Medieval Garments Reconstructed


Tutustumassa Herjolfsnesmekkoon Kööpenhaminassa / Examining a dress from Herjolfsnes in Copenhagen

Vuosien odotus on päättynyt ja hyppysissäni on vihdoin uunituore kappale kuuluisaa ja ihanaa Grönlantilaista vaatelöytöä (eli sitä Herjolfsnesia) esittelevästä kaavakirjasta Medieval Garments Reconstructed. Virallisesti kirja ilmestyy 2. helmikuuta, mutta tilasin omani kärsimättömänä Tanskan Kansallismuseon museokaupan verkkokaupasta, kun puskaradio tiesi kertoa että sieltä sitä jo saa.

Olen odottanut tätä kirjaa kovasti siksi, että edellisessä löytöä käsittelevässä julkaisussa vaatteita ei esitelty kaavakuvin, vaikka siinä upeat valokuvat onkin. Edelliset kaavakuvat oli piirretty melkein sata vuotta sitten löydön ollessa tuore. Niiden puutteellisuudesta ja tulkinnanvaraisuudesta on käyty kovasti keskustelua, vaikka niitä soveltamalla saa kyllä esikuvaa muistuttavia ja toimivia vaatteita.

Ensivaikutelmani kirjasta on, että siinä on mahtavia asioita ja sitten asioita joita olisin toivonut näkeväni enemmän. Olen iloinen siitä, ettei mikään vaikuta siltä että omat tulkintani olisivat niin erilaisia että koko vaatevarasto pitäisi laittaa uusiksi. On paljon juttuja, joita oikein syyhyttää päästä kokeilemaan!

Kirjassa on kolme lukua: johdatus löytöön, rekonstruktion tekeminen ja itse kaavat.

Kirjan alkupuoli ja erityisesti kankaan tekemisestä kertovat osuudet ovat kerrassaan mainioita ja antavat paljon Woven Into the Earthinsa sataan kertaan lukeneellekin. Jo näiden takia kirja kannattaa ostaa.

Valitettavasti pikkutarkka ote lopahtaa kun siirrytään kankaan kudonnasta vaatteiden ompeluun. Se on minulle pettymys siksi, että räätälintaidot ovat erityisen lähellä sydäntäni.  Herjolfsnesin löydön ehdoton kauneus on minusta siinä, miten huolella ja upeasti vaatteet on ommeltu. Lautanauhahuolittelut, kaulusten litistäminen pikkiriikkisillä etupistoilla, erilaiset saumatyypit ja muut yksityiskohdat osoittavat todellista taidokkuutta silloisen tunnetun maailman laidalta.

Ompelupuolesta kirja tarjoaa kuitenkin samat kaavakuvat ja tiedot kuin Woven into the Earthkin. Valokuvat erilaisista työtavoista ja seikkaperäisemmät selostukset olisivat avanneet esimerkiksi footweavingia, joka on askarruttanut monia. Valokuvien puute selittyy sillä, että kirjassa esitellyt rekonstruktiot on kaikki ommeltu koneella ja huoliteltu puuvillanauhalla. Minusta edes yhden puvun tuottaminen käsin edellä mainituilla tekniikoilla olisi lisännyt kirjan antia huomattavasti. Tulee mieleen, että rahoitus on loppunut kesken tai projektille on muuten tullut kiire. Muuten rekonstruktion laittaminen alkuperäisen puvun rinnalle on hyvä idea, joka auttaa muodostamaan käsitystä mekosta uutena.

Itse kaavaosuus tarjoaa kauan kaivatut kaavat parhaiten säilyneistä vaatekappaleista: 9 mekkoa (aikuisten ja lasten, miesten ja naisten mekkoja ei ole eroteltu toisistaan, koska sukupuolen määritys on näiden vaatteiden kohdalla vaikeaa) 6 huppua, kaksi lakkia ja kaksi sukkaa. Kaavaosuudessa on paljon tarpeellista tietoa alkuperäisten vaatteiden kappaleiden tämänhetkisestä muodosta. Uudet, vaatteiden valmistamista varten tarkoitetut kaavat on tehty lisäämällä symmetriaa. Lapsille on tarjolla senttikoot ja aikuisille koot S-L.

Odotan ihan mielenkiinnolla sitä, millaisia vaatteita näiden ohjeiden perusteella syntyy. Ajatus keskiaikavaatteesta M-koossa on hieman outo, kun on tottunut tekemään niitä aina mittojen mukaan, käyttäjänsä päälle. Tätä ajatusta olisin ehkä kaavojen ohjeissa korostanut enemmän.

