A year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor: March

Welcome readers and all-round wonderful people to the amazing and fun hobby that is being a Viking reenactor. Thank you for returning to read the next instalment of A Year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor for our group Vikings of Middle England. In case you have forgotten since February’s Edition, we are a Viking re-enactment, living history and combat group based in Leicester, UK!

The time is March, the spring flowers are starting to bloom, and you join us at an exciting time of year! With our first two shows of the season coming up, preparations for them are well underway.

If you have not yet managed to join us in person to see what we are all about, coming to one of our events is a great introduction. Wander around our living history camp. Strike a coin or two. Head over to the merchants table to examine the riches before you. Watch the intricacies of material fibre being woven before your eyes. Perhaps enjoy the glint from our silversmith stall. Or even just wander around and perhaps discover something new.

Join us on the battlefield for weapons demonstrations and examples of combat techniques. Smell the wood of the shields as they take a hammering and hear the clang of our weapons clashing in hopefully the bright sunshine. (Real fire not guaranteed).

A busy merchants stall at our event in Boston Lincolnshire, 2018.

In the background there is a lot that needs to be done to pull off a successful Viking reenactment event. It starts months back to plan the events calendar, reaching out to contacts within historical circles to find out if a mutual collaboration can be arranged. For some, these organically fall into place, others often need an element of negotiation be it as to expenses, date and the expectation of both parties as to what type of event to put on. Especially if it is a new booking and the organisers want to hire us as their event entertainment. (By the way if you are reading this and you would like us to play a part in your event please send your enquiry to

When these events have been fixed in place a site visit is organised. This looks at suitability of the area allocated to us for both the living history camp and the combat arena if required. If it is an outside venue, water availability for consumption is a consideration as well as the delicate matter of (ahem) latrines.

On confirming the event our committee (group leaders for membership, events, authenticity, combat and treasury) need to communicate to the group all the details through social media postings and our weekly training and meetup sessions, giving members all the info needed to maximise attendance on the day.

Calligraphy practise by Viking re-enactors at Leicester Guildhall, March 2024

Another essential task for this time of year is the annual van check! I would be remiss to speak about life as a Viking reenacter without dedicating some time to an unsung member of our group. That is to say our van, that carries all the clubs equipment to and from the events and, you might say is as well travelled as any recorded Viking.

The stages for this are:

  • Check no birds or animals are currently nesting in the engine – it has happened believe it or not.
  • Take said van for its MOT and service.
  • On successfully passing the latter, start loading up for the events season ahead of us.

The loading usually is quite a social event with many hands making the job easier. We all go through the club’s kit assessing its suitability for the season ahead. Setting aside items that are in need of repairs, checking to see if anything has gotten miss placed. At a show, if the gods were displeased with our performance and rained down on us as we were packing away, that can very easily happen!

In instances like this it is quite literally a race against time to get everything packed down and stored in the dry. 1) so that the van is not overloaded weight-wise and, 2) our tents are likely to survive until the next show without the fabric weakening and going into holes.

Carrying out this annual check means our kit lasts longer and problem areas are identified before becoming major issues: come rain or shine we are well prepared for a successful event season.

After the show itself, a well-earned trip to a on route home takeaway is in order. Followed by arriving at home unpacking and for most of us a long hot shower. You may think that would be the end of it but the actuality is some of our events are paid events. This means that we need to follow up to ensure we will be paid in a timely manner which is where our treasurer comes into his own. Then repeat all over again at the next show.

a day in the life of a viking reenactors - stopping at services on the way home for a well earned burger!

Thank you once again readers for joining us for this March edition see you on Saturday 20th April at the St George’s Day Festival Leicester.


A Year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor: February

Welcome readers and all-round wonderful people to the amazing and fun hobby that is being a reenactor. Thank you for returning to read the next instalment of A Year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor for our group Vikings of Middle England. In case you have forgotten since January’s edition, we are a Viking re-enactment, living history and combat group based in Leicester, UK!

This month, as we all have grown accustomed to being somewhat more active as a group, we all begin to tackle the many projects related to the success of the group in all aspects of living history.

Living History

Our Viking encampment at Cromford Mills in 2023

For the uninitiated, living history means experiencing a taste of life as the Vikings could have lived. As closely as we can at events, we remove many of the modern-day trappings we all are accustomed to in our daily lives. All whilst trying to be historically accurate and present an authentic impression of the Viking-age. This covers the following aspects:

  • Clothing and personal belonging.
  • Tools used to practice different crafts.
  • Daily activities undertaken.
  • Everyday equipment, utilities and living quarters.
  • Facts about local, regional and other points of interest from the Viking diaspora.

Note: To answer a question I hear you forming. Although we spend the odd few nights in tents over the year as part of the events we offer, we all do have homes, mobile devices and modern luxuries. Our lives are not based 24/7 in Viking camps! (although some wish they could!)

A joyous part of our group is seeing collaboration. Various members have wide ranging interests. We all have a different origin in our approach to the portrayal, and contribute to our living history.

Our collective knowledge comes from group discussions and workshops. Individual research on specific topics shared back to the group forum, general fact-checking and cross-referencing of historical texts, and reviews of published works by Academic experts. In this context, the available projects members can contribute to is vast. Whether it’s something simple like making a new cloak, more complex like setting up a new or expanded Living History display, or learning a new skill such as woodworking, there is always someone willing to help and be your sounding board.


At our weekly sessions, Hrefna and Beigan have made savvy choices with the finishing off of their cloaks. Both of them have chosen the same colour and type of lightly felted wool. The difference lies with the contrasting-colour hand spun wool thread that each of them has chosen to finish off the edges. To do this they have rolled the cloak edges over and are doing a simple blanket stitch to add an adornment. It serves a functional purpose too – stopping the edges from fraying.

Don’t forget underwear!

þorunn (pictured above) is hand-sewing an undyed linen serk, a must have to wear under your thicker woollen kyrtle. This layering helps moderate your temperature whilst provides a comforting layer between your skin and the wool!

Boredom is not a complaint you ever hear us making! It opens up a creative part of the mind linked to muscle memory and learning through doing.

How about carving?

Our own Hermish (pictured above), coin master and Muster Caller Extraordinaire is this year embarking on a project to make a bag for his daughter who occasionally joins us on our weekend camps. She has seen people toting (pardon the pun) wooden bag handles. Some examples of these finds can be viewed here if you are interested. He intends to get some suitable wood and have a go at hand carving a set to go on a bag for her.

A walk in nature.

Later in the year, we will develop an interesting project that has stemmed from an interaction with a member of the public. They asked Lofthaena about the difference between the oak galls we use and the oak galls they had found themselves. Leading to finding the period correct oak galls for our Calligraphy display. We use oak galls for making ink for writing texts on parchment. Various species of wasp larvae cause galls to form on the underside of twigs and branches of oak trees. These galls are unsightly bumps, but when picked at the right time of the year and processed correctly, then added to the correct solution of water and iron oxide, turn the water dark brown and far more ink-like in colour and consistency than previously.

Hunting for wasps

Research so far discovered several types of oak gall wasp. Wasps have larvae that hatch and fall from the trees at different types of the year. Our challenge will be finding the ones belonging to the native species, the most likely candidate is oak apple gall wasps (Biorhiza pallida).

On the practical side, this project this will involve a woodland walk over surrounding regional areas to spot likely areas to find them. Then one of our favourite past times – experimental archaeology. Trying out what gets the best results and identifying future learnings to develop it’s potential. Look out for the November edition of a year in the life of a Viking reenactor where we check back to find out what happened with these projects!

Thank you readers for joining me on February’s a year in the life of a viking reenactor journey. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you want to meet us in person we will be at the Braunstone West Social Centre, on 14-2-24 from 7:45-10.15pm for our living history night where discussion will be on Viking Artefacts. Have you got a favourite Viking artefact?

CategoriesClothingDaily Living and PastimesRe-enactment

How to Make Viking Clothes

This is a quick start guide on how to make Viking clothes. The guide covers the basic patterns and hand-sewing techniques needed to make clothing for most people who lived in north-western Europe in the Viking-age. This is a starting point for simple first impressions in Viking reenactment, or accurate costume for TV and film, cosplay etc.

The typical person in the Viking-age was a subsistence farmer, apprentice or labourer, and this guide reflects that reality. For a more generalised view of Viking-age clothing, see our article on Viking Clothing and Jewellery.

Table of Contents

Hand Sewing Techniques

Even the poor­est peo­ple in the Viking–Age so­ci­eties of North­ern Eu­rope were good tai­lors — they had to be. Most peo­ple lived in rural communities, and even if they lived in an urban area, they might not have the money or surplus goods to trade for com­pleted gar­ments. Be­cause of this, I sug­gest plenty of practice at seam­ing and fitting. We’re not going for a ‘rustic’ look, but a quality garment. Old tea tow­els and bed­sheets are good to prac­tice on.

A picture of Viking-age shears or scissors discovered at the excavations in York.
Iron shears from Viking–Age York
© York Archaeological Trust for Excavation and Research


Viking age people had access to most of the same tools to make clothes as today, albeit somewhat cruder. Delicate fish-bone needles have been found along side chunkier iron and copper-alloy needles; scissors or shears retain the same long straight edges as today, but are made from iron; wooden, bone and copper-alloy pins came in all sorts of sizes; and there’s evidence of woollen and linen thread, alongside silk and metallic foil used in decorative bands and expensive accessories.

What you’ll need:

  • Sewing needles
  • Scissors or shears
  • Dress-making pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Tailors chalk or fabric marker (for drawing out patterns or making adjustments). You might also want to test your patterns on paper – something Viking-age people didn’t have access to, but useful if you don’t want to cut into expensive fabric straightaway, or want to reuse patterns later.
  • Thread: a good rule of thumb is to use linen thread on linen fabric and woollen thread on wool (and silk on silk etc.) One option is to pull threads from your fabric for truly invisible stitches. When you are practising, use a thread of a contrasting colour to the cloth.

Run your thread through a beeswax block to stiffen the thread, pre­vent knots and to help wa­ter­proofing.

Stitches to Master

These are stitches discovered in archaeological excavations that show how viking clothes were made. They will serve as the base for seaming, felling, and hemming. Fully explaining them is beyond the scope of this article, but there are many comprehensive hand-sewing tutorials online.

Illustration of a running-stitch, a common technique used to make viking clothes.

Running Stitch

Running-stitch is a simple and common technique where you pass the needle in and out in a single line. It’s important to use as small a stitch as possible as it’s easy to pull them out.

Back Stitch

Back-stitch is a strong stitch best used on seams that experience a lot of pulling, such as side seams. The back stitch goes back along the line, making a short loop that is difficult to pull out.

An illustration of a whip stitch used in making viking clothes

Whip Stitch

Also called Overcast or Oversewing, whip-stitch is used to close two edges of fabric, either in seam treatments, felling or hemming. The technique makes a loop of diagonal stitches.

An illustration of a blanket stitch used to finish viking clothes

Blanket Stitch

Blanket or Buttonhole-stitch is used to finish raw or cut edges. It’s similar to the whip stitch, but you catch a loop (like making a knot) to lay the thread along the edge, protecting it from fraying. The closer together the ‘L’ shaped stitch, the more secure the cut edge will be.

Seams and Seam Treatments

The simplest seam when making Viking clothes is just two pieces of fabric layered together and sewn with a running- or back-stitch (called a butted– or bound seam). When it’s turned inside out and pressed, the seem will look smart on the outside, with stitching and excess fabric hidden on the inside of the garment. But, the raw or cut edge of the fabric is likely to unravel or fray during use, especially if using linen, or wool that has a loose weave. To combat this, we use a seam treatment. Make sure you leave enough excess seam allowance when you cut your fabric to be able to do these techniques.

