Viking/Rus 9th-11th Century Embroidered Fur Hat Completed

Finally! I said I was going to finish up some partially finished bits of garb while I was stuck on bed rest. Since that declaration, we had to make a trip to Corpus Christi to get the last of our belongings out of storage (I should have stayed in bed), started working on a previous piece of garb I ran out of supplies for, and learned a new skill–mostly from my bed.

I had started this project after we attended Diamond Wars “The Battle of the Meats” in Arkansas, the weekend before Halloween. I thought I was going to freeze to death at that event, and came home determined to make a fur-lined hat. But what sort of persona would wear a fur-lined hat?

Currently, I am working a very loose Viking persona, and I knew the type of hat I wanted had been worn at some point in Russia. I started wondering if the Vikings were ever in Russia. Could my persona have emigrated?

What do you know? Not only are my musings plausible, they are downright probable! In 862, Novgorod, Russia, is founded by the Viking, Ulrich. In 879, just 7 short years after Harald I gains control of Norway, Rurik conquers and establishes Kiev as the center of the Rus’ Viking domains. Thirty years after the Viking chief Rollo is granted land by the Franks to found Normandy, France, Rus Vikings attack Constantinople in 941-forty years before Erik the Red discovers Greenland. At least from the early 10th century many Vikings (called by the Greeks and East Slavs by the name Varangians,) served as mercenaries in the Byzantine Army, comprising the elite Varangian Guard (the personal bodyguards of Byzantine Emperors). Eventually most of them, both in Byzantium and in Eastern Europe, were converted from paganism to Orthodox Christianity, culminating in the Christianization of Kievan Rus’ in 988. Coinciding with the general decline of the Viking Age, the influx of Scandinavians to Rus’ stopped, and Varangians were gradually assimilated by East Slavs by the late 11th century. (Info courtesy Wikipedia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varangians). So, in conclusion, the Vikings arrived in the early 8th century, conquered and prospered, and then blended into the society by 1099.

With that information in mind, I decided to create a hat that might belong to a Viking in the 8th century, one who might want to pay homage to his roots, but blend in a bit with his current homeland, too. The front of the hat has a hand-embroidered Viking-style dragon motif. The back has a Viking compass and Viking runes on it, which spell out, “Go Ye In Peace” along with my significant others’ SCA name on it (as I made the first one for him–I will start mine later.) In my wild imagination, this might be something a wife would embroider onto her husband’s hat, as a charm to bring him safely back to her when he journeyed. This is what the front of the hat looks like, with Jerry modelling it for me. (I really need a better camera and a better photographer!)

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In keeping with the idea of blending in, I borrowed an embroidery design from a Russian folk wedding costume that for the life of me, I cannot find on the internet or my computer right now. It came from somewhere, I didn’t just imagine it, but I will have to add that evidence when I find it. In the meantime, here is what my version of it, looked like.

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 This design was embroidered on both side pieces, facing frontwards.

The hat itself is made with a silk jacquard-type material and lined with faux sable fur backed with felt. Every bit of this piece was hand-sewn with cotton thread.It took approximately 40 hours to complete.

From a business perspective, I would certainly take up this task again, as a commissioned piece, but not as ready-to-wear, at least not until I can save up enough for an embroidery machine (which would probably completely change the nature of the entire design).  

Most importantly, Jerry says it is “toasty warm!”

 

   
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