Thinking about the birrus...

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Elleth
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Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Elleth »

So Cimrandir has posted about the birrus a couple times lately, referencing this Romano-British (I think?) figurine -
Image

... and more recently, this reconstruction from Pictavia -
pictavia-birrus-wanderer.jpg
pictavia-birrus-wanderer.jpg (135.96 KiB) Viewed 504 times
Again it's interesting how similar it is to a Latin American poncho or an Irish ruana or a Roman (oval) paenula... trim some corners here, cut a slit there.. I suppose it only makes sense that a pattern that just plain works will be (independently?) invented time and again.

But here's the question - Pictavia's got an "archer's" interpretation based on the figurine and this cut stone(?) -
birrus-evidence.jpg
birrus-evidence.jpg (66.03 KiB) Viewed 504 times
... that cuts the front short to free up the hands like so -
pictavia-birrus-archer.jpg
pictavia-birrus-archer.jpg (85.79 KiB) Viewed 504 times
... has anyone tried this? If so, how did it work for you?

I confess I'm not particularly convinced by the sources: the front of the figurine's cloak looks quite bunched up, and what detail is on the carving suggests it's at least elbow-length in front, and that if it's not bunched up.

But that doesn't mean it wasn't done, of course.

Has anyone tried this out, and if so how did/does it work for you?

For what it's worth, the closest I've come is basically a Roman oval paenula that's around kneelength in back, and around wristlength in front. Stitching the front about halfway down the breastbone ameliorates some of the tendency for the whole thing to want to slide off the back and choke at my neck - but it is still a bit of an issue, at least if I don't have pack straps keeping everything in place.

I could imagine a lighter weight or toothier wool wouldn't have the same problems, but I can't be sure. Does anyone know?
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Tom_Ranger
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Tom_Ranger »

Elleth wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 2:11 pm ... has anyone tried this? If so, how did it work for you?
Here is a great cloak review.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfaPo-zFZz8
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Cimrandir »

I'm with you on being doubtful on this Archer Cloak reconstruction. The Drosten stone in particular puts me much more in mind of the Baronstown cloak from County Kildare in Ireland.
Baronstown West Man.jpg
Baronstown West Man.jpg (90.25 KiB) Viewed 471 times
Baronstown West Man II.jpg
Baronstown West Man II.jpg (33.09 KiB) Viewed 471 times

As to whether the Pictavia cloak works in a practical sense anyway, I haven't the foggest. I suspect, like you say, it depends highly on the weave and weight of the fabric.
Elleth wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 2:11 pm For what it's worth, the closest I've come is basically a Roman oval paenula that's around kneelength in back, and around wristlength in front. Stitching the front about halfway down the breastbone ameliorates some of the tendency for the whole thing to want to slide off the back and choke at my neck - but it is still a bit of an issue, at least if I don't have pack straps keeping everything in place.
No clue if this was a "thing" in-period but I raised the question of a cloak moving around in one of my living history groups a few months back and they advised pinning the cloak to the tunic directly. (Brooch through the cloak, then tunic, then up through the cloak again to be fastened on the outside.) I haven't tried it personally but it seems a solid enough idea. Maybe a brooch pinning it all together roughly in the center of the chest area would do the trick to keep from strangulation?
Tom_Ranger wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 9:01 pm Here is a great cloak review.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfaPo-zFZz8
I confess I fail to see what you're getting at here because I watched that video (boy, he could do with editing some of that down btw) and none of the cloaks Kramer displayed had the pattern Elleth was asking after. Did I miss a specific moment you were referencing?
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Elleth
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Elleth »

Which is the Drosten? I'm afraid I don't have all the find context here. Is the Baronstown cloak you picture from a find, or just extrapolating from a carving?

Pinning through to the tunic - I'll have to try that! I think it would work better with a tweed than the broadcloth of my sorta-paenula, but I'll still give it a go.

And ha! What a coincidence. I had just pulled out the hooded ruana project that I screwed up and started picking it apart to fix. I had mulled on how far back to cut the slit, and settled for halfway exactly along the length of the fabric. I knew that it would shift everything back a bit, but I hadn't counted on how far it would shift things back. The back of the cloak was a full hand longer than I wanted, and the front the same too short. I had just about resolved to cut things to match when I realized what I'd done. Gah!

