Monday, 24 August 2015

Heirlooms and Heritage

August's HSM challenge is Heirlooms and Heritage.   Since I'm mostly interested in very early periods, I've chosen to focus on the heritage side of the coin and celebrate my Danish ancestors by recreating the belt from Borum Eshøj.  There are other similar belts from Egtved and Trindhøj, so it's not unreasonable to think my ancestors in Sjæland might have worn belts like these.

The belt is a warp faced tabby, with the warp ends finished off as decorative tassels.  Structurally it's quite simple, but it uses different coloured wools spun in different ways for decoration.  This kind of decoration is typical of Scandinavian Bronze Age textiles.  They don't seem to have used dyes, but sheep's wool does naturally come in a range of colours and this colour variation was used to create multi-coloured fabric.  Shadow stripes made from a combination of S spun and Z spun yarns were also popular, and some items were embroidered.  In short, textile decoration in Scandinavia at this time focused on texture and subtle colour variations, rather than the bright colours that were popular in the Aegean.

My reproduction belt.

The shadow stripe I tried to make didn't come out as well as I hoped.  It is there, but you have to look hard to see it. I think the primary reason is that the S spun yarn I used was very loosely spun, so once it is woven you can't easily see the direction of the spinning.  The shadow stripe is easier to see in the middle section of yarn, which is the yarn I spun myself and is spun a lot more tightly, but the stripe doesn't come through so well with the loosely spun commercial yarn.

The yellow line shows the direction of the shadow stripe.  You can see it when you know what you're looking for, but it isn't very clear.

I had a problem with finishing off the ends too.  I couldn't quite figure out from photos how the original was done, and had to improvise a bit.  I wouldn't say the result is bad - it works and I like the way it looks, but it's not a good reproduction of the original.  That may not be too much of a problem because all the Bronze Age Scandinavian belts that have survived are a bit different in terms of design and construction.   Still, it annoys me.

On the whole though I'm happy with my belt.  It looks nice, it was fun to make, and it's a fairly good representation of some of the decorative techniques used in Bronze Age Denmark.

The Challenge: Heirlooms and Heritage.

Fabric: The belt contains something like 120 meters of woolen yarn in two slightly different colours.  The original Borum Eshøj belt was made with undyed wool, but a lighter coloured fleece was used for the middle section of the warp.

Pattern: N/A.  It's a simple warp faced tabby so doesn't require a pattern.

Year: Around 1,350 BCE.

Notions: N/A.

How historically accurate is it?  I think maybe 80% as a reproduction of the Borum Eshøj belt.  As a generic Bronze Age Scandinavian belt it may be a little more accurate, since they weren't all exactly the same.

Hours to complete: About 18, including spinning.

First worn:  Not yet.

Total cost:  $23 for two balls of wool.


  1. It looks pretty close! How long is your belt?

    1. It's 154 cm long, or 60.75" if you prefer imperial measurements. I do think it does a good job of capturing what you might call the look and feel of the original, even though there are some differences in terms of detail.