Kaarina Iron Age Hat

Photo above from Beothuk’s Flickr feed. Direct link, no copyright violation intended.

In another instalment of “how much work can I do last-minute before an event?” I decided to tackle the Kaarina Iron Age (Finnish) hat.

This is a much-later post, as I actually made this earlier, but never actually finished it off, so put off posting this. As I’m going through my archive of drafts, I figured I’d share it – even in the stage it’s in.

I decided to do this as a “look and feel” project, rather than one with a huge amount of research and documentation, because… well… I couldn’t easily find a lot of information quickly – and I decided to work on this on Thursday afternoon…. the event started Friday night. (Though I wouldn’t be working on it until Saturday daytime… just no time between Friday and Saturday to work on it.)

My “Getting started” inspiration came almost entirely from the Finnish Iron Age Facebook group.

The grave

  • The grave at  Kaarina Kirkkomäki grave #1 is from the 11th century, and is that of a female.
  • Grave #31 is the 11-12th century, and was also female. This grave also had a bronze knife sheath
  • Graves #21, 23, 27, and 40 have been dated to the 11th century, and are female. These graves also had bronze items.
  • Grave #24 is 11th century as well, and is gendered male. This grave also included bronze items.

Each of these graves also included Naalbinding fragments, which is how I first came across this grave find. (Source: http://www.sarks.fi/masf/masf_2/SLT_02_Vajanto.pdf Nålbinding in Prehistoric Burials – Reinterpreting Finnish 11th–14th-century AD Textile Fragments) 

I’m not entirely sure which grave the hat came out of yet (this will require more research) though I presume it came out of a female-gendered grave, and feel confident that I can include this hat in an outfit based on one from the 11th century.


I have seen a few photographs on the Facebook group, and so have included those here. All due respect to the photographer and the creator – these are included only for my own research (and anyone else also doing research,) and links to the original sources are included to give proper credit to their owners.

Unknown Museum

This is a photo – source unknown, though it appears to be a museum display of a reproduction of the complete Kaarina outfit. It includes a knife sheath, embroidered peplos, coil-trimmed apron, underdress, brooches, fabric belt, necklace, and the hat.  I’m sure with further research I can find more information about this reproduction.

I can’t see the back of the hat, and note that the peplos is worn open at the sides, like the peplos that I made as well.

The hat has coils at the bottom edge (the bottom of the band) in a smooth line, albeit with a break at centre front. I can not tell from this photo if there are coils at the top of the hat or not, nor can I tell from this photo if the hat has a tip (top part closing up the top of the hat).

Proportionately it looks as though the hat is about as tall as the face (not the head).

Estonian Museum

This photo was taken by Mervi Pasanen at the Estonian National Museum, at a display she attended. The photo shows a shawl with different dye tests for colour, and the hat. The hat clearly has an extended back with some kind of decoration at the tip.  I can not see the top of the hat in any way, but it appears that the bottom edge of the hat is trimmed with a smooth line of coils. I can not tell if there is a break in the coils at centre front or not.

This was apparently made by researcher Krista Vajanto, who I have referenced in previous Finnish Iron Age research.

Mervi said that the hat is lined in birch bark, a commonly available material. The hat is not lined with fabric, and she suggests that it was used to shape the hat, and could have been replaced if needed.

Proportionately it looks as though the hat is about as tall as the face (not the head).

Estonian Museum

This reconstruction above I find the most interesting and useful. It shows an open top hat (though I presume, as the other hats show that the circumference on the top opening is smaller than the bottom opening) with no tip. Both edges are trimmed in coils, though not a totally smooth line of coils – the coils are pieced together to fill the space. There is a gap in the coils in the centre top front and centre bottom front of the hat. There is an extended back “flap” which has some kind of embellishment -it looks like contrast thread used to sew the two flaps together, (though this could also be a very narrow tablet weaving embellishment) and then the threads have been woven more roughly or braided together or something. The hat is lined in birch bark.

This photo was also taken by Mervi Pasanen at the Estonian National Museum, at a display she attended.

Pinterest sketch – Kaarina

This image is directly from Pinterest (sorry if the link breaks in future). Most of these illustrations are used by reconstructions, but I don’t know how accurate they are based on the actual evidence. It also shows a hat tapered at the top with coils at the top and bottom of the hat. Proportionately the hat looks shorter than the face, and the hat is missing the gap of coils at the centre that the reconstructions had. The illustration doesn’t show the back of the hat.