Anyhow, I just got the hood off and I'm going to extend the slit back more and restitch, then see how it goes.

I've been "levelling up" a bit on this project as well - I used a lighter weight tweed and stitched it with wool thread. The advantage is that especially once things full up a bit, you can't even see the seams! The disadvantage is that once things full up a bit, you can't find the seams. :mrgreen:

I ended up cutting more than picking apart so I lost a bit of height to the hood and possibly the neck will be a bit weird: but I think it'll work out just fine.

Oh - one other note with that stupid-simple ruana pattern. At least in the fabric I used, there was no need to cut a neckhole proper - just sewing the hood straight to the front slit worked just fine. It's an interesting design, and I'm looking forward to playing with it more this fall.
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Cimrandir
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Cimrandir »

My apologies. The Drosten Stone is the cut stone you reference in your original post. It's a Pictish slab stone from the 9th century. Wikipedia link here. (Incidentally and entirely off-topic, it's also the stone that most folks reference with the claim that the Picts had crossbows. I remain unconvinced.)

The Baronstown cloak is from the Baronstown West Man - an Irish bog body. A man dating to the 2nd-4th century, he was found wrapped in a woolen cloak/shroud and covered in what's been interpreted as a leather skin cloak. There's surprisingly little out there about him in depth online. (I've yet to reach the point of buying books to reference a single find :lol: )
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Eofor »

Cimrandir wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:02 pm As to whether the Pictavia cloak works in a practical sense anyway, I haven't the foggest. I suspect, like you say, it depends highly on the weave and weight of the fabric.
Hamish is rather thorough in his living history, I can't see him doing anything that isn't practical and tested.
Elleth wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 2:11 pm
For what it's worth, the closest I've come is basically a Roman oval paenula that's around kneelength in back, and around wristlength in front. Stitching the front about halfway down the breastbone ameliorates some of the tendency for the whole thing to want to slide off the back and choke at my neck - but it is still a bit of an issue, at least if I don't have pack straps keeping everything in place.

I could imagine a lighter weight or toothier wool wouldn't have the same problems, but I can't be sure. Does anyone know?
I've never encountered this choking in any of my cloaks (including my heavy ice laden varafeldur) and perhaps that is because I pin mine in the same location? I'm not sold the idea of pinning it through to the tunic as that's just going to cause disruptions to your under layer as well and I'm ALLLLL about comfort.
But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest.
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Cimrandir »

Eofor wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:57 am
Cimrandir wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:02 pm As to whether the Pictavia cloak works in a practical sense anyway, I haven't the foggest. I suspect, like you say, it depends highly on the weave and weight of the fabric.
Hamish is rather thorough in his living history, I can't see him doing anything that isn't practical and tested.
Oh, no doubt about that. He posts enough photos of his group doing living history hikes and camps, I’m quite sure they’ve shook out all the snags. I just try to keep my speculation to a minimum when I’ve got no personal experience haha.
Eofor wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 3:57 am
I've never encountered this choking in any of my cloaks (including my heavy ice laden varafeldur) and perhaps that is because I pin mine in the same location? I'm not sold the idea of pinning it through to the tunic as that's just going to cause disruptions to your under layer as well and I'm ALLLLL about comfort.
A very valid point. I know with my tabby weave cloak it’s easy enough to massage the weave back into place after puncturing it with the brooch. Might not work so well with a tighter weave like you would want in a tunic.
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Eofor »

Cimrandir wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 4:21 am
Oh, no doubt about that. He posts enough photos of his group doing living history hikes and camps, I’m quite sure they’ve shook out all the snags. I just try to keep my speculation to a minimum when I’ve got no personal experience haha.
Admirable, and smart to know if you are going to take the plunge then to follow someone who jumped first :mrgreen:
But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest.
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Iodo »

Cimrandir wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 11:02 pm
Tom_Ranger wrote: Sat Jun 18, 2022 9:01 pm Here is a great cloak review.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfaPo-zFZz8
I confess I fail to see what you're getting at here...
...none of the cloaks Kramer displayed had the pattern Elleth was asking after. Did I miss a specific moment you were referencing?

