kantbrikkerne. De resterende 5 brikker i midten af båndet har været trådet med 2 nu gulligtgrøn brune tråde i hver.
Uden for mønsteret ligger trådende bundet i en uregelmæssig 3/1 dobbeltkiper, i mønsteret går trendtråden om bagpå båndet og islætstråden ses tydeligt.
Langs mønstrene i båndet ses huller efter nu nedbrudte og forsvundne vegetabilske tråde. Selv om båndet nu fremtræder som to-trådsbrikning, er det altså oprindelig vævet med 4 tråde i alle brikker.Lise Ræder Knudsen, Det uldne brikvævede bånd fra Mammengraven, p 149.
At first glance it appeared to have been created by threading four wool threads through the two outermost tablets and two wool threads through each remaining tablet. However, a closer examination showed gaps in the pattern, due to deteriorated vegetable threads. Ræder Knudsen concluded that the fifteen tablets in the middle had been threaded with two woollen and two vegetable (e.g. linen) threads, and that the vegetable thread would have been the one creating the pattern, twisting above the woollen background weave.
Could something similar be the case of the Køstrup band? The pattern remains in the case of this band, and I am not sufficiently knowledgeable in regards to tablet weaving to know whether Lønborg is correct in his assumption that this band was created with just two woollen threads for each tablet.
Unfortunately, the original dyes used in the Køstrup band have faded into brownish, yellowish and reddish shades, and it is no longer possible to determine the original colours. It is possible to see that some of the patterns would have been differently coloured than their neighbouring figures though.
BeadsLindblom reports that eight beads were found in the grave. Two were made from quartz and the rest of glass. Five of the glass beads were barrel shaped: one reddish-brown, one white, one orange, one red/white mix and one black bead. The last was a square green bead.
According to Lønborg, there were remains of a thick thread around the top of the needle in the right tortoise brooch. Fragments of the same type of thread also appeared on the top loop in the left brooch. He believes that this thread was used to string the beads and hang them between the brooches.
Endelig ble der omkring den ene fibels nåleholder/jernnål (x501) fundet rester af kraftig tråd. Fragmenter af samme type tråd optræder på stroppen fra fibel x505’s nåleholderende. Disse trådrester kan være rester af den tråd (…) der har været anvendt til opphængning af perlene mellem de to fibler.
Liisa Rasmussen and Bjarne Lønborg: Dragtrester i grav ACQ, Køstrup, p 177.
Wielandt (according to Rimstad) found three fragments of fine linen tabby. There was one (x542) innermost in the left brooch, underneath the fragments of the woollen smokkr, one (x525) on top of the left brooch and one (x544) within the right brooch.
I følge [Henriette Wielandts analyser] fandtes der inderst i skålspænde [x505] rester af en fin lærredsvævning i hør (x542) (…). Uden på denne, dvs. tættest på den dødes krop, var endnu en lærredsvævning (x541), men af uld.
Over skålspænde [x505] fandtes lærredsvævet hørstof (x525) svarende til stoffet inderst i spændet. De to fragmenter kan være fra samme vævning.
Skålspænde [x501] indeholdt langt færre tekstiler. Inderst i spændet fandtes få mineraliserede fragmenter af hørlærred (x544). Tekstilet svarer til det stykke stof, der lå inderst i skålspænde [x505], og det er derfor sandsynligt, at de to fragmenter er fra samme stykke tekstil. Charlotte Rimstad: Vikinger i uld og guld, p 18.
Lønborg’s report describes the same layers in the left brooch, but contains no details in regards to the right brooch. According to Lønborg the linen tabby was woven with 20-28/16-18 threads pr cm.
Særkens hørlærred, samt hørlærredet over fibel x505, er entrådet og har et trådtal på 20-28/16-18 pr. cm. Liisa Rasmussen and Bjarne Lønborg: Dragtrester i grav ACQ, Køstrup, p 178
Rimstad’s summary also states that there were two layers of woollen cloth (x524, x527 and x548), with a layer of down and feathers (x523 and x547) between them. This wool and feather “sandwich” was found on top of the left brooch, above the linen fragment x525. Lønborg describe the same layers, and includes the detail that the woollen cloth is a tabby with 12-13/7 threads pr cm (two-ply yarn).
Over skålspænde  fandtes lærredsvævet hørstof (x525) svarende til stoffet inderst i spændet. De to fragmenter kan være fra samme vævning. Herover fandtes to lag grovere uldstof (x524, x527 og x548) med et lag dun og fjer (x523, x547) imellem.
Charlotte Rimstad: Vikinger i uld og guld, p 18.
Lastly, Lønborg describes a small iron fragment. On top of the fragment are two layers of tabby with two-ply yarn (8/8 threads pr cm, probably wool). Above these layers is a small tabby fragment (26/29 threads pr cm, probably linen) and fragments of two narrow woven bands (warp 4 threads, weft 24 threads pr cm).
Endelig blev der ca. 2 cm NV for fibel x501 fundet rester af et lille stykke jernblik med et rundt slået hul. I rusten var flere stykker tekstil med spredte sting bevaret. På jernblikkets ene side ses to lag totrådet lærred, sandsynligvis uld, med et trådtal på ca. 8/8 pr. cm. Ovenpå dette ses et lille fragment af entrådet, lærredsbundet hør? Med et trådtal på 26/20 pr. cm. Ovenpå uldlærredet ses ligeledes rester af to vævede band, der er lærredsvævede over fire trendtråde, mens islættens trådtal ligger på ca. 24 pr. cm.
De vævede bånd kunne være et stykke af en kantning af en kappe og det lille stykke jernblik kan have været fastsyet på kanten og være en del af et lukketøj.
Liisa Rasmussen and Bjarne Lønborg: Dragtrester i grav ACQ, Køstrup, p 178.
It is the nature from the Warp Weighted Loom that there is more warp treads than weft treads per cm in the fabric. Here there is 27 treads in the warp and 11-16 treads in the weft pr cm. What is unusual in this find is that the yarn is 2 ply. Normally it is 1 ply. The fabric is plain 1/1.
I did not have the correct fabric and used what I had from former project. My main fabric is 12/12 treads pr cm, and in the pleating 10/10 and it is 2/2 twill .
The Tablet woven brocade band
Lønborg say that it is woven with only two woollen treads in the tablets, but I think the technique that Lise Ræder tell is used in Mammen also is the case here.
If there was only two wool treads, there could be two different tablet weaving techniques used:
Method 1. You could turn the tablets a half turn forward, then weft, and then turn a half turn backwards. That would result in a tabby weaving with no direction on each turn in the surface. The characteristics in tablet weaving is that each stitch is turning a little to the left or to the right.
The turn is 3/1. That means 1 quarter turn pr weft.
In the illustration to the left if the tablet is with 2 wool (grey) and 2 linen (green).
If the linen here would disappear in the grave we will be left with the wool tilted a little to the right and hole/space in between.
Method 2. In the illustration to the right, the tablet has 2 wool tread, one in the two diagonal corners.
By turning a half turn forward, then weft, a half turn backward, then weft, you get a tabby weaving that are not tilted. It can be a little hard to see in these photos but in the circle you see that the warp is tilted a little on the top of the next and there is space/holes in between.
Therefore I go for the Mammen technique in the first experiment, Metod 1. And since there in Køstrup not are made any color analyses I also use the color from Mammen. That because I think it sounds weird that everything should be blue. We know that the Vikings was pleased with colours..
First I made one with red and yellow-green warp. Linen natural color. The linen I had is a tiny little too thick so the tablet woven band ended up 18 mm wide,- 4 mm to wide.
Then I dye some linen blue and made a blue warp with only 2 wool and one linen in each tablet. And then made a blue version. That gave a better result I think.
Pleating in the warp weighted loom
I think the viking made the pleating threads in the loom. The red threads are pulled very hard and knotted. Then the fabric is steamed or cooked ap 2 h. Dried and the red threads are removed. Then the pleating will stay permanently.
The fabric is tabby, wool and 19-27/11-16 threads pr cm. That is very fine.
I found a fabric, tabby, with 14/14 treads pr cm. That have to do this time.
In the documentation I can not see if there are i seam between the pleating and the plain fabric. That piece are missing. I think there were a seam. Because when you are pleating you steam or cook the folded pleats and these folds/pleats stay permanent after. If you put, in the pot, a fabric that are only partly pleated, the wrinkle’s that comes on the plain fabric to be permanently pleated too.
There fore I have the pleated front as a unit piece by it self.
Next to consider is the two selvages that meet 10-14 cm from the pleats.
If I now made the rest of the apron in one piece it would fit like a bag, so I have shaped it in two back pieces with waist shaped into it.
Here I refer to that the look for dresses are the golden follies and in the Oseberg Tapestry is quite tight to the upper body.
There were several loops in the find. I make those in wool, 1,1 cm wide and folded in loop’s.
Straps and loops
Add the straps where it fits you. There are several loops in the grave. Some are 3,8 cm, but is it hard to say where the measurement begin.- the topp of the apron of the total length of the loop?
I have made two samples:
When the linen disappears in the grave, it will look like the Tablet woven band is not attach to the the apron dress, only to the woollen straps.
The top of the apron
I find it hard to believe that the edge in the pleating only are turned to the back and over-stitched. The pleating would be stretched out and the fabric would fringe.
There are found quite some blue linen fragments and I think the edge can have been secured with this.
Also I think think the tablet woven band has been attached to the same linen fabric.
The seam on the top of the apron
First you add the linen band right side to right side and sew the NON-pleated part with small running stitchesThe you turn up the linen band and sew the pleating to the band in every top of the pleats with overcasting stitches.
Then you turn the band to the back, fold in the edge of the band and sew it with loose cross stitches.
To make the bend in the pleating nice you now make a overcast stitching through the linen band and to the bottom of the pleating at the front side. Pull each stitch good.. In this way you will get a good start on the pleasing. And get the stitching holes. That in fact are found.
Mounting the tablet woven band
Fold in the edge all around the landlines and sew the tablet woven band to this.
Now sew this to the top of the linen facing on the apron. Between the loops in front.
Sew it also to the loops,- also the end of the tablet woven band. – Like in the find.
Where there is no pleating, fold the fabric twice to the inside and overcast.
Where the pleating are you do the same as in the top of the apron.
Because of the two selvage in one of the vertical seams its was a challenge to shape the dress tight to the body. I would have preferred to have it more shaped.
Also the pleating is in to rough fabric.- So I look forward to do another. I think the solution with the blue linen facing works just perfect. I’m surprised how rough the brocaded tablet woven band is, but I think they are close to the original.
I think the pleating in the front goes all the way down to the bottom edge in the front. Why? You can read more about that in the article “Pleating at the warp weighted loom”.
So here is my version of the Køstrup dress.
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