Medieval embroidery, a Viking exhibition and a few new things from the workshop

This summer I visited Uppsala cathedral, a magnificent church from the 16th century. I have wanted to go there for a long time, not just for the cathedral itself, but it hosts one of the finest collections of medieval embroidery in Sweden.

Most of the embroidery has religious motifs but there are also beautiful floral motifs and patterns from royal attire.

Uppsala is one of the oldest known habited places in Sweden. At least from migration time 300-500 AD it has been settlements here. One remaining feature is the so called “Old Uppsala royal mounds” from around 500 AD. Though looking impressive, they unfortunately don’t contain much of interest, just fragments of bones. Due to the habit of cremation burials, almost nothing remains. Nothing in comparison to the rich findings of Sutton Hoo in England or the Birka graves in Sweden for example. The atmosphere is nonetheless intriguing and mysterious.

With just a little bit of imagination, a wealthy man and woman might have worn clothes likes this, my interpretation of Merovingian garments from around 600 AD.

Those costumes are made on demand for my son and his girlfriend. I wait impatiently to see them wear them. I have to be patient it seems, they live in Beijing for the time being, and with current regulations, according to the coronavirus it is complicated to enter China again after a visit to Sweden. We have to wait and see and hope for things to improve.

More about ancient history, an increasing interest of mine. This summer a new exhibition of Viking age items opened in the Historical Museum in Stockholm. It is said to be the biggest ever with over 2500 items. I like the way they let the items speak for themselves, they are all originals and have no reconstructions and wild guessings about how things might have been. Everything is rooted in facts and shows how much, or little, we know about this groundbreaking time 700-1000 AD, before Christianity called for a new era. Through movies, operas and books the picture of a Vikings has been both romantic and violent, and most exclusive In the meaning separate. In reality, the people in Scandinavia had a lot in common with all Germanic people, similar language, the same pagan gods, similar clothing, weapons and jewellery. They were also very receptive to foreign cultures; Islamic, Chinese and others. Fragments of silk fabric are very common in graves in Birka. A Budda figurine and Arabic coins are other examples.

Silver was the prevalent precious metal during the Viking Age, and numerous silver hoards have been found. The jewellery is of special interest to me, naturally. Because I have myself struggled with silversmithing I admire the skills and artistry of those ancient craftsmen (and women).

One of the most thrilling things about ancient times is to see the tools they had. Few aspects give me a deeper connection with the people of that time than to realize that they had the same tools as we have today! It strengthens my conviction that we are essentially the same, no matter time, culture, gender, location etc.

1936 this wooden chest with tools were found in a drained mire on the island of Gotland. It was wrapped in a chain and might have been lost in what was then a lake. It is the largest tool find from the Viking era in Europe. It contains both blacksmithing and carpenter tools. It also contains several padlocks, keys and works in progress. Isn’t it thrilling!

Textile production was very important, and fine textiles were among the most costly possessions people had. The process of manufacturing clothes, bed linen, cushions wall hangings etc was time-consuming and had many steps. Linen and wool were domestic but silk was imported from China. No intact garments have been found but fragments of fabric and tablet woven bands. Tools for textile making are common in graves, especially female graves.

This summer season, from May till September, I have taken part in running a craft shop at Vinterviken in Stockholm, as I have told before. It is, of course, nice to be able to sell my articles, but the most satisfying thing was to meet all positive and enthusiastic customers. At the beginning of summer, it was very hot, but in August the summer suddenly ended. The rainy and cold weather continued throughout September. But never mind, I enjoyed all of it, as much selling my colleagues products as my own.

And now I’m busy making more jewellery. Quite soon is the Christmas market at Vinterviken. I hope to “get rid of” some of my jewellery, you can’t give away it all to friends and relatives. Everything can become to much., I fear from time to time,.

A few tablet woven bands, also for the Christmas market.

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