An illustration of a 'stand up seam'

Stand-up Seam

The stand-up seam is a common seam treatment and one of the easiest to make. Sew your seam together using a running or back stitch (as the explained above), then fold the cut edges inward towards the seam (press with an iron if it helps). On the join of the fold, use a whip stitch to catch all 4-layers and secure it. On thicker fabric, it may feel too bulky, so you could instead use a blanket stitch to secure the cut edge.

An illustration of a felled seam.

Felled Seam

A felled or spread-seam starts with a butted seam as explained above, but rather that folding the edge in as with a stand-up seam, we spread the edges away from the seam and whip-stitch the raw edges on one side, or both sides (optionally folding the edge in on itself). This makes the inside of the seam very comfortable, but you will have stitching visible on the outside, so be as neat as you can, using small stitches.

An illustration of a lapped seam, as seen at viking excavations at Hedeby/Haithabu

Lapped Seam

Lapped seams are similar to modern ‘flat-felled’ seams. You lay the edges over each other then either: whip-stitch the raw edges or; fold the edges under and lap them together, then whip-stitch the fold. It should look the same on the inside and outside of the garment.


The hem is where you treat an unjoined edge. Viking-age hems are almost always folded inward and then whip-stitched. On lighter material, such as fine linens or silk, the edge can be rolled in. On bulkier material, hems may have just been blanket-stitched. Occasionally we see the use of herringbone stitch on either the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ side of the fabric.

Illustration of a rolled hem, whip-stitched.

Herringbone Stitch

Herringbone-stitch is like a double-row of back-stitch. This type of stitch has been found on Viking-age fabrics and may have been used on the inside or outside of the garment in a decorative way, especially on hems in the place of a simple whip-stitch.

Viking Clothing – What You Need

Through the ex­am­i­na­tion of archaeological fragments, art, lit­er­a­ture, and ac­counts from the pre and post Viking–Age, we can de­ter­mine that there are a few dis­tinct gar­ments, depending on whether you dress as male or female.

Shirt or Serk/Skyrta

The serk or skyrta, we as­sume, is an under–gar­ment. For male dress (skyrta), it appears to be just longer than waist-length, while the female version is a gown (serk) that is just slightly-shorter than ankle-length. They’re both shorter that the kyr­tle, an over-garment, and are prob­a­bly close fitting at the neck and wrist to allow the larger kyrtle to be comfortably worn over it.

There is evidence for both woollen and linen under-garments. A linen shirt from Viborg is made from two layers, with a tight neck-hole finished with a tie, and tapered to fit at the sleeves. A woollen shirt from Skjoldehamn in the north of Norway has multiple gussets and a stand up collar, and another from Guddal shows similar construction.

The neckline on the female serk may be pleated

Tunic or Kyrtle

The Kyrtle is a woollen outer-garment with a large skirt – it’s length is below the knee for men, and to the ankle for women. It could be hitched up at the waist with a belt. The sleeves, while still tapered to fit, can be slightly bag­gier so they can be rolled up.

It’s not clear from ar­chae­ol­ogy how Viking-Age peo­ple lay­ered cloth­ing exactly, but fragments ad­hered to the un­der­side of metal brooches and buck­les on the top­most layer sometimes have multiple fabrics. This indicates that, at least at the time of burial, people wore an under and outer layer.


An­other part of the un­der­wear is the breeches and hose, or trousers. Again, much of our knowl­edge comes from pre and post Viking–Age finds, such as the Thors­berg trousers and Dät­gen breeches, but there is some con­tem­po­rary archae­ol­ogy. There’s a frag­ment of woollen hose found in Hedeby, and fragments of an elab­o­rately dec­o­rated pair of woollen trousers from Skjold­e­hamn.

Woollen leg wraps may have been worn to protect the trousers or the bare calf while working in the fields, and there are several fragments of coarse cloth that are candidates for belong to this garment, along with fasteners.


Along with the main clothing, there is evidence for headwear such as caps, hats and religious garb such as wimples. There are complete mittens made from wool for cold hands, and one of the most in­ter­est­ing and com­plete finds from York is a woollen sock wo­ven us­ing a tech­nique called Naal­bind­ing. On top of that, any cold or wet weather is best survived with a large shawl or cloak, and sturdy leather shoes.

Male Costume

Serk: wool or linen, mid-thigh length.
Kyrtle: wool, knee-length when hitched up with a belt.
Trousers: wool, ankle-length.
Leg Wraps: wool, enough to wrap your calves.
Belt: leather with a iron or copper-alloy buckel.
Hat: wool.
Cloak: wool, fixed with a copper-alloy pin.
Shoes: leather turnshoes.

Hrafn and Snorri wearing typical viking-age clothing.

Female Costume

Serk: wool or linen, above the ankle.
Kyrtle: wool, ankle-length.
Hose (optional): wool, fitted to your feet and to come above the knee.
Leg Wraps (optional): wool, enough to wrap your calves
Belt (optional): wool braid, leather depending on impression, though this seems to be rare.
Cap or Wimple: wool or linen for the cap, linen for wimple.
Cloak or Mantle: wool, fixed with a pin.

For more elaborate dress, specifically for Scandinavian female impressions, check out this great article on the Smokkr, a woollen over-garment fixed with beautiful oval brooches.

Making a Viking Kyrtle or Over-Tunic

As discussed above, the Kyrtle is the main outer-garment of the Viking-age person. It is made from a medium to thick wool, perfect for inclement weather protection, and to last as long as possible.

Textiles and Colours

Viking-age fabrics are commonly found woven in a Plain or Tabby Weave, or in a Twill Weave, usually 2/2 twill or 2/1 twill. To judge the fineness of a fabric, we use a measurement called sett. The sett is how many warp and weft threads there are per square centimetre (or inch, depending on where you are in the world). For wool, we also describe its hairiness. Hairy fabric has short curly fibres that are often coarse and scratchy, finer fabric has longer fibres that feel soft. For your kyrtle look for a medium-hairy fabric with a sett between 10 and 14 (ie. 10 to 14 threads per cm in both directions).


