Thursday, January 09, 2014

Early Aprons?

Input from a couple of long followers (and sometime contributers) here has expanded on my piece from earlier this week - Protective Aprons

A request for more historic information, and separately a private comment that answered that question.

   Cathy Raymond left a new comment on the post "Protective Aprons :
   Here's a slightly different question. Did smiths wear protective
   aprons in the Viking age and, if so, what were they like? Do we have
   any information that would help answer that question?

The historic source comes from *Bruce Blackistone*, a well known and respected Early Medieval / Anglo Saxon period re-enactor, fellow blacksmith, and one of the forces behind the Longship Company (and old friend). I have come to have a lot of respect for Bruce's depth of research, general understanding of history and technology - and especially his warped (often perceptive) sense of humour.

    Some more grist for your mill:  Attached is an English
    illustration of Tubal Cayne, circa 1360.

I wear a modified version of the apron, which just happens to work
    out to the steer's neck and shoulders for the bib, and the back
    forms most of the rest of the skirt.  In addition to the brooch
    (which doesn't work that well with modern attire) I use a neck
    strap.  A second tie runs from the start of the legs to my back
    and around the waist to cinch it in.


As shown, it has proven practical in a number of centuries.  I
    only wish I had spent just a little more to make it a few inches
    longer, but the length has never actually proved a problem.

    First picture is from the British Museum.  Second photo was by
    *Katy Amt*.
Bruce also commented :
I will also observe that the limiting of damage to clothing was one of the reasons that I wished my leather apron a little longer.  Nothing like hot "fire flea" coals burning through the lower hem of your nice, new linen undertunic.  I couple of scorches and holes adds veracity, but after a short while, too much can be way too much.  Not to mention the possibility of ignition!

A general observation back to the question:

I am not aware there is are any actual artifacts themselves that survive from the Viking Age that would be considered metalworkers aprons. There are three carvings I am aware of that illustrate blacksmiths :
the Hyllestad Wood Carving -
the  Ramsund Rune Stone -
the Frank's Casket -
None of these Viking Age illustrations show the smith wearing a specific apron.

There are two reasons however, that I would consider the wearing of an apron most likely for the early blacksmith:
1) Safety
2) Limit damage to clothing

That second is not often considered, especially from our modern bias of cheap, plentiful, easily accessible, *purchased* clothing. Clothing was limited, and 'expensive' to any European before the advent of the Industrial Age. The raw labour involved in the production of sheep to shirt is usually not taken into account. Admittedly, wool is much more resistant to the damage effects from small pieces of hot scale flaking off under the blacksmith's hammer. Still, in a world where getting a new shirt might be at best a one per year occurrence, individuals would be sure to protect their clothing, as much as themselves.

1 comment:

Cathy Raymond said...

Thank you, Darrell and Bruce, for the useful information!


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

COPYRIGHT NOTICE - All posted text and images @ Darrell Markewitz.
No duplication, in whole or in part, is permitted without the author's expressed written permission.
For a detailed copyright statement : go HERE