Anglo Saxon Outfits, part one

So, After spending almost a year making Anglo Saxon outfits for Kirkleatham, the masochist in me is doing it again, except this time its only two outfits, not seventy, and they’re for me and John.

What am I planning?

For me-

A wool diamond twill peplos dress.

I’ve put this off for years, if I’m honest. Peploi always look like a sack tied in the middle, no matter who wears them, but I’m finally biting the bullet – it’s not as if it’ll be the first time I’ve sacrificed my sartorial dignity at the altar of authenticity. I’ve gone for a fairly dark, undyed grey, in line with Penelope Walton-Rogers conclusion that dyed fibres are usually reserved for trims and edgings during the early Saxon period.

There really isn’t too much to say about the cut of this, as its just a tube sewn up the side (I used a linen thread and a flat fell seam, if you’re that obsessed with detail). I left the bottom as selvedge and folded the top of the peplos underneath the tablet weave.

the tablet weave was done with a fine 2-ply wool which I dyed myself. I used cochineal as a kermes substitute, and persian berries for the yellow. To be honest I’m not sure about the authenticity of persian berries for the c6th, and I utterly failed to research it, but lets face it, one naturally dyed yellow is very much like another, and I’d never used them before and wanted to play.

All of the tablet weaving for this project will come from these two dye batches. I don’t see a problem with that at all.

I used alternate kivrim and s pattern in a pinstripe twill. for some reason I;ve been hankering after some pinstripe twill for quite a while, so this piece of weaving is making me quite happy.

I’ve never done kivrim before, and I’m happy to admit that it took me a foot or so of weaving before I got it right. I did try looking up some directions, but as usual I found them utterly unfathomable – I’ve never yet been able to follow a weaving pattern I didn’t draft myself. I knew it had to be a variation on Eygptian diagonals, and therefore deceptively simple, and so it was. I got there in the end.

I bought most of the beads from Tillermans at the last market, but some were gifts (it’s amzing what people give me once they’ve tasted my homemade cheescake) and the two clear ones near the centre are roman ones from Mark and David.


The undyed linen twil thats draped over the dummy beneath the peplos will eventually be the shift. My main problem is the wrist clasps. For Kirkleatham I made brass ones as I couldn’t get any thin enough bronze, but I really really want bronze ones for myself and John.

but no way am I paying £20+ per pair.

I do have a tiny piece of.9mm bronze, which is far too thick for purpose. I’m going to have to hammer it down to .5mm(ish). The hammering itself isn’t really a problem, but I’ve never annealed bronze before, so am going to have to do some research.


This will be simple white linen with a narrow gold-brocaded tablet woven edge. I am mightily miffed that all the really cool, wider gold broceded Tablet weave from this period comes from male graves, which means John gets the really nice stuff, jammy git.


The little bronze broach in the pic will not be the one finally used for this dress. I have long coveted the wondrous jewelled all over pair from Vienna, but I don’t think I have quite the right rocks in my gem stash. Instead I’m going to try and replicate a pair I saw at the Ashmolean a fewmonths ago. They will be silver gilt with garnets. Whilst I don’t have any of the flat garnets used at the time I think I can cheat by setting regular cabachons upside down (they’re flat on the back, you see) this may take a fair bit of jiggery-pokery, some swearing, and a spot of epoxy resin, but I’m reasonably confident it will work.

Other Bling

I can’t resist, I’m going to have a crack at a couple of the little disc pendants from the Kirkleatham exhibition. I’ve done well with wirework and filigree in the past, and already have a few saxon pendants of my own making, but I want to take this opportunity to try and refine my technique a little by heating the pieces in the enameling kiln rather than blowtorching them.

JOhn is in charge of shoes, belts, and purses for both outfits – I don’t do leather, it hurts my fingers too much.

– For John


Grey wool warrior coat based on the one from Taplow. It will be trimmed with the same wool tablet weave as my peplos, but with a panel of gold brocaded tablet weave in the proper place. ~iz jealous of the bling~


Same as the shift, really.


He’ll want a hat. ha always wants a hat on account of getting sunburn on his bald patch. If I’m feeling particularly benevolent he may even get on with gold brocaded tablet weave.

and he’s going to need new trousers, but I forgot to buy any cloth for those so he may have to wait til the November market for those.


