Dark Age Stitch Types


There are only four basic stitches to master: running stitch , oversewing, herringbone , and blanket stitch. Running stitch is probably the easiest to start with followed by oversewing. With these two stitches you can make clothing. The other two are for decorative edging.

These directions are for a right handed person, if you are left handed remember to reverse all directions.

Running stitch is worked from right to left. Several stitches can be picked up on the needle at once before pulling the needle through. (See figure 1 as well as the York seam in figure 11.)

Figure 1

Oversewing is worked diagonally from left to right. (See figure 2 as well as figures 5, 6, 7, and 8.)

Figure 2

Herringbone stitch is started at the top of the row. Work from left to right alternately taking a stitch at the top and a stitch at the bottom. (See figure 3 as well as figure 9.)

Figure 3

Blanket stitch is worked from left to right. The needle is brought up vertically and brought out of the fabric with the thread tucked under the needle. (See figure 4 and figure 12).

Figure 4


The hem is the seam at the edge of a piece of cloth, how you sew the hem depends on how thick the cloth is.

The rolled seam in figure 5 is only suitable for fabrics such as silk or very fine linen.

Figure 5

The hems in figures 6 and 7 are from Haithabu. Here the cloth is only folded over once and can be used on thick wool.

Figure 6

Figure 7

The hem in figure 8 is from York. Here the cloth is folded twice and can be used on linen or fine wool. If coarse wool is doubled over twice it will tend to stick out stiffly.

Figure 8

The hem in figure 9 uses the herringbone stitch and is used to hold down a hem on wool which has been folded once. This is a decorative stitch and could be used on the outside of a piece of clothing.

Figure 9

The hem in figure 10 is from London. Here two different coloured threads have been used alternately to give a decorative edge. Unusually this seam does not use one of the standard four stitches. It has been worked over the edge of a piece of wool without any folding. This sort of hem should only be used on a cloth which does not fray much, or on leather.

Figure 10


Seams are worked on the same principle as hems. If a cloth is fine, lightweight or tends to fray it should be doubled over. If it is thick, heavy and does not fray it should be overlapped. From the surviving sewn fragments, it would seem that just about any combination of oversewing and running stitches which can be used were used. (See figure 11).

Figure 11

When sewing on tablet woven braid there are two options: you can sew it over the edge of the cloth and cover up the hem with it, or you can use a row of blanket stitches to stop the edge of the cloth fraying, then use oversewing to join the braid to the blanket stitches. This method was employed on the cloak found in a chieftain's grave at Evebo Eide. (See figure 12).

Figure 12

This document was taken from Annex 3 titled "Stitch Types" of The Vikings (NFPS) - Equipment Guide No. 1 Basic Costume. It has been editorialized a bit for the WWW.