I was so lucky to be able to learn to make a skinnfell from Britt Solheim last year. (a post on that class) Jan Mostrom was even luckier to be able to take the class from her this summer in Norway! Jan brought her completed skinnfell to our meeting. The fleece was gray and curly, seductively smooth. It spread across a large table and of course we were all a little jealous and desirous of one just like it. Jan told us briefly about the technique and the class.
Next, Nancy Ellison related her summer news. She bought a Gotland ram last year, with the same gorgeous curly fleece as the sheepskin in front of us. The new ram was very productive; he produced 19 lambs this spring, all with the same curly fleece. Hmmmm…. I feel sure the same thought was running through several heads at the same time, one that was cut short by Nancy saying, “These lambs all have NAMES. I plan to shear the fleece.” She wasn’t thinking about the lambs, which she referred to as “19 babies,” as sheepskins!
I brought along a white sheepskin from Ikea. The Ikea sheepskins are relatively inexpensive, and I want to see if they will work nicely for skinnfell-making. The fleece seemed so over-processed and straight, so I tested what would happen if I made it wet and dried it. Basically, the fleece becomes curlier, denser , and less industrial – nicer! However the skin side stiffened and in some portions became laced with a darkish resin-like imperfection. Then I thought I could maybe just wet the fleece, and not the skin. Well, maybe, but when I tried, it seemed to take so much water to dampen the fleece that the skin became wet, too. I’ll be able to use the skins as a backing for a weaving, but they are too ugly to use the skin side for printed patterns.
After the meeting, Nancy sent me a lovely letter and pages from a book about tanning hides. From the information on tanning I have deduced that paying for beautifully tanned hides is worth every penny! I would never try it myself. I am going to try her suggestion of using a leather conditioner to soften the skins.