~ by opusanglicanum on July 17, 2011.

14 Responses to “Anglo Saxon Outfits, part one”

  1. I would love to see a picture of the peplos. I’ve been debating making one for myself and have had a hard time finding clear photos to figure out how they are made.

    • I did put a photo of it in. Its basically just a tube. take two metres of fabric (two metres goes around an average sized person – you need enough to go around and allow for the broaches to gather it in. using the width of the fabric is too narrow even for a child. If you are above a uk size 16 or so you may need a little more) and trim it so thats its as long as you are from shoulder to floor ( I had a 60 inch wide piece of wool and trimmed about six inches off it) stich it up the side to make it into a tube and then put tbalet weve along the top edge (there no eveidence that I know of for tablet ever being used along the bottom)

      the real fitting process comes when you catch it up with the brooches. once i;ve made my fibulae I will probably leave them permanently in palce becuase thats the really tricky part

      if you need more info pm me and I will take a pic of it laid flat and send it, but it really is just a rectangular tube

  2. Wow. Just… wow. I am seriously awed, not only by your dedication to authenticity but by the skill with which you’re pulling this off. I love your weaving. I’m looking forward to further updates.

    • thanks.

      next thing I’m doing is the gold brocaded tbalet weave, I’m doing mine and john’s off the same warp – johns wide bit first then I’ll split it in two and do two narrow pieces, one for my viel and a spare. thats going to take weeks

  3. I understand your problems with the peplos dress; since I am pear-shaped I share them.

    I have found that what you need for a properly-draping peplos is a fabric that is both thin, somewhat heavy for its weight, with a looser-than-average weave. This costume was my most successful result. It is in a fabric the seller swore was linen. I have my doubts, but the drape and feel is wonderful.

    Good luck finding a similarly-well-draping fabric for your peplos dress.

    • the peplos fabric is a diamond twill wool that one of the reenactment suppliers has woven up specially for early period, so not as tight as say, a melton, but as I said, sometimes you have to sacrifice your sartorial dignity for the sake of authenticity.

      I’ve nver seen anyone actually look attractive in one though

      your photo linky didn’t work, btw.

  4. By the way, I apologize for the lousy quality of my peplos photo, but it was the only one I could find.

  5. WOW.

    I’m putting in the research for an entirely handmade outfit based on grave 77 in Butler’s Field (complete with home made shoes and jewellery). I have a question – where is Penelope Walton-Rogers’ conclusion about undyed cloth for major items of clothing? I know I’ve read it somewhere as well, I just can’t find the #@^&*!!!! reference.

    • ok, so I was cursing cos I was sure I wouldn’t be able to find it either after you’d put me on the spot like that, but the gods must like me today cos I put my finger straight on it (that never happens – its like being in the twilight zone!) Page 62- 64, the cunning wench craftily concealed the information in a section entitled “dyes and dye identification”

    • ps, is it just me, or is lj comfletley on strike today?

      • YES! I knew I’d read it as well… I even remembered the part about blue dyes being the most common (which makes sense seeing as woad doesn’t need a mordant and madder wasn’t grown). When I found the Time Warp Textiles site and saw some of the combinations that can be produced with natural fleeces… who needs colour?!

        LJ’s been doing weird stuff all week. I’m about to make a post about the garb project. It’s going to be a big learning experience for me – everything I’ve done up until now has been machine stitched with modern fabrics. I’m scared, but excited.

        I just hope I can make the post.

      • lj seemed to have a brief hour or two of workig last night but its off again now

        anglo saxon is probably a very good place to start with handsewing, as its all very simple and basic. I meant to ask you earlier, what kind of jewelery are you planning to make?

        (and forgive me if i dont get striaght back to you, I’m off to an event shortly)

  6. The jewellery in grave 77 consists of 2 shoulder brooches with a simple design of 5 dots – each brooch is slightly different though. There is an iron pin, which probably held the cloak closed, and three beads – a yellow multic-coloured one, a red multi-coloured one and a shale spindle whorl. I’m planning to add some amber beads and a belt knife.

    • somewhere I have an original saxon iron pin (its not a detector find, its from a victorian collection that was sold off years ago) but I don’t think I’d ever have the nerve to use it on a cloak – I’d be too worried it would get metal fatigue and snap.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: