Bringing the Early Iron Age to Life

My Pictish Obsession

I have a love of the Picts – everything about them, from their standing stones and metalwork, to trying to figure out what a “day in the life” of a Pictish woman would be like. My particular focus – in both time and place – is Orkney during the 4th century AD (or CE, if you prefer).

This is a rough outline of my research project, which has turned into my A&S 50 Challenge. My goal is to create a complete kit, from the skin out, to include all accessories (jewelry included) and footwear. Where necessary, I will also be building my tools/molds/etc.

4th-7th Century Pictish “Day in the Life of”

Types of Fiber Used (for clothing)

  • Wool (sheep breeds)
  • Plant (flax, hemp, nettle)
  • Fur (?)
  • Leather (?)

Techniques of Fabric Production

  • Spinning
    • Top whorl v. Bottom whorl
    • S-spun v. Z-spun
    • Use of plies v. singles
  • Weaving
    • Loom
    • Tablet
    • Other?
  • Felting
    • Prior to weaving or naalbinding or after?
  • Sprang
  • Knitting/Naalbinding?

Types of Looms

  • Warp-weighted loom
  • Two-beam loom? (This can now be ruled out because evidence is showing that it didn’t reach the southern shores of England until around the 9th-10th century at the earliest. -source: Cloth and Clothing… Penelope Walton Rogers)
  • Other?
  • Building a loom
    • Decorative carving? (May not yet have any While there seems to be no proof of this, but I like challenges and pretty things.)


  • Dyes used – plant, insect, other?
  • Growing/dyeing cycle
  • Madder, weld, woad – others? (from Rogers “Cloth and Clothing”)
  • (and from “Plants & People in Ancient Scotland”)
    • Blues – Woad – Isatis tinctoria (sometimes incorrectly listed as Isatis indigotica)
    • Yellows – Weld – Reseda luteola L.
    • Greenweed – Genista tinctora L.
    • Reds – Dyers’ madder – Rubia tinctorum L. (avail. during Roman period, displaced by native species in 5th-6th centuries)
    • Wild Madder – R. peregrina L. (westerly distribution in Britain)
    • Ladies’ Bedstraw – Galium verum L.
    • Purples – Lichens (later period – 10th cent. Norse)

Clothing Styles Influences

  • Migration and Vendel periods
  • Norse (pre-Viking)
  • Celtic (Irish)?
  • Anglo
  • Saxon
  • Breton
  • Roman

Stitches Used

  • Embroidery
  • Hand sewing
  •  Stitches used in clothing construction = fabric v. leather.


  • Metal casting/engraving/repoussé
    • Silver
    • Bronze
    • Copper
    • Tin
    • Gold
    • Brass
  • Leather work
    • Shoes
    • Pouches
    • Belts?
    • Other?
  • Beads
    • Evidence from Brough of Birsay – in period glass beads
    • faience beads
    • enameled? beads
    • metal – silver, bronze, gold
  • Glass
    • Blown glass
    • Poured glass?
    • “lamp” worked glass? (for beads)


  • Wood carving tools
  • Stone Carving tools
  • Bone (sewing)
  • Clay (loom weights, spindle whorls)