Thorsbjerg Tunic

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Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Tim Edwards on November 16th, 2009, 6:00 pm

Here is our first attempt at the Thorsbjerg tunic:

http://virtuallegionary.blogspot.com/20 ... chive.html

It is virtually identical to the tunic shown on the gallic warrior relief from Vacheres, and also seems to have been the standard outdoor tunic for many Roman soldiers stationed on the Rhine.

Lancaster_tombstone[1].jpg
Guerrier_de_Vach%C3%A8res_(d%C3%A9tails_%C3%A9p%C3%A9e) - Copy.jpg
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Alex Hovorka on November 16th, 2009, 6:46 pm

Have you figured out a purpose for the cuffs?
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby J Meijer on November 16th, 2009, 7:44 pm

Very, very nice.
I'm looking forward to seeing pictures of the mk.II already!


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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby John Olinger on November 16th, 2009, 9:21 pm

Alex Hovorka wrote:Have you figured out a purpose for the cuffs?

Well, it's a cold weather garment. Perhaps the cuff is intended to fold down to protect the hands (overlap mittens, maybe) when the mercury drops.

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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby John Olinger on November 16th, 2009, 9:27 pm

John Olinger wrote:
Alex Hovorka wrote:Have you figured out a purpose for the cuffs?

Well, it's a cold weather garment. Perhaps the cuff is intended to fold down to protect the hands (overlap mittens, maybe) when the mercury drops.

John/Scota

It occurred to me after I posted, that both sculptures (featuring the cuffed sleeves) are equestrians.
Can someone with more horse experience than I comment on this or is it just a coincidence?
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Bob Roeder on November 16th, 2009, 11:19 pm

Hi Tim,

What a fascinating project!!

Did you actually get to examine the tunic?
The only source I have on the Thorsbjerg tunic, besides a few things on the internet, is a rather old text (1866) "Denmark in the Early Iron Age" by Conrad Engelhardt (I believe it is being offered again in reprint). Engelhardt describes the tunic (in brief): "A kirtle of woolen cloth, 34 1/2 inches long and 21 inches broad composed of two pieces, the seams being sewn with black woolen thread of three plies. The sleeves have separately woven borders of a very fine and elegant texture... The sleeves, moreover, are made of another, and I presume on account of their being exposed to wear, stronger sort of cloth, with a diamond pattern (the same as the stockings attached to the trousers)......"

I noticed in sources that the seams of the (one-piece??) sleeves are either interpreted as laying along the front of the sleeve (which you seem to have followed) and some say it is along the back. Without comparing to the sculptures, is it possible to tell if the sleeves would be long enough to cover the hand, or if the end of the sleeve (no cuff turned up) would fall at the right length? Are the sleeves fitted into the body of the tunic at an angle (like a modern coat) or if the tunic is laid out flat do they lay out like a T (perpendicular to the torso)???

It appears that you flat-felled the seams (at least those that can be seen in the photos.


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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Alex Hovorka on November 17th, 2009, 1:43 am

I never thought about making sleeves out of a stronger material. My tunics always get holes in the elbows before anything else and its really frustrating.
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Becky Watkins Tien on November 17th, 2009, 10:23 am

Tim,
Excellent work and great pics!

John,
Fascinating observation about the equestrians. If the cuffs turn down, they'll cover the palm, not the back of the hand. Better for cushioning rein-bearing hands rather than keeping hands warm?
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Tim Edwards on November 18th, 2009, 7:40 am

Interestingly, my reconstruction can be worn comfortably either way round!

However, when worn with the seams on the outside of the arm, as in the Vacheres relief, the notch on the Thorsbjerg tunic is positioned under the hand. If worn with the seam on the inside of the arm, the notch allows a gap for the thumb when the cuff is rolled over the hand.

The question on cavalry vs infantry is interesting. I'd be tempted to class it as a general outdoors tunic, but it is true that the majority of Roman portrayals demonstrate it on Auxiliary Cavalrymen. An exception is an infantry standard bearer shown on a column base from Mainz. The Vacheres warrior sculpture does not have a horse, though one could make a strong argument that such an individual might have owned one!

