Category Archives: Skinnfeller

Spring Activites at the Studio


“Lammskinn” and “Skinnfeller.”

The second book I sent for, on working with sheepskins arrived, “Lammskinn.”  This is the book mentioned in a previous post that I’d seen in issue 1/2013 of VAV Magazine.  “Lammskinn” is in Swedish, and appears to focus more on items to wear.  “Skinnfeller” is in Norwegian, and is more functional items, along with the stamping done on the leather, an old art in Norway I am told.  I am just beginning to translate them, using Google Translate along with a little help when needed, when I need clarification or something doesn’t make sense.  I am doing this for my own learning.  Photos are wonderful, but I want information, too.  Why did I order these?  I wanted to know how sheepskins are stitched to woven coverlets, and though I could just put it together, I wanted to know how it is done in those countries where this type of coverlet is a long tradition.  Thankfully, “Lammskinn” has a couple photos with diagram of how to stitch the two together.  A lot to spend for that bit of information, yes, but there is so much more contained in these books and I want to learn.

First woven shibori scarf, in progress.

After weaving ten samples, most on the 10 shaft twill threading, and a couple on Monk’s Belt, I re-warped the loom with enough warp for two or three scarves, the photo above is of the first, in progress.  This will be a scarf with woven shibori border at each end. 

Scarf (far left) and ten samples, ready to be dyed.

On the left, above is the scarf with woven shibori border at each end, and the ten samples.  Such a tangle of threads!  Laying horizontally across the top is a sample with the gathering threads trimmed.  I want to be sure things are tight enough before trimming the rest as it will be easier to tighten and tie with the longer threads. 

Woven shibori is an interesting process, full of possibilities.  You weave with white, warp and weft, and the gathering thread.  Off the loom, you gather from one side, tie tightly, then gather and really tighten things up from the other side.  Most of the samples were 8″ wide at the reed, and the scarf was 10″ wide at the reed.  After gathering tightly, they are now perhaps 1 1/8″ to 1 1/4″ wide.

If all goes well, I hope to make up my first indigo dyepot tomorrow, and will test if the vat is working, and depth of color, with a small piece or two of PFD cotton, then try one of the woven samples.  After they are wet, and the first sample dyed, I will probably open it up to see if the tightened pattern threads kept the dye out, or not.  If not, I’ll have to open up and tighten all the threads on all the samples and scarf, then proceed.  I’ll be taking photos during the process, and of the results afterward. 

I kept hoping for spring and warmer temps, and late in April we did have a couple warm days, then it went back to cold, freezing rain, sleet, and even a bit of snow early in May.  Tomorrow should be 64 or so, warmer would be better, as I want to do the dyeing outside on the lakeside porch, close to water source, and stove, or hotplate or something if I need to warm the vat a bit.  Also, I can tie clothesline between the house, a pine tree, and a fence post to have a place to hang the samples and scarves.  I’d really prefer to not have indigo soaking into pine floors.

I had hoped to possibly start the dyeing this morning, but then the phone rang…  it was Wild Instincts (I am a rescue driver for them).  Could I go out and get a loon that had landed on a road?  Yes.  So put bin, bag with heavy gloves, etc. in the back of my vehicle and was on my way.  Arrived, no loon, no people, checked my phone, they had called back, the loon had been taken to an animal hospital, so turn around and head down the highway. 

I put the box the loon was in into my large bin as I didn’t want it deciding to try and escape or get injured further.  All was well until I reached Rhinelander when there was a fair amount of thumping going on in back.  I pulled off the road and sure enough, the loon had had enough and was trying to get out of the box.  No choice, but to put the lid on the bin (there are lots of airholes) for the last 10 minutes of the ride.  I’d left it off as I didn’t want the loon to overheat.  When I arrived and took the lid off, the loon was, of course, still in the bin, but no longer in the box!  An intern examined the loon and found scapes on the bottom of both feet and one “toe” was a bit split.  Injuries were sprayed with appropriate meds and it was determined the loon could be released right away.  So back into the bin, I drove the intern a mile or so down the road, and she was able to release the loon onto a now ice-free lake.  That was one happy loon!  The three photos below are from early this afternoon.  I’ve been doing this rescue driver work for perhaps twelve years, and this was the first time I was there to witness a release.  What a joy!

Common Loon, after treatment, back in bin for ride to a lake.
Wild Instincts intern releasing the loon at a northwoods lake.


The loon immediately swam away, and began diving.  A very happy ending!