Forgive my ignorance in subject, but while knowing nothing at all about the patterns used in the time period, the cloak on that bronze figure looks very like it could be a ruana?


[EDIT] and talking of Ruanas:
Elleth wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 12:52 am And ha! What a coincidence. I had just pulled out the hooded ruana project that I screwed up and started picking it apart to fix. I had mulled on how far back to cut the slit, and settled for halfway exactly along the length of the fabric. I knew that it would shift everything back a bit, but I hadn't counted on how far it would shift things back. The back of the cloak was a full hand longer than I wanted, and the front the same too short. I had just about resolved to cut things to match when I realized what I'd done. Gah!

Anyhow, I just got the hood off and I'm going to extend the slit back more and restitch, then see how it goes.

now I wish I had bothered to edit the video I made about how to design a ruana pattern to properly fit you, the first point I remember making was that the slit has to go a little way past half way (can't remember dimensions) because otherwise your neck will push the cloak further back and it will slip backwards if there isn't more weight on the front, I think mine hangs 4'' or so longer on the front than on the back when worn
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Elleth »

I think mine hangs 4'' or so longer on the front than on the back when worn
.... interesting! I wasn't sure how much to cut, so I just took "half the width of the hood." Which was probably a bit too much, as hoods tend to have more open space at the front. So I'm having a bit extra in front as well - or rather that's how it's looking it will come out. I was going to trim some of it off when I was done getting everything else in place, so thank you for the warning!


edit
Forgive my ignorance in subject, but while knowing nothing at all about the patterns used in the time period, the cloak on that bronze figure looks very like it could be a ruana?
Assuming the pttern is true to life, I don't think so - that doesn't look like the "tails" of a ruana in back. The folds - at least to my eye - look like the thrown back "wings" of a half-circle type of cloak, similar to Eofor's half-circle paenula. Hunh...come to think of it, the thing does also match the oval-ish paenula I made, were the front stitched entirely closed... and it was made of a slightly thinner and less-stiff wool than broadcloth, all bunched up in front. Hard to say...

edit 2 - Hrm. On the other hand, the lines of the hood in back look very much like the ruana I've been stitching on. So maybe so. Hrm. Gosh I hope we get a peat bog find of one someday!

I did end up ordering one of Pictavia's full length "wanderer" pattern. I want to feel what kind of wool they settled on - and experiment with Ursus' lanolin on something that I didn't spend hours and hours handsewing if I decide I don't like it.

We'll see how it works. :mrgreen:
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Cimrandir »

Elleth wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 10:37 am
edit 2 - Hrm. On the other hand, the lines of the hood in back look very much like the ruana I've been stitching on. So maybe so. Hrm. Gosh I hope we get a peat bog find of one someday!

I did end up ordering one of Pictavia's full length "wanderer" pattern. I want to feel what kind of wool they settled on - and experiment with Ursus' lanolin on something that I didn't spend hours and hours handsewing if I decide I don't like it.

We'll see how it works. :mrgreen:
Man, don't we all? Dang peat bogs and their mysteries.

Excited to see you order one! Hamish is a good guy and I'm sure you'll be a fan. Personally, I'm saving up for one of those acorn-tanned deerskin crannog bags. Be sure to post pictures when you get your new cloak in! I'm excited to see one in a Rangery context!
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Re: Thinking about the birrus...

Post by Eofor »

Elleth wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 10:37 am
I did end up ordering one of Pictavia's full length "wanderer" pattern. I want to feel what kind of wool they settled on - and experiment with Ursus' lanolin on something that I didn't spend hours and hours handsewing if I decide I don't like it.

We'll see how it works. :mrgreen:
I look forward to hearing your opinions on it. I'm a fan of Hamish and his work.
Cimrandir wrote: Thu Jun 23, 2022 9:47 pm Personally, I'm saving up for one of those acorn-tanned deerskin crannog bags.
A lot of money but so very worth it. It's just one of those perfect things that can't be faked. Will look great in your daily profession too.
But the white fury of the Northmen burned the hotter, and more skilled was their knighthood with long spears and bitter. Fewer were they but they clove through the Southrons like a fire-bolt in a forest.
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