A sea serpent and a lightship

The sea serpent Jormungand arches its back over the entrance to Wetworld on the museum’s wharf. It looks as if Jormungand is talking with the red lightship called Carpentaria which is on display tied up at the museum beside Wetworld.

The sea serpent Jormungand arches its back over the entrance to Viking Wetworld on the museum’s wharf. It looks as if Jormungand is talking with the red lightship called Carpentaria which is on display tied up at the museum beside Viking Wetworld.

Gold and silver, blue and green – these are the colours of the sea serpent’s shimmering scales that arches its back over the entrance to Viking Wetworld, open at the museum until 2 February 2014. Continue reading

Box-board Vikings

31 (1024x872)

What’s in the box?

A warrior’s sword, a dragon’s treasure, a great castle, a fearsome sea serpent,  a beautiful crown…and a million other wonderful things…all you need is cardboard plus a little bit of imagination.

In case you also were wondering what to do with all those boxes left behind after the festive season’s gift giving, this month’s craft spot is inspired by cardboard boxes and our summer Viking Adventure!

Surely you have attempted the cardboard box car before…well here we have a how to on box-board viking armour and a wearable longship! Your little raiders and pillagers can wield their fearsome (but non-injury-causing and recyclable) armour while sailing the high seas in this swashbuckling creation. Cardboard box craft is always terrific fun and as a bonus these props will inspire hours of imaginative play- perfect for keeping them amused this school holidays.

Continue reading

Vikings: Exotic goods and silver hoards

Viking activity extended from Asia in the east to Greenland and North America in the west, and from the islands far up in the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean and northern Africa in the south. During the Viking Age, exotic and exclusive goods flowed into the Viking homelands in Scandinavia and were made available, for those who could afford them, at trading places such Birka, Hedeby, Kaupang and others. Along with the material goods came ideological, political and religious currents.

A bronze pouch made fom fur, bronze and paper, currently on display at ANMM.

A bronze pouch made fom fur, bronze and paper, currently on display at ANMM.

Among the many exotic artefacts that have been discovered at Viking-Age sites are a Persian glass beaker, an Irish cross, an Indian statuette of the Buddha, a Coptic ladle from Egypt, and shells from the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean intended to be made into pendants. Such artefacts are evidence of what great melting pots many of the Viking Age communities were. Much of what we call ‘Viking-Age culture’ was in fact created from encounters between norrænir menn and other peoples.

Continue reading

Raiders and Reindeers- How to make Viking gingerbread

finished gingerbread scene

We may have gone a little bit nuts on all things Vikings and all things Christmas here but we are hoping you are as a much a fan of craft that’s equal parts beautiful and edible as we are.

If you’ve ever tried to make a gingerbread 3 dimensional anything ( house, boat, tree) as an activity with small children you will remember how difficult it can be to accomplish said 3 dimensional object with little hands whose strength are not quite up to the challenge of icing cement and building with easily breakable biscuit walls.

So here we’ve crafted our very own spin on this festive and fun activity in a more kid friendly and conveniently thematic design. These stand-up gingerbread forms are great for a holiday activity or can even be wrapped up to give as a gift.

Continue reading

Vikings: Social Status

Viking-Age society had a powerful upper class, an aristocracy of magnates and chieftains, some of whom called themselves kings, though they ruled mainly over people, not territories, via alliances based more on personal loyalty than on ethnicity. But while the society was hierarchical, social positions were not always as fixed as we might imagine. It was possible for individuals to both improve, and lose, their social status.

Domestic objects such as this antler/bone comb from Björkö, Adelsö in Sweden feature in Vikings - Beyond the legend at the ANMM, telling us much about the daily life of people in the Viking Age.

Domestic objects such as this antler/bone comb from Björkö, Adelsö in Sweden feature in Vikings – Beyond the legend at the ANMM, telling us much about the daily life of people in the Viking Age.

A large proportion of the population – perhaps between 20 and 40 percent – was unfree, or thralls. Locally born slaves had more freedom that those who had been captured and forced into captivity. While some unfree people were simply labour slaves, others were given significant rights. A ‘housecarl’ on a farm or estate could, if he was lucky, advance to the level of ‘bryte’, a type of farm manager or overseer.

The trade in thralls or slaves for labour was highly profitable. Indirect evidence of the trafficking of thralls in Viking-Age Scandinavia comes from archaeological finds such as shackles, neck-irons and similar restraints.

Continue reading

Craft like a Viking! How to make a felted longship rug

Raiders, traders and crafty-art-makers, this month our craft spot is inspired by the exhibition Vikings- Beyond the legend. Get ready for some sudsy, sloppy, slimy fun as we give a nod to Viking age textiles with this whimsical wet-felted rug!

