Embroidered Italian Sleeve

Another work in progress – this will eventually be an embroidered sleeve for a 15th Century farsetto (Italian doublet) for my fiance. The design is inspired by his heraldry (the lion is his primary charge) and the Caidan populace badge.


There is already a running joke at he will only be allowed to wear this farsetto at approved events (indoor only, not while eating, etc) as he is very hard on his clothes.

I have finished all the outlines and started the fill work. The outlines and fill work thus far are split stitch. I am planning on long-and-short stitch for the crescents and lion, the drapery on the sides will be in couched silk and gold, and the the banner at the bottom will eventually have the motto morte prima di disonore (death before dishonor) in pearls.

On a side note, I have decided that I need a better camera as mine doesn’t like photographing silk 🙂



Mammen-style tree of life bag

My latest project is this embroidered shoulder bag, which will be raffled to benefit to Regalia Fund at Caid Coronation tomorrow.

ImageThe embroidery is based on the ‘tree of life’ design from the Mammen cloak. The embroidery is all done in stem stitch, which is consistent with the original piece. An interesting tid-bit about the Mammen find is that the fill work is done in a darker color than the outline (ie the opposite of most modern embroidery patterns.


Viking Age Embroidered Serk

This embroidered Viking Age gown (serk) was made for Queen Cassandra of Caid for her stepping-down coronation. The cut of the serk is based on 10th century finds from Hedeby, Denmark.

ImageCassandra neckline detail June2012Cassandra back neckline June2012


There are very few examples of Viking Age embroidered motifs; two of the best are from the excavations at Oseberg and Mammen. The fragments from Oseberg are dated to the mid 9th century and include several examples of silk embroidery which were worked using stem stitch, satin stitch, surface couching and split stitch (Christensen 399). The embroidered cloak from Mammen is dated to the late 10th century and was worked in wool using stem stitch (Priest-Dorman 1997). Neither of these examples of period embroidery use stitches other than those listed.

The Dress:

Several fragments from Hedeby provide evidence for a close fitting garment with side gores and inset sleeves. Hägg believes that these fragments came from men’s tunics (Hägg 43 and 50), however since they were found without the context of a grave, it is possible that they could be women’s garments. As in Glæsel (page 64), I feel that these fragments point to a garment constructed similarly to several medieval gowns from Herjolfsnæs, Greenland. The various Herjolfsnaes gowns were constructed with gores at the center front and back, plus multiple side panels (between four and eight) to add fullness (Ostergaard 127 – 129). The Hedeby fragment has only two side panels so it would be much narrower in the skirt than the gowns from Herjolfsnæs.

The fabric used for this garment is blue linen. Blue dyed linen was used for clothing during the Viking Age, as evidenced by a smokkr fragment of blue dyed linen decorated with red string from Birka grave 563 (Thunem). Based on the Regia dye equivalency, the color used is obtainable using woad.

I draped the pattern based on the fragments from Hedeby, resulting in a two-panel gown with inset sleeves and side gores that flare from 2” just under the arm to 10”at the hem. I decided not to include the gores at center front or back as I wanted a dress with simple lines that would lay smoothly under the smokkr, or apron-dress. I drafted a standard inset sleeve based on the recipient’s measurements, with the seam under the arm. The dress has a slight train based on Viking Age depictions of women, including the Oseberg tapestry and various ‘Valkyrie’ figurines.

The Embroidery:

The motifs used for the cuff embroidery are based on a 10th century cup from at Jelling, Denmark (Roesdahl 179), and the neckline embroidery is based on an 11th century silver bowl from Gotland, Sweden (Davis 34). I chose to use designs from Viking Age metal artifacts because there are so few extant examples of Viking Age embroidery.

I chose the materials and techniques based on the silk embroideries from Oseberg, which were worked in multicolored silk using stem stitch, satin stitch, split stitch and surface couching (Christensen 399).

The embroidery was done with Soie d’Alger silk embroidery thread; the colors were chosen to coordinate with the selected fabrics. Based on the Regia dye equivalency, the colors used would be obtainable using Viking Age dyes, including woad, madder, weld, walnut shell, and kermes. Both the neckline and cuff embroideries were done using stem stich, satin stitch, split stitch and surface couching.

The neckline embroidery was worked directly on the garment (as in the Mammen find), while the silk cuffs were embroidered separately and then attached to the serk. The cuffs were backed with linen to provide a secure base for the embroidery.


Christensen, Arne Emil. Osebergfunnet Bind IV Tekstilene. Forfatterne, 2006.

Davis, Courtney. Celtic and Old Norse Designs. Dover Publications Inc, 2000.

“Dye Equivalent Colours.“ Regia Anglorum http://www.regia.org/members/dyes.htm

Glæsel, Nille. Viking Clothing. Alf Jacobsens Boktrykkeri, 2010.

