A Norse man’s hat made of red wool, with tablet woven trim.
The winner of my annual hat prize for Canterbury Faire 2019 asked for a soft Norse hat, c1000 in red and green. This is not an area I know much about, so I discussed the project with some friends who focus on Norse culture.
Research & Design
The contemporary images and grave finds are limited and ambiguous, and are constantly being re-evaluated and interpreted, but I wanted to make something that was at least plausible. Inspiration came from the Tängelgårda stone in Gotland, and the grave find Bj.581 from Birka (now revealed as a woman warrior’s grave, but she was wearing men’s clothing).
Both sources suggested a floppy conical hat, and the Birka find included a silver finial ornament. Replicas of this are readily available online in various metals.
After padding up the hat form, I took measurements and made a test runs in fabric, then cut the pattern from red 2:2 twill wool. I sewed the hat with waxed raw linen thread, using stitches known at the time. The main seam is backstitch, then felled flat with whipstitch and hemmed at the base.
I wanted to add a tablet woven band, to bring in requested green colour. I had to remind myself how to tablet weave – so many years since I last did this! I chose a Mammen inspired design using a ‘missed hole’ technique (Sveinsdottir D & Saemundarson B, 2020).
I made an impromptu tablet weaving loom using G-clamps and a comb, and did a test run in cotton thread. Once I felt confident, I wove the band in Appleton embroidery wools I had on hand. Not much dark green, so I used light green instead.
Once applied to the hat, the band needed more contrast against the wool, so I outlined it in stem stitch with my limited dark green wool. Finally, I sewed on the reproduction finial.
The recipient was very pleased with the hat and wore it all day, despite the heat.
It was good to remind myself how to tablet weave! I’m sure ongoing research will supersede this interpretation of the Norse soft hat, but it was fun to make something so far out of my usual time.