Other illustrations from this series which include headwear include:

  • The Aino costume which includes a plain veil.
  • The Perniö costume which includes a coil-embellished headband similar to Latvian finds.
  • The Kaukola costume which includes a dark veil and a Trichinopoly crescent-shaped headband/head ornament.
  • The Muinais-Karjalan costume which has a light veil and a Trichinopoly crescent-shaped headband/head ornament.

In addition to the Kaarina costume, there is a second costume that these illustrations reference – the Masku costume.

Masku costume

Pinterest image

This illustration shows pretty much the identical hat as the Kaarina hat.

This reconstruction from National Costume.org is listed as 12th century rather than 11th century. The hat appears to be dark blue with coils top and bottom, though not the same height all the way around. The photo doesn’t appear to show the back of the hat.

Future reading

Once more on the Finnish Iron Age Facebook group, in September 2020, member Hanna Roju mentioned Finnish archaeologist Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander and a book she referred to as “Euran Puku”. She posted two photos from the book with the hat featured, but not screenshots of the pages themselves to provide context.


At this point my hat had been long made (see below) but since I knew I’d want to come back to this at some point, I began taking rough notes to come back to later.

From Wikipedia:

Lehtosalo-Hilander has worked extensively e.g. with the Luistari Burial Ground in Eura, Southern Finland. The Luistari site is the largest known Iron Age burial ground in Finland. The site has served also as a place of residence already in the Bronze Age, but the remains of the residence/residences have been nearly entirely destroyed later when the burial ground was built.

Archaeologists have investigated already over 1300 graves of adults and children at the Luistari site. Based on the excavations, the burials were made between the years 500 AD and 1200 AD. Archaeologists have found several remains of clothing, jewelry and other items at the Luistari site.

Lehtosalo-Hilander has also focused on ancient Finnish dresses. Costumes have been made according to dress fragments found in prehistoric graves. These costumes have become the festal garments of many Finnish women.

The book, Euran puku: Ja muut muinaisvaatteet (I’m expecting this to be Eura Costume: and other historical clothing) is, of course, in Finnish, and is listed on AdLibris for 420kr (Just under $65.00 Canadian) which is well out of my price range right now.
WorldCat says there’s a copy in a library in France, but as I’m no longer associated with the university, getting an inter-library loan is harder.  At this point in time, I think getting a copy of the book is unlikely, but may remain an option for future reading.

  • This lead also led me to a Facebook group which seems to be a page for people re-creating the Eura outfit, Euran muinaispuku, which is also all in Finnish so I’ll need to go back with translate another time.
  • This also led me to KALMISTOPIIRI ‘Cemetery District’ which had an interview with the archaeologist, however the site contains an interesting survey of possible articles to look further at. Albeit, once again, in Finnish which is not super Google-Translate friendly.
  • Further, I was able to find ‘Euran emäntä eli Luistarin Lempi’ – Eura’s mistress aka Luistarin Lempi. which looks to be a deeper site to look into – but as a first glance…. there’s a photo of the Eura grave site so many of these costumes are based on… so this seems like a good lead.
  • Finally, I followed the rabbit holes to ‘Heijastuma viikinkiajoilta – Luistarin kalmisto Eurassa‘ – Reflection from the Viking Age – Luistari Cemetery in Eura, which also has information about the original graves.

Ultimately, being able to search IN FINNISH I think gives me a lot more leads, rather than searches in English. However of course.. this all requires significantly more work on my part – needing to translate everything I want to read, and ‘read between the lines’ since translations aren’t perfect.

However.. this is more for general / Eura finds.. and not actually the Kaarina and Masku finds which include this hat… despite it being included in the book that brought me here.

My version

As I mentioned, I did this on a really short deadline, to add some extra interest to a costume that was MUCH better researched.


I started by harvesting some birch bark from logs cut from a tree from my backyard. Cutting bark off living trees can damage the trees, and they don’t grow their bark back as it was – they grow back dark apparently, so when our tree needed pruning, I kept a few logs. I used a chisel and hammer to remove a fairly thick sheet of bark from the log, peeling off as large of a sheet as I could at one time without it breaking. I wasn’t able to get more than about 5″ at a time, and not as long as the log was around unfortunately.

If I were to do this again, I’d try to find larger logs, and hopefully more freshly cut.


Boiling the bark to attempt to shape and clean it

Boiling the bark to attempt to shape and clean it

Some of the bark had what looked like mold or something on it, so I opted to boil the bark (with a bit of lemon juice) to try to clean it and kill any nastiness.

