I have been working with reindeer leather for the past year or so, hand stitching and making small bags, purses and pouches. My interest in reindeer leather began when I decided I wanted to weave and work with materials from my Saami heritage. My grandmother used to make reindeer leather shoes, bags and other items that she sold to the Sami community in Northern Norway. Many of these types of items were embellished with hand woven colourful bands or pewter thread embroidery. After doing some research in online museum archives, I discovered that fish skins were also tanned and used to make bags and other items.
I first learned about fish tanning during one of the textile and dye workshops that I attended in Finland. I thought I would do a bit more research on the various ways to tan a fish and make it into useable leather.
Wear protective rubber gloves at all times when handling fish. This will protect you from any bacteria that may be on the fish, and will also prevent the fish from getting bacteria that can affect the tanning process.
The basic procedure for tanning fish leather is to remove the skin from the fish. This is easier to do if the fish has been frozen.
Using a spoon, scrape off the fish scales.
Turn the fish skin over and gently scrape off the fat and as much of the membrane as you can. With some types of fish, this can be quite easy to do and sometimes more difficult.
Rinse in clean water.
Soak in the tanning solution for 12-24 hours – sometimes longer depending on the tanning method you are using.
Soften the tanned skin by rubbing egg yolks and oil. This replaces some of the proteins and fish fats that were removed during the tanning process.
Let the oiled skin dry.
Then massage, rub, stretch and work the skin until it is soft and flexible. This can take several hours to do.
There are many methods and recipes for tanning fish skin. Here are a few, though I haven’t had a chance to try all of them yet.
Urine is often used to tan fish leather. The ammonia from the urine helps to break down the fats and fibrous cells of the fish skin. Urine Tanned Fish Leather
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.
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.
A Raanu rug was traditionally a flat weave weft faced handwoven wall hanging that was sometimes also used as a bed covering. The warp is made of cotton rug yarn or sometimes linen yarn, and the weft is woven of multicoloured fine wool yarns, often a single ply. The weave structure is a repp weave and the weft is beaten down firmly so that the warp yarns are fully covered.
The earliest Raanu date back to the 1600’s. The Saami wove Raanu (Rátnu, Rádno, Grene) and used them as wall coverings in their tents and sod huts. The designs of the Raanu depicted the colours of the landscape scenes around them and brought some colour into their homes during the dark and long winter nights. Raanu were also woven in many parts of Finland. In the 1960-70’s Raanu again became popular and were displayed on the walls of many Finnish and Scandinavian homes.
I thought that I would weave a Raanu based on one of my favourite places in the UK, West Wittering Beach. The photo is by Robert Lane.
I am weaving this Raanu with yarns that I have dyed with natural dyes. The dyes I have used are:
Indigo, Logwood, Madder Root, Brazilwood, Alkanet Root, Indian Barberry, Flame of the Forest
Warp Yarn: Cotton Rug Warp 12/9 1900 m/kg
Weft Yarn: Sport Weight Wool 2600 m/kg
Sett: No. 30 Reed (approx 6 epi)
Width in Reed: 60 cm
PPI: 30 ppi
Weave Structure: Repp Weave
The weft yarns must be beaten firmly. Throw the shuttle. Beat. Change shed. Beat again before throwing the next weft.
Further to my previous article about weaving pickup on a band loom, there is a quicker method that you can use. Previously, I had woven the pickup by individually picking up each pattern thread by hand. This method works but it is slow and is prone to errors, as it takes a lot of concentration to correctly pick up the pattern thread by thread.
The threading of the loom is done in the same way as I previously described. The ground warp is threaded through the 2 sets of heddles. The thicker pattern thread is not, so that it floats freely in the centre between the 2 ground warp threads.
The pattern threads can be set up for easy pickup by adding ties to the warp behind the heddles. Each warp thread that is to be picked up on a row has a corresponding pickup tie. All of the threads that are to be picked up on that row are then grouped together and numbered, so that it makes it easy to pull up on the threads as you weave. This is much like tying up the pedals on a jack or countermarche loom, or setting up the pattern sequence on a drawloom.
When setting up the loom it is necessary to analyze the pattern draft to determine the pattern sequence that is repeated. Each pattern pickup row is then raised in order of the pattern.
In order to tie the pickup threads, the pattern must be analyzed to determine how the pattern repeats.
