The older of the two women interred in the Oseberg ship was wearing a red dress. She appears to have been important in her community, and, for the purposes of this project, I’m calling her a queen. The first little sample I’m making is a fragment of what might have been the cuff end of the sleeve of her dress. I’ve based the design on one of the Oseberg silk fabrics:
The drawing of the dress is done on watercolour paper and coloured with pencils and watercolour, then cut out so that I can position it somewhere on the finished page. It’s basically the shape of a Viking dress, though it appears to be doubtful that they would have decorated the hem in that way – but then this is a purely imaginative project, so I’m telling myself I can do what I like. It’s only for my amusement, so it doesn’t really matter too much if I go a bit rogue.
Those little triangles on the design looked like patchwork to me. Scholarly opinion seems to state that the Vikings didn’t do patchwork, given that none has ever been found. This doesn’t seem logical to me. If fabrics were difficult to produce, and some were expensive, it seems obvious (to me, at least) that any Viking woman would sew small bits of fabric together to make something bigger rather than waste them. It’s true that the cutting pattern for dresses generated very little waste (it’s a bit like cutting out kimono, more or less a series of rectangles) but there’s always something left over, in my experience. Anyway, there’s my first major departure from accepted Viking technique. Pretty impressive, really, since I haven’t even started yet. Going back to the design, I thought I’d have a go. I wasn’t sure this would work, given that the triangles are about half a centimetre on their right-angled sides:
(Normal-sized glass-headed pin for scale). The fabrics are fine silk dupion and batik Pima cotton. It took a while, and a bit of concentration, but – well, of course it worked:
And now I’m having a rummage through a little pile of red.