How to Make an Ancient Viking Sail

Written by john reinhart
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How to Make an Ancient Viking Sail
The big square sails drove the Viking ships as fast as 12 knots. ( Images)

The Viking longship must have been a fearsome sight to farmers and villagers along the English coast. The big square sail is easily the most recognisable feature of the long, sleek Viking ships. This big piece of cloth, woven and stitched together by Viking women, was hoisted up a single mast and stood half of the ship's length in height. You can make a sail with almost any kind of fabric, but cotton offers the best combination of easy workability and smooth drapery for this project.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Viking longship model
  • Cotton fabric
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Shears
  • Small grommets

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  1. 1

    Measure the length of your Viking longship.

  2. 2

    Cut a square from the fabric that is one half the ship's length on each side.

  3. 3

    Hem the edges of the square sail so that they won't fray. Make it a very thin hem.

  4. 4

    Install grommets along one edge of the sail to accept the rope that will bind it to the yard, the crosspiece on the ship's mast. Install a grommet at each of the opposite corners to accept the sheet lines, the ropes that allow the sail to hold the wind.

Tips and warnings

  • You can decorate your sail any way you'd like. The Vikings preferred strong reds -- the colour of blood -- to frighten their enemies. Some sails bore the image of fierce dragons, while others carried bold vertical red and white stripes.
  • You can use any kind of rope or thread, depending upon the size of your model, to attach the sail to the yard. Tie it firmly to the front of the yard. The lower corners of the sails were tied to the ship's rail with a degree of slack in the ropes. This slack allowed the sail to "belly out" to catch the wind.

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