I emphasise the fact that is the first attempt, very much a trial piece. The next one will have the diamond weave sleeves and colourful dyes and tablet weaving as on the original. I will also visit the museum before I attempt the Mark II!
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Will Marshall-Hall on December 5th, 2009, 10:39 pm

Hi Tim,

Great work. Love it. Was really interested to hear about the diamond twill sleeves. The Vachere' statue always seemed to have leather sleeves to me or maybe felt because of the form it takes on the contours of the arm. But, I digress. Excellent work.
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Magalí de la Reina on December 16th, 2009, 2:51 pm

A very fine work! Compliments!
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Tim Edwards on December 22nd, 2009, 5:39 am

Here it is again, put to the test! This is the highest watch tower on the German Limes, at -20°C!

The Thorsbjerg tunic was an excellent base layer, and the cuffs fold neatly over the hands for a little extra warmth.
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Alex Hovorka on December 29th, 2009, 3:35 pm

Is there anyway you could describe the sewing techniques you used?
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Tim Edwards on January 10th, 2010, 7:01 am

I think this has been shown before, but this site was a useful starting point:

http://heatherrosejones.com/archaeologi ... /wool.html
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Alex Hovorka on January 10th, 2010, 1:42 pm

Wonderful. I at least, have never seen that sight before. Very useful.
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Becky Watkins Tien on January 12th, 2010, 2:41 pm

That's one of my favorite reference sites. I sent it to you (Alex) in the messages about the trouser pattern, but you probably didn't get a chance to look at it then. It definitely offers solutions to some garment questions.
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Noah F on January 20th, 2010, 10:41 am

I'm curious how you handled the transition from the shoulder seam to the neck opening hem. I'm working on a similar (but not as nice) tunic and I can't figure that part out. Mine is made of linen, so I really need to finish the seams to keep it from fraying.

That Heather Jones site is great, and that is where I learned what flat felling is, but I don't know how to transition from a flat felled seam to a hem, and then back again on the other shoulder. Any help would be appreciated.

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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Becky Watkins Tien on January 20th, 2010, 1:02 pm

I'm curious about that also. From the blog photo of the shoulder, it looks like the shoulder seams were attached with a running stitch and the edges were turned under and tacked down with a broad running stitch. Tim, what has your research revealed?

For my husband's tunics, I'm considering turning under the fabric edges (once for wool, twice for linen) and tacking down with a hem stitch, then attaching the shoulder seams with an overcast stitch. This method could also be used for the side seams and sleeve seams with a wrist slit. I can't think of any good way to make a flat felled seam work on the shoulder/neck, although a flat felled seam would be great for sleeve seams (with no wrist slit) or a peplos.

You could also avoid making shoulder seams by slitting a neckhole in your fabric and finishing the neck edges with a buttonhole stitch.
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Tim Edwards on January 20th, 2010, 5:52 pm

Yup!
It's a running stitch with a folded edge. Where possible we used the selvedge, but raw edges were blanket stiched, before being folded.

Although we looked at some reasonably good images of the original, stitching follows the Heather Rose Jones website, a darned good resource.!

The running stitch does gape open ever so slightly, but this could conceivably be elimated by closer stitching, anyway, it has proved fine as a base layer in the cold.

The neck to shoulder seam transition is a potential weak point, but my girlfriend oversewed it a couple times and it has been fine.

Most Roman tunics I've read of are made of two pieces of fabric jointed along the shoulders, not with a hole cut out. Whether this holds for the Iron Age also, I don't know, but the original Thorsbjerg tunic had a shoulder joint. I'm beginning to suspect the cut out hole versions are 'reenactor-isms', unless anyone has substantial evidence to the contrary.
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Alex Hovorka on January 20th, 2010, 8:01 pm

I know that a couple bronze age blouses were made from one piece.
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Noah F on January 21st, 2010, 10:24 am

Thanks Becky and Tim. That makes sense. I was overthinking the whole thing.
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Re: Thorsbjerg Tunic

Postby Becky Watkins Tien on January 21st, 2010, 2:21 pm

The two piece vs one piece may be a style thing -- fashions come and go. Some reenactors may be using one piece because they're looking at the bronze age tunics and the later Coptic/Mediterranean tunics and deciding to put them in the iron age as well. With so few extant tunics, it's not unusual that they would see the before and after and fill in the middle.

The cool thing about early Coptic tunics is they used the slit-weave technique to create a finished edge for the neck -- no need for stitching. But I wouldn't use this technique for an IA European impression.
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