Hägg, Inga. “Die Textilfunde aus dem Hafen von Haithabu.” Berichte über die AUSGRABUNGEN IN HAITHABU, 1984. Translated in part using Google Translate http://translate.google.com

Ostergaard, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textile finds in Norse Greenland. Aarhus University Press, 2004.

Priest-Dorman, Carolyn. “Viking Embroidery Stitches and Motifs,” 1997 http://www.cs.vasser.edu/~capriest/vikembroid.html.

Roesdahl Else and David M Wilson, ed. From Viking to Crusader. Rizzoli International Publications; New York, NY. 1992.

Thunem, Hilde. ”Viking Women: Aprondress.” 2011. http://urd.priv.no/viking/smokkr.html

Pelican Cloak

Pelican July2011

I made this Pelican cloak for my dear friend Dame Ismay back in 2011. This is an SCA interpretation of a cloak appropriate toPelican cloak July2011 a Scandinavian woman from the 9th to 10th century.

The design for the cloak was chosen based on images of women from the Oseberg tapestry and a ‘Valkyrie’ figurine found at Grödinge, Sweden. These images show women wearing cloaks that hang lower on the side than in back, and come to a point on the side. After experimentation, I determined that a rectangular cloak comes closest to mimicking the shape seen in these period images.

I used several embroidery stitches in this project. The outlines in the Pelican patch were done in a combination of split stitch and stem stitch, and the fill work was done using stem stitch. Both of these stitches are used in extant Viking Age embroidery – both were used in the Oseberg embroidery fragments, and stem stitch was used in the Mammen cloak.

I felt that some additional decoration was needed to tie together the piece, so I added a border using the same colors of embroidery wool using stem stitch. The spiral design is based on various Celtic crosses.

Viking Age Embroidery from Oseberg

Osebeg embroidery detail

A hidden gem of Viking Age embroidery is a series of fragments from the Oseberg boat burial. These fragments were published by Arne Emil Christensen in 2006, but to the best of my knowledge they have not been published in English and are not commonly known in the SCA.

The fragments from Oseberg are some of the most complex embroidery pieces documented to Viking Age Scandinavia. The fragments include a variety of motifs, such as animal figures inside roundels, vines, spirals and a cross. These designs were worked in multicolored silk using stem stitch, satin stitch, split stitch and surface couching. The base cloth has disintegrated, but was probably linen (Christensen 399). The scale of the embroidery is quite fine – for example, the roundels are only about 4cm across. Based on the location of the fragments with the bodies it appears that most of the embroidered fragments were attached to items of clothing; however the underlying fabrics are so fragmentary that the placement of the motifs is not clear. It appears that the Oseberg fragments were cut from a larger piece and appliquéd; some of the fragments preserve a folded edge with embroidered stitches on the back side (Christensen 391-392). The motifs and level of detail in these fragments imply that the embroidery may have originated in England (Christensen 401).

This embroidery is based on two Oseberg fragments: one fragment has a motif of two animal figures, each within a roundel; the second fragment has a vine motif. Because I wanted a larger final piece while still maintaining the original scale of the design, I added a third roundel and combined the two designs such that the vines fill the spaces around the roundels. The design is not contained within the ‘frame’ of the embroidery to mimic the original aesthetic in which the motifs were cut from a larger piece. The final design was drawn by my wonderful fiance.

Like the original, this piece is done in silk thread on linen, and uses stem stitch, split stitch and surface couching. It is not evident from the images available to me where each stitch was used, so I chose the stitch placement based on personal preference. The embroidery was done using various silk embroidery threads from my supply; since the colors of the original fragment are not specified I chose a variety of period-appropriate colors. Based on the Regia dye equivalency, the colors used would be obtainable using Viking Age dyes, including woad, madder, weld and kermes.

I chose to attach this embroidery to a Viking Age apron. This garment is worn with the smokkr (often called an apron-dress) and paired oval brooches. The primary archaeological evidence for this garment is the existence of a second set of fabric loops preserved inside the bottom of the oval brooches (Ewing 31). Also, several contemporary depictions of women appear to wear a narrow apron attached to the brooches (Ewing 38, 51, 52, 69). It appears that this apron was highly decorated (Glæsel 54) and may have been worn on ceremonial occasions.

The apron is made of red wool and the edges are hemmed using overcast stitch. The deep red color of the apron could be obtained using a long dye bath with madder and lichen (Trimble). To mimic the use of the extant fragments, I cut out the finished embroidery and appliquéd the patch onto the apron. The stitch used for this applique is not specified; I used running stitch.


Christensen, Arne Emil. Osebergfunnet Bind IV Tekstilene. Forfatterne, 2006.

“Dye Equivalent Colours.“ Regia Anglorum http://www.regia.org/members/dyes.htm

Ewing, Thor. Viking Clothing. Tempus Publishing Limited, 2006.

Glæsel, Nille. Viking Clothing. Alf Jacobsens Boktrykkeri, 2010.

Trimble, Bjo. (Maestra Flavia Beatrice Carmigniani). Personal communication.