For example in this simple 7 pattern thread design, there are 6 rows of pattern changes before the design repeats. So to set up this design, you will need to tie 6 sets of pattern thread groups.
The first one row picks up Pattern thread No. 1 and No. 7 – so tie thread loops around those 2 threads – and tape them together and Label as No. 1. To help me distinguish which row is what, I also use a different coloured pickup thread for each row.
The second row picks up Pattern threads No. 1, 2, 6 and 7 – so tie loops around those 4 threads – and tape them together and label as No. 2.
And so on until you have set up the 6 Pattern groups.
In this pattern, the pickup threads are the same, but the weaving sequence reverses going from 1 to 6, and back to 1.
I work from the side of the loom, so that I can easily reach both the front of the warp and the back, behind the heddles.
I use a small net shuttle to hold my yarn, so that my right hand is free to pickup the pattern groups. The small netting shuttle also acts as the beater for the weft. The shuttle is light weight so that when it drops, which it often does, it doesn’t put a lot of strain on the band, and the weft yarn doesn’t unravel and go all over the floor.
To weave the pickup, press on one of the foot pedals to raise the shaft.
All of the pattern threads should be floating in the centre, between the open shed.
With my right hand, I pull up on the first pattern group, No. 1. This raises only those pattern warp threads. Pass the shuttle through, under the raised pattern threads and the top ground threads.
Change the shed and beat.
Because you are weaving with a very tight sett on a narrow band, the warp has been pushed together very closely, the pattern threads tend to stick a bit. This needs to be cleared before you pick up the next pattern row. So make sure that all of the pattern threads are now again sitting in the middle of the warp, between the raised and lowered ground shafts.
(I have one set of pattern threads tied from the bottom, so that I can easily pull all of the pattern threads down when they get stuck.)
After you have cleared the shed, with your right hand, pick up the next pattern group and pass the shuttle through the raised pattern and ground threads.
As I work my way through picking up the pattern groups, I move them to the back of the loom, and then to the front again as I reverse direction. This helps me keep track of where I am, should I get interrupted.
To warp my new Glimakra band loom, I use a method that is similar to the way that I warp my large floor looms, front-to-back. The total length of the band loom is about a meter, a comfortable distance to reach both the back and the front beams of the loom, if you sit on the side, facing the heddles. This will feel a bit awkward at first, if you are used to working from the front beam of a floor loom. But everything is accessible, the front beam, the heddles, the back beam and the pedals. I do find the loom a bit high so that my shoulders get sore while working on it. Sitting on a higher chair such as a dining room chair, or the weaving bench helps to alleviate this problem.
I wind the warp on a warping board. When making narrow striped bands, you do need to change colours frequently, but it isn’t difficult to tie the previous end to the warping peg, and tie on a new colour.
In this simple band, I am using 40 ends of different colours. The draft shows which shaft to thread the yarn through alternating between the 2 shafts, Shaft 1 (Front heddle) Shaft 2 (Back heddle)
I have used 8/2 cotton for this band, but you can use any weight of yarn that you wish.
Turquoise Blue 20 Ends
Yellow 8 Ends
Red 8 Ends
Purple 4 Ends
Total 40 Ends
Warp Length: 3.5 Meters (including loom waste)
After winding the warp onto the warping board, I insert the lease sticks into the cross, and remove the warp from the warping board.
I use masking tape, to temporarily attach the warp onto the front beam of the band loom.
While sitting on the side of the loom, directly in front of the heddles, I move all of the heddles close to the front. Again, I use a small piece of masking tape on the last heddle, to prevent them from falling off the pegs while I am warping. I start to thread the heddles, working from the back of the loom to the front.
I select the warp ends from the lease sticks and thread each end through the next heddle, alternating between the Front and Back heddles according to the draft. The lease sticks keep the warp in threading order as I warp.
I find it easier to use my fingers to thread the texsolv heddles, rather than using a threading hook.
When all of the warp ends have been threaded, I tie them to the back beam.
I use 2 texsolv heddles to attach the rods to the back beam, rather than using the texsolv cord that was provided with the loom. I find the texsolv cord to be a bit too heavy.
I now remove the lease sticks – they aren’t really needed anymore as the warp threads are all in perfect order. I find it easier to wind on a smooth warp without the sticks.
