Rolloís Riding Coat - Documentation for a Birka (Rus) style coat by Rollo Lackbeard

Sitting at an event a while back I decided that I didnít like my cloak.It wasnít very Viking, and it was big and clunky.So I set out to replace it with something else.After doing some looking around I found that a coat was an option for my persona.So I set out to create a coat that could have been worn by a Norman noble living in Birka Sweden around the year 1000.

 

After looking around for a while, I found that there were not a whole lot of serving coats.One of them was more like a bath robe then anything else.The other resembled the Persian kaftans.You can defiantly see the Persian influences that came to the Vikings in Birka through their contact with the Rus people.

 

In the end I decided on to base my coat off a pattern that I found on a Miklagard website.According to the author of the website it was, ďAn alternative cut as discussed in the text (Ierusalimskaja 1996).ĒI recognized the name of the source but I could not read it because I could not find it, and could not read German, the language that it was written in.

A second source had a large influence into the creation of my coat pattern.Around this time I read an article by Lady Muireann ingen Eoghain ua Maoil Mheaghna titled 'T-tunic' - the period way.It talked about the idea of making your clothing out of geometric shapes to conserve in fabric.This Article made a lot of sense to me and has really changed the way I make my clothing.So when setting out to create a pattern for my coat I started with graph paper and started drawing geometric shapes.

What I ended up with was a pattern that resembles the following.

This picture is in no way exact.It is not to scale, and the actual measurements of each piece are very likely much different.I loaned the pattern to my brother before writing this document so I am going from memory.

For the Shell of the coat I used a dark green lambís wool that I purchased at a crown tournament.I chose it for itís because I liked the color, it was very soft, and it did not irritate my skin.Wool was very common for Birka at the time, so there would not be a problem with being able to document it.I also had found in an article by Thora Sharptooth mention of greens being a color found strongly in Scandinavia.She says, ďEvidence for the use of particular colors is strong in particular areas: reds are most often found in the Danelaw, purples in Ireland, and blues and greens in Scandinavia proper (Walton 1988, 18).Ē

For the lining I chose to use raw silk which I purchased from the fabric store.I did not like any of the colors when I went to the fabric store so I set out to dye the fabric.After looking into different methods of dyeing fabric, I decided on using a Dharma Fiber Reactive Procion Dye.I came to this decision because I didnít want the color to fade, or wash out over time.I also didnít want to experiment with natural dying on the silk because of costs.As for color for the lining I chose bright yellow.I think it looks very good next to the green.It also stands out, and I am trying to not be as conservative with the color choices of my clothing.Later I found out that the color of my coat lining nearly exactly matches some fibers that Thora Sharptooth dyed using weld from her home garden.Weld is a natural dye source that we know was used for dying.

Sometime in December, I set out to make bronze buttons for the coat.I based the buttons off a picture I saw on the birkatraders.com website.

 

To make these buttons I first made an original out of Femo.This was then baked until it was hard.I then used a sand casting method to cast the bronze buttons for the coat.I originally was going to make around 17 buttons because I had read somewhere that there were 17 buttons found in the Birka grave where a coat was also found.I only ended up with 5 however.The reason for this is that I was having a lot of problems casting the bronze at that time.To melt the metal I was using a map gas torch.This had been working very well when we started casting with bronze and pewter.The problem I was having while casting the buttons was that the room temperature was so cold that the bronze was cooling off too quickly when casting and I was getting a lot of bad buttons.At some point in the future I may go back and make more buttons, and replace all of my current buttons, but for now, 5 seemed good enough.

The trim for my coat was designed by my wife, Lowenon, and I.She wove the trim using tablets.She used pearl cotton for the fiber because it has a nice sheen to it, and she feels that it resembles silk of the time.It is a basic four forward, four back pattern that she drafted .

In the end I have a nice coat that is both warm, and looks good.I am very happy with what I have made, and am looking forward to making similar coats for all my friends and family.

 

Have questions? Email Rollo