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Wool Hood with Embroidery

By Lady Caoilfhionn inghean ui Magil Ruanaidh

The hood is a simple garment that could cover both the shoul­ders and head, used to keep warm in the winter and when made lightweight, kept the sun off in the summer. The Fechamp Psalter was painted in c.1180 and on two of the folios, one representing October (fol. 10v) and the other November (fol.11v), shows men wearing hoods as they are going about their sea­sonal chores. An illumination painted in the 1300’s from The Maciejowski Bible (The Morgan Bible) shows women wearing hoods, one with the hood up on the head and one with it settled back on her shoulders which is proof that both sexes wore the garment.

In the book, Woven into the Earth: Textiles From Norse Green­land, an amazing amount of clothing was recovered from burial sites, including woolen hoods, it would have been nice to have a date on each of the garments but the Radiocarbon dating on various examples gave a range from 990AD to 1450AD. An example of another woolen hood that was in a bog find from Skjold Harbour, Norway was dated using AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Dating) to date it between 1050 and 1090. It was part of a whole set of clothes that included an under tunic, over tunic, pants, hood, hose, leg wrappings, shoes, braided belt, and knife handle. The hood was unique in the fact that the gores that were placed in front and back were not curved along the bottom but left square. From Rebecca Lucas’ site, where she discusses the hood and under tunic from the find, there is a description of the hood as an archeological find,
The cutting pattern appears to have used this fabric very efficiently, as the pieces were comprised of rectangles and squares, all approximately 3060 cm wide. The lefthand side, and back of the hood is fully preserved, while on the righthand side, the fabric under the chin survived. The gores in the front and back of the hood, while not unusual in their placement, are unusual in that they are not curved along the bottom edge. In fact, they are simple squares, that effectively widen the skirt of the hood, so that it can fit over the shoulders. It measuries approximately 138cm around the hem.
Farther into the site Lucas describes the construction stating that
The main part of the hood is actually a single piece, that was split up the middle to form the facehole, except for the final 2.5 cm, and possibly a 1 cm section between the facehole and front gore. The front and back gores are attached with whipstitching in dark brown wool, which simultaneously tacked the seam allowance to the outside of the hood. The bottom edge of the hood is whip stitched, with neat stitches that run parallel to the grain of the fabric, and there is no evidence that the hem was folded over.
Also Lucas provided a couple of diagrams that helped to understand how this was done and the layout. It is from this discription that the hood for this project was made.
Hood Construction
I would have liked to have woven the fabric to make this hood, the original was a woolen 2/2 twill with the warp dark grey and the weft a lighter grey. What I had was a nice dark green wool fabric on hand and decided to work out the construction of the hood with it, without investing into more fabric or the time it would have taken to learn to weave the fabric needed. My ap­prouch to making the hood was to start with a rectangler piece of fabric 56” long and 18 1/4” wide. These measurements were based on using a tape measure to measure from the middle of the upper arm, loosely up and over the head and down to the opposite spot on the other arm, along with the decision to have a generous size hood and a seam allowance. Folding the fabric in half the short way, I sewed down 14” to make the back of the hood.
In front, I measured down 13” to make the face hole, then sewed down 1” to make a separation between the chin area and the top of the gore. I used a modern sewing machine to see a quicker result and the fact that I wanted to be able to take more time on the embroidery I was planning on using to decorate the hood. Next I put the hood on so that that measurement for the gores could be made. Asking a friend for some help, we made sure that the hood was sitting square on my shoulders and head. The first measurement was from the point made by the 1”seam where it ended, to where I wanted the bottom of the
gore to end. The width of the gore was based on the measurement from the corner of the fabric coming over the shoulder to the opposite corner. The final size of the gore was 19” side to side, 16 1/2” top to bottom and I made sure the sides of the gore mea­sured 13” plus seam allowances to match the area where the gore would be placed. My gore is more diamond shaped than the square that was used in the bog find. I think that this style of hood is able to be costumed to whoever will be wearing it because of the shape of the gore I used. After sewing in the gores on the front and back of the hood, I had the beginnings of the hood. Because I wanted to use this hood during the winter I