Felt-like material has been found in Viking age archaeological sites and was likely worn by the people we now know as the Vikings. Wet felting is fantastically messy but a really fun craft activity for with children. Best of all you can customise your felt rug with fabric scraps, cut-outs, threads or ribbon trapped between the layers to make a unique artwork or a themed play mat. Have a play and don’t be afraid to experiment with different colours and textures in your felt.

felted rug

A Viking longship felted rug in the making- learn to create your own with the instructions below

Materials

  • 1 or two heads of wool roving in different shades/ colours if you can ( available from places like Virginia Farm Woolworks)
  • Dishwashing detergent or soap flakes
  • A large bamboo sushi mat/ bamboo blind or bubble wrap or PVC grip mat
  • A few towels
  • A spray dispenser with hot water
  • Some scrap fabric/ threads or cut-outs.
  • A pair of scissors
materials

Materials for your felted rug

Step 1

Prepare and plan your decorative scene for the rug, if you are adding cut-outs as we are, prepare these first. We chose to make 3 Viking longships with shield details from scraps of pre-made felt and fabric. Ours were cut free-hand but if you would like a guide for your shape just find a nice clear outline /silhouette image online and trace around it onto your cloth before cutting.

felt shapes

Decorative shapes to create a scene in our felted rug

Decorative shapes to create a scene in our felted rug

Decorative shapes to create a scene in our felted rug

Step 2

Lay down your mat (the bamboo mat or bubble wrap- bubble side up or PVC grip liner) first. Make sure it is big enough for the size of rug you are making.

On top of this lay your wool roving to the size you require.

Gently separate out the strands of roving with your fingers. You need to layer your roving in different directions- horizontal then vertical then horizontal etc. We started with 3 layers.

roving on mat

Laying down the first layer of roving onto our mat in a horizontal direction

All three layers of wool roving ready to be felted

All three layers of wool roving ready to be felted

Step 3

Spray the surface with hot or warm water all over and a small about of detergent or soap flakes drizzled on top. You can combine the soap flakes or detergent into the water spray for convenience if you like. Gently press down the wet surface with a spare piece of your mat fabric.

Spraying the surface of the wool with hot water

Spraying the surface of the wool with hot water

Adding some detergent or soap flakes to the wet wool

Adding some detergent or soap flakes to the wet wool

Step 4

Now the wool is hot and soapy it is ready for friction to be applied so that the open fibres will bind together. Roll up your mat on top of the felt layers and give it a good rub back and forth for a few minutes. You may even like to turn the felt over and spray and roll from the other side as well.

Pressing down the hot soapy wool with some of the mat

Pressing down the hot soapy wool with some of the mat

felting

Rolling the mat back and forth to bind together the fibres into felted fabric

Step 5

Now it is starting to look a bit flatter and evenly wet, add your decorations to the top layer. Lay over these another layer or two of the lighter coloured roving. Remember our next layer of roving is horizontal, then vertical and so on. We have laid ours very thin so as to avoid obscuring the scene but if you are doing more of an abstract thread decoration this will not matter as much and more than one layer on top will ensure your decoration is more securely embedded.

adding the fabric cut outs to felt

Adding in our decorative elements and another layer or two of roving

Step 6

Repeat as before with some hot soapy water sprayed on, press down with your mat and then proceed to roll. TIP: The bamboo mat is not the most ideal for this stage as it can distort the surface of your design and pull at any small threads so if you can use bubble wrap or grip mat that will be helpful. Keep rolling and rubbing (this can take a while) until your wool is looking much thinner and flatter. Give the surface a pinch test to see if it is all well bound together.

Pressing down the hot and soapy wool fibres before rolling again

Pressing down the hot and soapy wool fibres before rolling again

rolling the felt

Rolling back and forth to bind the fibres into felted fabric. Be gentle on decorative surfaces. Pinch the surface to test if it is properly felted, no fibres should pull up if it is well done.

Step 7

Once you are happy with the texture of your felt rug, rinse it out with water and use the towels to squeeze out excess moisture.

washing the finished felt

Washing out our completed felted rug. It will take quite a bit of water to wash out all the suds.

Step 8

Hang your rug out to dry.

hanging rug to dry

Squeeze out excess moisture and hang to dry.

And there you have it. A felted Viking longship rug perfect for play, stories or just for decoration!

For more Viking crafts and activities pop along to our Scandinavian Sunday Family Fun Day this weekend. Full info online here

A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour – Invasion!?

