In my Viking Age Capsule Collection post I mentioned that I wanted to slowly transition my Viking Age wardrobe to a red / black / grey / blue colour scheme. I found this red and black twill fabric at the Grandmother’s Fabric Sale in spring 2017, and since it was only 0.6 meters, there wasn’t really enough to do much. I reserved a piece for this apron panel, and then used the remainder for reverse facings on my black and red wool (blend) coat.
I decided to do one side of this apron panel with the red, and the reverse with the same black I used for the coat. No real reason other than I had pieces of both leftover, and both match my current desireable colourway.
For the red and black side of the apron panel, I used the raven motif I used in my burgundy apron panel, and then incorporated a female figure that I pulled from historical images previously.
I thought I’d try to make the panel reversible though, and wanted to put a different design on the other side. I decided I wanted to incorporate designs appropriate for the time period of my persona (My main persona is 10C Icelandic), and also really wanted to try to incorporate my Grant of Arms – the Order of the Argent Flame.
Viking art styles
I looked at the timeline provided by artist Jonas Lau Markussen outlining when different art styles emerged and faded from popularity. He identifies the Borre style being from 850-950 CE, Jelling style being from 900-975 CE, and the Mammen style from 950-1025 CE. This gave me three really lovely starting points for styles for some artwork I hoped to blend together.
Jonas identifies key motifs for each of these styles.
- Knot animal – A type of motif which is seen on some metalworks of which the Borre mounts is the best known.
- Gripping beast – The signature motif of the Borre style which is seen throughout Scandinavia.
- Knots and interlace schemes – A type of motif seen on various brooches, mounts, pendants etc. throughout Scandinavia.
- Ring chains (bottom left) and other ribbon interlace – A type of motif which is seen throughout Scandinavia.
- Two S-shaped ribbon-animals intertwined – A type of motif which is seen on the Jelling cup (from which the Jelling style got its name) and some harness-bows from Mammen.
- Three S-shaped ribbon-animals intertwined in pretzel knots – A type of motif which is seen on many brooches in a more intricate Borre-style inspired composition.
- Two mirrored S-shaped ribbon-animals – A type of motif which is seen on several brooches and mounts.
- A Human mask – A type of motif which is seen carved in various materials such as stone, bone and wood found across Scandinavia.
- Vegetal ornament – A type of motif which is seen on the Mammen Axe and some wooden panels from the Jelling mount both in Denmark.
- Animal intertwined with a snake – A type of motif which is seen most prominently on the Greater Jelling Stone in Denmark, and later across Scandinavia.
- Bird – A type of motif which is seen in various materials of which the Mammen Axe is most known.
In looking at the different styles, I really loved the ring chains of the Borre style, and thought they would be gorgeous to use on the hem of the apron panel (or even the top edge!) however they didn’t speak to me to incorporate the flames of the Order heraldry I wanted to try to include.
However, the Vegetal ornament and Animal intertwined with a snake from the Mammen style seemed far more likely to work well with the flames I hoped to include.
Viking art styles in Iceland
In terms of artwork, I read that there have been no rune stones erected and found in Iceland, but other artwork has been found, relevant to the different Viking Age art styles.
The Hurstwic site (and cc’d on the History on the Net site) indicates that the Borre style was the first style found in Iceland. Oxford Art Online also states that “the Borre style is the earliest Scandinavian style to have been produced in the Viking settlements in Iceland, England and Russia.”
Oxford Art Online also identifies that the 11th Century Ringerike style was used in Iceland “for the vegetal frieze on the wooden panels from Flatatunga, Iceland (Reykjavík, N. Mus.), the fragments of which are the oldest surviving church decoration in Scandinavia.” (Photos on Kulturbilder) These panels depict “plant motifs above the row of saints”.
I suspect with a lack of runestones, and that homes in Viking Age were built of turf (“on Iceland turf was used almost exclusively. The first buildings on Iceland were halls with turf walls, about 2 m thick, lined on the inside with wattle panelling.” – Oxford Art Online) instead of (carvable) wood, that the majority of Viking Age art styles that have survived would rely heavily on metal work like brooches and pendants.
With only the Borre style being relevant to Iceland within my desirable time frame, I probably should consider the Borre style more prominently, but my desire to combine the style along with the Order of the Argent Flame heraldry was more important to me.
