Making some form of trousers (or "trews") is highly recommended, or else you are less than decent when you fall over when fighting.
There are three basic options for trouser making. The simplest is the so-called pyjama trouser style, which is made from two tubes of material and possibly also some form of crotch-gusset. This style can also be made as shorts or breeches - a good idea if you're making woolen trousers is to have linen underbreeches. A more complex and more authentic design is the Viking Thorsberg trouser design, which is more fitted and (should be) less likely to suffer ripped crotches. Another complex but more authentic design is the Saxon hose and breeches combination, where both legs are seperate. Rus pants, extremely baggy trousers worn by Eastern Vikings, can be based on pyjama or Thorsberg designs. Finally, leg bindings or puttees can be worn wrapped around the shins whichever trouser design you choose.
Simple pyjama trousers
Pyjama trousers can be simply made by following this pattern. Alternatively, patterns for pyjamas can be purchased at any good fabric shop - Butterick pattern code B6885, for example. To make breeches, simply use much shorter legs. Easy, innit?
- Regia Anglorum - Basic Clothing Guide - Legware has a nice simple design, and an adaptation for a gusset.
- The Vikings! Basic Kit Guide - Trousers has a pattern for a slightly more complex and formed pair of trousers. The Vikings! Basic Kit Guide - Breeches is the equivalent design for breeches.
- Kieth Nelson's Viking Age Costumes has nice simple designs for pyjama trousers ("breeks-hose") and breeches ("short-breeks").
Viking Thorsberg trousers
This design is based on finds from Thorsberg and Damendorf dated to 400 to 500 CE. The originals had romper-suit style integral feet. The pattern is a bit complex, and it's a good idea to have a look at someone else's attempt to get ideas, but is nicely authentic. Various Wychwooders (including Shelagh and Bunni) have patterns for these, which makes it easier. Basically this style is special because it has separate pieces of material for your crotch and bum, which stops a lot of splitting.
We will try to put up our own pattern for making Thorsbergs soon. In the meantime, these webpages offer good advice:
- The Vikings! Basic Kit Guide - Trousers includes a simplified pattern based on the Thorsberg trews.
- Shelagh's Viking Textiles page has a photo of Ferny's Punk Thorsbergs. Utterly inauthentic material, but at least they roughly show how the pattern works.
Saxon hose (and breeches)
Hose and breeches consist of three seperate pieces of clothing: two legs and one pair of shorts. Some designs have knee length hose, some thigh length. Also the hose may be designed to cover the crotch without breeches. They're basically stockings and suspenders for re-enactors. Phwoar.
We may put up our own diagrams to making hose and breeches soon. In the meantime, these webpages offer good advice:
- Regia Anglorum - Basic Clothing Guide - Legware includes a pattern for 10th/11th century hose.
- The Vikings! Basic Kit Guide - Hoses has two patterns, one for generic full-leg hose that cover the crotch and one for thigh-high hose based on a Bocksten find.
Some Vikings travelled east and south, down through the area that later became Russia. This was ruled by the Rus, a group of Vikings who had settled and become the ruling class but had adopted many local customs (much like the Normans in France, Anglo-Danes under Cnut in England and so on).
One distinctive style the Rus wore was really big baggy trousers made with more cloth than was actually needed. These trousers are mentioned in travellers' accounts- the Hudud al-'Alam says that "out of a hundred cubits of fine linen, more-or-less, they sew trousers" whilst ibn Rusta claims they use a hundred cubits per leg. The style clearly spread widely around the Viking world- very baggy trousers are depicted on picture stones and carvings in Gotland, England and Sweden, as well as on the Oseberg tapestry. They are often depicted on high-status individuals and horsemen. Woolen fragments of a pair have been discovered at Hedeby.
These trousers can be made out of wool or linen (or linen-substitute like cotton). Woolen ones generally need less amounts of material, as wool is heavier. A specialist pattern can be used, or you can just make them as pyjama-trousers and rely on the excessively large amounts of material to make sure you have plenty of movement room.
We may put up our own diagrams to making Rus pants. For now, check out:
- Peter Beatson of Miklagard in the New Varangian Guard has a really cool set of Rus kit with woolen trousers and a pattern for them based on modified Thorsbergs.
- Historiska Varldar is a Swedish site, but has good pictures and patterns.
- There is a discussion about making Rus Pants on the Forum.
Once you make your trousers, Thorsbergs or hose you can also wrap material around your shins. This gives extra protection if you're running through brambles, keeps your trousers a bit drier & less muddy, and looks ace. This really doesn't require a pattern - you just need two long (c. 2m) strips of fabric that you wrap once around your instep and then around your calf, stopping just before the knee. The top end can be anchored by tucking the strip under itself, by using a clothes hook or, if you're a rich Saxon, using a plain bow brooch. There is some evidence that Saxon women might wear winingas around their bare legs for extra warmth - there is at least one grave where a silver bow brooch was found by each of the woman's knees.
- The Vikings! Basic Kit Guide - Puttees recommends having strips 2.5m long and 5cm wide and shows the simple wrap-around style.