Friday, February 28, 2014

Dublin Viking Beads

Dave is selling replica Dublin Viking beads at the moment. They are exact copies from the National Museum so are an essential piece of Hiberno-Norse jewellery. Looking at all the beads in the museum it seems apparent that blue and amber may have been a popular theme.

My Replicas: 
(Including some amber from Tillerman Beads)


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Viking Birch Woolen Overdress

I received some lovely Birch coloured twill wool this week and decided to make a Viking overdress. I based my dress on the interpretation of this fragment from Hedeby.

Original Fragment

This style of dress is particularly appropriate in Ireland as it may have a been typical late Iron Age/Early Medieval women's style of dress as I mentioned in a previous post (

My Birch wool

Almost finished!

To Hangerock or not to Hangerock?

When reenacting Hiberno-Norse, when is it suitable to wear a hangerock? My opinion is that a hangerock is only really suitable when reenacting the period from 800-c.900AD in Ireland. This is because the majority of tortoise brooches (with the exception of one later pair which stylistically date to 950AD) in the National Museum are of the P-37 kind and these were only in fashion between 800-900AD, after that in Scandinavia the style evolved for another 100 years and hangerocks fall out of fashion at the end of the tenth century. 
Previous to the Viking integration in Ireland, in the Iron Age/Early Christian period the only references we have for female clothing come from Christian accounts in the form of our mythological literature where whenever the clothing of a woman is mentioned, they are described as wearing 'tunics' (as an aside - women generally seem to have their hair platted into several braids at this time). It is impossible to know what these 'tunics' actually looked like - or if that was indeed what women of this period wore (these Early Christian sources are dubious in their authority when telling us about the Irish Iron Age but it is possible that when they speak of clothing they are talking about fashions in their own time or just before) but it conjures up an image of a woman in a 'T-shaped' long garment, similar to the men's tunics we see depicted on high crosses and in illuminated manuscripts. That is; rectangular in the bodice, with narrow long sleeves and probably reaching to below the knee at least. It can be conjectured that this simple garment would have been worn at the time of the Viking's arrival to Ireland and probably integrated into Nordic-Irish fashion. I think that is important that hangerocks are not over represented in an Irish context. In Birka only 122 of the 252 female graves contained tortoise brooches (essential for closing the hangerock) and most of the graves were high status burials. Further from the Viking homelands it is likely that the number of women wearing the hangerock was even fewer and that native styles dominated overall trends.

P-37 type Tortoise brooches on display in the National Museum of Ireland

‘They saw a band of women dressed in green tunics bending over the corpse of Fráech mac Idaid. They carried him off into the fairy mound which was called Síd Fraích ever afterwards.’ ~Táin, Rec 1, pp.149

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


"Hrist and Mist bring the horn at my will,
Skeggjold and Skogul;
Hild and Thruth, Hlok and Herfjotur,
Gol and Geironul,
Randgrith and Rathgrith and Reginleif
Beer to the warriors bring." 
~Odin speaking of the Valkyries serving the Einherjar in Valhalla (Grimnismol)

Photo by Dave Swift

Monday, May 20, 2013

12th Century

Every summer we do a few events at Hook Lighthouse in Co. Wexford as Ostmen, so I usually dress as a late Viking but this year I decided to make a 12th century Norman dress for the occasion, since the lighthouse was after all founded by the Normans in the 12th century. My dress is based on art from the 12th century and portrays a general style of dress; with long hanging sleeves, fitted torso, full skirt and a v-neck. It is made from green linen. 

Some sources

Johnny and Dave as an Hiberno-Norse Ostman and a Cambro-Norman at Hook Lighthouse

Monday, May 13, 2013

Layering for a Gaelic Irish Woman

I get many emails from reenactors asking how they begin getting together a costume that represents a Gaelic Irish woman. So here is my theory as to how the layering on a generic Gaelic Irishwoman's costume should be;

White/cream linen chemise with baggy sleeves (as in DeHeere).
Sleeveless V-neck saffron linen kirtle (as in DeHeere).
Shinrone/Moy Gown in thick wool of an earthy colour (archaeology - National Museum of Ireland).

De Heere's Illustrations of Irish men and women
 Shinrone Dress
Moy Gown

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Viking Dublin Knife Sheath

This is a reproduction of a B1 type knife sheath (see Scabbards and Sheaths from Viking and Medieval Dublin by Esther Cameron) by Dave Swift. This sheath was made to fit my existing knife so it is elongated but its form was based on a sheath found during the excavations at Fishamble Street in Dublin which dates to c.960-980. The tooling is based on another find of the same type of sheath from Christchurch Place. The B1 type sheath has a date which spans from the tenth to the twelfth century. It is not the most popular type of sheath found during the excavations but it has the greatest longevity (apart from E1 scramasax sheath). 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Viking Dublin Bone Pin

This is my newly commissioned replica of a Viking bone pin. The original is on display in the National Museum. It's lovely and elegant. The Vikings were such talented craftsmen!