The Jorgen Jorgenson ready for the exhibition opening ceremony under a full moon

The Jorgen Jorgenson ready for the exhibition opening ceremony under a full moon

As night fell and a full moon rose over Darling Harbour on Thursday 19 September, the Jorgen Jorgenson was readied to bring an invading force of Vikings in to the museum wharves as the centre-piece of the opening event for the Vikings – Beyond the legend exhibition. Continue reading

A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour – setting sail

The Jorgen Jorgenson is ready!

The Jorgen Jorgenson is ready!

After several weeks of hard work by the museum’s Fleet staff and volunteers and the Pyrmont Heritage Boating Club, the reconstruction of the Gokstad vessel Jorgen Jorgenson is finally ready to go a viking!

Continue reading

A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour – Australian Vikings

The Jorgen Jorgenson with the Oseberg style bow scroll in place.

The Jorgen Jorgenson with the Oseberg style bow scroll in place.

The Viking age reconstruction vessel Jorgen Jorgenson is nearing completion in time for the opening of the Swedish History MuseumMuseumsPartner exhibition Vikings – Beyond the legend at the museum on 19 September. The opening event will see the longship rowed into the museum’s wharves, at night, with a complement of Vikings on board!

Continue reading

A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour – stepping the mast

The mast stepping team

The mast stepping team

Today, passers by at Darling Harbour in Sydney witnessed an event that has only happened perhaps a handful of times in the last thousand years or so – the stepping of a Viking age vessel mast.

The restoration of the Jorgen Jorgenson in time for the upcoming Vikings – beyond the legend exhibition passed a momentous milestone today as the mast was successfully stepped into the mast fish. This is how it happened..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour – sea chests

The Jorgen Jorgenson gets some 'teeth'

The Jorgen Jorgenson finally gets some ‘teeth’

As outlined previously, the transformation of the reconstruction of a Viking age karvi the Jorgen Jorgenson continues apace by the museum’s Fleet staff and Pyrmont Heritage Boating Club volunteers. Now that the insides have been prepared, the paintwork continues.

Theresa McKinley from Allpoints Shipwrights is leading the painting of ‘teeth’ along the top strake of the vessel. This pattern of yellow triangles can be seen in the reconstruction longship Gaia. Continue reading

A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour – the mast fish

A Viking boarding party? The Jorgen Jorgenson alongside HMB Endeavour

A Viking boarding party? The Jorgen Jorgenson alongside HMB Endeavour

Early this morning while most people were commuting to work, a rare combination of 9th, 18th and 21st century technologies occured on Darling Harbour. The museum’s Fleet staff moved the Viking reconstruction Jorgen Jorgenson alongside the HMB Endeavour replica and used its block and tackle to winch the heavy mast fish (a partner timber to support the mast which has a fish shape to it) from the wharf onto the Viking boat.

Here’s how it happened… Continue reading

A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour – the artisans at work

The Jorgen Jorgenson at the museum's heritage wharf

The Jorgen Jorgenson at the museum’s heritage wharf

The decision to restore and fit out the Jorgen Jorgenson viking age reconstruction for the museum’s upcoming Vikings – Beyond the legend exhibition was a brave one. To get the vessel ship-shape in time for the opening night has meant a major focus for one of the important behind the scenes arms of the Australian National Maritime Museum – the shipwrights, tradies and volunteers who look after the floating vessels, known as Fleet Services, or just Fleet.

With the help of the Pyrmont Heritage Boating Club volunteers, Fleet have, pardon the pun, launched themselves into the project. Continue reading

A Viking ship in Sydney Harbour – restoration work continues

Ready to go back to the museum

Jorgen Jorgensen ready to go back in the water

As mentioned in my last blog post, the restoration of the Viking Age reconstruction Jorgen Jorgensen, is being spearheaded, so to speak, by the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Fleet staff. During the last week of July, Fleet and volunteers worked hard to finish the necessary work below the waterline and to paint the vessel while it was on the hard at Noakes Shipyards. Continue reading

A Viking ship on Sydney Harbour

Readers may have seen a rather strange looking bright green double-ended wooden vessel moored under the Anzac bridge at Pyrmont for several years now. On close inspection, there is no mast, an open deck and oar holes along each side. Although clinker built, it is not your traditional Australian wooden sailing vessel. But what is it?

The Jorgen Jorgensen at Pyrmont Bay, June 2013

The Jorgen Jorgensen at Pyrmont Bay, June 2013

The bow and stern are identical and rise sharply, and this is a clue. If you imagine a single mast and spar with a square sail, and perhaps a dragon head carving on the prow, you will get the picture – it is a Viking longship.

Well, not a longship technically. It is a reconstruction of the famous Gokstad vessel, which was actually a karvi – a ship used by Viking Age chieftains to cruise the Scandanavian coastal waters and rivers. A true longship, used for raiding overseas, would have been much larger, with possibly over 60 oars rather than the 32 on this vessel. Continue reading