A History of Tin Thread Embroidery of the Sámi People
We love pewter thread for the distinct and unique properties that make it so wonderful to braid and weave when creating bracelets and necklaces. The coiled thread is soft and holds its shape after years of wear.
However, did you know that the use of coiled thread to decorate clothing and everyday items has been around for centuries? Small fragments of gold coiled thread have been found in Viking graves outside of Uppsala dating back to almost 3,000 years ago.
Historically the art of sewing silver, gold and even bronze thread to cloth and leather can be found around the world. There are examples to be found throughout a myriad of cultures including textiles and objects from China, Japan and India.
The Saami people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia have been using tin thread embroidery since the 1600’s and the designs and patterns are specific and unique to the many Saami groups within the culture. In particular, tin thread embroidery is used to adorn the many styles of traditional Saami clothing called gákti. Here are some examples from my Pinterest page.
Sadly, tin thread embroidery almost disappeared in the 1800’s when Saami groups were being forced to assimilate to modern Norwegian and Swedish culture. I just finished watching the film “Sámi Blood” this past week and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about this period.
Fortunately, around 1905 a gentleman named Andreas Wilks from Sweden brought tin thread embroidery back to the forefront of Saami culture after discovering his mother’s tools for creating the distinctive coiled thread. He began teaching classes throughout Northern Sweden and managed to prevent this beautiful craft from disappearing altogether. *(From Tin Thread Embroidery by Mona Callenberg 1997)
Here’s a link to some wonderful books about Sámi culture.
Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll show some different and creative ways to use tin thread.
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There are so many features of this craft that are unique. Some people are specifically attracted to the intricate braiding and hand stitching that go into a bracelet or necklace. Other folks want to identify appreciation for their Scandinavian and or Saami roots by wearing tin thread jewelry to show cultural pride.
But did you know the materials used in this tradition also appeal to people who can’t wear regular jewelry?
We all have friends and clients who have jewelry allergies and these poor souls are pretty limited as to what they can wear even if they love silver and gold. The most common allergy is related to the nickel content in sterling silver jewelry. I’ve even had clients who react badly to wearing gold jewelry based on prescriptions they may be taking for a chronic illness or condition.
However, I’ve had people who are attracted to these bracelet styles purely on the premise that they are (for the most part) hypoallergenic!
Traditionally the Saami people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia tanned their own reindeer skins using bark from a variety of trees.
Our black reindeer hide is organically dyed using the bark from the alder tree. Our coiled tin thread is comprised of 96% tin, 4% silver and is nickel free. Reindeer antler buttons and cord take the place of metal clasps on regular bracelets so no metal is touching the wearer’s skin.
So, if you have a friend, family member or client who always says ‘I love jewelry but I’m allergic to metal!’ introduce them to the special beauty and wearability of these handcrafted bracelets.
Our Saami Inspired Bracelet Kits also come in a variety of colors for “color picky” palettes!
Saami Inspired Bracelets are Great for Folks with Jewelry Allergies
Join our blog and add some color to your pewter thread bracelets. I love the look of traditional pewter thread braids but sometimes I long for a little variation to really make the materials pop. I usually wear several bracelets at a time and often I can color coordinate my selection with what I’m wearing. We recently added a rich rainbow of 1.00mm round cowhide leather cord to our inventory at saamisupplies.com. Follow the steps in this project to brighten you bracelets and your day.
Double Four Braid Pewter Thread Bracelet with 1.00 Round Leather Colored Cord
Begin by cutting 4 pieces of 0.35mm pewter thread approximately 18 inches long each. Cut one 18 inch section of 1.00mm round leather cord.
Take 2 pieces of pewter thread and place a strand on either side of your leather cord. These will be your borders. Double the entire piece in half on the end of an open paper clip attached to your table clamp. Make sure to keep everything flat. It’s a bit of a challenge so don’t be discouraged if it seems like you need another set of hands to get everything positioned properly.
Double your remaining 2 strands of pewter thread over the end of the paper clip and you are ready to start braiding.
Proceed to braid as you would for the double four-strand pewter thread bracelet project in our previous post this past week.
It’s hard to believe that the addition of color can make this braid look so different. You can also try using round polyester cord or silk beading cord for variety. I’ve had students use flat strips of suede or reindeer hide and even ribbon! Remember to use materials at least 1.00mm wide so your material doesn’t disappear between the sections of your pewter thread.
Don’t forget to join our blog and stay tuned for another exciting project next week. Visit www.saamisupplies.com for everything you need to fuel your creativity!
Hey everyone! I’ve gotten lots of requests over the past few weeks regarding the steps on how to create a double four-strand braid for our pewter thread and Saami inspired folks. This is a beautiful dense Irish looking pattern that takes a bit of practice. To start you will need 4 strands of 0.35mm pewter thread approximately 20″ long each.
Double your strands in half over the hook of your paper clip and divide into 4 sections with two strands in each section. Don’t worry if this looks a little wonky to start with.
Take your two sections in the middle and cross the right section over the left section. and pull taut.
Take the outermost section on your left and cross it over the nearest section and pull over to the right. Pull taut.
Take the outermost section on your right and cross it under the nearest section and pull over the left.
Pull both sections firmly to either side and you should begin to see the pattern emerging.
Depending on how tightly you braid you should end up with a finished braid approximately 6.5 to 6.75 inches long. Remember to figure that a good 0.25 inch on either end will be hidden in the body of your bracelet if you are going to sew the braid to a leather strip. These proportions work well for a 7 inch finished bracelet on reindeer hide so if you want a longer braid increase the length of your strands by 2 inches (20 – 22 inches). Again, depending on the how tightly you weave your strands will determine the overall finished length of the braid. Strands measuring 22 inches in length should yield you a finished braid measuring approximately 7.7 to 8 inches long.
Good luck and I am always happy to answer questions and help in any way I can. Don’t forget to share your projects on our Saami Inspired Facebook Page. Thanks for following our blog and stay tuned for a new project post May 6th where we’ll add a little color to your life.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I can get a little crazy when it comes to all the different variations of braids that are possible for my bracelets. For example, I’m working on the two bracelets pictured below which are double strand, four braid weaves. They are essentially the same except for the division of strand groupings. In the first picture on the left, the braid on the left (“dubbel fyrflata”) uses around 6 feet of 0.35mm tin thread divided into 4 sections and doubled over for a 6.5 inch finished braid. The style on the right uses 3 strands at 18.5 inches each and 1 strand at 21 inches doubled over for a 6.5 inch finished braid. It’s all in how you divide up the strand groups. Stay tuned for some examples where we combine leather, beads, silk cord and fish leather into the braid!
Here are some practice pieces I’m working on using the same pewter thread I use for my Saami Inspired Bracelet projects. This type of knot work is a replication of “posaments” or decorations found in Viking graves from the 9th and 10th centuries in Sweden. While I’m using pewter thread, ancient posaments were actually created using gold and silver wire and were used for embellishing clothing. I’ve had to practice the knot patterns beforehand using leather cord and I’m still learning!
Our 0.35mm pewter thread is one of the most popular sizes for bracelets, tin thread embroidery and whatever sparks your creativity! This pewter thread is comprised of 96% tin and 4% silver. Saami Suppplies provides you the highest quality pewter thread for all of your Saami inspired projects!
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