Clothing construction – Vikings in BC

Close up of decoration on weaving combs

Close up of decoration on weaving combs

In my next few posts I’m hoping to share with you a few more photos from the Vikings in BC exhibit I visited over the summer. There were so many photos, and I had so many other sewing projects and things to share with you, that I didn’t get to them until now!

The photos in this post are all about ‘clothing construction’ from various areas in the museum exhibit. Above is a close up of the weaving combs below – these could be made in one or two pieces (Two-piece examples were found at Birka, while one-piece designs date back to the iron age) – and based on their design, I would imagine they were used for tightening a weave on narrow woven cloth (like trim or leg wraps) rather than the beating sword used for wider cloth. Based on their design, I don’t think they’re like wool combs, used for preparing raw wool for spinning into thread.

Weaving combs

Weaving combs

The combs are decorated with “ring & dot” along with line patterns. “Halldor the Viking” shows off an example of this pattern in his bone-working blog post, along with a tool used to make these designs. These combs were made of bone/antler, though I imagine wood would have also been used in areas where wood was available – though like the bobbins from the speculative four-strand braid “whipcord” the small pieces of wood have lots of reasons for not surviving through the centuries.

Viking age "ironing board"

Viking age “ironing board”

Next up is another ring & dot decorated ‘ironing board’ along with a smooth stone (or glass?) used for ‘ironing’, smoothing, pressing, and polishing linen. In Pauline’s Period Wardrobe blog, she shows a similar board, made of carved whalebone with a smoother made of beautiful glass. Her examples were from Sweden as well.

The exhibit case also included bone needles and scissors/snips – the design hasn’t changed much over the centuries for either!

Viking age "ironing board"  and other textile construction tools

Viking age “ironing board” and other textile construction tools

You might remember that this exhibit didn’t encourage photography, so I wasn’t able to photograph the comments and information about each piece, and the photos are a bit dark compared to what I would have like to have photographed. To go back and read other posts from this exhibit, please click the Vikings in BC tag.


One comment on “Clothing construction – Vikings in BC

  1. Hello 🙂

    After following the link to my blog back here I must say I am glad I did as I now have another to add to my followed list.

    In this post you mention the antler combs and speculate about wooden examples. Well, a long handled wooden example decorated with ring-and-dot was found in the Oseberg ship burial.

    Regarding the whalebone plaque, it appears that they are not smoothing boards, despite museums best attempts to make them so. Only one has been found in context with a glass slicker and they were not actually together in the grave. The notion of the smoothing board stems from ethnographic studies in the 19th/early 20th century when rural Norwegians used a similar setup with wooden boards. Only 5 of the known plaques show surface polishing consistent with rubbing, but they were not found with a slicker. However, after the Birka example was put on display with the slicker, just about every museum has copied that and some will even put a slicker and board together from different sites in a display to “make it work”.


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