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sumptuary Laws Imposed on the Irish and the English in Ireland

'Laws made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc' 1

Sumptuary laws were imposed in Ireland by the English at various stages throughout it's medieval and early modern history in an attempt to control the Gaelic Irish. In the 16th century the Lord Deputy Sir John Perrot under Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century, for the purpose of restraining native Irish dress, banned the wearing of woollen mantles, 'open smocks' with 'great sleeves' (leine), and native headdresses, requiring the people to dress in "civil garments" in the English style.

Going back to the 13th century the English imposed sumptuary laws against their own subjects in Ireland firstly banning the excessive use of fur in the merchant class. The English merchant class that existed at this time had been early Planters but as time passed and England was distracted by foreign disputes these English settlers were left to their own devices in Ireland and began to adopt Irish customs and the Irish language. It's from here that we get the saying "they became more Irish than the Irish themselves". From the Parliament of Ireland in 1297 we get the quote; 'all Englishmen in this land must wear, at least in that part of the head which presents itself to view, the mode and tonsure of Englishmen'. Irish hairstyles, most notably the culan were forbidden. In 1537 another Gaelic hairstyle was banned, the glib, where the hair was shaved above the ears except at the front of the face where it was grown long to cover the eyes. This hairstyle was describes as 'fit masques as a mantle for a thief'.

 In the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 Englishmen were prohibited from intermarrying with the Irish or adopting the Irish language or Irish customs of dress. Notably in the Parliament in Trim, 1447, it was said that a 'man that will be taken for an Englishman shall have no beard above his mouth.' This was re enforced on various occasions up to the 17th century. The moustache was seen as an extremely Gaelic fashion. Many contemporary illustrations and descriptions of Irish warriors such as Gallowglass and Kern are generally sporting moustaches and over time it became a form of defiance against the English to wear one.

In 1462 a tax was imposed by the Parliament in Dublin on Irish mantles and in 1466 it was decreed that anyone found wearing one was to be fined a sixpence. Also in 1466 it was declared that if a woman wore a saffron smock in Dublin she would be fined a sixpence. The dying of garments in saffron was another particularly Irish custom and  it became synonymous with the Gaelic Irish. Henry VIII first banned the use of saffron in Galway in 1536 and then throughout the rest of the country in 1537. He said that it could not be use in any shirts, smocks, head coverings, or linen caps. Ironically in 1577 sufficient amounts of saffron were still being sold on Galway to warrant a tax per pound to help pay for maintenance in the town.

In the 16th century laws were imposed on how many garments people of certain classes could own and of what fabrics and decoration they were to be made of. Henry the VIII's Prohibitive Act of 1537 banned overly voluminous leine which could be no more than 6.4m of cloth, and again banned the wearing of the Irish mantle. (Some leine's were reputed to have been made of up to 32m of cloth before the act was passed).

Over the years various sumptuary laws were passed in Parliaments in London and Dublin in an attempt to bring the Gaelic Irish and the old English Planters under control but as we can see they had to be repeated quite regularly because it seems to be that however hard the English tried to civilize the Irish, they became more and more stubborn in their defiance to the Crown, resulting in certain infamous Irish clothing traditions surviving through many centuries.

“For can the sword teach them to speak English, to use English apparel, to restrain them from Irish exactions and extortions, and to shun all the manners and orders of the Irish? No it is the rod of justice that must scower out those blots...justice without the sword may suffice to call all those to her defend the English from all Irish spots, to settle him in the quiet estate they were in before they so degenerated.”
~Lord Chancellor Gerrard to the Privy Council, 1577.

“It will be necessary to call a parliament to enact new statutes for establishing the articles ensuing...Irish habits for men and women to be abolished, and the English tongue to be extended.”
~Sir Henry Sidney, A Discourse for the Reformation of Ireland, 1585.

 1 Black's Law Dictionary

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Medieval Three Finger Gloves

Shepherds in The Nativity by Robert Campin, 1425

Beige/yellow (the picture doesn't show true colour) three finger gloves based on pictorial evidence from the 15th and 16th centuries. I predict that these will come in very handy during the coming autumn days! Made from wool and sewn with linen thread.