Again, sitting at the side of the loom, directly in front of the heddles, I hold the warp threads with my left hand, and slowly wind the warp onto the back beam, winding the warp with my right hand. Occasionally I have to stop, and gently comb out any loose ends, and continue winding.
As I am winding the warp onto the back beam, I insert one of the warp sticks with each revolution. This helps to keep the warp tensioning even as you are winding on.
Once the warp has all been wound onto the back beam, I adjust the warp tension and tie the ends to the front beam.
As there is no reed on a band loom to help keep an even sett, weaving on a band loom is a bit more free form than weaving on a conventional table or floor loom. I find that it always takes a few inches of weaving, to determine the correct weaving tension in order to get straight edges.
Now that I have retired from the world of work, I have become more involved in production weaving. I am also now teaching workshops on a one-to-one basis. Here are some Links to my hand made products on Etsy and workshops that I offer.
Hand sewn reindeer leather and pewter thread bracelets, made in the Sami tradition.
Sami style medicine bags made with reindeer leather, wool felt and decorated with pewter thread embroidery.
Keychains made with reindeer leather, wool felt and embroidered with pewter thread.
Key fob wristlets hand woven in traditional Sami patterns made with wool and trimmed with reindeer leather.
Hand woven wool throws made with hand spun and dyed yarns.
Hand woven tea towels using organic cotton yarns.
Hand woven table mats and runners made with hand spun wool and linen yarns.
Ribbon, tape, sashes woven on a traditional Scandinavian band loom.
Hand dyed rainbow coloured yarns in different weights (lace weight, fingering, DK) for crewel work, knitting, crochet, embroidery, tapestry.
Hand spun thick and thin merino wool yarns perfect for knitting or woven Saori style fabrics.
Traditional Scandinavian needle felted gnomes, tonte, tonttu.
Hand felted wool diary and notebook covers decorated with Sami rock art designs.
Pure natural linen sauna bath towels.
Sami pickup band weaving workshops.
Hand spinning workshop for beginners and intermediate spinners.
Learn to warp and weave on a rigid heddle loom.
Beginner dye workshops on how to mix dyes to create colour.
I recently purchased a Glimakra 2 shaft band loom so that I can weave narrow bands more easily. I have been experimenting with how to also weave pickup patterns on this loom.
Although there are only 2 shafts on this loom, resulting in a tabby type of weave structure, you can also add another warp thread that does not go through one of the heddles. The warp thread rests on the front and back beam and does not move when the sheds are raised and lowered. The extra pattern thread sits in between the 2 threads that go up and down. This makes it possible to manually pick up or raise the pattern thread so that it shows above the ground weave. The pattern threads that are dropped, then move below the surface to the underside of the band.
When you pick up these pattern threads, it is important to have a tight tension on the weft, so that the warp threads are pulled closely together, creating a warp faced weave. If the weft is not pulled tightly enough, the extra pattern threads slip in between the background warp, instead of popping up to the surface, or below the ground weave structure.
The extra pattern thread (Blue) is not threaded through the 2 shafts but runs in the centre of the warp threads.
But because I was working with some sticky wool yarn, I thought that I would add another heddle in between the 2 shafts, in order to help separate the warp threads a bit better, to help with the sticky warp. I used the 2 extra posts that come with the loom for inkle weaving, and used some standard length texsolv heddles on these posts. I adjusted the length of the heddles by tying small knots at either end, so that the heddle fits the length of the posts.
Since the pattern threads sit clearly in the centre of the raised and lowered warp threads, it is quite simple to pick up the pattern threads that you want, and then pass the weft shuttle through the raised warp.
Of course, since I am doing pickup weaving rather than simply passing the shuttle through, it is a bit slower going than weaving the standard style of bands. But this method makes it possible to weave intricate designs on the simple band loom.
As this is a somewhat sticky wool warp, I open the shed with my fingers rather than beating into place with the shuttle.
Many bands are woven using a small bobbin to hold the yarn, and the weft is beaten down with a band knife.
I prefer to weave with the yarn wrapped on a netting shuttle as this leaves my second hand free to pick up the yarns and the weft can also be beaten with the edge of the shuttle. I like to use a small size fishing shuttle as I find it easier to hold in my hand than the larger Stoorstalka one.
Woven narrow bands are generally woven warp-faced so the warp threads are sett very close together. When using a wool warp yarn, the wool tends to be a bit hairy and can cause the warp to be quite sticky and almost impossible to change the shed or pass the shuttle through very easily. This can be extremely frustrating.
