23 October 2015

About A Bag

The Hedeby Bag that I made for the A&S table at the Quest for Valhalla event last weekend:

with documentation, whipcord spool, and sewing/embroidery samples

It went over pretty well.  And I REALLY love it, and can't wait to start using it. (We'll get to that in a minute).

The bag started with two ideas: (a) more embroidery practice, and (b) I wanted to try out a period seaming technique.  The embroidery is very simple, and uses only three stitches - chain, stem, and blanket (for the teeth on the green guy).

close up of the embroidery
The embroidery motif is an amalgam of time periods:  the stuff-inside-circles was inspired by an embroidered fragment from Oseberg (9th-10th century), but the faces inside my circles are from the Isle of Lewis Chessmen (12th century). Meanwhile, the bag itself, based on handles found at Hedeby and at Birka, is 11th century.  There's a little more leeway for "artistic license" and whimsy in some areas, and this was one of those; so this project is a bit all over the place, but the end result is still a Really Cool Thing. :)

The seam technique is one detailed by Mytte Fentz in her analysis of the shirt found at Viborg.  I really want to make a Viborg shirt for one of my clients (as soon as I can afford to buy the right fabric for it), but looking at the construction and piecing of the shirt, and at several recreations of it, I realize that although I could probably whomp out at least 60% of the shirt on the machine, it will be a much better piece if I sew it entirely by hand - and I've never made a garment entirely by hand.  There are three kinds of seams in the Viborg shirt.  Two of them are easy, but one I'd never seen before, and wanted to try out on something small, so I chose this bag.  I'm seriously impressed with the seam - it's really strong and flexible, which is exactly what you want in a garment that's going to see serious and regular wear.  (It's almost like the Vikings knew what they were doing, eh?)

Fentz's diagram of this particular type of seam.
Lining and outside, front and back, are all stitched
together at once, and the raw fabric edges are auto-
matically concealed between the lining and outside.

The seam edges are decorated by a "Viking whipcord" which I wove, and stitched on.  The documentability of whipcord is sketchy at best.  We have ample evidence of four-strand braids identical to what's produced by the SCA whipcording method, and several warp-weighted looms for weaving cloth, so we know they had the technology - but we've found no actual bobbins we can tie directly into the process of weaving whipcord.  So it's one of those "SCA-isms" that we accept because it's fun and also hey, maybe, right?  The strap of the bag is also a whipcord. 

Whipcording is meant to be a two-person activity; I usually
do it alone, with my cord suspended from a curtain rod in
a hallway doorway. 

The handles were pretty tricky, and nearly gave me a heart attack at one point.  I need glasses pretty badly, you guys - little details are starting to get away from me.  Little details like, oh, say, "Hey, this isn't solid wood, it's very thin plywood!"  which nearly cost me this entire project (mostly because I was so frustrated that at several points I nearly burned the entire thing and mailed the ashes to Sweden).

L-R:  tracing the design on my wood;  design cut out;  drilling holes for the slots where the bag would be attached

L-R:  shattered the wood while making the first slot, which is how I realized I had PLYWOOD. Argh.
Glueing the wood back together;  sanding it VERY VERY CAREFULLY.

Fortunately, it all worked out okay.  Once the handles were stained and then sewn to the bag, you couldn't even see where the break had occurred.


I love the way this thing works.

Unfortunately, Friday night at the event (the competition was Saturday), I snapped one of the handles in half, right in the center.  I made a note on my documentation, and entered the bag anyway.  I'd already resigned myself to replacing the handles with thicker ones made of, you know, actual wood; but several people came to me at the event very excited about this opportunity to do some period, Viking-style repairs on the wood - because you wouldn't have simply thrown something away and replaced it back then, you'd fix it!  I'm kind of excited about the ideas I got; but I'm also on the fence about it.  The fact is, the wood is too thin for this application, and it's very flimsy.  I think I'll probably just replace them. I'm hoping I can scare up some nice pieces to use next week after payday.

Anyway, I freaking LOVE this bag, you guys.  And I'm really proud of it, warts and all. :)

Seriously. How can you not adore these
little guys?  <3


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