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The Rogart Shirt

Tentatively dated to the 14th century, the Rogart shirt was found in a grave in Sutherland. The body consists of one piece of cloth, approximately 30 inches wide and 90 inches long, with the selvages sewn together at the side seams. The sleeves are made of a different piece of cloth. It is a plain weave of worsted wool, with an average weft count of 17.5 threads per inch. Most of the garment is 'ginger brown', but a darker yarn is used for 11 inches of the warp on the left hand side of the garment for irregular stripes from 1 to 4 threads wide, with no apparent order or pattern. The stripes run the length of the cloth and seem to be intentional.

A number of weaving flaws and errors in the garment indicate that this was not the garment of a wealthy person; the sleeves are sewn from several pieces of cloth pieced together, and the left sleeve is 3" longer than the right sleeve.

The garment seems to have had tufts woven into it, though they are felted and matted, and worn away in some areas. The documentation isn't very clear on where the tufts appear. The tufts average about 1/2" long. The pictures accompanying the description don't show a very thick pile; the warp and weft are visible. I can't say whether the tufts are typical of this kind of garment, but I am inclined to think that they are not, since there are no descriptions of tunic-type garments with pile woven into them from this period, and it seems to be the kind of detail that would have struck non-Scottish observers as odd and remarkable. However, this tufting technique is much like that used in some Irish mantles in the 15th/16th century and perhaps earlier. The tufts would perhaps have served to channel rain off the garment or to keep the wearer warm.

The neck opening is a slit across the width of the garment. It is blanket stitched at the corners and hemmed on the long sides.

The sleeves are pieced together of several pieces of cloth, with a seam running across the sleeve approximately near the elbow. This appears to be more due to a lack of cloth rather than for any structural reasons.

Here is a drawing of the basic dimensions of the Rogart Shirt. Details not included: seam across the sleeves, where they are pieced together; holes; fabric flaws; loops that are hidden on the inside of the garment (which are not functional but are from the selvage of the cloth). Length and width of the main body of the shirt are given in the documentation (90" long x approx. 29-1/2" wide), but the rest I have estimated based on the scale of the drawing.


Source: Audrey S. Henshall, Early Textiles Found in Scotland (see bibliography)

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Clothing of the Ancient Celts - Copyright 1997, M. E. Riley