Viking gear chronicle
Like any re-enactor and living history enthusiast I have gone through different phases of development, all characterized by a variety of aesthetic, practical and
From synthetic green fabric and disguising modern gear to raw hand woven wool and absence of modern luxury.
Presenting: Ingrids Viking gear chronicle.
This blog post is made by request:
"Hi Ingrid! I would like to know: How did it all start? What was the first Viking item you ever required? What did you look like in your first Viking kit? What have you learned on your journey?"
How did it start?
With hot men, tattoos and flirtation.
I had been studying theatre and doing Larp for a few years so my willingness to dress up, get drunk and live a simplified life was already there.
When I visited my first Viking event I fell in love with the atmosphere and the attention I got for my long blond hair. I had little interest in history or crafts. I simply loved sitting by the camp fire singing songs and talking peoples ear of.
The first Vikings I encountered were the Jomsvikings from UK. I had never before encountered such wild and free spirits. They inspired me and brought out an oppressed side of my personality. They got me hooked on the social aspects on living history. I was intrigued and wanted more.
Some of these Vikings are still my friends to this day and we have shared some spectacular moments together.
I elaborate further on tis topic in my Ted-talk.
What was the first Viking item you ever required?
My first Viking item was a linnen underdress (Serk).
I wish I could say it was a neckless or some other useless expensive bling. That would have made a better story. But, I was lucky and had guidance.
I made the linnen Serk at a sewing course for teenagers hosted by some local handy craft aunts. Since the course was sponsored by the government (Norway <3) the fabric was of high quality linnen. The pattern was from some book and the dress turned out ok. Very loose and big.
And a green apron dress.
A last minute sewing job with a lot of help from a friend. Made from green synthetic pool table cloth.
I remember finding the fabric at a flea market - calling my more experienced friend Heidi - asking if the fabric was ok to use for a Viking dress.
She reluctantly agreed.
Nevertheless, I held on to this dress for years!
And I kept going to events in it, having a very good time.
It was my "Viking costume".
After all, it was all I had and I did not have the skills or money to make a new one.
What did you look like in your first Viking kit?
Around 2007 I startet traveling to events around Scandinavia. Traveling ment I needed more stuff for my kit - a simple dress was no longer sufficient as I faced weather and camping challenges.
To learn the true value of wool you need to spend a few nights "out there".
This image is from 2007 - me, Eric and Alban sitting in Albans tent in Foteviken, Sweden.
I'm wearing a red wool dress that I made from some old floor carpets. The fur around my shoulders (bah!) is made from my grandmas old fur coat.
As you can see, by this time I had also acquired some bling...
Not one single piece of the bling I am wearing in this photo is a replica of a finding. Its bling I found at flea markets and in my moms jewelry box - the jewelry box she hid because it had horrific 70s jewelry in it.
I don't think I knew or cared about the difference.
I was just having a good time, trying to look the part to fit in.
What have you learned on your journey?
1. Motivated by shame
Meeting Alban, a way more experienced re-enactor, changed some of my motivation. He made me feel "the shame" of not contributing, or rather - the shame of contributing to the scene with heresy. Also, I think my half ass efforts kind of annoyed him on a personal level. He is a true esthetic and perfectionist and having me around in my shabby kit broke his illusion and immersion.
Not only was I totally uninterested in the historical and archaeological aspects of living history - I was also a shitty crafter.
By including me and giving me well-meaning advice and snappy comments he inspired me to put down more effort.
I remember buying my firs tablet woven ribbon with Alban. He later showed me how to fasten it to my dress. He also offered to send my materials and articles.
I was lucky to meet him and other mentors.
And this is what I made in 2008! And I was so proud!
A very blue wool dress (this time I actually bought the fabric) with a fur decoration over the bust.
Blue tablet woven ribbons attached to a Serk made from raw silk.
This was back when I thought raw silk was even more authentic than linnen. Wonder where that idea came from...
In the event where this photo was taken I met some polish Vikings. They made fun of my dress. This annoyed me so much I had to make a new one.
2. Copying other peoples work
In 2009 I discovered the work of Nille Glæsel.
Nille was the first Viking textile crafter in Norway to have a blog where she posted pictures of her work and shared her experiences.
This was truly inspirational.
However, I still had no real interest in history or archaeology so I mainly looked at pictures and tried to make copies.
But my interest in crafts and Viking aesthetics had grown. That's what happens when you hang out with dandies like Alban.
So, during the years that followed I took several courses in needle binding, plant dying and sewing.
I went on my first real fabric hunt and made a new Viking dress.
The coat I'm wearing in the picture above is a good example of how I used other re-enactors as sources.
I saw a coat that I really liked at an event. I did not really know the woman wearing it and it felt weird to complement her on her coat and ask her questions about it.
Instead I awkwardly stared at her coat whenever she was around.
Later I made a copy of her so called Birka coat. By visual memory.
3. Hiding and disguising modern gear and food
That plastic bag of food and beer hidden in your tent under a blanket.
The beer can disguised in a needle bound casing.
A large pouch for my wallet, smartphone and tobacco.
Its funny how during my first years as a re-enactor I found clever and creative ways to hide and disguise modern "necessities".
I guess its a matter of twisting your brain - getting adjusted to the Viking way of life - finding good solutions and alternatives which will replace modern aids. I took me a few years to learn how to preserve foods while camping and hiking so there would be no need for a cooling bag. Getting rid of the cooling bag, beer cans and water bottle was a big step for me.
It also added about 1000 items to my kit.
In recent years the items list has slimmed down to a few basic elements.
So many brain twists - learning how to survive and travel with less. Learning how to deal with bacteria. Sleeping on the ground.
Not traveling with a tent, bed and all the "viking versions of modern facilities" you would find in a modern house.
To sum up:
- "The golden rule of three" - it takes every new re-enactor at least three years to figure stuff out. All re-enactors should be allowed this three year time frame to figure shit out, on their own and/or with some guidence. Its important to make your own mistakes in order to grow.
- Use original sources when reconstructing or getting creative. Don't use other re-enacotrs as sources. Look at other re-enactors and get inspired. Dare to be curious, critical and to ask questions.
- Be comfortable and warm. Make a kit that is sensible and allows you to do the stuff that people from the past actually did. Many of my dresses are impossible to work in. But, they look really neat and I can walk around posing in them.
- Don't by bling until you have the basics in place. I know that huge silver Thor's hammer looks really tempting, but please start with a tunic, pants and some leather shoes.
- Not faking being rich. Most people in the past were dirt por and looked shitty. You should look shitty too, or at least dress your wealth. (disclaimer: During "the golden rule of three" you can fake being rich as much as you want. Go banans with blue diamond twill, silk undergarments and fancy bling. Remember to take loads of epic photos of yourself).
- The "more complicated way" is usually the better way. But that does not mean you don't learn from "the easy way" of doing things. Doing the research and hand crafting you kit is both expensive and time consuming. Buying something online or at an event is a quick fix that will rob you of valuable learning. In both cases: don't go shopping or crafting alone. Bring an adviser.
Oh, the amount of money I have spent on buying useless Viking gear! Expensive, hard-earned experiences.
- Keep it simple. Like a common Viking would.
My chronicle has far from ended and I'm sure I have a lot more to learn and discover.
Enjoy Viking life!