Norse Hood Documentation

Take two: The handwoven.

Documentation for Norse Hood

Created by Aethelflied Brewbane


The ultimate purpose of this project was to illustrate the difference, or lack thereof, in seams stitched with a modern steel needle, and those stitched with a bone needle. The seams themselves are stitched using two different colors of silk thread. One color was stitched using a period style bone needle, which is often assumed to have been abandoned as soon as metal needles became available, due to the small size of both the stitches and needle holes noted on extant textiles. The other color of thread was sewn using a modern steel needle. 


This is a recreation of the hood from the Skjoldenhamn find, unearthed in 1936. Carbon dating done in 2009 dates the find to 1075, with a 20 year margin of error. There is some debate with whether the costume from this find is Norse or Sami in nature, as the tunic, trim, and pants unearthed on the same body as the hood bear strong resemblances to traditional Sami folk costume. However such details are also consistent with Norse finds from other locations, making it impossible to definitively answer the question of which culture produced the extant textiles.

The hood itself resembles a Norwegian folk hood known as a køyse in that the top is squared off rather than rounded, as with modern Sami hoods. It also has a straight facial opening, rather than the more crescent openings of a Sami njalfatta. Given the resemblance to the køyse, which is assumed to be a direct descendant of period Norse hoods, I am confident that this style of hood would have been known to and used by the Norse, even if this example is Sami in origin.

The construction of this hood requires one long rectangle that stretches from shoulder to shoulder, and is deep enough to cover the top of the head, and two smaller squares inset into the front and back. The find also included a pair of ties attached at the base of the skull, presumably to allow for a tighter fit along the neck without having to tailor the overall hood itself. I have chosen to leave these ties off of my reproduction as I find them to be unnecessary in smaller hoods.


The yarn for this project is a mix of 15 wpi grey handspun and white commercial yarn. This dissertation is going to focus primarily on the properties of the handspun as the commercial yarn was selected due to its availability, fiber content (wool), and similarity of weight to the grey handspun.

S spun textiles did not become popular until the invention of the spinning wheel. Z twist is produced when the spindle is spun counter clockwise, which is the natural motion produced when rolling the spindle along the thigh to begin the spinning, also the direction of spin produced when flicking the shaft of the spindle off of the thumb for supported spinning. This makes Z directional spinning a more automatic and comfortable yarn to produce. S twist is produced due to clockwise spinning, which is the natural hand motion when pushing the spokes of a wheel down and away to begin it spinning. As this find predates the invention of the spinning wheel the grey singles were spindle spun with a Z twist.

In period the entirety of this project would have been completed with hand spun Z twist singles. For the purposes of time I augmented my handspun with commercially available 2 ply yarn I had on hand as the goal and focus of this project is not on spinning or weaving, but on the differences in stitch produced by using different needles in sewing.


The fabric itself is a hand woven 2×2 twill using my own handspun (grey) and a commercial wool yarn I received as a gift several years ago (white).  The breeds of sheep for both wools are, unfortunately, unknown. The final sett came out to 15 ends per inch, with a weft of 17 picks per inch. This puts my fabric on the coarser side of a period weave (12 epi to 50 epi per Texand Clothing 1150-1450, Crowfoot, Pritchard, and Staniland).


In order to achieve such small stitches and stitch holes with a bone needle, a different sewing technique must be used. With a steel needle a simple running stitch, where the needle holds many stitches before being pulled all the way through the fabric, can be used. If you attempt that same stitch with a bone needle you will end up with very large, uneven, stitches with huge needle holes. It also puts undue stress on the needle itself and makes it more likely to snap. In order to achieve period stitch length (3mm between needle holes per Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin), the needle must pass through the fabric entirely, much like a sewing machine needle does, before turning and stabbing directly back up to complete a single stitch.

Using a bone needle produces three differences in the stitches itself. First and foremost the duller point of the needle pushes the individual threads aside, much like an awl, rather than cutting through them. Secondly, because it compresses the threads in its initial pass the hole created by the needle is much larger than that of a modern needle. However, in the second stab to complete the stitch the compressed threads are forced back to their original location. This has the effect of healing the initial needle hole around the sewing thread, producing a final hole similar in size to that of a modern steel needle. Thirdly because the fabric itself is undamaged by the passage of the needle it produces a more durable final product.

The fabric itself should be a five harness 3×2 twill, as that is a far more common weave for my time period. 2×2 twills did not begin to become popular in England until multi-harness floor looms supplanted the vertical warp weighted loom. I chose to weave the simpler 2×2 twill as I had access to a four harness table loom, rather than the five harness loom required for 3×2 twill. I also opted for the simpler weave as this is my first weaving project that is not tablet woven.



Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin Elizabeth Wincott Heckett.

Royal Irish Academy, 2003. ISBIN 0954385551


Skjoldehamn Find In Light of New Knowledge Dan Halvard Løvlid. Translation by Carol Lynn. ,

  1. Translation 2011. Accessed on 3/25/2017.


Textiles and Clothing 1150 -1450 Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland.

Museum of London Publication, 1992. 2001 Reprint.ISBIN 9-781-84383-239-3


Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Norton Press, 1994. ISBIN 0-393-31348-4.


Woven into the Earth  Else Østergård

Aarhus University Press 2003. ISBIN 8772889357



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