Using the hunters horn.

The sound of the horns and the barking of the dogs, the excitement of that experience, is often described as the most joyful thing in hunting. 1176193_10152147330522926_384463484_n

Communication with the other hunters is most important use of the hunters horn. In the medieval huntbooks different signals are described that should be sounded in different phases of the hunt. You blow a certain signal when you are going out on a hunt and another when you are riding back home. There is a signal for when the game is sighted or the hounds are to be released or to call them back and finally after a kill you blow the “mort”.

What not everybody knows is that the horn also plays an important role before the hunt, used in a way that may seem strange to us today. The huntbooks describe how some hunters are sent out in advance to track up animals and suggest appropriate game.

NamnlösThey return to the merry gathering of the hunters and report their findings to the Master of the Hunt, informing him about where the animals are, what their tracks look like and bring back fumes for him to judge them by.

When found, the fumes are stuffed into the hunters horn and he seals it with some grass to keep the fumes from falling out.

Here the hunters are seen pouring “fumes” out of their hunting horns. Judging by the shape, size and quality of the fumes from different animals, the master of Hunt decides for the most appropriate game.

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Hunter pouring fumes out of his horn.

Edward of Norwich teaches us in his book Master of Hunt from early 15th century, how a to know a Great Hart by the Fumes:

“I shall teach you to know a great hart by the fumes of the hart, for sometimes they crotey in wreaths, sometimes flat and sometimes formed. Sometimes sharp at both ends and sometimes pressed together.

If he find the fumes that are formed and not holding together as it is from the beginning of July into the end of August, if they are great and black and long and are not sharp at the ends, and are heavy and dry without slime, it is a token that it is a hart chaceable.

If the fumes are faint and light and full of slime, or sharp at both ends, or at one end, these are the tokens that he is no deer chaceable. If they be slimy it is a token that he has suffered some disease.”

Edward elaborates quite a bit on the subject of fumes so I took the liberty of shortening his advice slightly. Read more about our hunting horns and how Edward of Norwich thinks they should be made here. Johan is as always one step ahead and provides an informative video about the use of the hunters horn.

/ Emil

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The Manuscript Challenge: A boar hunters outfit.

This post is about the making of my new outfit, my answer to The Manuscript Challenge. I’ve done an interpretation of the dog-handler in a boar hunting scene from “Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio”, the King Modus manuscript from ca 1370.

I admit that this outfit is well within my comfort zone and not very different from what I already have in terms of gear. But I like how it looks, it fills a gap in my wardrobe and I thought that it could be fun to interpret something exactly from a picture in my favourite medieval hunting book. In this way I can be sure that what I’m wearing are things that are meant to go together and hopefully well suitable for the activity depicted.

1797515_10152160197582765_4688588845508775182_nAs you can see, this hunter is wearing a tight liripipe hood (the making of it is described in detail here) and matching hoses with fashionably pointy toes. Like many hunters on foot during this period, he is not wearing any shoes. That might lead us to suspect the hoses being soled with leather. Tiny stripes on the horn suggest that it could be carved decoratively and the thin baldric is crossed below the waist. He is also wearing a thin black belt.

The hunters blue kirtle is very well fitted and buttons down the front, probably also on the sleeves. It has a generous cut over the chest to achieve the masculine Gothic ideal, a muscular “dove-chest” contrasting the narrow waist and straight fit over the hips. The kirtle on my manuscript picture reaches to mid thigh where it ends with a softly dagged edge.

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To short and to tight!

I made the pattern myself, fitting my toille in front of the mirror. Being a bit to eager to get started, I made two stupid mistakes. Firstly, I didn’t take any pictures of this step of the making. Secondly, when I had stitched the kirtle together and dagged the bottom edge, all by hand, I realised that I had cut it to short and a bit to tight to begin with. I looked stupid with my breeches (linnen underwear) showing to much and it would be hard to do any hunting with dignity in such a tight kirtle. (Admittedly, I have no ambitions of really doing any real hunting or anything requiring dignity at all. But I’d prefer if it didn’t show to much. 😉 )

I had to insert a gore in the middle back to expand the fit over the hips. The first dagged edge was sacrificed. I cut it off so that I could add an extra piece of fabric, following the lines of the pattern and lengthening the whole garment about 25 cm. When that was done, I had to re-do the dagged edge, now wider. All this was about three extra days of work, re-doing things I knew I should have done from the start. In the end I had a kirtle that was a slight bit longer than I had planned in the first place, but it looked very much like my original picture.IMAG2278IMAG2279It is bitter and tedious work, mending up a mess you’ve made yourself. But once I got the length right, I celebrated my victory by turning my attention to things I actually enjoy doing: details like buttons, buttonholes and pretty edges. The thin woad blue twill was a dream to work with and I hand stitched everything with silk or waxed linnen thread.

