Thursday, 1 January 2015

Weaving Vadmal IV - Fulling

Two days before the vadmal weaving class were suppose to go the fulling mill in Skrekarhyttan, I realised had woven a lot less than I thought I had. A lot less as in only about half of what I had in the loom... Six metres of fabric do not a medieval dress make (well, it does actually, but I wanted all of my fabric fulled), so I promptly decided to take some extra time off from work just to be able to finish it. Subsequently, I spent two of the hottest days in July this year indoors, sweating in the loom and weaving like mad. 6.4 metres in two days - I'm happy (and a little proud) to discover I still had speed weaving in me after all these years of not weaving at all...

Two hours before my ride to the fulling mill came to pick me up, I cut the fabric out of the loom. 
The fabric taking a short rest on the sofa. I would have liked a rest too, but I had to go pack for a weekend of fulling...
The fulling mill (link to photos by Vikers Hembygdsförening) was built in the 1990s, but based on an old design. In the beginning, it was even powered by a water wheel, but these days it runs on electricity (but the electricity is actually generated by the very stream that used to power the mill!). I tried to find out a bit about the history of fulling mills in Sweden, but didn't get very far back. There were water powered fulling mills here in the 16-17th century. A sign at the mill in Skrekarhyttan claimed there weren't any earlier than that, and I haven't found anything to contradict that yet. In Europe, of course, water-powered fulling mills were all the rage in medieval times, but I suppose we kept doing it the old-fashioned way with our feet up here in the north a while longer. One of the Swedish words for fulling - stampa - literally means to stomp/step on. A fulling mill is simply called stamp - "a stomp".
The mill with its fulling tubs
It was an extremely hot day outside, but it was nice and cool by the fulling tubs. There were three of them, hollowed out of a single tree trunk. Each tub could take about 40-50 metres of fabric and it was quite hypnotic to watch as the fabrics went round and round while being pounded by the heavy "stompers". We used water from the stream outside to wet the cloths. The people of the local handicraft guild who take care of the mill these days said they usually heat the water first, but the wood stove used for that wasn't safe to use when we were there. Cold water worked just fine, too. 

I shot this slightly shaky and out-of-focus video of the "stomp" at work: