Starting A New Project – Iron Age Finnish Mantle

May 29, 2013

Perniö grave find in the Finnish National Museum. ©2010 Zoe McDonnell. Used by permission.

I am starting a new project with a hard deadline of the third weekend in July.  This project, an iron-age Finnish mantle, combines cloth weaving, tablet weaving and coiled wire work.   I fully expect the next six weeks to be filled with insanity, frustration, ah-ha moments and, hopefully, joyous triumph.  I’m looking forward to it!

The inspiration for this project is a mantle dated to the 12th century that was excavated at Yliskylä in Perniö (a municipality of Finland) in 1893 by Hjalmar Appelgren-Kivalo.  [1] Appelgren-Kivalo described these finds in Suomalaisia ​​pukuja myöhemmältä rautakaudelta – Finnische Trachten aus der Junger Eisenzeit (Finnish costumes from later Iron Age ) published in 1909.  (I’d love a copy of this book if anyone has it or knows where to get it for a price that won’t break the bank.)

The main body of the mantle is woven in 2/2 twill with hollow or tubular selvedges.  The picture at right was taken in the Finnish National Museum.  I’ve manipulated the original image to lighten it and add contrast to bring out the details.  One can very clearly see the coiled wire band running vertically through the image.  It is attached to/next to the plain woven hollow selvage.

According to Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander in her book, Ancient Finnish Costumes, the size of the mantle is 147 centimeters long by 94 centimeters wide.[2]   This is known due to the spiral wire ornamentation found on all sides.    She further describes the complex ornamentation on the mantle thus:

“Warp threads in both mantle ends have first been used as weft in tablet-woven bands which terminate the cloth. Then these same warp threads have been plaited and braided crosswise, and at the same time small spirals have been threaded in them, so that different figures were formed. After that a new tablet-woven band has been woven, and again the original warp threads have been used as weft. Finally they have formed the fringes of the mantle ends.” [3]

Perniö costume reproduction in the Finnish National Museum. ©2010 Zoe McDonnell. Used by permission.

There is a reproduction of this mantle presently in the Finnish National Museum in Helsinki that was created for  the Nordic Archaeological Congress in 1925. [4]  It is woven in white yarn, banded by red and gold tablet weaving and and coiled wire ornamentation.   The information I have on the actual grave find is somewhat limited, I’ll be referring to this piece where needed to flesh out the details of the mantle.

One of the most interesting features of some Finnish textiles, and of this mantle in particular is that it has been woven with hollow selvages.    The selvage is woven in plain weave and, more or less, doubles back on itself before continuing into the body of the garment, forming a tube at the edge.

I have never woven with hollow selvages.   This will be an interesting experiment in threading and weaving.

Further reading on iron age and medieval Finnish costume and textiles.

Lehtosalo-Hilander, Pirkko-Liisa. Ancient Finnish Costumes. Suomen arkeologinen seura-The Finnish Archaeological Society, 1984.

Jorgensen, Lise Bender. North European textiles until AD 1000. Aarhus University Press, 1992.

Kirjavainen, Heini & Riikonen, Jaana. Some Finnish Archaeological Twill Weaves from the 11th to 15th century. -Change of fleece type and weaving tradition? Report from the 9th NESAT symposium, 18.-21. May 2005 in BraunwaldSwitzerland. Painossa.

Riikonen, Jaana.  A Message of Dress from Finland Proper – A Viking Age Grave and a Costume Reconstruction. Studies in Honour of Jüri Selirand. Muinasaja Teadus 13: 229-249.

Information on hollow or tubular selvages in:

Barber, Elizabeth Jane Wayland. Prehistoric textiles: the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with special reference to the Aegean. Princeton University Press, 1991.

Wild, John Peter. Textiles in archaeology. Vol. 56. Shire, 1988.

Wild, John Peter. Textile manufacture in the northern Roman provinces. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1970.

Websites and blogs:

Inge Dam demonstrates combining tablet-woven tubular selvages and  woven cloth in this you tube video.

Peter Beatson mentions leg wraps with tubular selvages found in a Finnish grave in his article on Wicklebanders.  He also provides a diagram here.

Satu Hovi has images and description of twill weave with hollow selvages in this blog post.  Site is in Finnish.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Lehtosalo-Hilander, Pirkko-Liisa Ancient  Finnish Costumes. Helsinki: Suomen arkeologinen seura – The Finnish Archaeological Society, 1984. Print. 19.
  2. Ibid., 24.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid. 22.

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4 Responses to Starting A New Project – Iron Age Finnish Mantle

  1. Threads
    May 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    I will be watching with interest, since this place/time is one I am studying now. I too have never woven hollow edges. Let us know how that goes!

  2. May 30, 2013 at 1:19 am

    Good luck! I’m planning a reconstruction of a cloth with bronze spirals of the Dame von Waldalgesheim grave, 350 BC. and have already done a small band with brone spiral just as a trial.

    • admin
      May 30, 2013 at 7:30 am

      Marled, that sounds interesting. I don’t believe I know of that find. Can you tell me a little about it?

  3. May 30, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    You’ll find here a very short description:
    It’s not so far from the place where I live and it’s rather unique. Archeologists assume that the woman may be originated from another culture. She must have been highly estimated, as the lore was very precious, lots of gold and other very rare materials. As the grave mound was digged at the end of the 19th century, documentation is not so good, especially about the bronze spirals and rings, but one of the experts of textile archeology, Han-Jürgen Hundt, wrote a small essay about the finds. It was published in this book:
    The spirals were definitively woven in and not embroiedered.

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