decided to line it with another layer of the green wool. I used the same measurements, made a second hood, placed right sides together and sewed around the face hole. I then sewed around the bottom of the hood leaving enough open to turn the garment right side out. For some reason the hood would not turn correctly. I am not sure if it was the shape of the garment or sewing the face hole first but there was a twist in the garment that would not straighten out. I ended up taking the stitches out of the bottom of the hood, with the right side of the hood showing, the hem was folded inside the width of the seam allowance, and pinning the whole bottom edge in or­der to top stitch all the way around. This allowed me to complete the hood and it looks very close to the original.
Embroidery has been used to embellish clothing as far back as recorded history can go, sculptures, fresco paintings, and life depicted in vases shows the thread embroidered clothing in Greece dating to 400 B.C.
The floral embroidery on the hood was inspired by find in Mammen Parish, Middlesom Herred, in northern Denmark.
The original piece was a wool cloak with wool embroidery in a variety of colors (Jones, 2005) which dates to the late 10th century. Penelope Rogers in her book, Cloth and Clothing in Early Saxon England, uses this example to compare to earlier embroidery work found in a relic box done in the 7th century (Rogers, pg. 101) since both were examples of acanthus or vine work.
I choose colors, as close as I could with wool yarn I had on hand, that Jones describes in her paper where she discussed the colors of the Mammen embroidery work, “... and three Brownish shades ranging from gold to a medium orangey brown to a dark reddish brown.” The earliest stitches were running/double running, couching, stem stitch, chain stitch and split stitch. I used three of these to work on this project. With a reddish brown yarn, I started the embroidery by using a running stitch along all of the ma­chine sewn lines; this helped to keep the lining from shifting and made the hood more stable. This stitch could be the very earliest of all the stitches simply in its use to hold two pieces of fabric or more likely, leather, together leaving an in-and-out style design.
The split stitch was used with two tones of gold yarn to make borders around the face hole and along the bottom edge of the hood. This embroidery continued to help keep the lining from slipping and even slightly stiffen the lower edge of the hood. From the West Kingdom Needlworkers website I was able to find that the split stitch dates back to the 7th/8th century with examples of Coptic embroidery mostly used by Christians of the period.
The acanthus style embroidery that is inside the border on the bottom edge is influenced by the Mammen embroidery which was originally done with a stem stitch. I choose another reddish brown to work with which gave a nice contrast to the golden borders. The use of this stitch was used on the Bayeux tapestry which dates to the late 11th century and was produced using the stem stitch and couching.
Tassels are another item that origin is lost to antiquity. It is thought that the first use of tassels was the natural gatherings while taming and storing the wild grains and grasses sometime in prehistory. The use of tassels as clothing is shown in the Narmar Tablet dates to the Predynastic Period or around 3200 B.C. (Welch, pg.9). Another source from around 1400 B.C. come from the Bible, New King James Version, ...38 Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. 39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them. Numbers 15:3839.
When the Skjold Harbor remains were reexamined in 1999, there was an attempt to find genetic markers. Among the tests that was done was to try and find Sami genetic markers, the Sami are the indigenous people of Scandina­via, but it was determined that there may be only a 20 to 30%
chance that the remains were of Sami ancestry. I bring this up because the Sami people also decorate their clothing with tassels. Even though the original hood does not show any indication that there was a tassel attached, I wanted to add one or two to my hood.
The sewing and embellishment of this hood was truly a study in creat­ing a pattern, construction, sewing and hand work, and I really never gave a thought about the history behind the embroidery stitches that I have been using since a young girl, and can now appreciate better.
Bibliography and Sources:
Ostergard, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textiles From Norse Greenland. Aarhus University Press Denmark 2004
Løvlid, Dan. Halvard Nye tanker om Skjoldehamnfunnet [New Thoughts on the Skjoldehamn Find]. Archaeology, Institutt for AHKR, Universitetet i Bergen, Bergen, p.207 (2009)
Rogers, Penelope. Walton Cloth and Clothing in Early AngloSaxon England AD 450-700. Council for British Archeology UK by Alden Press 2007
Jones, Heather. Rose Embroidery from the Tenth Century Grave at Mammen, Denmark Copyright c.2002, 2005 http://heatherrosejones.com/mammen/index.html
Welch, Nancy. Simply Tassels: The Creative Art of Design. Sterling Publishing Co. New York 2002
Narmar’s Tablet Museum Syndicate. http://www.museumsyndicate.com/item.php?item=27153
Lucas, Rebecca. A tunic and hood from Skjold Harbour. http://www.medievalbaltic.us/skjold.html
Koninklijke Bibliotek National Library of the Netherlands
The Morgan Library and Museum
The Maciejowski Bible (The Morgan Bible) fol. 17v. http://www.themorgan.org/collections/swf/exhibOnline.asp?id=233
The Reaissance Tailor 5 Cross Cultural Embroidery 
The West Kingdom Needleworkers Guild Smooth as Silk: Split Stitch Embroidery  
The Saami Samisk Sami, Blogspot