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Viking - Saxon Sewing Box

Viking / Saxon Sewing Box - Looking for the Evidence

By Jennifer Baker

Viking / Saxon Sewing Box Project

Saxon Box by Sven the Merchant

The Box

I have chosen to use a Saxon Box made by Sven the Merchant as it’s a nice size to hold every thing and sturdy enough to transport from event to event

Saxon Box with brass hook closures and corner brackets. (pine).
size: L 32cm. W 23cm. H 24cm.
Source: Geake, H., Use of grave goods in the conversion period, 1988

Bone combs, Scissors, Bone needles

Bone combs

Combs are oftern found in graves - I have choosen to put in a bone combs - as these could be used to comb unwanted burs and rubbish from wool and flax before spinning

Links to Original finds of -
Antler comb with matching case, Viking, 9th-10th century, from York, England
Viking-age composite combs:
SHM 5208:573, http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28576
SHM 5208:574, http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28577
SHM 7582, http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28761
SHM 9549, http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28739
SHM 25501, http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28755
SHM 28047 http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28741

My combs: Large bone comb made by Gary Baker & smaller comb and cover made by Egfroth

Scissors, shears and snips are all found in the Viking-Age archaeological finds. The difference between snips and shears is mostly size -- snips are good for cutting thread or light fabric, but shears would be used for heavier textiles. Scissors, almost identical in shape to modern, plain kitchen or sewing scissors have also been found.

Links to Original finds of -


Snips (arbitrary classification of shears 15cm long or smaller):

My Scissors have been purchased from a Bonsai nursery.

Bone needles and Brass & Copper pins

Bone Needles
Bone needles are another item that was oftern found in graves - thicker ones were used for naalbinding while slimer ones could be used for sewing

Links to Original finds of -
Sewing objects from Viking graves on the Hebrides, including bone needlecases and iron needles,
c. 850-925
Viking-age needles:
SHM 5208:1037, http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28670
SHM 5208:1038, http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28671  
SHM 5208:1039 http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28672

Brass & Copper pins
out of all the things I looked at these were the hardest to find evidence on the types found & used
I found there were several types
Pins - wire wrap-headed pins
Pins - drawn heads
Pins - with polyhedral and disc-shaped heads

Links to Original finds of -
the best write up I could find on Pins that i could find is at http://www.archaeologicalplanningconsultancy.co.uk/mono/001/rep_f_metal.html

My Pins: I 've chosen to make the wire wrap-headed pins out of both brass & copper

Tablet weaving cards bone & oak, Lucet, tablet weaving beater, tablet weaving patterns on leather

just so you can compare sizes - left documentation on the Oseberg tablet cards - right my Bone tablet weaving card - its a little bit smaller because that as big as we could get it out of the Deer antler bone crown
My tablet weaving cards are made out of Deer antler bone made by Gary Baker and wooden one of oak made in Estonia

the original Lund Lucet next to my new Lucet - based on it size is 9.5cm long x 3cm wide at the base and 2.5cm wide at the top made of Deer antler bone
I have now two Lucets a simple styled one based on finds from York and a decorated one based on the Lund Lucet

Tablet weaving beater
mine is made out of wood but it could have been made out of bone like the Gotland one
Gotland Tablet weaving beater http://www.arkeodok.com/News1.html

Tablet weaving patterns on leather
this is my solution on how to have patterns handy at events with out having a printed piece of paper that might get wet or blown away and looks very out of place - but there is no historical evidence for it.

knife, beeswax, horn bobin with natural irish linen thread

this is a small knife some thing everyone would have and is another item commonly found in graves finds

my Knife was made by Gary Baker - it has a deer antler handle

A lump of wax, found in a bucket of sewing and weaving tools from the 9th century Oseberg burial (Brøgger, 1921; 6), may indicate that lightly waxing a thread may have helped with sewing
A Viking-age cake of beeswax was found in Scotland

Thread Bobin
there are a few find of Thread Bobins in the Swedish Historical Museum
SHM 5208:1642 http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28686
SHM 5208:1643 http://www.historiska.se/data/?bild=28687

Drop spindle
Spindle Whorls
Spindles Whorls have been found in lots of diffeent material ceramic, amber, stone, lead, antler
SHM 5208 http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/bild.asp?uid=328305

I have three now - wooden, antler and ceramic

Iron needles
Sewing objects from Viking graves on the Hebrides, including bone needlecases and iron needles,
c. 850-925
Bone needlecase with corroded iron needles from a Viking woman's grave in Orkney,
c. 850-950

there are a few other things I will look at making or getting for the sewing box

either in the roman metal ring style or the Gotland bone style
Roman metal ring style http://www.colchestertreasurehunting.co.uk/Medievalartefacts.htm
Gotland bone style http://www.arkeodok.com/News1.html

Awl from Viking Dublin

Carding brushes
Oseberg Carding brushes

linen flax beater
linen flax beater

Slickstones / Linen smoothers
Smoothing board and slickstone from Birka, Sweden, 10th century
"Ironing" board of whalebone and slick stone of glass. The wet garment was put on the board and rubbed hard with a "stone" of glass until it was smooth. The garment was then left flat until dry. This method was best suited for smaller items like blouses and head-dresses. The same method smoothing was used throughout the 19th century. It makes linen as smooth, shiny and stiff as if it had been starched
The object in the upper left corner is a "slick stone" of glass.
Viking Period Swedish spindle whorls, exact provenience unknown
Creator: Statens Historiska Museum
Archive or Repository: Statens Historiska Museum, Stockholm
Reference Number: catalogue number 6819

Visby lenses
The Visby lenses (sometimes also known as "Fornsa lenses") are a collection of lens-shaped manufactured objects made of rock crystal (quartz) found in several Viking hoards
The Visby Lenses" http://www.kleinesdorfinschleswigholstein.de/buerger/oschmi/visby/visbye.htm
Ahlström, Otto (19 May 1950). "Swedish Vikings used Optical Lenses". The Optician: 459–469.
Carlsson, Dan (23 August 1999). "Report 8, 23rd of August". Fröjel Discovery Programme. http://www.hgo.se/frojel/report8/Re8.html.  
Carlsson, Dan (1 September 1999). "Report 9, 1st of September 1999". Fröjel Discovery Programme. http://frojel.hgo.se/report9/Re9BAK.html