Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Customising a Swedish snowsmock pt.1 - the liner

By now you probably have read how I dyed my smock. if not, see here
I had several more plans for it; adding a ruff to the hood, replacing the plastic buttons with natural material ones (Skaukraft suggested juniperwood, so I cut off a good sized branch from a dead/dying juniper and dried that) and add some decorations, in order to reduce the military look and give a personal touch.

In the secondhandstore I regularly visit, I was looking for some fur to creat a ruff around the hoodedge. I found several pieces, but all were to short and some quit "expensive". I kept on looking through the shelves and racks of clothing, untill I came across a long, dark green ladies coat. You know, the kind grandma used to wear. Picture an elderly lady in a long, woolen coat and you'll know what I mean!
Yep, something like that..... but with some fur on the collar.

By the way this is not my grandma, neither is it the coat I bought. It's just an internetpicture, but one that exactly shows what I meant. Thanks for standing in, lady!
The fur is no fox or something longhaired, but a kind of mink (I guess), so I'll have to make due with it, untill I can get my hands on something else. I like the colour a lot though...
And that coat..... it gave me another idea..... I have been planning on making something like a blanketcoat, a capote, but somehow I did not want to cut up a perfectly good wool blanket. The coat looked and felt like wool.... I checked the inside for a label and found one. The label said;

Hmmm... it was might just be about my size around the shoulders and arms, bit too small actually, especially around the shoulders. But what if I'd take out all the lining, cut it up and resew it a little... It might just make a nice, wool liner for my smock... So it came home with me for a few kronor. Doing a bit of research gave me this; Wallbergs Fabriks AB, based in Halmstad, closed in 1968, so the coat predates that!
I got rid of all the lining, pockets, buttons and such, tore loose many of the seams and took away the collar, too. I shortened the coat, leaving the rear a bit longer than the front, lengthened the arms by undoing the seams, redid the front and sewed it together, added seamband all along the edges and what do you know..... a wool liner, which fits both me and the smock. And I even like the colour!! After it came out of the washing machine and had almost dried, there could be no doubt. The fabric did have that faint, yet very distinctive smell of wool!


I still need to sew up the remaining buttonwholes and add a button and loop to the top, so I can close it.

One year of the trying Woodsman-blog!

Today I celebrate the first birthday of the trying Woodsman-blog; the journal of my journey through my outdoorlife.... and what a journey it has been!
Every so often I browse through my posts and reread them. Much has changed and much hasn't... yet I am so glad that I kept this journal and I am glad with all the attention it got, too. There are readers literally from all over the world and every once in a while I get responses from people, which are surprising and heartwarming. There's been the occassional discussion too for which I am equally thankfull, because it shows people care. Care enough to make themselves heard or seen in this case. It even provided me with some cyberbuddies, some of which I hope to see in person during this year!
The great thing about keeping a blog is that I can say whatever I want or feel, only being limited by deceny, not forumrules or similar. I can express myself and as far as I have understood there are plenty out there who can relate or like to read about it.

For the statisticlovers;
This blog has been visited for 19000 times! Many of the hits were caused by googlesearches for the kukrimachete, the beefy bedroll, the backpacks and the opinelknives, the most visits through other sites came from the American grouch, the woodtrekker and the weekend woodsman and the most readers were US, Swedish and British.

So to you all

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dyeing with natural materials - the first time with tea

As mentioned in my previous post I am going to dye 2 cotton snowsmocks. One of the smocks is currently a creamy offwhite and hopefully will turn out to be a medium or darker brown and the other is a pale grey one, which should turn out a shade of tan.