I follow an amazing artist on Instagram – @FiskrArt who does really cool tattoo designs, in a Viking-style. I noticed that there were some similarities between their work and the Mammen style, so decided to reference one of their designs to meld with the historical work referenced by Jonas. To finish the embroidery design, I used the heraldry from the Order of the Argent Flame heraldry, and slightly modify it to have more of a Mammen-style feeling, while still being recognizable as a brazier with flames.
I traced, drew, created, and merged ideas first in Photoshop, and then used that as a reference to draw the design on paper. I traced that onto the embroidery transfer material, and was ready to stitch!
I did the embroidery on the black side partially on a bus ride up to Edmonton (well, half of the trip) and then a few hours while curled up on the couch with my friend at Thanksgiving. The red side, I did pretty much all on the ride back home from Edmonton, as well as an additional two hours on my own couch watching a silly movie. I’d say in total there are probably 10-12 hours of embroidery in this accessory.
On the black panel I used white cotton embroidery thread for the brazier and Anchor brand #0233 (a grey with a purple/pink tone) for the dragon. On the red panel I used the grey for the ravens with white circles, and did the female figure in white with grey accents for her jewellery and trim on her outfit.
After the embroidery, I soaked the wool fabric to dissolve the water-soluble stabilizer, and hung them to dry before pressing them.
Assembling the panels was super-simple.. just sew the exterior edge leaving a small gap for turning and inserting two loops for hanging at the top edge. I then slip-stitched the hole closed, and pressed the apron panel again.
From there it was time to trim the exterior edge with some 4-strand braid (aka whipcord) which I did in pearl cotton in dark red which matched the red fabric close enough, and a light grey. The whipcord took about an hour to make 1.5 meters, though I took a number of pauses.
I started using the same red pearl cotton to sew the cord on to the edge with a blanket stitch (show above). Although this was nice and clean on the black side (as above), I thought the red side looked too busy. I removed that, and used a different stitch to attach the cord, following the red thread in the cord to line up stitches.
I did this on a bus ride to Edmonton, though in total it took about an hour to sew on the whipcord. (Including my stitching, unpicking, and starting again…)
I left a moderate end at the start, and a longer end at the end, so I could weave the thread ends back into the fabric and cord to finish. My goal was for the join in the cord to be fairly discreet. In hindsight, I should have left longer tails at the start of the cord.
Material: Two wool blend fabrics, both leftover from other projects.
Pattern: Garment pattern – none. It’s a rectangle. Embroidery patterns drawn by hand based on a mix of artefacts, SCA imagery, and a Viking-inspired tattoo artisan.
Year: Viking Age – design is speculative based on loops of fabric found within extant brooches from grave finds.
Notions: Cotton embroidery thread. Limited embroidery has been found, and no examples are cotton.
How historically accurate is it? Quite speculative, but the design is largely supported in the reenactment group I’m a part of.
Hours to complete: 10-12 for embroidery, another hour for straightening the fabric, cutting and sewing, another 2 hours for creation of and application of the four-strand braid… so like 13-14 hours. Two of the embroidery designs were already made, but I probably spent 4-5 hours on them. The new design probably took another 4-5 hours to design and transfer to the fabric.
First worn: just for photos
Total cost: The fabrics were leftover from other projects, and were inexpensive/free to me to begin with. The fabric would have cost about $25-35/meter if I bought it retail and I used less than a meter. The embroidery threads were in my stash, and were probably a few dollars.
I was really lucky to meet up with Mysticus Photography in her home studio to take some portraits in the apron panel along with other elements of my Viking Age Norse wardrobe.
I’m wearing my dark green under dress (serk), and a black and grey wool-blend open-front apron dress (hangerock) that wasn’t even finished by the date I took the photos… (I’ll blog more about it soon). In the photos I’m holding the bowl I purchased last year at the Fairview Studios annual pottery sale. I think it looks similar in shape to some of the pottery finds from Viking Age settlements.
Come follow me!
I cross-post all of my blog posts to my Facebook page – so if you aren’t a WordPress user, or just don’t want to hit the “subscribe” button, you can follow me on Facebook and see when I load new content. Since I don’t blog daily, I also have a few links, videos, and photos that I load to Facebook as well.
If you’d like to see my works-in-progress, you can also follow me on Instagram!