2015 SMUHA Jarl's Squad Suitmaking
The Kirtle, Dresses & Cloak
The Knife & Belt
There are a few themes that feature in this year’s Jarl Squad suit including dragons and other ferocious beasts. A large number
of the squad have rowed for Bigton throughout the years and we wanted to celebrate that by using a new interpretation of the
team’s logo, the Bigton Dog. This design comes originally from the Book of Kells along with the Celtic knot that has decorated
the gunwales of the team’s yoals throughout the years. The colours of the squad are purple and green, the Jarl’s favourite
The vast majority of the work on this year’s suit has been done by the squad. We felt it important to take on as much of the
making of the suits ourselves and although we wanted to ensure the suits were of a high enough calibre for the festival, we
wanted to keep to a tight budget and ensure no wastage or unnecessary expense. By completing all the work ourselves, we
have had a very busy year but have enjoyed each other’s company and learned many new skills.
The basic shield design was inspired by the Berserker piece from the Lewis Chessmen – he’s the one biting his shield! The
shields were made from 2 pieces of plywood glued together and then placed in a shield press made with the help of Kevin
Adamson. The press bent the shields to achieve a rounded appearance and then they were covered in purple leather vinyl. The
dragon design was developed by Erik Moncrieff from the engravings on the bronze hilt of a sword found in the 11th Century
grave of an armoured noble woman in Suontaka, Finland. The sword is dated from around 1030 and can be found in the Finnish
National Museum in Helsinki. Each dragon, was cut from stainless steel by Cutting Technologies before being finished and
fitted using 29 double pronged pins, by the squad. The backs were then finished off with black fur fabric.
Brian Halcrow helped with turning the Jarl’s axe design drawing into a CAD drawing and Kevin Adamson made up the handle
template for routering about 50 axe handles that were then sanded and oiled a ridiculous number of times before passing
The Axe head design was then ‘Eriked’ before Andrew Tait of CAM Craft in Burra made a resin plug that was then sent to
Taylors Foundry in Sussex who made the axe heads from aluminium. The squad then sanded and buffed these from rough to
the mirror finish they now boast, going through every grade of sandpaper known to man. The Bigton Dog also features on the
axe head along with runes. As with their swords, Vikings liked to name their axes – these are named RANDGRIDR or ‘Shield
Hungry’ written in runes. This was also the name of one of the Valkyries.
The Italian leather armour was designed and crafted by the squad. To cover the variety of male and female shapes, a thin and
more fluid armour was needed and the design made from 6 separate pieces of leather was then riveted with a V design on the
front. The Jarl knitted her own armour using Shetland yarn from Jamieson and Smith and 2000 gold dragon scales from
Dagger blades were designed by the squad and stainless steel blanks were made up by Cutting Technologies and shaped and
polished by the squad. The handles were crafted by the squad with lots of sanding, oiling and then more sanding and
oiling...before being fitted with the blades. As we wanted to have some of the blade on show, the sheaths caused us a lot of
design headaches before we finally came up with this model. Many hours were spent on this puzzle and we think they’ve
ended up pretty good. They’re made with Italian cowhide from Le Prevo in Newcastle.
Brian Wishart from Sandwick produced the fibreglass helmet blanks in a deep green. The squad trimmed these to size before
fixing the metal with 5 double pronged pins. The metal was decorated with a Celtic knot borrowed from the Bigton rowing yoals’
gunwales. This was achieved by sticking on the design made up by Art Machine. The helmets were then lined with scraps of
purple pigskin. Some of the ladies in the squad preferred to wear a head band made by Unfauxgettable Designs instead of a
The Kirtles were made from purple pigskin bought from Le Prevo and made by Auntie Ann Simpson. Two types of braid finish
off the design. The ladies dresses were made by members of the squad and then corrected, fitted and finished off by Ann.
These consist of a white linen underdress and a purple linen mix fabric overdress. Cloaks were designed and made by the
squad from green velvet and finished with brooches featuring the Bigton Dog in silver pewter by Scott Sutherland.
Belts were cut from leather hides and fitted with d-rings before being decorated with a simple line down each side. Two pieces
of metal, decorated with the same Celtic knot as the helmets were fixed on with rivets to give a little interest. Bags of green
velvet were made by the squad and finished off with purple and green thronging and beads. All the boots were stripped back
and covered using black felt and a sleeve technology with black faux suede. The bracers were cut from leather and had the
shield dragon design heat bonded onto them.