Diy fur tanning with Oak gall powder

img_3098I need fur for Iron Age and other historial clothing. I will make 16th century gown that was fully lined with fur that looks like European Mink fur. It was Little Ice Age and temperatures in Europe were lower than now. Houses built of stones were extremely cold and it was hard to keep warm. My gown will have fur only inside sleeves and visible edges.

We have In Finland serious problem with an invasive American Mink. They are thriving and causing huge damage to our native water- and shore bird populations. Wild American Mink fur looks very similar to European Mink fur. I bought pile of dried and cleaned mink pelts from a hunter hunting in Finnish west coast. Some of the pelts were from minks that were escaped from fur farms, some from individuals whose ancestors were escapers and some from population that has been wild for long time (brown and smallish).

I used Oak gall, Spruce bark and birch for source of tanning acids. I also tanned few skins with readymade Pretanic solution, but Oak galls produced better skins. Its disadvantage is that it dyes fur slightly beige. I also tested how madder will affect. I got nicely dyed meat side, but I should have had opened skins for this tanning. Now dye did not penetrate inside the pelt where the hair was.

Oak gall tanning and Pretanic + hydrogen peroxideMadder in tanning solution


Red dye has been very rare to get from natural sources. Situation changed when Spanish brought cochineal scale insects and their host plant opuntia cacti from Mexico. Climate in the Canary islands was suitable for opuntia farming. Huge plantations were planted in to the drier islands. Nowadays most of them are abandoned.


These scale insects produce large amounts of red and purplish red pigments.

I found several wild opuntia bushes when we were visiting Fuerteventura. These plants had cochineal bugs that I collected to take home. Most of these scale insects were dead and dry, but I think they will still give dye pigments. All bugs were dried before trip to home.


Iron Age gown choker

Kaukola Kekomäki grave number 6 had large set of jewelry. There were pieces of choker that was made of linen covered birch bark and silver plaques. There were no remnants of any kind of clasp system, so choker was probably closed with strings. In this grave there was also pendant or amulet. It could have been hanging from choker.


More pieces to European frog’s-bit silver jewellery set

Here are new rings and earrings to frog´s-bit jewellery series that has been published here. Jewellery has been made out of sterling silver sheet. Stamen parts are gilded silver.


Rock crystal amulet Masku style

This kind of rock crystal amulets have been found from Finland and Sweden. In Masku graveyard there has been found 2 similar pendants and in Sweden Vikings had similar items. This pendant has wire decorations and small silver balls inside scrolls of wire.