Herjolfsnes no.39

Pattern drawing based on Nörlund

A short sleeved woman's dress made from a front and back piece with center gores, and two gores on the right side, and a single, wide gore on the left side with a false seam running down the center.

The sleeves are 30 cm (7.9") long, and the bottom is 360 cm (141.7") in circumference. The armhole is 58 cm (22.8") around, while the neck is 70.5 cm around. The waist measurement is 98.5 cm (38.8"). There is a 4.5 cm (1.77") slit in the front, with two pairs of edged eyelet holes. Both the neck and the bottom edge are turned back and sewn with a row of backstitches. The raw edge is overcast. The sleeve ends are simple turned over.

The material is full and heavy and well made. The weaving is "four-shaft" (i.e. 2/2) , with the weft so firmly worked that the warp is no longer visible.

Maggie Forest made a separate examination of the materials of H33, H38, H39, H43, H45, H61, H65 and had the following to say:

The fabric is invariably 2/2 twill. The threads are less than a mm thick, the fabric wasn't fulled. The result is a slightly open weave, which would have held warmth like a modern knitted sweater. The gap between each thread would be about 1/3-1/2 mm - noticeable. The warp is spun with kemp hairs included for strength, the weft is just the soft under coat, and so the fabrics have a distinctive almost tweed-like appearance. The open weave and the twill weave would have made these fabrics drape like dreams. Despite the fact that they weren't terribly tight-fitted (although I have a thought on that too) they would have looked it, because the fabric would have clung quite closely.

The seams are just amazingly fine. They're done from the same thread as the fabric is woven from, and stitches are frequently only about 1mm long. There are places where Nörlund states that there is no hem, only a fold-over, but in fact there is a seam there, it's just so fine you need to look under the microscope. Leaning back, you can just see a shadow line from the seams, but the stitches are minute.

[The Greenlanders] used a stitch now known as priksom for a top stitch.  It is a running stitch, but it goes through the fabric diagonally and ends up looking totally like a modern machine seam, with each stitch butting close to the next..

The tablet woven edge that is extant in the London material also appears in the Greenland material. A couple of the hoods have a quite wide edge, about 1.5 cm wide, done in this way, which gives a really distinctive looking edge with wide stitches on the back. Very tidy.

[Forest agrees with Robin Netherton's assertion that the Nörlund's pattern diagrams are flawed.]  They really look nothing like it. This may be because he drew the diagrams before the first conservation, but for example, there really aren't those curves in the 39 gown.

The false seams were not used to add additional fit - they are even all the way through the garment.

Although I have not been been able to verify this, I have been told that the new examination of these garments Som syel til jorden says that this garment has been carbon dated to 480+/-60 BP, or 1420-1530

This page was last modified 24 April 2004

Some Sources:

Go to Tunic Page; Herjolsnes Site Page

Some Clothing of the Middle Ages -- Kyrtles/Cotes/Tunics/Gowns -- Herjolfsnes 39, by I. Marc Carlson, Copyright 1997, 2003 This code is given for the free exchange of information, provided the Author's Name is included in all future revisions, and no money change hands-