Weaving Journey and Small Related Detours

“Skinnfeller” by Britt Solheim

I had written awhile back that I would like to weave a Norwegian coverlet, likely a small Christening size to start with, and one that would have sheepskin on the other side.  But how to do that?  About a year ago I posed that question on ScanWeave, and was told of a book that had been available at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.  I contacted them and was told they were out, and trying to get more.  In February I received an email and a phone call from them, the book had been reprinted and they had obtained copies, did I still want one?  Yes!  The book is very pricey, and written in Norwegian, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

So “Skinnfeller du kan lage selv” (Leather Traps You Can Make Yourself) by Britt Solheim.  The book seems to be about a type of bedcover that is tanned sheepskin that is also sewn with techniques that give flat seams, with designs printed on the tanned hide, not the woven type with sheepskin on the underside.  But since it is the sewing part I am interested in learning about, and the pleasant surprise that this type of cover would be a fascinating project, I am still happy with the purchase.  To that end, I have just started translating the book (for myself) using Google Translate, a dictionary, and two Facebook Friends in Norway who have offered to help me if translation doesn’t make sense or needs refining. 

If you Google “, then click on Translate Page, the website will come up in English.  Then, on the left, click on “Skinnfell blogg” and the blog will come up in English.  Enjoy!  (Added to the post Friday evening.)

And now while typing this, I just arranged to get another book, same or similar topic, that will be in Swedish. The newest VAV Magasine had an article, “Kalder Sheepskin,” pp. 36-37, and notes about a book “Lammskinn.” I had emailed the address given at the end of the article, twice, but no reply. When I mentioned that to one of the Norwegian FB Friends, she offered to order the book and have it sent to me.  So now I am looking forward to seeing that book, also, and then translating it as well. Never a dull moment!  I will post more about this book after it arrives.

Meanwhile, I am working on my woven shibori samples, and definitely need to pick up the pace.   And, a dye area still needs to be set up. My first deadline, May 1, is coming up fast, when Amy needs photos of the new work so our postcards can be printed and mailed out for our Aug. 10th Art Gypsy art show in Land O’ Lakes, WI. 

Woven shibori samples on the loom.

I hadn’t posted because at this point, these samples are still looking rather boring! These samples are Swedish cottolin, half-bleached, both warp and weft (plain weave). The pattern rows (twill, spaced out) Half-bleached cottolin with seine twine woven into the pattern rows.

Samples off the loom.

After being removed from the loom, the loops are cut, pulled very tightly from each side, and tied tightly, to prevent dye from penetrating into those areas which is what gives design on the finished pieces. The pattern threads are removed after dyeing.  Until they are dyed, they are not too exciting to see, but I am enjoying weaving them!

Sample after gathering.

Width in the reed is 8″ yet after being gathered (off the loom), it measures 1.5″ wide, and I think I should have pulled the threads even tighter.  Glennis Dolce (Shibori Girl and indigo dyer) suggested dampening the piece after some gathering is done, then pulling even tighter again before tying the knots along the side.  To test that idea, I made two identical samples, one will be gathered without dampening, one with, then both will be dyed at the same time to find out which method works better, or if there is little or no difference.  Thank you, Glennis, for the suggestion!  Results will be posted here on the blog along with photos.

Right now, before dyeing, I’m trying to figure out how I can lable each sample as they are each being treadled differently. Handstitch a number on each? Or just use a permanent laundry marker (not terribly attractive). So far, I’ve been keeping simple records of the samples,… the fiber, threading, tie-up, followed by the treadling of each sample. This way if there particular patterns or effects that I like, I’ll be able to duplicate them, at least as much as dyeing will allow.

While finishing up my samples, it’s time to research and decide on what size cotton I need to warp up for scarves, do my calculations, and get a warp or two made, ready to beam as soon as the samples are finished. 

Carving for future printing.

Something I’ve been playing with late in the evening, occasionally, is a bit of carving.  I’m using Soft-Kut, and usually the “U” shaped tool.  Sometimes a spare “sketch” directly onto the Soft-Kut with a pencil, then carve adding more detail, or else carve freehand, just see where an idea goes.  Why?  For future printing on fabric! 

Drumcarding fibers for felting.

I needed a change of pace this afternoon, so drumcarded some white roving, adding in bits of royal blue and navy.

Spots of color, ready to felt.

After felting.

After finishing this blog post I went down and felted this piece, which early next week will be made up into a couple small items.  For now, it is laying across the top of a wood drying rack near the woodrange.  It’s very possible I’ll go back down tonight and card up a couple more different colorsways to felt tonight or tomorrow.  Sometimes you just need to do something out of your ordinary routine!

Woodsmoke drifting across the lake early one February morning.

A young pine with its burden of snow.

Like many other places, we are in the end of winter slump here in the WI Northwoods, tired of snow and cold, and looking forward to the change from white to green, the return of songbirds, sunshine, and warmer temps, knowing full well cloudy days, spring rains, and the “mud” season will come first.  However, more snow in the forecast over the next three days or so.  Time to return to fibers!