thorsbjerg trousers .pdf
Titolo: Pattern and Instructions for Viking Age Re-enactor's Trousers
Autore: Matthew Marino
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Pattern and Instructions for Viking Age Re-enactor’s Trousers
Matthew P. Marino
©2007 Matthew P. Marino
February 14, 2007
The current version of this document is available at:
I am not a tailor. Nor am I a historic textile expert. In this article, I provide a
functional full-scale pattern and basic instructions so that the reader has all the
information needed to construct a respectable pair of trousers for Viking Age reenactment. The plan for these trousers is a moderate compromise between historical
accuracy and practicality. There are a number of exceptional articles on the web that can
give a great deal of historical background and perspective as well as some significant
construction detail. It was my experience that all of these articles left frustrating gaps
that made it difficult for a reader without significant textile and garment construction
experience to actually implement the ideas shared in these articles. I have tried to
eliminate all of these gaps to provide a complete overview.
This is one possible interpretation of a pair of Thorsbjerg style trousers. The
original artifact is a very close fitting “hose” type of trousers found in a bog in
Thorsbjerg, Germany. The artifact is dated to the mid 4th century. A fragment of trousers
found in Hedeby dated to the 10th century have very similar construction through the seat.
This suggests that the basic form of construction was used throughout Northern Germania
and Scandinavia over the course of centuries, including the Viking age. In this
interpretation, it’s somewhere between the very wide, knee length “Rus” type and actual
hose, and it fits something like a modern pair of denim blue jeans. The patterns omit the
waist closure and focuses on the basic garment construction. The artifact had belt loops
and an attached waistband that was wide. Archaeologists theorize this waistband would
have been folded down over the belt. A simple drawstring is a good working option, as
it’s all out of sight under the tunic.
Analysis of the pattern
My analysis relates the pattern (at the end of this article) to its place on the body
in a way that an inexperienced tailor can understand. If you take your favorite pair of
jeans, fold them in half at the fly, and lay them out flat, you should see a shape roughly
defined by the points A-B-G-H-I-M. This should help you visualize the functional
dimensions. In a typical pair of denim jeans, there are seams following all the edges in
this folded state. The jeans are simply made of four roughly equal panels sewn up with a
closure in front.
The historical trousers differ in that the body is made of two major panels that
wrap completely around the leg on their respective sides. The area through the crotch
from the front of the belt line to the back, known as the “rise”, is made of two panels that
join to each other. I’ll refer to them as the “crotch” panel for the long narrow piece, and
the “back panel”. Each major leg panel attaches to either side of the crotch.
There are some interesting advantages I have observed from wearing trousers
made to this pattern. The front part of the rise panel creates two seams that run on either
side of the male organ rather than right over it. This makes the trousers much more
comfortable when sitting despite their typically snug fit. Also, there is no seam on the
hip, which can gather and bind when sitting. The inseam diverts from the inner thigh at
about the knee and runs to about the midline of the buttocks. When sitting on modern
chairs this puts a seam right under your weight and can be irritating. However, when
sitting on a horse where the weight is concentrated more to the surface of the inner thigh,
the seam is out of the way. Common tailoring measurements relate to the pattern as
follows (with apologies to the vast majority of the world that uses metric measurements):
Rise (light blue)
Outseam (dark blue)
(2 x A-C) + N-P + X-Z
Waist + 5”
U-Y + O-R
The garment made to the pattern (at the end of this document) fits me very well:
at waist 34”; hips 39”; inseam 30”; rise 26”; outseam 39”, or essentially a 34” x 30” pair
of blue jeans. Stout is the polite description.
If you were to take a tape measure to the drawings, some things might not make
sense. One would think that the length of segment L-M-A should match to the length of
segment T-Z, as these edges are sewn together. As you fasten the straight crotch piece to
the curve of the rise section, some material stretches and some gathers. The lengths
provided work well given the dynamic of the shapes with medium weight linen. I’m not
sure about other materials. It’s the same phenomenon for the final closure seam of the
legs. The lengths are not theoretically matched but seem to work out.
The pattern, as provided has no seam allowances. I’ve left these to the reader, as
they will need to be adjusted based on the types of seams used. Excellent references to
seams and stitch types can be garnered from the internet by a simple Google search on
the terms included here. For my trousers, I used French seams for all constructions with
three exceptions. A flat felled seam is used for attaching the bottom of the back panel, QS, to the seat section, K-L, T-V, L-K. With a fit this close, there is significant stress on
this junction when bending over, so a stronger seam was desired. A backstitch was used
to connect the waist flap to the body of the trousers. This seam is completely hidden and
fastens the tops of the belt loops as well. I used a modified blanket stitch for the hems
and closure of the waist flap. I used a 3/8” allowance for both parts of a French seam.
