This is one of those… grudgingly approached projects. If you remember from my Open Front Apron Dress post, I have some qualms about how period-correct the idea of wearing an open-front apron dress with a rectangular apron panel might be. The open-front apron seems totally impractical (although yes, it might have been something worn for special occasions) though at least the panel seems a bit more practical – as long as it’s belted that is so it doesn’t fall into the fire when you’re leaning over the fire!
Still, once I made up the dress, I needed to make the panel, so I figured I’d just go for it.
Like the dress, the fabric for this came from the Grandmother’s Fabric Sale this past year, it’s a burgundy suit-weight wool flannel, with a very clear twill weave. When at the sale, I didn’t notice that the fabric was FULL of holes though – so although I had just over a meter of it, only a small portion was usable in one piece – perfect for this apron! It went well enough with the rust-coloured wool (in a “Viking” sense of colour theory that is.. LOL) and was the right weight… so…sold!
There is a LOT of fuss on one of the Viking Clothing groups I’m a part of on Facebook about embroidery. Every time someone goes on with a pretty embroidery project, or asking about embroidery designs, they basically get shot down – there has been very, very, very little evidence of embroidery from the Viking Age Norse – a single cloak found in Denmark has a number of different figures, but there has been no other evidence (that I’ve read about at least) for embroidery done in this way. There are several examples of wire or metal-thread decorative stitching/embellishment, woven textiles used as trim, and decorative seam treatments apparently, but nothing like the big pretty flashy embroidery that I see a lot at events or on Pinterest.
Read more about the cloak found in Denmark on Heather Rose Jone’s site here: http://heatherrosejones.com/mammen/
So… there’s another point of challenge for me. Do I follow what is much more document-able (as in.. it isn’t) or go with the pretty, and commonly seen? Well, since I find the whole concept of the open-front-plus-rectangle-apron arrangement highly speculative, I figured I’d go for broke so to speak, and reserve this apron also for occasions where a lower level of authenticity would be ok.
Still, I didn’t want to do something too over-the-top. I decided that since the embroidery on the Mammen cloak was largely stem stitch used for outlines, and occasionally for filling stitches (with many motifs just outlined) that I’d stick with an outline motif. I’m still pretty beginner at embroidery, and my stem stitch isn’t great, so I opted to use the same double-running stitch that I used for my Raven motif on my bag.
I used the same raven motif, which I traced from a photograph of the extant brooch and altered slightly in Photoshop (to make it symmetrical – the photo wasn’t lined up to be totally symmetrical) as well as a similar tracing of one of the Valkyrie pendants that have been found – where the Valkyrie is holding a drinking horn. I traced it in the same way – digitally, then cleaning it up a bit here and there for a workable pattern.
I used a wash-away transfer/stabilizer, and was able to complete all of the embroidery at a weekend event, and used DMC cotton embroidery floss – #317, a steel grey. (Wool was used on the Mammen cloak, but I didn’t have any super-fine wool thread at the time. Likewise silk might have been used – but I didn’t want to spend my silk on this. Linen would be another plausible period-correct fiber, but I’ve had a terrible time using linen thread on wool, so opted to skip that -plus I only have a small amount of linen thread left at the moment.)
Although the loops for other apron dresses are in linen (which stretches less than wool) I opted to use the same wool for my loops -the apron won’t likely be tugged on at all, so I’m not concerned with stretching.
I cut a length of red linen (left over from another project) for the “lining” and topped it with a piece of the same burgundy wool for a facing. This should also ‘bulk up’ the top edge, so that it’s more likely to hang straight. I did a simple herringbone stitch over the join between the linen and wool to add a bit of embellishment and ‘press’ the seam down. I bag-lined the apron with the lining, and slip-stitched the opening closed using some of the wool thread pulled from the cloth.
I wanted to trim the outer edge with 4-strand braid (aka whipcord).
I used Pearl Cotton #5, in a wine colour (#814) which matches the wool very nicely, and a steel grey (#413) which matches the colour of the embroidery floss I used quite well. See the end result above.
Changes I’d make
After wearing the apron panel with the open-front apron dress to an event, I found that I’d made my panel just a little too wide. Once it was worn with my festoon, it was a bit too wide between the brooches, so I’ll need to move the loops to be closer together. Alternatively, I might use some of the remaining whipcord / 4-strand braid to make new loops closer to the center of the panel.
If I were to make another apron panel, I’d likely make it longer than this one as well – though with this I was limited based on the available fabric (without holes!).
In wearing it, I thought that the apron-panel would ‘fall’ when I bent over a lot. This seemed really impractical if I were, for instance, working over a ground-fire. However, I found that perhaps due to the length, or the way the linen of the lining “sticks” to the linen and wool of the apron dress, that the apron didn’t fall away from me TOO much when I bent over. I still don’t see this being practical for ‘messy work’ – but perhaps it’s not as impractical as I originally thought.