Period fleece was prepared for spinning in a process called ‘combing,’ where the selected fleece is drawn through the teeth of large iron combs. This produces a ‘worsted’ yarn that is made of mainly long, straight fibres, giving a soft texture. Later medieval, and modern wool yarns are often made by ‘carding’ the fleece, which produces a ‘woollen’ yarn that is made of short, curly fibres, giving a ‘hairy’ texture.

There were plenty of ‘hairy’ textiles from the Viking-age, probably made by adding more teeth to the combs for speed of processing, but modern people don’t often like wearing it close to the skin! It can be hard to tell the difference via a photograph, so always try and handle the fabric to see if it is soft or hairy, or look at the product description carefully (or ask the manufacturer) before buying. Fulled fabrics are not common in the Viking-age, so avoid buying them (if you can’t see the weave, it’s probably fulled or felted).

Types of Weave

Tabby Weave or Plain Weave is the simplest type of woven fabric. The warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) threads cross at right angles, aligned so they form a simple criss-cross pattern.

In twill weaves, the weft is staggered to the right or the left, creating a diagonal effect. For a 2/2 Twill Weave the weft goes under two warp threads, then over two.

In 2/1 Twill Weave the weft goes under two warp threads, then over one the weft goes under two warp threads, then over one

Most woollen fabrics, especially those intended for hard days of manual labour were probably undyed. Undyed colours range from bleached grey­ish white to a muddy green–brown.

Undyed wool colours

However, access to gardens with dyestuffs, or trade through urban centres meant that other colours were available. Wool takes dye pigments very well, and if a person had access to a lot of dyestuff, or a mordant to help fix the pigments to the fibres, colours could be quite vibrant. Madder and woad based dyes were the most abundant, giving a brick read and light/mid blue respectively. Other plants like tansy and weld give yellowish-green colours. More rarely, certain lichens give a pale purple/lilac colour.

Kyrtle Pattern

This pattern is based on interpretations of fragments found at Hedeby, and shares similarities with other finds, such as Skjoldehamn and Guddal, and medieval garments from Greenland. The period silhouette in art indicates a wide skirt, achieved by added 2 or more triangular inserts (gores).

The Hedeby fragments suggest an inset sleeve, contouring to the shoulder, and tapered at the wrist. One set of fragments from Hedeby also shows a pieced arm, perhaps to extend an otherwise tight fit.

Some interpretations suggest that the body of most early-medieval tunics are are ‘poncho cut.’ in other words, it’s made from one long piece of fabric and folded in half before cutting the neck hole.

To add a fuller skirt, you can add more gores. An interpretation from Hedeby has a separate skirt sewn to the body at the waist, in which case it can be made from many pieces.


Measure whist wearing a thickish layer as this is outerwear. Add an extra 3-5cm for seam allowance. Medium sized people need about 2m x 1.5m of fabric.

  1. Length: For men, from the shoulder, over the breast to the knee. For women, from the shoulder, over the breast to the ankle.
  2. Arm length: From the point of the shoulder, over a bent elbow (teapot!), to the wrist.
  3. Bicep: Around the thickest part.
  4. Wrist: Around the thickest part of the hand.
  5. Chest: Arm-pit to arm-pit over the breast.
  6. Shoulder to Arm-Pit: From the point of your shoulder to under your arm-pit.
  7. Gores: For men: waist, from the hip to the knee. For women: waist, over the hip to the ankle. The pattern above uses 2 gores in the sides for a simple Viking-age silhouette, but you can add 4 (or more), in the sides, front and back for a fuller skirt if you wish.
  8. Neck: All around the lower part of the neck, then half the measurement.
  9. Waist (Optional): You can make a more fitted garment by measuring your waist, wrap the tape around you, and halve it (allowing for seams).

When cutting fabric, keep the bottom blade of your shears on the cutting surface. This will allow them to glide smoothly through the fabric. If you can, use clamps or weights to help the fabric move less when cutting or measuring. If you are cutting two or more layers at once, think about getting a rotary cutter.


There are many necklines shown in period art work, and a few remain from the surviving fragments. The simplest neckline is a circle, just big enough to fit your head once hemmed. A nice variation of this is a circle just about the size of your neck with a split down front (keyhole), or offset to the side, where you can attach a thong, or use a bead as a fastener.

The ‘boat shape’ is common in art work, where the neckline is cut along the fold of the material and rounded off on the front and back to make it comfortable. The Kragelund tunic (left) has the boat shape over the front and back instead, giving it a distinct look.

The Skjoldeham tunic has a large ‘V’ neck, with decoration lining the cut.


Sewing the kirtle is straightforward. Start by sewing the sleeves into the arm holes, then stitch from the under arm to the waist. Use back stitch for this. Sew up the sleeves, then add the gores. Finish off by hemming the sleeves, skirt and neck, and felling the seams.

Making a Viking Shirt

The shirt pattern is a simple rectangle design, but otherwise follows the same measurement/construction method as the Kyrtle. The main difference between the male and female pattern is the overall length, and the need to add gussets for the longer female serk. For men, it should be above the knee, for women, it can be longer. In both cases it is shorter than the kyrtle. Additionally, skyrta/serks are fairly well fitting underwear, especially around the neck.

Textile and Colours

The shirt is best made from linen, although if you find softer, long-fibred wool, it’s not a supper itchy experience, and it’s that much more authentic for lower-status folk.

Use a medium weight, undyed tabby (plain weave) linen, or light weight tabby wool. Get one with a sett of 15-20 threads per cm for linen. Most linens would have been undyed in the Viking-age. Flax fibres do not hold much pigment, so without expensive mordants as fixatives, the colour appears washed out, or quickly fades. As the garment sits close to the skin, it will get very apparent sweat marks without thorough washing, which will also fade the colour.

Shirt Pattern

This is a hugely simplified ver­sion of the Vi­borg shirt without the lining, and is also similar to the T-tunic of antiquity. You can ei­ther cut two wide rec­tan­gles, or fold the fab­ric over and cut just the neck hole like a pon­cho. Insert square gus­sets un­der the arms for ex­tra space. The sleeves ta­per to the wrist, be­ing quite close fitting. For a female variant, add in triangular side gores to fill out the skirt (see the kyrtle pattern above) use a circular neckline and use pleats/gathers to fit the neck-hole nice and tight – there’s fragments of pleated material from Hedeby, Pskov and Birka that suggests this was a style used.

