Knotted Trim from Birka

I missed the picture the first few times I flipped through Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe. It showed a section of a man's coat from Birka (Norse, approx. 1000 A.D.) with an intricate interlace trim. On close examination, I discovered that the trim was composed of silver spiral wire arranged in decorative knots in a cross pattern. (fig. 1). The resulting trim was stitched to a strip of silk and then to the garment fabric, which allowed the trim to be removed from the garment and reused with little difficulty. This technique has all kinds of possibilities for making period and yet simple and affordable trim. Below are directions for making the 'Josephine's knot' (fig. 2) and the 'Turk's head' knot (fig. 3) used in this particular example.

Since spiral silver wire is hard to find, you can use linen, wool or silk-like cord. There is also a metallic cord with wire inside that is carried by some craft shops. It is more brittle than pure silver or gold wire would be, so keep that in mind. Try to get your knots the same size and evenly spaced. The best way to do this is to plot lines for the connecting cords (fig. 4). Pin this paper to a section of drop-ceiling tile, a fabric bold board or a piece of heavy corrugated cardboard. Pin your knots to the paper pattern as you work to keep the pattern even.