Cover Thy Head

Things which are curiously similar:

St Brigitta coif(12th-16th century)

Maciejowski Bible women’s “coif”(French origin 1244-1254 AD)

Jorvik Silk cap (Viking woman head gear from the 11th century)
How the Jorvik cap is -currently- interpreted:

I’m reading over the descriptions I can find of the Jorvik cap.. and I’m looking at the re-drawing of it.. and I’m really really really tempted to just say it’s an example of the St. Brigitta coif. I want to dig out some more details about the original find. There’s mention that the original had stitch marks..and red thread on it but I don’t know where.. if the stitch marks were along the back bottom edge of the cap then I’m really really really tempted to say that we, the reenactors, who wear this with the ties under our chins are “doing it wrong” and that it should instead have a loped strap like the St. Brigitta’s coif.

This last weekend at the war I made up a prototype of the St. Brigitta’s coif(I’m thinking of using it as a unterhaube for my wulsthaube on my German dress). While I was hand sewing it I was thinking about the Viborg shirt (the last thing I hand sewed)(**See also: sewing epiphany about the Viborg shirt) which lead me to thinking about the Jorvik cap.. then I was struck by how similar the construction of the St. Brigitta’s coif is to the Jorvik cap. My prototype is ~8″ deep by a total of 26″ long. The Jorvik cap is 8″ deep by 24″ long. Up until I pleated the back of my prototype it was practically identical to the Jorvik cap.

What if.. what if our interpretation of the Jorvik cap is wrong.. what if it was pleated at the back of the neck with linen thread which has rotted away.. and left only the silk. The ties on front of the Jorvik cap -are- set a little bit higher than they are on the St. Brigitta coif.. but I still think they’ll work well with a looped tie.

Anyone have a copy of the relevant pages from “Walton, Penelope, Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate,Council for British Archaeology, London, England 1989.” ? Or I’ve heard there’s a whole pamphlet about just the Jorvik cap.. I wonder if that’d have more info.

**Sewing Epiphany
When I sewed together the Viborg shirt there is one seam where they used a flat-fold seam. For the first pass on that seam they used a running stitch. For the second pass..they used an overcast stitch. This struck me as odd. Why didn’t they just use a running stitch for the second pass? Modernly, if -I- had to choose which stitch to use on that seam I would have just done it with two running stitches. This is one of the many things that has puzzled me about the Viborg shirt. Anyway, over the weekend with sewing together my prototype of the St. Brigitta coif I ended up using a “period” needle. ie, it’s a very bulky brass wire needle instead of the thin sleek stainless steel needle I would normally use. For joining the two sides of the coif together I used a flat-fold seam. The first pass I did with a running stitch.. then I folded the seam over and contemplated the second pass. Because the needle was so very bulky (and not particularly sharp) I was dreading having to push it through 4 layers of fabric. Suddenly it struck me.. if I used an overcast stitch on the edge then I’d only have to catch threads on two layers of fabric. That was going to be MUCH easier to do with the bulky needle. So tada.. Sewing epiphany.

http://www.historyofyork.org.uk/themes/life-in-viking-york/viking-silk-cap



2 thoughts on “Cover Thy Head”

  • Greetings. I was in York and happened to be at the York Museum where the Cap is currently shown. The case was open and I was able to with permission take photos of the cap from underneath, from the top, from the side and I assure you that the interpretation shown above is actually correct … right down to where the string is fastened to the cap. What may be of interest is HOW the cap was tied… did the string in fact go under the chin or did it loop around around a bun ???? I've done some experimenting on that. I do want you to know that if a garment gets dug up after you know… 1000 yrs or so that it is entirely possible that it is crinkled crumppled and totally out of shape. Hope this helps!!! I've posted my photos in the yahoo group Norsefolk2.

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