A Note on the Viborg Short

The Viborg shirt is a much more complicated garment than the simple pattern above. it is made of two layers of linen in the body, sewn together with a running stitch. The arms are made from two pieces, rather than one tube. The skirt is made of two pieces, one wider than the other to form an overlap, but it doesn’t have side gussets. The double layered body means that the neck hole consists of two flaps that are tied through a loop on each side.


Measurements are taken the same was as the Kyrtle above: around the chest, under the armpits, this will give you the width. Keep this garment more or less square, and slightly wider than the shoulder. Remember to leave allowances for seams, and refitting! Optionally, you can add in pieces to make a wider skirt, or add in a standing collar (best on wool shirts): this type of construction is seen on the Skjoldeham shirt.

Medium sized people need about 1.75m x 1.5m of fabric.


Sewing the serk is broadly the same as the kyrtle, but if you use square gussets, attach them to the sleeves first, then set the sleeve in. For the longer serk or gown worn by women, you can include gussets in the sides for a fuller skirt.

Making Viking Trousers or Breeches

Besides the Skjoldehamn trousers, fragments of legwear from Hedeby and earlier Iron-Age footed-breeches indicate possible methods of construction.

The legs, however long, are cut as tubes with a single seam — either inside or outside. Trousers have a large seat, and some bagginess for the behind. A separate waist belt is attached and folded over to incorporate a drawstring, or additional loops are sewn on to accommodate a belt.

Textiles and Colours

As with the kyrtle, choose a medium-hairy woollen fabric of around 10-14 threads per cm. Twill woven wool works best as the fabric stretches well in the bias. Again, colours are best plain, or using the simple dyes available to early-medieval people.

Trousers Pattern

This pattern is based on a find from Migration Period Germany (Thorsberg) which are form fitting and comfortable, with durable seam placement.


Add a 3-5cm seam allowance to each measurement.

  1. Length: Waist to ankle, measuring down the side of your body. These should sit high on your waist, not low slung on your hips.
  2. Hips: The widest part around your hips.
  3. Waist: Around your waist, over your belly button.
  4. Seat: From your belly button, between your legs, to your waistline on your back.
  5. Thigh: Measure loosely the widest part of the circumference of your thigh.
  6. Knee: Measure loosely the circumference of a bent knee.
  7. Ankle: Measure loosely the circumference of your ankle (we will cut a split to get your foot in).
  8. Seat Length: Measure from your waist at the back, to below your buttocks.
  9. Crotch Length: Measure from your waist at the front, under your legs to below your buttocks.

Also, measure ankle to knee, ankle to thigh, thigh to waist.

Trousers are basically two tubes (legs) attached to two rectangular gussets (a large square for the bottom, narrow rectangle for the crotch). The Waist band is sewn on separately and can either be made as a tube for a drawstring, or you can sew on 6-8 belt loops.

Short breeches should fall just be­low the knee, long trousers should be fitted at the an­kle. There is a small cut to al­low the foot through, which is re-en­forced with a blan­ket stitch.

Medium sized people need about 1.5m x 1.5m of fabric.


Sewing the trousers can be a little more complex than the tunic or shirt, so take your time, and use pins or tack-stitches to get the right shape. Try them on a lot!

  1. Pin the legs together along the curved edge from ankle to thigh, leaving 10cm at the bottom for the ankle slit. The garment will not sit perfectly flat or even at the ankle – this is ok, you’ll hem the ankle and tidy up later.
  2. Tack stitch (long running stitch) the seam and try the leg on to make sure it fits, adjust where needed, then back stitch the seam. Repeat for the other leg (remember to mirror the fold as you’ll get two of the same legs!)
  3. Pin the seat into the legs – start at the top and work down the curve from hip to thigh/crotch. You will not keep it perfectly square – this is good, you want a lot of stretch.
  4. Pin in the crotch – it will connect to the seat, and the remaining parts of the legs. The leg seams will fall to the sides.
  5. Tack together and fit, adjust as you need, then back stitch together.
  6. If you find they are too tight in the thighs, add in triangular gores to the inside of the legs.


  1. Turn the trousers the proper way out (as if you are wearing them). On the outside, place your waistband so the edge of the waistband and top edge of the trousers meet (the widest part is at the back, the join is at the front – especially important if you use a drawstring!) Back stitch just below the edge, to the waistband is like a flap all around the waist.
  2. Now fold the waistband up and over the edge and to the inside of the trousers. Roll the edge (so it is on the inside) and whip stitch it on.
  3. Whip stitch the belt loops equally around the waist.

Making Viking Legwraps

Legwraps, some­times called winingas or putees, are cloth strips that protect the lower leg. They need to be at least 2m long and are 10-20cm wide, whether they are woven as a single item, or cut and hemmed. A twill or herringbone wool is the best fabric as will be stretchier while you move around. Alternatively, a smaller tablet-woven band could be used.

Legwarps can be fasted with hooked tags, common throughout the Viking world, or tied with a band or thong. Project Forlog has a great page on the use of hooked-tags as clothes fasteners.

Cloaks and Shawls

illustration of a man in a cloak.

A ba­sic cloak is a sim­ple rec­tan­gle of thick wool. The fab­ric is tabby wo­ven or a sim­ple twill. The edges are finished with a blan­ket stitch, or if woven as a single piece, finished plain or with twisted warp-ends. In terms of size, the length should be about the same as the wingspan of your outstretched arms, and wide enough to wrap around your torso.

Period artwork shows men pin the cloak on their right shoulder. Use a copper-alloy brooch or pin.

a ringed pin
A ringed pin from Got­land in the British Mu­seum

Icons of female figures show a sort of shawl, where the rectangular or square-woven cloth is wrapped around the body and fastened at the front. It might look something like this:

Making a Jorvik Cap

Thorunn in a cap

Most women’s caps found in the Viking age are a simple rectangle of cloth folded over and sewn on one side. Caps can be made from wool, linen or silk. The Jorvik cap is made of silk, and the hems are rolled. The rear corner has a line of stitches that follows the contour of the head.

