I’ve started on my next project after the panzar and I’m a little excited about it, because it gives me the perfect mix of using both solid written sources and my own imagination for interpretation and it’s not going to take forever to finish either.
It is a soldiers coat, made after specifications in the surviving 14th century documents that Albrechts bössor work with regarding what we call The Stockholm Mission. The Stockholm Mission is about Hanseatic soldiers sent to Stockholm in the late summer of 1395. Peters excellent article about it starts like this
After the war between Albrecht of Mecklenburg and Margareta, Albrecht and his son was imprisoned at castle Lindholmen in the region of Skåne in southern Sweden. In July 1394, after lengthy negotiations, it was agreed that the two Mecklenburgers should be set free for a ransom of an immense sum of money, equivalent to about 8 000 kilos (more than 17 600 lbs) of pure silver. In short, they were to be released for three years, in which they had to come up with the money, and the city Stockholm was to act as a kind of deposit. Stockholm was the only city in Sweden still controlled by the Germans and hence a thorn in Margareta’s side. During those three years, Stockholm was to be superintended by a group of Hanseatic cities (Königsberg, Elbing, Thorn, Danzig, Reval, Greifswald, Lübeck and Stralsund), as the cities had agreed to act as guarantors for Albrecht. For their troubles, Margareta should pay them an annual sum of 2 000 mark for the three years they administered Stockholm. Also, the cities Rostock and Wismar (the heartland of the Mecklenburg dynasty) should help out with considerable sums of money – 1 000 mark per year.
And later in the article –
The soldiers from the Prussian cities were paid both in fabric and in money. The men at arms was to be paid in 6 ells (1 ell = nearly 60 centimeters) of black and brown fabric (probably 2 ells wide) from Dendermonde (in Flanders), from which they should make “wide coats and hoods”, where the black should be on the right side and the brown on the left.
This is hot stuff! What it means is that the soldiers we are portraying are expected to have uniform coats and hoods during this mission in a foreign city. I’m not sure that the coats had to be identical in cut as well as in the colours, but it could still be the earliest source for use of some sort of uniform that I know of in this part of the world.
It took some time for us as a group to decide on what kind of fabric we were to use, was it to be hand woven or not, should we dye it ourself and in that case how to best go about it and so on. We came to the conclusion that cloth from Flanders would probably be high quality fulled wool. In order to get a hand woven fabric corresponding to medieval samples, we would also have to order yarn to be spun for the purpose as medieval fabric was made with yarn of a higher twist than modern fabric and it makes a world of difference in the end product. To have yarn spun in this scale before having fabric hand woven with it would cost a ton of money IF we could find someone we would trust to take the order and be able to deliver within reasonable time.
Eventually we decided on placing an order for commercial fabric for everyone in the group who wanted to be in on it, a reasonably natural brown shade and a natural dark grey wool for ”black”, in a quality that could well have been produced in 14th century Flanders.
I can’t recall why we said we were not to dye it ourselves, I always plant dye my own fabric and it’s not that hard. In fact, during our lengthy discussions I made a test hood after the specifications in our sources and I dyed my fabric with green walnut hulls. I used the same dye-pot for both nuances, but the black is actually a very, very dark brown that just got to stay in the pot for longer time at a higher temperature. However, it turned out in the end that the group as a whole later decided to interpret the directions for ”black should be on the right side and the brown on the left” in a heraldic manner, meaning I got it wrong on my hood. I have recently started on taking the hood apart and intend on stitching it back together with the old inside out so I can have the black on my left, but that’s fine. It is not the first time I hand stitch something only to later undo it and put it together ”inside out” for one reason or another. I don’t mind, I’d do it out of respect for the fabric and the work put in to it, if nothing else. I will also make a new hood in the fabric our group finally got our hands on, but no way I’ll let the first plant dyed one be discarded. It will be cool to see how that colour fades while our new (yet unmade) hoods probably stays the same over time.
My coat will be long and wide enough to not only function as an outer garment in general, but also go over my panzar, maile shirt and armour, because that is my interpretation of the purpose of a wide coat for a soldier. I happen to be the smallest soldier in the group by far and to finally have this as some sort of advantage, I decided on flaunting the fact that my 6 elles of fabric will suffice to much more for me than for anyone else. So I’m making these ridiculously huge baggy sleeves that are strangely common on depictions of late 14th – early 15th century soldiers.
The sleeves will probably be in the way when I try to strap my shield or tending to the fire or whatnot, but if it’s depicted as much as it is, I have to believe it. If no one else can make their fabric suffice for both coat, hood and huge baggy sleeves, I’ll do it for us as a group to be able to give a reasonably good representation of variety in our display of coats.
I have a lot more work to do on my coat, but here are a few pictures of the process, trying out the fit of the sleeve over my armour. Yes, I’m wearing my panzar and breastplate in the pictures and I’m very pleased with how it works and hardly shows – just like in some of the manuscripts, it is very discret. ”A wide coat” for a soldier, nothing more, nothing less.