For the flat felled seam, I used 1/4” on the inner edge and 1/2” on the outer. 1/2” was
used for the rolled hems on the cuffs, and 1/4” for the running stitch attaching the
trousers to the waist flap.
1.) Attach crotch piece to legs by matching points T to L of one leg and V to L of the
other leg. I advise using lots of pins to pin the materials. Keep the edges aligned
as much as possible. Whether you’re hand stitching or using a machine it’s much
easier to not have to hold the edges in alignment as you sew. If hand stitching a
simple running stitch is OK for the first of the French seam. I would recommend
a good backstitch for the second part, though. Complete the seams.
2.) Attach the back panel Q-S to the seat formed by K-L, T-V, L-K of the main
assembly. If the lengths end up different, center the piece before pinning to split
the error equally on either side. This will create a “jog” that can be trimmed off
before pinning the leg closure seam. My variation on the flat felled seam when
done by hand leaves two stitch lines on the outside and one on the inside.
3.) Close the legs by pinning the edges created by C-D-E-F to the edge created by HI-J-K-S-N. The attachment at the points E and I are where the inseam changes
direction. I prefer to start pinning at these points and go out in both directions to
the ends. If these two sharp curves don’t line up, you get some ugly artifacts in
the seam. Mismatches at the outer edges can be trimmed before hemming.
4.) At this point you can actually put the trousers on to check the fit. The cuffs need
to be hemmed. Depending on the waist type you choose, your next step differs.
For a drawstring, you simply roll the waistline, hem it and insert the string. I used
belt loops and a waistband that is above the belt line so it can fold down over the
belt. This is based on archaeologist’s observations of the Thorsbjerg artifact
mentioned above. None of the readily available photos of the artifact make this
clear. The recommended approach is to first pin the waistband to the trousers
waistline face-to-face. Insert the belt loops between them so the stitch line fastens
the pieces together as well as the tops of the belt loops. Complete the fastening.
The waistband is then back folded and ironed so it can be sewn with a hemstitch
creating the flap. The bottoms of the belt loops can be fastened with a few simple
Modification to this pattern can be simple as long as certain proportions are kept
intact, such as the amount of flair from hip to waist and the amount of taper in the leg.
1.) Waist : The simplest method is to simply expand the pattern by moving line
C-F horizontally. This will, however, expand the waist and hip as well as
thigh and cuff. Small adjustments to the waist without effecting other
dimensions can be made by widening ( or narrowing ) the top of the back
panel at line N-P. Small adjustments can be made by widening through the
middle of both the back and crotch panels. Based on experiments, any
expansion over 3/4” in the crotch panel is impractical.
Hip : To expand the hip with the waist follow step 1 above. To increase the
hip without increasing the waist is a trick. The best result will probably come
from expanding the leg panels and then reducing the waist back by reducing
the width at the top of the back panel at N-P.
Rise : To increase the rise without altering the inseam to outseam ratio is
something that is probably beyond the ability of this pattern. Small increases
could be made by simply offsetting the line K-L, reconnecting the lines and
lengthening the crotch panel by the same amount. That will increase the rise
only in the back at the seat and too much will cause it to just bunch in place.
The rise can be increased by moving the line A-C up vertically by half the
amount you want to increase the rise by. Add that amount to the back panel
by offsetting N-P and to the crotch panel by offsetting X-Z. This will increase
the outseam and leave the inseam unchanged. The outseam can be recovered
by moving line F-H up the same amount but not without reducing the inseam.
Inseam : Simply move line F-H up or down to decrease or increase the
inseam. This will effect the outseam. You can move line A-C with F-H to
maintain the outseam but only by altering the Rise.
Outseam : Changing the outseam has the same issues as inseam. You can
increase it by moving the line F-H down but that also increases the inseam.
Other modifications can be made. For example, the cuffs can be made tighter by
reducing the width of the line F-H about point G. The problem is that this requires
redrawing fair curves. That may be somewhat of a gamble but could produce good
results if done well. I would recommend “proofing” the pattern after such changes by
cutting them out of old bed sheets and sewing with a simple machine run stitch
Waist ( part "a" )
Rise ( part "b" )
Rise ( part "a" )
Waist ( part "b" )