Cap Pattern

The cap is a simple rectangular head covering with a tie under the chin. You can make it out of wool or linen. Cut a rectangle to the following dimensions:

  1. Length: From your chin, to your right ear, over the crown of your head, down to your left ear and to your chin. (approx 60cm for medium sized head)
  2. Width: From your forehead to the back of your skull, then half it. (approx 20cm for medium sized head)


  1. Fold in half
  2. There are two methods to round the corner:
    1. Pictured: Sew an arc from the middle of the fold to the back edge and continue to sew the back seam. Cut off the excess and treat the seam.
    2. Sew the back edge, then pull the top in. Whip stitch the outside to create the curve.
  3. Finish the back seam and hem the open edges
  4. Optional: Add a tie — a loop of braid, or folded strips of linen.

Wimple Pattern

Alternatively, Christian women wear a wimple, a formal head scarf, in period artwork. The wimple is a a long semi-circle of cloth.

  1. Length: is the length of out stretched arms
  2. Width: at it’s thickest point is 1/4 to 1/3 the length. eg. If length is 100cm, with would be 25cm or 33cm.

You can use a bone, wooden or copper-alloy pin to secure, or use a tablet-woven band (sometimes called a fillet).

Loffy in a wimple

Making a Viking Hat

Several hats are present in the archaeological record or the Viking-Age. The two simplest to make are a 4-panel hat based on a find from Birka, Sewden, and a ‘pillbox’ hat from Leens, Netherlands. Other headgear also exists, such as hoods.

4-Panel Hat Pattern

4-panel hat diagram

To make the hat, first measure your head circumference from around your forehead, tops of ears and back. Divide by 4 to get the short edge size of the panel. Now measure from ear to ear and half the measurement for the height of the panel from the short edge to the point. Draw the long edges in towards the point. (Remember to add a few centimetres for seam allowance to each side.)

Sew all 4 pieces together, and hem the bottom edge.

Pillbox Hat Pattern

pillbox hat diagram

To make the hat, first measure your head circumference from around your forehead, tops of ears and back. This is the circumference of the circular crown panel, and the length of the rectangular headband panel. The height of the rectangular headband panel is about 11cm (not including seam allowance).

The Leens example is made of 3 pieces, with two semi-circles stitched together to form the crown. It is attached to the headband with a whip stitch. Th eseams are decorated on the outside with a herringbone stitch, and the hem is decorated with a visible running stitch, also on the outside.


The accessories listed here are personal items that finish off a costume. These are key items for the fit of clothing — usually functional as well as decorative, and some essential for any work or trade.


Shoes from the Viking-age are made of leather and are usually of the turnshoe construction. The upper is cut as one piece then stitched to the sole inside out around a last — it is then turned the right way out so that the stitching is on the inside.

Turnshoe diagram
Based on examples found in York. A single piece for the foot and ankle is sewn to a separate sole in most cases. There are variations with slightly taller uppers and 3 toggles, and those with shallow uppers that look like slippers.

Knife and Sheath

A knife is of course a great utility. Made of iron, sometimes with a hard steel edge, the knife or seax could be anywhere from a couple of inches to the size of a machete. These smaller knives aren’t adapted for warfare. They are tools that are used around the house, or out in the fields and woods.

The handle would be of wood, some set with bone, sometimes with copper-alloy or iron fittings. Housing the knife is a leather sheath. Wet leather wrapped around the knife forms the sheath, where we cut to shape and stitch one seam. In some cases metal fittings protect the stitching.


Men wore a gir­dle around the waist, usu­ally of leather. The strap is about 1/​2 inch to 1 inch in width and tied (with split ends) or buck­led. Belts are often made with two thin layers stitched together. Buck­les are made from bone, iron, lead-alloy or cop­per-al­loy. Buck­les are sometimes ac­com­pa­nied by a strap-end which pro­tects the leather and pro­vides ex­tra dec­o­ra­tion. Many metal items in the Viking–age were stamped with a ring and dot mo­tif, or scored with ‘dogs teeth’ markings.


The best preserved sock is from York and made from wool with a technique called nalbinding. The knot­ted con­struc­tion makes them ex­tremely hard wear­ing, and quite wa­ter­proof. Then there’s simple sewn socks using normal woollen textiles, found at Skjoldeham in Norway.


Spindle whorls are a common find in archaeological excavations, indicating the importance of spinning yarn from fleece at home. Spindles are made from bone, wood and clay and mounted on a wooden rod, the fleece is drawn into thin strands as it’s spun. Women spent a good portion of the year spinning yarn from fleece, so this is an essential item for female impressions.

For more information about textiles and clothing of the Viking-age, check out our article. We also have a summary of Viking Children’s clothing. Now ensconced on this blog, this page will be easier to edit and we intend to add pages covering other garments, such as the apron-dress or smokkr, the Klappenrock jacked, caftans and more.

Further Reading

This guide is for new reenactors starting out, and those putting together simple costumes of early-medieval/Viking-age people, rather than an academic work. How­ever, if you are in­ter­ested in finding out more about Viking–Age cloth­ing and ac­cou­trements, please find a se­lec­tion of books and on­line ar­ti­cles below.


A Year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor: January

Welcome readers and all-round wonderful people to the amazing and fun hobby that is being a reenactor. I’d like to share with you tales from a year in the life of a Viking reenactor. The group I am part of, as you probably gathered if you have navigated to this webpage, is Vikings of Middle England (VME). A Viking period living history and combat group.

I invite you to join me on a journey through a year of re-enactment with our group. Along the way I’ll share our highs and lows, we’ll encounter some of the group’s characters, and feel like part of the kindred.

So with a high energy introduction to kick start 2024 lets jump into action! Anybody already feeling a little bored with the new year promises made around fitness or doing something new like joining a new social group etc., etc? Then read on.