The dyeing methods I will be using are the ones I found, while searching the net; dye and mordant and natural dyes. For the brown colour I'll be using juniper both for mordant and for colouration and for the tan one I'll use salt as mordant and black tea as dye.
I have many junipers standing in my garden, some still green, others turning brown or allready dead (or so it seeems). I started collecting the needles as basic ingredient for the mordant, mixing green  and brown ones and using bits of every tree/shrub. At first I clipped of some of the lower branches and started to rid them of their needles by clipping them off. I very soon found out that didn't work very well and it went a lot easier and faster by stripping the branches with a gloved hand. And you do need those gloves! Good, sturdy leather gloves, because those needles are like.... well... needles!! It wasn't long befor I figured I could do that stripping directly from the trees too. taking care not to strip the branches of all their needles, i started collecting them by taking a bundles of small branches between my hands and then rubbing those, as if washing them. Many needles fell off in the waiting bag. It did take a while to collect them, but it felt good to stand there, in the snow and freezing cold and collecting some of nature's resources directly at the source and be able to use them directly too.
Only too bad I could not harvest any berries. There were but a few very small ones left on the plants.
There is a military saying that says;" No plan survives first contact with the enemy". Well, that's what happened here, too. Later this day I tried to burn the juniperneedles.... it just wouldn't work. Off course not, they're too fresh! So I'll be drying them and try again later.
I was also wrong about the mordants and such. Appearantly you don't need a mordant, when dyeing with tea.... I found that out after searching some more. And you need salt when dyeing with berries and vinegar when dying with plantmaterials... or so the mentioned links say. (Hey, I'm a man... we don't do the instructionreadingthing, right?)
This means I can dye the wintersmock first, since that doesn't need any special preparations. As I am typing this, the smock is soaking in a teabath. Several sources talk about adding some bags to a few cups of water. The smock was one hell of a job getting it thoroughly soaked and I ended up using quite a few liters of water, just to get it soaked and stopping it from floating! I used at least 10 liters of cold water for that. So I used slightly more tea, too. 130 grams of it actually, since that was the content of a tin we have had standing in the cupboard for more than a year. Allthough it was my favorite (earl grey), it just didn't taste good and was not being used anymore. While the smock was soaking I made 2 2-liter pots of tea. First I brought it to boil, added the tea and then let it simmer for about 30 minutes. The result was coffeelike! That was the strongest tea I ever made!
A small safetynote; when boiling this loose tea, it has the tendency to float, creating a thick lid of soaked plantmaterial, which tends to pop open, while boiling and that might send blobs of material of water in to the air. Stir regularly to avoid that!
Down there is the smock somewhere....
After an hour or two I checked the colouring. It did show, but was still to light for my liking. So the smock stayed submerged untill the following morning. Than I rinsed the smock and dried it, with this being the final result.
compared to this
The light smocks and sheet of paper aren't matching each other in the pictures, so keep in mind that the upper picture should actually be a bit darker. All in all I am pleased with the obtained colour. It turned out as I hoped it would; a subtle tancolour. And this one was really easy to do.
Some afterthoughts;
I will have to collect more needles and dry them. I'm supposed to mix 1 cup of ashes to 2 cups of water and then boil that. I am guessing that when burned the needles will give about 10% of the volume burned back in ashes. That means 5 cups of needles for every cup of water..... How many cups is 1 liter? And I'll need several just to soak the anorak.
If I use plantmaterial, which berries are, I have to mix that in a 1:2-ratio with water. I used at least 10 liters of water to cover the smock, so that means I'd need 5 liters of berries..... and that is a whole lot of gathering!!
Right now I am rethinking my options.... maybe I'll go for the vinegar mordant and than dye the summeranorak using dandelionroots, which should give a brown colour, too. Maybe add the berries to that and add some onionpeels for a richer colour.....  We have a field of grass right in front of our house, so there should be rich pickings in spring, when it comes to dandelions. We can combine that with picking their leaves for salad and flowerheads for jam. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The famous Swedish snowsmock... dyed naturally.

