Friday, March 21, 2014

Moselund Kirtle

The Moselund Kirtle

Top, Extant Garment; Bottom, My Reconstruction

Crafted and documented by Tiarna Bránn mac Finnchad

The Find
The Moselund gown was discovered in a bog 1884, in the Moselund Region of Central Jutland (Denmark), on a male bog body.  The body is stated to have been 180cm (6 feet) tall, and has been radiocarbon dated to between 1050-1155AD.  It does not seem like there has been much in the way academic studies on the findjust about every page I have found refers to Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials by Margrethe Hald[1]. 
The original museum reconstructionsince the threads had dissolved and the garment was in all of its separate pieceswas as some kind of strange trouser suit with a matching cape[i].  In 1938-1939[2] it was re-examined and sewn together in its current configuration. 

Central Jutland
The Moselund find is a tunic, corresponding to Nockert Type 2[i] or Nørlund Type Ic[ii], with front and back slits.  It is a fairly loose fit, though with close shoulders, and semi set-in sleeves (complete with S sleeve heads).  It appears to be mid-calf in length (approximately 49 inches in length, according to my calculations).  There appears to be little to no signs of wear before it ended up in the bog, with its unfortunate wearer.
It has been declared as the only surviving example of the blaðakyrtill (of the Icelandic Sagas)[iii].  Looking into the term, kyrtill does mean kirtlenothing odd therebut blað means leaf, blade, or skirt (of a kirtle).  Blaðra can also mean to flutter to and fro, which may be an apt description of the skirts of this garment when being worn in the wind or whilst riding.[iv]

From Marc Carlson's Webpage

 Due to the decomposition of the threads, we do not actually know for certain how the garment goes togetherhowever, the museum in 1939 made its best, reasonable guess, based on their current knowledge.  I did look at a couple other options (rearranging pieces, etc.) and, personally, I feel that this is the most reasonable way to assemble the pieces, based on the various measurements (which match up nicely, in the side seams).

The pieces:  Backrectangular; Frontboth narrower and shorter than the back, with curved armscyes and slanted shoulders; Two side gores, consisting of three (left side) and four (right side) pieces, which slant up behind the back shoulder; Two pleat topped center gores (front two pieces, back is one piece with a slit); Two sleeves with S curved sleeve heads and what seems to be an elbow pocket”.


Extant Materials

The Moselund kirtle was sewn of a brownish vaðmal[i] in a 2/1 twill weave of Z and S spun wool, at 14/10 threads per centimeter[ii].  The woven fabric was fulled.  No traces of thread were foundbased on this, I believe it was sewn with linen, which would dissolve in the  same acidic environment which will preserve wool[iii].