Viking warriors charge! A Vikings of Middle England demonstration at Elvaston Castle Country Park in 2022

Where Vikings meet

Vikings of Middle England meet on a weekly basis, Wednesday nights 7:45-10.15pm at the Braunstone West Social Centre a great venue for our activities, the added benefit of being close to 3 bus routes, as well as free on site car parking, a rarity in Leicester!

This weekly session is our regular catch up with members who contribute to the living history part of our group as well as those who participate in our unique theatrical style of combat. I should probably say here – yes our weapons may be blunted but they are still very real, made of wood and steel. It’s quite a treat to hear the clash of swords in person and watch our skilled warriors practicing their techniques.

Combat sessions start with a brief warm up which helps us avoid injuries, and we can nicely warm up the vocal chords if we are so inclined. Particular focus is given to the shoulder muscles given when we fight we use a combination of weapons and a shield. This can be Seax, Axe, Sword or 1-handed spear (Javelin). The exception to this is those who use a longer spear, which is used as a 2 handed weapon, so no shield.

Combat Training

In our group the first weapon you start with is the Seax or small knife. We can train in all of the weapons but we have to master the basics first to use them safely – another reason for a weekly session.

After the warm up are a series of group activities where we recap previously taught skills. How to survive a 2 person verses 1 person fight, activities to target endurance and general confidence, etc. As well as the physical focus, these exercises teach tactical thinking, evasive manoeuvres, situational awareness and builds the ability to work together. This all enables us, year after year, to put on breathtaking shows which make our audiences laugh, cheer AND when a real battlefield villain makes an appearance, boo and hiss as well. Look out for these tales in the July edition of a year in the life of a re-enactor.

Leading the first combat session of the year on 17-1-24 is Throst our Stallari (You may also be familiar with more modern terms used for this role: leader, captain, sensei etc., etc.). Throst was kind enough to share some thoughts with me about combat for 2024.

“Some members are in the middle of training with a new weapon and several have discussed starting training in something different. Our combatants have a personal training guide which showcases a variety of areas to try out. Working through weapons is usually a solid starting point but there are also resources to lead a new game or try something you may not get the chance to do elsewhere. Our combatants work towards combined goals and have a shared knowledge ethos. Questions are always being asked so we can always help each other develop and improve.”

Throst, our Chief Training Officer

At the end of the 2 hour session, we have worked on our cardio, muscle strength, and incorporated footwork and balance, ensuring our fights don’t start or finish in a dangerous position. As well as a generous use of our voices as we cheer and encourage our fighters. Guaranteed, buckets of sweat have been shed and we have had a wonderfully fun workout we will feel the next day but still be talking about weeks later.

Next time in A Year in the Life of a Viking Re-Enactor

If you are still reading this my thanks to you. In February’s edition of A Year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor: you will be meeting some of our members and finding out about particular living history projects they will be undertaking over the course of the year. How they developed the idea from a research and personal point of interest. Do you have a passion project that you want to make this year?

~ Kori


Repton Festival Review

A little reel of our living history activity at Repton Festival last weekend!

We presented a load of crafts at the weekend and made use of the fantastic clear skies! Our carpenters Beigan and Bjarni made planks and wood-nails for clinker-construction, while our blacksmith Yngvar made ships nails and roves to rivet them together. Solveig the Viking (aka Lucy the Tudor), Hrefna and Ðorunn spun and weaved, and did nalbinding.

Throst made a “Traveller’s Porridge” based on “An Early Meal” by Daniel Serra, while Loðinn talked brewing. Members of the public worked hard grinding barley into flour.

Steinar, Kenelm and Snorri showed off arms and armour, Hrothgar talked about trade and showed off goods from around the Viking world. Kael cast jewellery, Hermish helped members of the public strike their own Viking coin, and Lofthaena made paint from red ochre and egg yolk. And there’s probably more we’ve forgotten!

Also at Repton Festival we did 5 combat displays (check out one on Facebook here), including weapons demonstrations, historical and for entertainment! We talked about the phases of a battle, how men were organised, our thoughts on “shield walls” and how dane axes could be used in a battle.

It was a fantastic weekend, and only a small portion of what we can do. Check out our upcoming events, and follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. If you’re local to the East Midlands, feel free to come to our weekly meeting and see what we do.

CategoriesClothingDaily Living and PastimesMaterial CultureRe-enactment

Viking Kids Clothes

Part of the fun of belonging to a community of Viking Reenactors is bringing the family along! That means making our 5-year old Viking kids clothes. In fact, we’re up to his third Viking costume. We know precious little about children’s’ clothing in the Viking Age, so really we are just scaling down the little we really know about adult viking clothing!

Excavated remains of textile fragments belonging to garments are staggeringly rare, so it’s hard to drawn solid conclusions about the tailoring. But, we do have significant hints from places like Skjoldeham, Guddal, and Hedeby, where pieced fragments show the general shape and seam treatments. Some things we can glean from contemporary artwork – manuscripts, jewellery etc.

We wanted to approach “Hikke’s” Viking kids clothes in the same way we approach Viking adult clothing, so we read the last costume works (such as Viking Dress Code by Kamil Rabiega), chose the materials carefully, and hand sewed all of his clothes.


Hikke’s first costume was when he was just a few months old. A friend, and member of the group, made a simple t-tunic of linen, and a woollen outer garment based on the shirt from Skjoldeham, Norway, complete with decorative front-neck panel and collar. It’s worth mentioning here that throughout history, children (male and female) wore simple shifts or gowns, with no legwear. This is likely also the case in the Viking-age. Before a child is toilet trained, there may have been a ‘napkin’ worn to collect waste. Again, there’s no evidence in the Viking-age, but we have to collect the poo somehow! 😬 For pragmatic reasons, we did make some wool trousers to cover his modern nappie.

A year later, and growing at pace, he still mostly fit into the woollen clothes as we left significant seam allowed and large hems, but the shirt needed to be replaced. So into the stockpile of clothing hand-me-downs we went! In the hot summer we found a simple linen kyrtle in club kit. It’s a wide-skirted and knee-length tunic. This silhouette is seen in many early medieval manuscripts (on adult figures).


