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A 2019 Saga: Martha Brummitt and her Viking Boat and Sail

I am filled with admiration for Martha Brummitt and her Viking boat project. Ambitiously, she made her own Viking pram boat and is weaving a woolen sail for it. Early on, she described her grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and her plans in an article in the Norwegian Textile Letter, “Building a Norwegian Pram and Weaving a Wool Sail.”

She built her boat during our record-breaking cold Minnesota weather this winter, when it seemed impossible that summer could exist.  This spring, Martha took my loom to her apartment (while I went to Norway) to weave her woolen sail. In true “It takes a village” spirit, she enlisted several friends, members of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group, and even her fiancé Mikey, to take turns weaving 25 feet of fabric. Here it is unrolled on the day Martha and Mikey brought my Toika back to the studio.

Yesterday, I had so much fun joining some friends from our Scandinavian weavers group to help with the next step, fulling the fabric.  Martha set up the fulling station at her office–she’s the manager of the Women’s Rowing Team at the University of Minnesota. This was our view of the beautiful Mississippi River while kneading the rolls of fabric. There was an eagle to watch, too.

Could these people look like they are having more fun? Left to right, they are Glen Skoy, Kala Exworthy, Mary Skoy, and Carol Colburn.  Carol is an expert on fulling wool and an advisor to Martha’s project.

Martha cut the fabric into three pieces, so the work rotated between kneading and stomping in a bucket.  Here’s Martha.

Occasionally the fabric was unrolled and folded in a different direction, to ensure fulling and shrinking in all directions.


After a couple of hours of this hard work, the wool was indeed thickened and shrunken. Here Carol and Kala wring out the water from one of the pieces. 

Martha plans to sew the sail next weekend, and afterwards add a coating of tung oil (and more ingredients) to further windproof the sail.  Don’t be surprised to see a small Viking ship sailing on the lakes in Minneapolis soon! It’s already been tested as a rowing vessel.

You can look forward to more details about the project in another article in the Norwegian Textile Letter later this year. And I’m looking forward to my ride in the boat after the sail is up.


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