To help solve this problem, there are a few things you can do. Extra Lease Sticks
Open the shed and put a stick through the warp, at the back of the loom. Then open the other shed and put another stick into the shed. This helps to separate the warp yarns.
There are a number of products that you can use to coat the warp yarn, to help reduce the fuzz and stickiness. You may have to try a few to see what works best with your yarn.
Coat the yarn with some hair conditioner to help smooth the frizziness. I tried the hair conditioner on a small section. I found that it worked somewhat but there was still some stickiness.
I wound all of the remaining warp on the loom, onto the front beam, and as I rolled the warp, I sprayed the warp yarns with some spray starch. Then I rolled the warp back onto the back beam. I let this dry for about an hour before I wove again.
This seemed to work much better. Next time, I will spray the warp before I wind it onto the loom.
Boiled flour sizing will work on both wool and cotton yarns.
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups water
Make a past of the flour and mis in some of the water. When the mixture is smooth, add a cup of water and heat slowly. Continue to stir and bring the water to boil. Continue to stir until the mixture becomes pearly and translucent. Add the remaining water, remove from heat and stir until the mixture is smooth. The sizing mixture is ready to use.
2 Tbsp or 2 packets of gelatin powder. (unflavoured)
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup hot water
Soak the gelatin powder with the 1/4 cup cold water until it swells.
Stir in 1 cup boiling water until gelatin dissolves.
Add remaining 3/4 cup cold water.
Gelatin sizing is ready to use.
This sizing can be runny but dries quickly.
1 pkg instant non-fat dry milk
2 cups cool water
Stir powdered milk into water until well mixed.
Milk sizing is ready to use.
Do not use whole milk as the butterfat can be difficult to scour out.
[sc name=”medianet300x250″] Band Weaving Books
Some of these books are out of print.
Traditional Finnish Decorative Bands by Theodor Schvindt (English) ISBN 978-952-5774-88-7 available from Salakirjat
Moraband by Barbro Wallin (Swedish) ISBN: 978-01-978632-5-4 available from Zorn Museum
Esti Kirivööd by Piia Rand (Estonian) ISBN: 978-9949-9363-2-8
Lapilised Vööd by Merike Freienthal and Veinika Västrik (Estonian) ISBN: 978-9949-9363-0-4 avalable from Apollo
Patterned Sashes: The Common Cultural Layer by Anete Karlsone, Latvijas Nacionalais Kulturas Centrs, 2014 ISBN 978-9934-528-09-5 (Latvian)
Lithuanian Sashes by Anastazija Tamosaitiene and Antanas Tamosaitis, Toronto:Canada, 1988, ISBN 0-9191187-04-8
Sjnjissjkot ja lahtat Samiska band fran Arvidsjaur, Arjeplog och Mala (2000) published by Sameslojdstiftelsen Sámi Duodji ISBN 91-631-0499-7
Girjjit Samisks vavmonster Karesuando, Jukkasjarvi och Gallivare (1999) ISBN 91-630-9564-5
Haugen, A (1987) Samisk Husfild I Finnmark, Oslo, Norsk Folkemuseum ISBN 82-529-1073-4
Latviesu Jostas Latvian Belts by Aleksandra Dzervitis and Lilija Treimanis
Lithuanian Sashes by Anastazija Tamosaitiene and Antanas Tamosaitis, Toronto:Canada, 1988, ISBN 0-9191187-04-8
The latest loom to enter my loom collection is a 2 shaft band loom made by Glimakra. I like to weave narrow bands using a small, hand held rigid hedddle, but I am hopeful that a band loom will make the band weaving process more efficient.
The Glimakra band loom arrived (Ikea style) in a box, as an assortment of wooden sticks and a one page diagram of how to put the bits together.
After a bit of pondering, I sorted the wooden bits into sections.
Once I had all the pieces sorted, it was fairly easy to assemble the loom following the diagram provided.
I slid the 2 shaft sections into the 2 center pieces and attached them with the 2 screws provided.
Then I attached the front and back pieces to the side panels of the loom.
The foot pedals are attached to the 2 shafts with the texsolv that has been provided, and tied to the side panels with the leather strips.
My Glimakra Band Loom is ready to go!
My First Band Loom Warp
I wanted to weave some fine tape for sewing hanging loops for tea towels that I have been weaving.