Whenever I look at my leather projects, I remember my time studying traditional handicrafts at Mora Folkhögskola in Sweden. Part of an exchange through Gustavus Adolphus College, I wasn’t the only American in my subject area. My classmate Elizabeth and I both chose to focus on textile handicrafts or mjuk slöjd in Swedish. Even before beginning our projects, our first task became clear – how to properly pronounce mjuk slöjd. Our American ears came up with something like milk shake and it remains a joke between my folk school friends and me.
My first milk shake project was, in fact, the same project that I teach a class on – a traditional Swedish pouch. What I found so distinctive about it was the decorative leather piping between the main pieces. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how to make it. As a good Scandinavian, I decided that I should rise to the challenge and began with the help of my capable instructor. Not a fan of thimbles, blood was drawn repeatedly during the process. When I under- or over-gathered, I had to rip out stitches and begin again. But, my perseverance paid off and before long I was finished.
During my many hours working, I heard some of the history of the craft. Traditionally, the pouch would have been made of reindeer or other hide and sewn together with bear or reindeer sinew. The pattern most closely resembles that of Viking belt purses, worn by men and women. It’s original use may have been the same as I use it for now – a container for valued sewing supplies.
The present variation I teach uses the same pattern I learned in Sweden with a pewter button and braided loop for strength. The button pays homage to the reindeer, the fine creature that captures many imaginations to this day.
The class is this Saturday, June 29, from 9 am-5 pm, so call now to reserve your place!