My Goals
My goals in making this garment were:
·       To discover, for myself, exactly how the garment fits and goes together.
·       To show my ability to draft a pattern off of an extant garment, and my crafting ability.
·       To challenge my ability to document a project like this, to draft proportionate measurements, and to force my faith that those measurements are, indeed, correct.
I chose the Moselund Kirtle for my Queens Artisans project for the following considerations:
·       I felt it was a project of sufficient complexity to qualify, in my mind;
·       The style of project suits memaking a garment as close to period as I can, focusing on the detail of accuracy of cut and construction, and not the decoration (I dont particularly enjoy wearing fancy clothing).
·       The Moselund Kirtle is something that had been on my project list for several years (complete with fabric).
·       And finally, because I have been unable to find any documentation for close reproductions of this garment onlinethus forcing me to make my own decisions (right or wrong) when constructing this garment.
There was no information available on the means by which the pieces were put together.  Therefore, the following are my own decisions (which I will attempt to outline the reasoning for) based on my knowledge of period seams[1], application of a magnifying glass to an image of the Moselund kirtle laid out[i] as I looked for evidence of stitching, and my theories as to the meaning of the evidence I did see[2].
Main Seams (outside)
Stab stitch and whipstitch
Select "invisible" seams (inside)
Fine stab stitch, and blind whipstitch
I chose two treatments for the construction.  The majority was done by felling the seam allowances to the side with a stab stitch (chosen because it is similar, but neater than a running stitch), and the pieces sewn together right sides together with a whip stitch.  The second seam type is the opposite, with the pieces sewn right side together with a stab stitch, and the seam allowances felled with a blind whipstitch (which is invisible from the right side). 
I am nowafter the construction is completehaving doubts about my theories.  I will discuss this in the section on construction.
Looking at the majority of the edges on the pieces (exceptions being the long seams down the arms, and the horizontal seams on the side gores), you can see that they are folded under and you can see a faint puckering, such as that left by a running stitch.  I also felt that the fact that the allowances were still pressed under after all these years was due to the use of a whipstitch (to join the pieces), which would compress the edge morepossibly leading to what I saw.
In the exceptions mentioned above, the seam allowances, while still pressed under, did not have as pronounced an edge.  I also did not see the puckering that led me to believe that a running stitch was used to fell the seam allowances.
My Materials
I chose, of course, a twill woven wool which had been washed and fulled, from my fabric stash (and originally from Joanns).  The colour is a dark chocolate brown I like, and that I felt would contrast nicely with the white of the stitching that forms the only decoration.  I believe that it is more loosely woven than the material in the extant garment.
The thread used was a 60/2 white linen thread[i], waxed for stitching.  However, I ran out of this about half way through the project, and was unable to get any more in time to continuetherefore, some of the stitching is with a bleached cotton thread[ii], which I chose as it has a similar size to the linen.
Drafting the Pattern
To draft my pattern I relied heavily on the images of the Moselund gown laid out prior to the stitching in 1939[i].  I took measurements of every piece in the photographs, in millimeters, and noted them down (using the image on Marc Carlson’s Moselund page to keep track[ii]).  I then figured out the scale of the pieces to my own measurements, by dividing the shoulder measurement of the garment (in mm) by my own (front) shoulder measure.  I chose to go off from the shoulder, as I felt that the garment was fairly fitted at that point.  This gave me the number I had to divide every measurement by.  At that point it was a simple matter to figure out the dimensions of each piece.  One of the things I found at this point was that the build of the man the extant garment was made for was likely extremely similar to my ownone of the exact measurements I have of the original[iii], came out to less than a 0.04 inch difference from my proportionate one! 
However, when I came to the sleeves, I found that I would have to use a different scale, since my arms are longer.  This was based on my sleeve length measurement, to the similar one on the pattern.  For the sleeve width measurements, I used the average of the two proportions.
Notated pattern and my cutting layout
To determine the grain lines, since is wasn’t the easiest to see in the photos, I cut out a little triangular piece of paper; with one side vertical, the other edge was at the same angle as the visible twill line.  Therefore, all I had to do was line up the one second edge with a portion of the twill and it showed which way the grain was actually running.
Body and Side gores
Both the front and back slits are slightly off center at the bottomthey do not have even amounts of fabric on both sides.  In the case of the front, there is a 1.45 inch difference between the widths of the right (narrower) and left sides.  In the back, it’s about half that0.7 inches, again with the left side wider.  In addition, the slits are more of a very narrow triangle1.2 inches were removed from the back, and 2.85 inches from the front[1].

Top of a side gore (right side).  It's not a straight edge for a reason...
I miscalculated the seam allowances.
Another set of pieces which are bi-laterally asymmetrical are the bottoms of the side goresonce again, the left is 1.4 inches wider than the right side.  What this means, is that in the museum construction  of the Moselund gown the left side of the skirts are 4.3 inches larger (at the hem) than the right side.  When I got to thinking about this, I started wondering if the side gore bottoms should be reversed (which would be a 1.42 inch difference).  What brought me to that thought is trying to ascertain a reason for the slits being off centermy main thought being that it was a mistake…which would be slightly corrected on the sides, if I am correct.
Center Gores
The back gore is just a trapezoid, with a hemmed center slit part of the way (about 5/6ths ) up.  The four prongs are even, with the center two being slightly wider than the outside ones.  The front gores are, once again, asymmetrical; with the left gore being about 0.35 inches wider than the right, and the pleat prongs reflect this.  I did not make them so on my rendition, due to neglect.