Eniten muotoon leikattujen vaatteiden kohdalla kaavojen yksilöllisyys nousee väistämättä esiin. Pidän Nethertonin Medieval Clothing ja Textilesissä esittämää teoriaa siitä, että sivukiilat ovat alunperin olleet kolmioita ja saaneet lopullisen muotonsa istutuksen myötä, hyvinkin todennäköisenä. Jos kolmioita työstää ylävartalon mukaan, lopputulos muistuttaa alkuperäisen mekon sivukiilaa, mutta on kuitenkin jokaisella vähän erilainen. Siksi pohdituttaa saadaanko valmiiksi muotoon leikatulla sivukiilalla kaikille sopivaa muotoa.

Kirja siis kannattaa ehdottomasti ostaa jos on kiinnostunut keskiajan pukeutumisesta, mutta sen pohjalta työskennellessään kannattaa käyttää omaa harkintaa ja muokata kaavaa itselleen sopivaksi tarvittavista kohdista. Niinkuin nyt aina kaikissa käsityöprojekteissa, keskiajalla ja tänään.

***(I’m sorry for the possible mistakes in the translation, I have a cold and I’m super tired, but I want to get this little review out today. Usually my English isn’t absolutely hopeless. Maybe.)

I’ve waited for this book since April 2009 – now I finally have a fresh copy on my hands! Medieval Garments Reconstructed presents some new  and some familiar information on the fascinating and famous garments excavated from norse Greenland. The official publication date is on the 2nd of February, but I decided to put an end to my not-so-patient wait and order a book from the museum shop in Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen as soon as I head through the medievalist grapevine that you could already buy the book from there.

I have been looking forward to this book mostly because I knew it would include what I missed most in Woven into the Earth – new pattern drawings of the garments. Before this book, we’ve had to work from line drawings form almost a hundred years ago, when the garments were excavated. And there has been much talk on how accurate the line drawings from the 1920’s actually are, even though working from them produces a look that is very similar to the norse garments in their present state.

My first impression of the book was that it contained some really great things and then left out some things I had really hoped would have been included. I’m happy that the book didn’t make me question my entire wardrobe (our conclusions are very similar) and that it gave me a ton of ideas I can’t wait to try out. I think I’ll never stop being fascinated by these items.

The book consists of three chapters. They cover the find, the textile production and sewing and the last chapter covers the actual patterns.

The first part of the book is fantastic and very detailed. I especially enjoyed the description of the textile production. It provides a lot of new information also for those of us that have read Woven into the Earth (WITE) a hundred times over.

Unfortunately the book loses the meticulous detail once it progresses to the garment construction. This is a pity, not only because I have a passion for tailoring but because for me the beauty of the Herjolfsnes garments lies in the expertise and care that has been put into the finishing. The tiny stab stitches, the different seam types, the tablet woven edges show great skill from the very edge of the medieval known world.

The sewing part consists mostly of stuff that has been published in WITE. (And they have also chosen to include the button making technique from Textiles and Clothing which doesn’t produce the kind of buttons it is supposed to.) It was disappointing that the writers have not applied the same detail to the tailoring as to the weaving. I would have enjoyed pictures of some of the finishing provesses, like footweaving, which would have shed more light on the how to than just the drawings.

The reason why there are none of these illustrations is that all of the reproductions produced for this book were machine sewn and finished with cotton tape. It would have contributed very much to the book if they had sewn up even one of them by hand and tried out and illustrated the techinques. I cannot help thinking that they may have run out of time or funding? Otherwise I think it is brilliant to include a reconstruction next to the picture of the actual find. It helps illustrate what the garment would have looked like when new.

The book provides patterns on the most well preserved items: 9 dresses (some for children and some for adults. There is no specific information on which garments are for men and which for women, because the gender differentation for these garments _is _ very difficult), 6 hoods and two caps and two different kinds of hose. The patterns include the shapes of what the garments look like now as well as evened out and sized patterns for making clothes to fit yourself. Childrens clothing has children’s sizes in cm, adult sizes are S-L.

I look forward to seeing how the patterns work out when people start using them to make their own clothes. The idea of medieval clothes in S or L sounds a bit odd at first, especially since I’m so used to the concept of making clothes to measure and tailoring and fitting them onto people. I think I would have given the concept of fitting a little more thought in the instructions on how to use the patterns.

This question becomes most evident when working with the more fitted styles of garment (type 1b), I suppose. I think that Nethertons theory from her article in Medieval Clothing and Textiles is very plausible: that the side gores were originally cut out as triangles anf then fitted to the person the garment was made for. When fitting a triangle the end result is very much like the shape of the side gores in the original – yet slightly different on each person.  This makes me wonder what kind of a fit a side gore that has been shaped already when cut out will provide.

All in all I think the book is a worth while purchase to everyone interested in medieval clothing. However, when making garments with the help of this book it is good to give the project good thought and fit the pattern to match ones persona size and shape. But then again, that is something that has to be thought about whenever one is making clothes. Like I’m sure they did  in medieval Herjolfsnes.


