Viking Age Braiding and Winding




Introduction: Viking Age Braiding and Winding

Hairdressing and braiding both yarn and hair has been a trend for thousands of year, and it lives to prove the good taste of humans. ;)
On the last slide I’ll go deeper into historical details, but first I want to share the techniques with you.

This is a project I made, to introduce my sister to some of the handcrafts I use as a Viking reenactor. She is interested in the same things as I: LARP, fantasy, reenactment and history, and knowing the old braiding techniques are a good step in the right direction to make an outfit even cooler.

Today I want to share with you how to braid with 8 strings and a technique called “slendre”. (Apologize for not knowing the English term, but this is the original name, if that makes it a bit better. :) ) I would like to show you how to slendre with both 3 strings and 5 strings.

The materials you will need are:

- Yarn – preferably woolen, if you want to be historically correct
- Scissors
- A place to tie the ends of your strings

Let's get started!

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Step 1: Slendre With 3 Strings - Preparation

I recommend you to start out with learning to slendre with 3 strings, if you haven’t tried this technique before. This technique is done with loops, so the first thing to do is to cut 3 stings of yarn. I cut 2 white and 1 blue, because I like the product to be 2 coloured, but that’s a matter of taste. The colours you choose and how you match the strings together will give the pattern a different look.

Cut the pieces of yarn long enough to fold it on the middle and make a loop – there’s a picture to illustrate how mine looked after I did this step.

When you have your 3 loops tie them together in the end with all the loose ends. Now you have 3 closed loops.

Before beginning I take another piece of string that I will use to all of these projects. I tie it as a lasso, and put the loop around the knot on my 3 strings. By doing this it’s easier to attach my projects to a solid point. When braiding or slendre you need to pull the strings quite a bit, and that’s why it’s nice to have it attached to a solid spot. I used a basket with heavy objects inside it. For all of these projects I used the same lasso.

Now you are ready!

Step 2: Slendre With 3 Strings - the Technique

Now you’re ready to start:

Put your fingers through the loops, like shown on the picture. The index finger on your right hand needs to be free, because with this finger your gonna go through the loop on your left hand index finger, and hook onto the sting on your left hands middle finger. Now bring it out through the loop you went through.

I know this might seem confusing, but I took picture of each movement I did, so it might be a help to look closely at the pictures.

When you have completed the first step, you have 2 strings on your right hand. On your left hand you have 1 string – move this from your index finger to your middle finger. Now the index finger on your left hand is free, and you are ready to repeat the step you just made, using you left index finger instead of the right.

Repeat this technique until you used the entire sting. When you can no longer fit your finger through the loop, it’s time to tie a knot and end the project.

Step 3: Slendre With 5 Strings

To slendre with 5 strings is almost the same as with 3 – there’s just a bit more to keep track of.

You will need 5 loops this time, and I choose 3 colours, but it could be done with as many or few as you prefer. Tie your loops together and use the same lasso as last time to fasten the loops to your steady object.

Your loops should be places like this:

Left hand: Loops on the ring finger, middle finger and index finger

Right hand: Loops on the ring finger and middle finger

The index finger on your right hand is now free, and ready to go through the 2 loops on your left hand, to hook onto the loop on the ring finger. Pull the loop from the ring finger through the two other loops.

Now readjust the loops, so that your left index finger is free, and repeat the step using your left index finger to catch the loop on your right ring finger.

Repeat these steps until there’s no more string to work with. Make sure to keep it tight at all times!
Then tie a knot to secure the strings, and you’re done.

Step 4: Bradeing With 8 Strings

When braiding with 8 strings you need to cut 8 strings, and I strongly recommend that you only use 2 colours – otherwise it will be much more difficult.

Tie your 8 strings together with a knot, and attach them in the lasso.

Divide the stings into colour groups: One colour on one side, the other colour on the other side. Make sure that your strings are flattened out, and try to keep them this way through the process.

Take the string from the right side, the one furthest out, and put it through the two middle strings on the left side. Now finish the move by bringing the string back to its “colour-family”, in this case the yellow colour, but this time it won’t be the furthest out but the one closest to the other colour.

Now repeat the process using the other side (in this case the brown strings.)

When braiding with 8 strings you should always tighten the strings up, and make sure that the stings lay flat. Besides from that it’s not difficult to do, and you will sure get into the rhythm of it.

Step 5: The Final Product

After making a couple of braids and slendringer, my sister and I braided them into our hair.

Braids of all kinds have been found in graves from the Scandinavian Bronze Age to Viking age. These graves have been lucky enough to be under such environmental circumstances, that material such as hair and fabric has remained intact. Some examples of findings like these are the Huldremose Woman and the Girl from Egtved, but there are many, many more.

By studying these findings archeologists have determined, that braids were used to show what status a person had in the local society. The braids were displayed in the clothes, as jewelry and in hair styles.
People of high rank styled their hair differently than people of low social status, most likely because they had more time to spend on fashion, but it might also have been a special privilege.

I personally use the braids to much more than just hair. I made one for my spoon, so it can hang in my belt, and I often use them for smaller bags and wallets too. Braids and slendringer like these can add a lot of detailing to costumes, and I always bring a couple with me when I reenact. For reenactment they’re especially good to tie hair, as modern hair ties are not allowed.

My sister is 12 years old, and she learned these techniques rather quickly. She found that the braid was the toughest one, so hopefully that gives an idea of how these things are fairly easily leaned.

I hope you have fun with these techniques,

Stay creative :-)

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    2 Discussions

    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    Great tutorial. I have some friends who are attending Norsk Høstfest this year. I am definitely going to share this with them to help them get ready.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you! :) That's so cool, hope they have a great time there