Since the tree was cut in the fall (and I was doing this in February) I also read that steaming/putting the bark in hot water would make it more pliable. I was amused that the bark curled up like a cinnamon stick when it was put in the water, but I could straighten it out again when it came out of the water. I layered some trays on top of the bark with some weight to allow them to dry flat. I suspected that I might need to re-steam them to get the curve back in for the curve of the hat though.

The coiled "cinnamon stick" of bark.

The coiled “cinnamon stick” of bark.

Hat base

PIllbox=style hat frame

PIllbox=style hat frame

Next I made a buckram base for the hat – although in period the shape would have been the fabric over the bark… I didn’t trust the bark alone to hold up to my transportation needs for my SCA costumes and travels.

I started with a pillbox style of frame, wiring both edges of the hat, and then added an overlay with the “tail” portions of the hat. Sewing it together I’m not totally sure that the shape is perfect, but thought it made a really good first start. Parts of the tail I sewed by machine for speed.

Once I had the buckram base, I covered it with a really lovely blue wool (blend) twill; scraps from making my Byzantine cloak. In period this would have been actual wool, but I thought the colour was perfect, and it’s mostly wool… I sewed the fabric onto the hat by hand, but didn’t line the frame, since the hat will be “lined” in bark.

Covering the hat base with fabric.

Covering the hat base with fabric.

Adding coils & fringe

During the event itself, I continued to make additional coils, after having already made….. a lot…. for my embellished apron. These were hand-stitched onto the top and bottom edges, leaving a break in the centre front at the top and bottom edges.

I made the fringe by stay stitching one end of a suitably shaped piece of fabric and then pulling the weft threads, leaving only the warp threads. To add a little more “oomph” I doubled up this piece of fabric so the fringe would be more impressive.
Photo above from Beothuk’s Flickr feed. Direct link, no copyright violation intended.

Nearly Finished

With lots of work, I finished the hat to a wearable stage in time for court.

Because I was competing for the Arts & Sciences Kingdom Championship – I had to stay at my display table for the whole event anyways, so having something to work on between talking to people about my projects (naalbound mittens from handspun wool, a coil-embellished Finnish apron, and a trichinopoly Finnish 11th Century necklace) was great to keep my nerves at bay.
Photo above from Beothuk’s Flickr feed. Direct link, no copyright violation intended.

Birch lining

However…. I did not have the time to work with the birch to create a lining.

I also had… well… worn myself out with the projects (I also made the Finnish Iron Age costume I wore including a SECOND coil-embellished apron) and didn’t feel an urgent desire to finish off this hat. I also was concerned that I didn’t have enough birch bark to really make the lining work as intended smoothly (so that seams or overlaps wouldn’t catch on my hair).

To this date… I still haven’t lined the hat with birch – though I did get a wealth of more bark from my boyfriend when his friend cut down some trees…. so perhaps in time I’ll find the opportunity to finish this hat.

If any of my readers have suggestions on how to do this effectively – please leave a comment!

Historical Sew Monthly

I’m very behind in contributing to the Historical Sew Monthly 2020 challenges, but this project fulfills one of the themes, so I’m calling it good…

The Challenge: August: Celebration: Make something for a specific historical celebration, make something generally celebration worthy, make something that celebrates a historical hero, or just make something that celebrates some new skills you’ve learned.

This hat was worn for my competition… and during the celebration of winning the Kingdom A&S championship!

Material: Buckram, wool blend, brass wire (eventually, birch bark)

Pattern: self-drafted based on evaluation of museum recreations

Year: 11th Century Finnish

Notions: wire, thread (the wire for the buckram I’m calling a notion, whereas the wire for the coils I’m calling a material….)

How historically accurate is it?:  The buckram is not accurate, because I was unprepared to base it entirely on birch bark. In some areas I used machine stitching, where hand-stitching would have been too difficult on my already very sore hands (from all that coiling!) Besides that, the shape and construction is as close to accurate given the very limited information I could find about this item.

Hours to complete: Not sure – likely around 4 for the main construction, and another 3 for the coils.

First worn: Winter Crown

Total cost: I’m guessing there’s about $10 in brass wire that was bought for this project and the other coil projects. The wool was bought at Fabricland, but was leftovers from the Byzantine Cloak I had made earlier. The birch bark I’ll eventually use was harvested for free. The buckram, fringe, and millinery wire was in my stash.

2 comments on “Kaarina Iron Age Hat

  1. […] proportions!  (Plus, if you read my blog, you know that I am a fan of enormous, ridiculous hats.) At this point I also questioned the measurements – since Bernadette was wearing hers more […]

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