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Several types of textile were used in the Viking Age, the most common of course being wool which could be woven in a variety of styles and patterns. Linen was also well used throughout northern Europe and was generally woven using more conservative techniques. It differs from wool in one main aspect; it is a plant fibre rather than an animal fibre or hair. On the whole, linen degrades much more quickly than wool in the ground, so that finds are far rarer than those of wool. The last type of material that people of the period used was silk. This is once again an animal fibre, but is produced by the larvae of the Silk Worm Moth, as it spins its cocoon.

Just like a thousand years ago, this material is still regarded as one of the finest fabrics you can wear today. However, the only way it was originally to be found in northern Europe was by way of trade. Silk fragments found in Dublin may have come all the way from China, but Asia Minor is a more likely candidate. Neither was this trade direct. The fragments may have been traded many times over, driving its cost up so much that barely a few living in the period would have ever purchased any. It does however survive quite well in the archaeological record, which can sometimes give the impression that it was used more commonly than linen.

Any fabric woven then was to one extent or another very valuable. It takes hours of work just to produce the raw fibres which then need to be dyed and woven long before a garment can be made. It is unlikely that people treated their clothes carelessly. Finds of fabric that have been identified as elements of clothing show close attention to detail, and where a garment has been damaged, it was patched or sewn up. Other finds from earlier periods show this to an even greater extent, where a tunic could almost be described as having been entirely made of patches.

Clothes that had been made to fit an adult would be recycled to fit a smaller person, and then on down to become clothes for children and eventually babies. Re-using by turning the cloth inside out was another trick that would have been employed, to use the un-faded and less worn side of the fabric to its best advantage. And it goes without saying, the larger the family, the more cloth and clothes that had to be made.

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