9 thoughts on “Medieval Garments Reconstructed

  • Annika

    Great review! I completely agree with you on the amount of information given in the different chapters. You go from this lovely neardy book and then in the end you feel a bit like they abandoned their detalied aproach and you are left with a general pattern part that suits people who aren’t really interested in how they did back ni the days but care more about how to quickly put together something ”medievalish”. One thing that bothered me a bit is that they made all the new copies of the clothing in this boring coloured fabric. I had hoped they would have shown a bit more of the colour spectra from the middle ages. But that could also be due to lack of funding – all the fabric was donated to the project as far as I remember…

  • Petronilla

    I liked the book a lot. Of course one has to take the ready made fitted patters with a grain of salt, but the book was all in all very informative. I didn’t have the other, older book that you mentioned, so this one has given me much to think about.

    The one thing, that I could not pass was the cutting instructions. They were very modern and did not use the fabric economically as it should be used. What a waste!

    I have to try that M shaped cut on the sharp end of gores with my next dress. It must give a neater end result, othervice it would be a waste of work and hence not used.

  • Catherine Raymond

    Great review! Because I didn’t have much time to spend, I concentrated on the visual aspects of the book in mine, but you have given a good summary of the contents.

    I think that the authors very specifically undertook this book because of the success of Woven Into The Earth. In fact, I really think they are assuming that anyone interested enough to buy it will already have obtained Woven Into The Earth first. That’s unfortunate for any reenactors who do not own a copy and want to determine whether the new book is of use to them, but it’s not surprising that they did not want to repeat themselves.

  • Katrin

    Thanks for the review – I’m chafing at the bit to receive my own pre-ordered copy to see for myself.
    And that’s a totally awesome picture that you have on top of your post!

  • Vix Hq

    Very good review!
    I have the Danish version myself, so I’m a little curious how the English translation works.

    And like everybody else, I think it’s a great loss that they didn’t do the handsewing… I didn’t mind the fabric being drab, though. After all, the originals weren’t dyed either, but they could have varied the different shades of the wool a little…even in the machine-made fabrics.

    I think there is a point to the standardised modern sizes and the ahistorical cutting instructions – to make the book useful/accessible to first-time costumers, theatre costumers and non-medievalist museum tailors. People who need to reproduce several costumes in different sizes quickly and sometimes without anyone to try them on beforehand… Most of us diehards won’t use those exact patterns anyway since we tend to do a lot of fitting onto the wearer. For that reason I really like that they included the grey shapes of the originals in the pattern drawings. Now we can compare the preserved bits and the evened out pattern and see what shapes to aim for!

    I also think it’s a pity they only showed the reconstructed clothes lying flat – it would (literally!) have added another dimension to see them on a person, or at least on a mannequin. Clothes are meant to be worn and sometimes more theoretically orientated costume historians/archaeologists (I _don’t_ mean the authors of the book!) tend to forget that a cutting diagram or a line drawing is not the same thing as piece of clothing on a body. If they had included a picture of each garment being used as well, the connection between the orignals, the patterns, and the flattened reconstructions would have been explored more fully. It would have been really interesting to see their interpretation of that last step, to take the reconstruction into the third dimension where it belongs.

  • Genevieve

    Very helpful to have the review!
    Having met some of the authors of such books at conferences (including Ms Ostergard of WITE, and Kay Staniland from MoL Textiles and Clothing)…I’d say that scholars are not always tailors and sempstresses.

    Their strengths are description of finds, analysis, document research and comparison to other finds. Researchers who actually *make* garments to recreate the originals are rare indeed. The ladies who wrote the Tudor Tailor, for instance, are not academics, but reenactors first, and authors second.

    I agree with your commenter that the target audience may well be novice costumers or museum staff who aren’t sewing mavins. It does seem a great waste to document all these fine techniques, but not use them!

    Regards,

    Gf

  • Robyn

    Since I am new to later-than-viking period norse stuff: what buttons would you recommend?

    • Elina Post author

      The none of the Herjolfsnes garments had any buttons still attached to them, but some fabric buttons were excavated along with the clothes. These are like the “usual” medieval fabric buttons, fabric gathered into a ball. There are several tutorials online, this one is quite nice: http://medievaltailor.com/demonstrations/buttons/ (I do mine a bit differently, everyone I’m sure has their tips and tricks)
      So fabric buttons like those are the ones I would recommend – but btw: the norse greenlanders also had buttons made of walrus bone – small round ones with a loop at the bottom.

  • Elina Post author

    Kommentit tälle sivulle piti sulkea, koska tuli niin monia spämmikommentteja :(
    Had to disable comments for this page, due to so much comment spam. :(

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