1. Shepherds from Nativity by Nikolaus Stürhofer, c. 1505-1515
2. Detail from The Crucifixion from the altarpiece at St. Florian in Austria, c. 1475-1500
3. Landsknechte by Jörg Breu, c. 1525-1530

Irish Gallowglass and Gaelic Lady

Gallowglass from Claíomh

Monday, July 11, 2011


"The Sea Queen of Connacht"

Gráinne Ní Mháille, Grace O'Malley, or Granuaile (1530 – 1603) as she is more commonly known, was Queen of Umaill, Chieftain of the Ó Máille clan and a pirate in 16th century Ireland. Her exploits on the sea, her conquers on land and her promiscuity make her one of the most infamous women in Irish history. Her seafaring family was based in Clew Bay, County Mayo.

For further information I recommend reading 'Granuaile' by  Anne Chambers

Grace O'Malley with one of her Scottish Redshank mercenaries.

These images were taken by the sea in Connemara during the summer months.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Irish Woman

16th century impression of a rural Gaelic woman featuring reconstructions of the Moy Gown and a Brat which are copies of artifacts in the National Museum of Ireland.

Irish Brat

The Irish Brat, or cloak, was typically made of homespun fulled twill wool in 4 segments due to the width of the weave available at the time. They were 'cottoned' by using wire cards to draw out the fibres creating a matted effect on the surface which made them almost waterproof. The lower two pieces of fabric were added from the cut-off's of the two long rectangular pieces to create the semi-circular shape. The Brat below is a 17th century example found in Leigh, County Tipperary. Similar claoks have been found in bogs in Derry, Donegall, Sligo and Mayo. (The Donegall cloak is believed to have been associated with a woman.) The wear on the cloaks would suggest that they were worn at equal lengths over the shoulders.

The cloaks measure between 90" and 105" in width and around 50" in length. The rectangular lengths of fabric are about 28" long each.

 Brat in the National Museum


Rough stitching was typical.

Weiditz Irish Woman

This unusual illustration comes from a book on costume entitled Trachtenbuch written by Christoph Weiditz in the 16th century. He was a well known traveller but there is a lack of evidence pertaining to the fact that he ever actually visited Ireland, however this image is plate no. 152 in the book.

The description accompanying the image is the following;
"Head-dress greyish white, silver embossed; shawl brown; upper garment (mantle) light violet, gold embossed,with red, silver embossed facings and the same lining; undergarment yellowish, strongly gold embossed; shoes red, silver embossed."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Moy Gown

The Moy Gown was found in a bog in Co. Clare in the 20th century. It is now housed in the National Museum's Archaeology branch. No testing has been done on the garment but comparing it to similar styles in Europe and studying pictorial evidence from Ireland I would conjecture that it could date from between the 14th to 17th centuries. There is much continental inspiration in aspects of this dress.

I did a large amount of research before starting on this project as authenticity was my highest priority. I did a huge study of 14th to 16th century Irish and European fashion so I could make informed decisions about filling in missing aspects of the Moy gown as it is in a very fragmentary condition. I created my pattern using information from the museum only.

As per the original garment I included European inspired 'grand assiettes' for ease of movement over the back, shoulder and underarm area. There are double gores at the sides and back. The front of the dress is missing and while Kass McGann states that there may have been a gore at the front, she gives no proof in her description to qualify her assumption, so I chose to leave it out (plus I think that when coupled with the buttoning a frontal gore gives an unsightly hang to the front of the dress - not ideal in a century where showing one's figure was becoming increasingly important). It is unknown how far the buttons extended downwards at the front of the dress so I copied the length from contemporary European dresses. There are buttons on the sleeves which extend up to the armpit. It seems buttons came very much into fashion in male and female clothing on the continent and in Ireland from the 14th century onwards.

The whole garment is hand sewn with linen thread, hand dyed, and made from 100% wool.


(Above is the official tracing and photographs of the dress from the National Museum of Ireland and as such are the most essential sources to base the reconstruction of the garment on.)

Irish Examples:

1.Detail from Strade Tomb in Co. Mayo (late 15th century)
2. Illustration from the Book of Ballymoat (1400's)
3. Buttons can just about be seen on the neck and sleeves on both the man and woman in this effigy in Knocktopher, Co. Kilkenny. (Late 14th century)

European Examples:

Deposit from London of a 14th century sleeve with buttons and button holes

13th/14th century illustrations

(An example from Europe of grand assiettes)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


1. Stocking of William II - the king of Sicily who died in 1189. Now in Treasury in Vienna
2. 14th century stocking said to have belonged to the archbishop of Bayonne
3. The burial-stockings of Eleanora di Toledo, 1562
4. Detail from Nativity, c. 1370-1372

The pattern I created for my stockings is based on those of William II. They could be made from wool linen or silk depending on many factors, including local and the size of your purse. My recreations were made from 100% wool hand sewn with linen thread. Rural women in Gaelic society would have rougher materials at their disposal than women living in and around The Pale. Most Gaelic Irish people's clothing and homeware would have been home made from local materials but based on limited knowledge of current European fashions.