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Curvy cut over the chest and a pretty tablet woven edge in silk.

A strip of linnen lining the inside and a tablet woven edge on the outside strengthens the buttonhole edges. I used silk yarn in the same woad-blue for the weft and ended up with 63 buttonholes all in all. 10 in each sleeve and 43 down the front. The buttons themselves look like little blueberries…

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Slowly getting there, still a few more buttons to go…

The kirtle is deliberately cut with a light curve over the chest and has medium size “grand assiette”-sleeves with a gore inserted over the shoulder in the back. This allows for maximum freedom of movement in arms and shoulders but still gives a nice tight fit. I also added a small standing collar because I like how it looks. It doesn’t show on my manuscript-picture because of the hood, but low collars like this one are seen on other pictures in King Modus.

Egen1I finished the whole kit just in time for an event this past weekend. I’m so happy with how it turned out, but also surprised by the princely 10479940_10152625157110708_7587428764304000842_olook it gives me. The kirtle look so much more glamorous than I expected! But as I’ve worn and torn it during this weekends adventures, it starts to feel more like me.

Johan carved the horn that I carried with the rest of the outfit. I love how it is decorated with winding bands of wine leafs, happy hares and playful greyhounds. It has got a characteristic smell of tar, beeswax and gunpowder that I wouldn’t mind having as a personal signature scent.

I made a simple thin baldric for my horn but have already started to work on a larger and wider one to be more elaborately decorated, in the style of Livre de Chasse. (More on hunting horns is hopefully coming in a later post.)

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Photo: Annie Rosén

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Photo: Annie Rosén

So this is it for my first manuscript challenge. It was fun and intense to make the outfit, all hand stitched and with extreme attention to every detail. Slightly challenging to correct my mistakes by enlarging the pattern for the kirtle at such a late stage and lots of extra work, but not very difficult.

I find it stimulating to work towards a tight deadline with a very clear picture of where you are going, so the manuscript challenge suits me very well. But now when I’m done with it, I think I’ll want to start over again with a new picture of a hunter in another manuscript and go for something harder for my next attempt…

Rather close, don’t you think? If you like my work, please let me know. If you like the dog or her chain-mail collar more, do tell Johan who let me pose with her, and not me. 😉

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  • Estimated time to make this hand sewn kirtle: + 80 h
  • Material needed: Blue twill wool, ca 1,70 meters, plus scraps of unbleached linnen. Sewing thread in silk and linnen, beeswax. The 63 buttons was made of leftover cloth. I had all the material at home when I started.
  • Total cost to make: ca 400 sek / 40 eur

A square hood.

Yesterday I finished the last item in a whole new outfit and I’m so pleased IMAG2068with how it turned out. My new kit consists of hoses, a tightly buttoned blue kirtle, a dashing hood and a hunters horn. All of it will come to good use this weekend when Johan and I have new kinds of awesome planned.

I will tell you all about my new outfit in devious detail, every piece of it, but I’ll start from the top and from the beginning. My new kit began with my love for the look of this hood.

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All the illustrations for today’s post are from one of the first copies of one particular manuscript (ca 1370), “Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio”, meaning roughly “The book of the hunt according to King Experience and Queen Theory”.

It is my favourite among the medieval hunting books I’ve studied so far and that is why I turned to it for inspiration when I needed a new outfit for our upcoming event, The Feast of St Eustace.

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The gathering of the hunters, just like we will do for the Feast of St Eustace.

 

“King Modus” show hunters and falconers in very late 14th century fashion. I especially like the cut and the colour of the hunters clothes.  I think everyone looks very sporty and smart in their tight buttoned kirtles. And then there is this unusually petite buttoned hood… 10513429_10152160197552765_2504682716337842305_n

The hoods in King Modus are very small and buttoned down the front. The cut of the “collar”-part is usually is more square than round-ish and it has crescent-shaped take outs for the shoulders. That means that the hood leaves parts of the shoulder bare. This arrangement locks the hood in place while it also allows for freedom of movement for the wearer.

