The Orkney hood was found in 1876 in a peat bog in St. Andrew’s parish, Orkney. A detailed description of the original find was given by the experimental archeologist Jacqui Wood, who was commissioned to create an accurate reconstruction of the Orkney Hood by the National Museum of Scotland in 2002. The hood is a unique garment that combines a herringbone twill fabric for the hood with two tablet woven trims, one with fringe. The precise date of construction of the garment is unknown, but Audrey Henshall suggested that the hood was likely from the Iron or early Viking age. A more recent study comes to the same conclusion.
The whole garment is woolen, now a warm brown color with darker threads in the bands. The measurements of the hood are: middle forehead round to under chin 11 inch, point at crown to bottom of bands at back 19.5 inch, round shoulders 37.5 inch., length of fringe 11 to 12 inch; The hood is made up of three separate woven pieces. The cloth of the hood was a 2/2 herringbone twill weave with very erratic widths of the chevron stripes. The width ranged from 18 to 88 warp threads per stripe. The lower part of the hood consists of two tablet woven bands and the fringe. The upper band is 0.75 inch wide. It is hand sewn to the hood, the bottom edge is sewn to the upper edge of the lower band. The lower band is 2.75 inch wide, and from it hangs the fringe, which is an integral part of the band. The narrow, upper band consists of 23 threads of various color and thickness. The wide, lower band consists of 150 threads and required 50 tablets. It was woven with a mixture of light brown and dark brown threads. The fringe was formed from the weft of the lower band and thus an integral part of the band.
Reconstructed hood by Jacqui Wood.
Weaving the fabric
The current project only covers the weaving of the fabric for the hood; the tablet woven bands and assembly of the entire piece are a future project. The original hood is quite small and I had to enlarge all dimensions to make it fit my wife. Measuring required scaling all measurements with a factor of ca. 1.5, thus requiring a fabric of approximately 29 x 27 inch. Since this exceeded the width of my loom, I decided to weave a 13.5 inch wide strip of twice the length.
The reconstruction used single ply wool for the warp and the weft: a single thread for the weft and a double (unplied) thread for the warp. I setup the warp with 300 warp threads of store bought very loosely plied two-ply wool, which gave me a starting width of a little over 16 inch, enough wider to allow for the inevitable narrowing of the fabric during the first few inches of weaving and for shrinkage after washing. I unplied the same wool to get single ply thread for the weft. The chevron bands have a varying number of weft threads per band for a total number of picks of 392. This requires a weft count of a little over 13/inch or 5/cm, close to what I was getting in another project using the same wool. So even though I increased the size by about a factor 1.5, the total number of weft threads should end up being close to that of the extant piece. So I started weaving the fabric using the same sequence of herringbone bands as the original. After completing the entire sequence, the total length of the fabric was ca. 28 inch, very close to what was needed for the hood in the desired size. So I only added a single band of 24 picks to give a little margin for shrinkage. I then wove another complete sequence to get the other half of the fabric that I will need for the hood.
Creating the warp using a tablet woven starter band (left) and the finished heddles for 2/2 herringbone twill (right).
Tying on the loom weights (left) and the fully warped loom (right).
Close-up of the first inch of woven fabric.
Tying off the fringe at the end of the warp.
Washing and drying of the finished fabric.
Gabra-Sanders, T. (2001) The Orkney Hood, Re-Dated and Re-Considered, in Rogers, P. W., Jorgensen, L. B., and Rast-Eicher, A. (eds) The Roman Textile Industry and its Influence, Oxbow (Oxford).
Henshall, Audrey S. (1951-52) Early Textiles found in Scotland: Part One, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol. 86.
Wood, Jacqui (2003) The Orkney Hood: an ancient re-cycled textile, in Downes, J. and Ritchie, A. (eds), Sea Change: Orkney and Northern Europe in the Later Iron Age ad 300-800 (Balgavies, Angus: The Pinkfoot Press), pp. 171-75