I had the great luck to find 2 used swedish snowsmocks (the ones without the frontbuttons) dirt cheap and in 2 different sizes; M&L. I had plans for both, as soon as I came across them. The M-size fits perfectly over the thinner and less bulky summerclothing, so it will be used as a sort of badweatheranorak and the other fits over the bulkier winterclothing and thus it will be used as it was intended; as a windbreaker.
I will be doing some dyeing of the white and grey tones in which the smocks came. The M-sized one is a creamy white with metal buttons and the L-sized one is a pale shade of grey with white plastic buttons. There are more differences. The M-size lacks the shoulderstraps the L-one has, but it does have a small loop on the left breast, which I think might be for hanging a military flashlight from.
I added a sheet of white paper, so the shades become clearer and I have a constant reference later, when the dyeing had been doen.

I will be using 2 different dyeing-methodes.
The M-sized one, a.k.a. summeranorak, will be dyed a medium (or darker) brown, using nothing but junipermaterials as dye and mordant and the L-sized one (the wintersmock) will only be dyed slightly, using salt and tea as mordant and dye, because I want it to stay lighter coloured, but not grey. I hope to achieve a light tancolour for that one.

Afterwards I am planning on making the summeranorak waterrepellant by waxing it and the wintersmock will received natural fur ruffs around the edges of the hood, wrists and waist. The plastic buttons will be replaced, preferably by some ones made of antler. I might even add some front pockets too. If I can find suitable materials I will be adding some decorations too, to further take away the military appearance.

So... there you have it; 2 very much sought after snowsmocks, but to be dyed naturally. If that isn't "bushcrafty"....
Watch out for part II; the actual dyeing!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Demilitarising an axe

As I mentioned a while ago, I found a surplus Swedish armyaxe in a local secondhandshop and what can I say.... it followed me home. Allthough I like my gear to be in subdued colours, like greens and browns, I did not like the way this axe looked. It was coated in a dark greenpaint, but the original greyish greenpaint showed through on the head. So I decided to de-militarise it, meaning clean it up and remove the paint. The leather cap was dirty, had mold on it and the straps felt quit dry.

So I sat to work. First I took out that odd ring at the back, glued a wooden peg into the remaining hole and sanded that smooth later. I sanded the head and handle bare, which was quite a tough job by hand. First with an 80 grid paper to get through the layers of paint and than finish it smooth with a 120 grid. In order to make sure the head remeined firmly in its place, I let it soak in an oilbath for 24 hours. The leatherpiece was washed in lukewarm water with a mild detergent, removing grim and mold. After it had dried it was treated with leathergrease.

I like to adorn my things with a personal something, usually meaning a moose('s head). I used a small powertool to grind one into the back of the blade, befor giving it all a vinegarbath in order to create a patina. I only succeede partially in my goal, because the patine came out much less dark than I had planned and the moose's head is not as visible as I'd hoped. Bu´t under certain angles it really stands out with an almost ancient feel about it.... I love it!

The handle is bare wood, but with dark green in its grain. I kind off like that too. Shows the grain rerally well and gives a hint of the axe's heritage and history..... That sounds a lot better than :"I couldn't get it off and out by hand."
The dark disclouoring under the head is moisture from the vinegarbath. I hope that'll dry out colourless, though.

All in all I like the civilianversion a lot better!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

OUT - Nyberget reconnaissance

At last I gave myself a swift kick in the butt and went out. There was this great sunrising I was witnessing from my livingroomwindow and all of a sudden I was eager to experience that "live" and "up close". I ran to get some gear, jumped into my clothes and within 10 minutes I was out. The sun was about to rise above the hills and cast its rays into some clouds that were forming around the top. Added to that was a veil of groundfog, making it all look surreal and yet wonderfully exiting.
As this was my first hike around my new livingarea I didn't do anything special, just hike along the road, paying attention to where I was and where I was going. Since we've had a warm period for the last 2 weeks the ground has been repeatedly thawed out and frozen up again, making the going tricky. Lumps of ice, a thin film of water on or under the icy surface and slushy snow meant that I really did need to keep an eye on where I was putting my feet. And within a short time I found myself looking for tracks again..... and did I find some! I was pleasently surprised by the large number of tracks I found. Besides the usual suspects, such as hare, deer and fox I also came across moose (I allways think of that as a little special, allthough there are plenty to go around, I guess). And I didn't just find one moosetrack, I found several. Different size or going side by side in the same direction and at one point I came across a site where the snow was trampled over a large area, but more of that later.
I also found tracks of dogs, at leat 1 dog next to his masters' footprints, but I also found some that were a bit big to be a dog; 5 inches in length, toes widespread, long stride..... Could it be???