If riding fast while hunting, I’d not like to have my hoods collar be flapping about up in my face. Because of the narrow cut, these sporty hoods are not so easily caught by the wind. And they sometimes even have small straps under the arms, to secure it further which also makes it possible to wear the hood opened and unbuttoned.

One picture that especially caught my eye features a riding man wearing a brown hood with some kind of edging in a contrasting colour. I have a thing for details, such as extra well worked edges. I immediately decided that I needed to make one exactly like it.

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio (1354–1376)

Brown buttoned hood with edges in a contrasting colour.

There is something about the design that appeals to me. 10334440_10152915768687926_3643521291128983755_nThe extra tight fit, the straps and the neat cut over the shoulders helps to keep the hood in place when hunting, running or carrying stuff over your shoulder.

I interpret it as something very much like medieval sportswear and I love the idea of it.  It didn’t take me long to make one for myself and soon found that it works extremely well in action.

1607093_10152912185057926_1529879692656500492_nJohanAmong other things I’ve tried running and jumping, throwing spears, building barricades, loading and firing a handgun. You can do basicly anything without being disturbed by a hood turning round your neck, trying to choke you.

I cannot claim it to be a hunters hood exclusively, it does appear in other contexts and other manuscripts as well. But I think it fair to call it a King Modus hood, since it is so commonly seen in this manuscript.

To make it I used the mock-up pattern of another hood I’ve made before, but I made it much smaller and tighter. Hunters hood EMIL I also cut away crescent-shaped bits for my shoulders to fit in and added the optional straps.

I used a heavy brown wool twill, the leftovers from making the hoses you see above. This hood doesn’t take much fabric at all. As it is supposed to fit real snug around my face and neck, I added a thin soft wool lining. (And don’t you even think of using linnen for lining a hood. Even if it is soft to touch, it gets cold and wet because the flax fibers keep water.)

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Tablet weaving the edge that joins the outer fabric with the lining.

 

After fitting everything properly together and making sure the lining wasn’t bulging or creasing anywhere, I backstitched it all together with waxed linnen thread by hand, the way I usually do things. Buttons are made by leftover cloth and I did not put them closer together than strictly necessary, as I want the hood to be real fast to put on.

I used a period method for lining that is as beautiful as it is simple. You only get a glimpse of it here where the seam allowance of the outer fabric is folded over the lining. Then it is sewn down over filler threads to make the seam more durable.

Lastly I finished off the edges all around the hood with a tablet woven edge, just like some of the hoods from Herjolfsnes are done. It means in this case that the outer fabric and the lining of the hood is joined with a woven edge. It is sewn on to the hood while weaving, with weft for sewing thread.

My friend Bertus Brokamp made a hood like this some years ago and recently wrote about it here. Check it out for further references, he has done some genuine research!

But what about the rest of my new outfit?

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Once I’d gotten as far as finishing a King Modus-style hood in the same fabric as my hoses I had to change my target picture. I realised that for several reasons, this picture of a hunter on foot with a horn over his shoulder and a dog in leash suits me and my reenacting much better. And the brown hood and hoses are still game!

I only needed a buttoned blue kirtle and a horn. I had all the fabric I needed. So, there I was, contemplating a thin woad blue twill that had been warming space in my fabric storage for years. I had just started to cut out the pieces for my new kirtle when Maria came out and challenged me and the rest of internet to take on “The Manuscript Challenge”.

The manuscript Challenge rules, in short:

  •  Choose one picture from a medieval manuscript, and choose wisely.
  • Publish your picture, stating that you take on the challenge and describe the outfit.
  • Create your outfit according to the wearer’s outfit, as shown in the picture.
  • Let others in on your progress! Upload pictures of how you proceed, blog about it!
  • Ask for help, tips and advice if you feel the need and wish to do so.
  • Use whatever materials or techniques you wish. The idea is to recreate a visual copy of your chosen image.
  • You have one year to finish.

If you’ve followed me so far, you’ll see how well the project suits me and how close I was to finish already when I picked up the challenge. I sure got a head start!

But the glorious goal for me is to re-create not only the clothes but also the picture I used for inspiration, the one with the dog. I’m not properly done until that picture with me as doghandler is published here. The gear is done. I only need a large white dog of the right type and a cooperative photographer. I hope to be able to make the photo shoot happen sometime this week.

Until then, stay tuned and I’ll give you a sneak-peak of my kit…

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/ Emil