Back Gore, prior to any stitching.
The sleeves of the Moselund kirtle are interesting, since they are--to the best of my knowledge--the earliest found "set in" sleeves.  As you can see, they have an S type sleeve head, putting the seam down the back of the arm.  The photo is of the right sleeveonce again they are asymmetrical, with the left sleeve having a deeper curve (by about 1.3 inches), to accommodate the slightly larger armscye measurement (which was replicated on my replica, though not intentionally).  They start to taper like a regular sleeve, then flare out at the elbow to give additional room to bend, then taper to the wrist.  There is a possibility that the sleeves on the original were closer fitting than on mine, depending on the bicep measurement of the man found wearing it. 
In retrospect, I probably should have followed the same measures, but was concerned about the armscye measurement not being large enough (it was, by plenty).  If I make another kirtle to this pattern, I will do so.

Right Sleeve
After cutting the majority of the pieces out, with the exception of the sleeves, I began sewing, starting with the back gore, then progressing around to the front.  Before being sewn together, almost every edge got hemmed with a stab stitch.  Once all of the body pieces were assembled, I had to work on the sleeves. 

Assembled Back
I essentially took the measures from the extant again, marked where the high and low points of the head were, and drafted the sleeve[1].  It was sewn into the armscye with a whipstitch, with extra reinforcing at the bottom, where the side seam is.
A sleeve
I chose to sew the hemsboth bottom and sleevewith a blind whipstitch to cover the raw edge, then supported with rows of stab stitch (only one, in the case of the bottom hem).
On the center gores, I first hemmed them (including the slit on the back), measured and cut the pleats, then sewed the raw edges to the inside with a stab stitch.  They then got sewn along the long edges with a whipstitch, making sure there was one half to a third of an inch of overlap at the top.  This was sewn under the seam at the top of the slit.

Seams:  Once I completed the garment I realized that the seams should have been treated slightly differently, particularly for the gores.  I now believe that the center, and side gores should have been sewn in so that they would lay underneath the bodyi.e. sewn in, and had both sides of the seam allowance stitched down to the body side of the seam.  What this would do is change the drape, so that it would fold in at that point.  When I was planning the seams out I did think about this, but somehow missed the meaning of the partially unfolded allowances on the gore edges.
For the period (1050-1155), it is a very interesting garment, what with the fitted shoulders and set in sleeves.  Even though I was uncertain about some the fit of some pieces, such as how the back works, since it is larger than the front, it has come out correctly because I followed by measurements.  After taking a number of measurements, I found that it was not bi-laterally symmetrical.
What I learned
For one, that I really don’t like dealing in 1/10th inch fractions (or less)partially because of this, I made some errors in working out the piece widths including seam allowances.  I think that before I attempt another project like this I will invest in an engineers ruler, with its decimal measures, and pay better attention.  I figured out the best way for me to keep a line of stitching straight (weight the fabric against the table, and keep the seam perpendicular to myself). 
What I Would do Differently (if I made this again):
I would pay better attention to the seam allowances, and measuring them out.  I would also sew the gores in so they are “under” the material of the body.  Another adjustment would be to make the sleeves to the standard scale instead of an averaged one.

Time: 54 hours and 40 minutes
Please feel free to comment.

The Footnotes and Endnotes should be in the correct order, even if they do not have the original numbers 


[1] Which, naturally, I am unable to get my hands on.
[2] There is a discrepancy there, between Woven into the Earth and the webpage.
[1] Mostly from the Archaeological Sewing page, by Heather Rose Jones.
[2] Which may be completely incorrect.  However, I stand by my logic, such as it is.
[1] Note: These measurements do not include seam allowances, which were added to/from mine

Ø  Ostergard, Else  Woven into the Earth.  Aahus University Press.  2009
Ø  Carlson, Marc .  Image 2 is from here.
Ø  Zoëga, Geir T. Icelandic Dictionary
[ii] Woven Into the Earth.  Page 128
[iii] Woven into the Earth.  Page 141
[iv] The interpretation  is mine (someone who does not know any Icelandic).  Dictionary used:
[i] Woven into the Earth. Page 135.  Referencing Ancient Danish Textiles by Hald.

[ii] Woven into the Earth. Page 138

[i] Woven into the Earth.  Pages 136-137 

[ii] Coats& Clark 100% Mercerized Cotton, Machine quilting

[i] Woven into the Earth.  Pages 136, 137

© John Frey, 2014.  The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies. 


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