As I was enjoying the scenery, the fresh air, the lack of civilisationnoices and the sun on my face, i came across a sit where there was a lot of birdactivity. In one of the birches next to the road a large number of this little feathered creatures had gathered and made their presence known by flying about and chattering at each other. They seemed to had singled out one perticular branch, where they gathered. This one was directly above the road and they were not distured, when I moved closer, not even when I was directly under them, no 4 meters away! I could watch them for as long as I wanted. I watched them as they were feeding on the birchseeds. I was delighted to be so close to this spectacle.

I also noted a lot of general bird activity all around me, but especially some woodpeckers were very active and one did get very close and I watched him for a while too. I guess the warm weather brings the grubs to life....

No idea what made these tracks.
Here's the site, full of moosetracks I mentioned earlier. It literally had been trampled back and forth. There was a track clearly showing an animal turning, by draging on of its feet in a circular movement through the snow. I could make out at least 2 different sized prints, but as these were no fresh tracks, there was little else I could make out. There were some small pines, but these had no signs of being grazed upon.

and in the middle of this winterwonderland there was this one, single bright red lingonberry (cowberry) 
Moving ahead I came across more caninetracks, these being even bigger than the 5-inchtracks and moving in the same general direction. I could not help but following them, noticing how shallow their imprint was and how clearly visible with much detail, so the animal had moved here recently. It had a long stride; a good 6 feet inbetween! Further down it was obvious it had struggled with its footing as it slid over the frozen underground. Maybe it had been running and tried to come to a halt.
the footprints are my boots; 6.5 of them (European shoesize 409
Right next to the skidmarks i found this pile. It had the same prints all around it, but somehow it doesn't look like a dog's "doing". There's something about the texture and consistancy that states otherwise....

I travelled a little further untill I found a nice sunny place at the shore of the lack. a good place fot a little brake and some coffee!! I set up everything, had some water on to heat, grabbed my food and opened up my coffee- and sugartins.... Ohh the horror!! The sugar had become one solid lump and the coffeetin was empty!! There was no tea of instantsoup either. I did not check befor I left.... And to me, a lunchbreak on a day like this somehow isn't complete without a hot beverage. So I had to settle for some heardbread, a piece of saucage, an apple and a few more sipps of cold water.
After this luxurious lunch, which still was sufficient, I went up another trail, seeking out higher ground. After a while I came across this roadsign.

Appearantly there is an old path leading through our area (yet judging by the sign it isn't forgotten), so I took a picture of it and googled it, when I came home. It is somesort of path, leading from Mora to Stockholm and was used by people in the old days to leave the province of dalarna and head for Stockholm, in search for a better life and is divided in several sections.
Here more to it (if you don't mind reading Swedish) dalkarlsvägen
I allready have decided that I will do some of the sections in the area, maybe even link a few and make it a walk with overnighters.
As the day came to an end, (well, not the day, but more the man) I thought it was a good thing to finish it with some views of the area I may now call "my backyard". I am most certain that I will enjoy it here and this was only the first reconnaissancemission!

At the end of the day I must confess that I was very happy to be able to break the deadlock of the midwinter timeout. I feel refreshed and re-energised, even though I have a blister on one of my heels, sore upperlegs and stiff shoulder- and neckmuscles. I am so badly out of shape..... It'll take a few more of these to get this squeeking carcass up and running smoothly again...
The weather was deceptively springlike today; temperatures hovering around freezing, and in the sun above. It's hard to believe it is just januari.... But it looks like winter is coming back and with a bit of luck we could still have another three monts of it.... But somehow I doubt that. It just doesn't feel like that anymore. The smell and the sting of winter has gone from the air. We might still have cold periods, but a severe winter, I don't think so.