The next year was the pandemic, so with an 18 month break, he needed an entirely new outfit! This time we went for a simple woolen kyrtle and again raided the club-kit for a shabby looking linen undershirt.

The bonus of being in an established group that it has had many families over the years. That means there is an abundance of Viking kids clothing! (Though some would be gently retired from excessive wear, or just because they were made with a different understanding of Viking clothing).

We made legwear, also in wool, based on the cut of the Thorsberg trousers. This cut is very practical, with a large crotch and butt panel, and gussets in the legs. These proved to be remarkably hard wearing, coming through the hardest of pre-schooler trials! We also started to accessorise. We made a hood, again based on a find from Skjoldeham, Norway, and bought a superb belt buckle (which I’ll talk about later).


In 2023, Hikke has once again had a growth spurt so we made him a whole new set of viking kids clothes. This one was a little more well thought out, now that he has properly proportioned limbs. 😅

We made a linen undershirt in a t-tunic style, and a Kyrtle made of a 2/2 twill wool with a bead neck-fastener. We also made with mittens from the same material. The Kyrtle and tunic are patterned with a simple poncho-cut with the neck hole cut into the length of fabric. Sleeves and side gores are then added in. This is a simple cut that creates the look of the silhouette seen in period artwork. Gores are seen from extant garments and fragments.

The Kyrtle doesn’t have the close fitting tailoring (rounded shoulders, separate skirt etc.,) or front and rear gores seen on other period garments. This is mainly for practical reasons. He still needs to be able to grow into it for the rest of the year! The Kytrle is completely hand-sewn using period stitches and seam treatments. Parts are sewn with thread made from the same yarn as the fabric itself!

Once again, we made leg wear. A pair of Thorsberg-style trousers (of course!) and breeches or ‘braes’ – shorts basically. But Hikki often goes around without anything underneath!


The mittens are patterned from a couple of finds. That of the child’s mittens from Heynes, Iceland. These were kept together with a sewn-on lace that could be threaded through their sleeves to stop them from losing them. Second was a mitten from the Lendbreen glacier in Norway and the cut of the pattern is based on it.

The bead is based on the blue bead of the man in grave 511 at Repton. It was worn on a necklace with another bead and a Thor’s Hammer. In this case we’ve used the bead for a neck fastening. It’s a simplified version of the silver-bead fastener and braided loop on the shirt from Skjoldehamn, Norway. The bead was made by Tillerman Beads.

The antler buckle which we bought last year is based on a find at the excavations of Fishamble Street in Dublin (NM E190:6273). It’s decorated with ring and dot incision and the tongue is held in with a metal pin. It was made by Gear and Graith.

Making Viking kids clothes isn’t a daunting task, and with help from a family oriented group, it’s easy to keep your children involved. (Even if sometimes they just need some peace and quiet in a tent with a tablet!) If you are looking for a new family adventure, want to get started in re-enactment, then check out our website for more information, catch us at our weekly training in Leicester, or drop us an email at!


How I started in Viking re-enactment

History is something most people read in books or watch on TV. But there is another way to experience history. Viking Re-enactment, or in a more general sense “living history,” is a unique pastime that gives us the opportunity to recreate parts of history. It could be using copies of ancient tools to craft goods or to create art, or the thrill of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your team in a mock battle.

Warriors of Vikings of Middle England line up next to each other, preparing for battle
Re-enactment battles are a lot of fun, but not the only way to recreate history!

I had to be dragged along to a weekly training session for ‘the Viking group.’ I had no idea what I was in for. To be honest, it sounded pretty lame: people dressing up as Vikings and pretending to hit each other with blunt swords. That was 20 years ago.

At first, I enjoyed the fighting. It’s a system of combat that is designed to entertain a crowd. A mixture of historical European martial arts principles, with performing arts. The first time I had a crowd cheering me on by name is indelibly marked on my brain. Sadly, I was cut down soon after. It was awesome. It’s a lot of fun, and training scales remarkably well for different levels of fitness and body type. Axes, spears, swords and huge two-handed ‘Dane axes’ are used as you progress as a warrior.

But fighting is only a small part of the experience. I didn’t know anything about the Vikings when I joined – except that they wore horned helmets and sailed in longships. Turns out, one of those things was wrong! At my first Viking re-enactment event I dressed up as an Anglo-Saxon peasant – the shame – but playing a plucky underdog definitely appealed. Other members helped me learn all about the different crafts and displays, filling in my knowledge as I went on.

Image shows 4 Viking warriors from Vikings of Middle England re-enactment group
Me, on the right. Could be about to drop the Dark-Ages biggest Folk Album.

The aim of the group is to put on public displays to educate and entertain. In doing it, I was also being educated and entertained, and I didn’t even know it. As well as history, I learned how to make things, how to chop wood and cook over an open fire. Being part of a group, working together for a shared goal and sharing stories around the campfire gave me valuable life experience.

The Vikings became my extended family over the years. In fact, many would bring their children who’d have the run of beautiful historic venues: castles and woods and country parks. A giant playground. Sometimes the kids would know more about the Vikings than me, and they are always better at archery! Years later, I’m bringing my own son to events with his ‘aunts and uncles’ and friends. I’m going to enjoy watching him grow up and earn those life skills and have those experiences.

The years have passed, I’m a bit slower, a bit (a lot) fatter and as interested in researching Viking-age life and crafts as I am hitting people with swords, but my enthusiasm hasn’t diminished. I’ve since started a family with someone I met through the group and I have a massive extended family of awesome people. I haven’t ever regretted it.

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like If I hadn’t joined a Viking re-enactment society. It’s a fantastic activity, and a great place to meet people. You don’t need to know anything (I didn’t) or be TV-Vikings fit (I wasn’t) to get started. Why not try it out?

~ Alan ‘Kael’ Ball, Deputy Leader, Vikings of Middle England. To find out more, visit or contact