Vadmal (Wadmal) is a woven wool cloth that has been felted. Felting the fabric after weaving, thickens the cloth and makes it wind and water resistant as well as warm. Vadmal is generally woven in a tabby or a twill weave on warp weighted or floor looms.
In order to felt the fabric, there are two methods that can be used. The wet fabric can be pounded in a hammer mill for several hours in order to flatten and thicken the fabric. The hammering process creates a fabric that looks more like “real cloth” and produces a stable fabric with very little nap and the wool keeps its shine. The wool fabric can also be pounded and stamped by placing the fabric in a large bucket filled with water and stamping with your feet.
By Ida Dicksson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42835466
Vadmal can also be felted using a wet felting method. The woolen cloth can be felted by hand by rolling or using a washboard and also by washing the fabric in the washing machine until the fabric stops shrinking. This process can take up to 10 machine washes. The wool fabric can shrink up to 60% in size. Wet felting creates a cloth that is fuzzier in appearance than one that has been pounded.
Vadmal cloth has been used for clothing since the Viking Age. Vadmal was so popular that the woven and felted cloth was used and traded as legal tender in many Scandinavian countries. Vadmal was a major export in Iceland and the length, width, thread count of the fabrics were set by law.
Vadmal fabric is still used today in most of the Saami traditional clothing, hats, mittens, bags and other items. The vadmal clothing is often decorated with pewter thread embroidery.
Digital Museum Norway
By Thorguds – Own work Photo by the owner of Saamiblog, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8056131
Look for Saami style vadmal and pewter thread bags and other items in my PaivatarYarns Etsy Shop.
How Vadmal is Made
Vadmal in Saami Clothing
Vadmal and Other Woolens
From Fabric to Vadmel
Viking Woolen Sails
On the Production of Vadmal Wool from Navajo Churro Sheep in New Mexico
Wadmal – Wikipedia