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Leather-working: skinning, stretching, softening

Working skins calls for a sequence of tasks: skinning (a manís job in the case of wild animals, womanís job for the domestic reindeer); stretching in preparation for drying (manís or womanís work); softening (a womanís job but the man must also know how). The dying takes place between the drying and the softening, as do the other reinforcing techniques, which vary with the kind of skin and the use of the finished product.

Skinning (telget-mi, ìcutting up the animalî). The man cuts up the wild reindeer where it has been killed, the woman cuts up the domestic reindeer a short distance from camp. In either case, the carcass is skinned using a knife and with the help of the fist. This is an important step for the rest of the process of working the skin: the skin must be removed leaving as little membrane as possible and without soiling it with blood, otherwise it will be difficult to work.

Stretching (telet-mi). Skins are stretched on an upright frame or on poles, or on sticks in the case of the skin from the legs; they can also be stretched on stakes pounded into the snow or on wooden forms in the case of pelts. Once the skin is stretched, it is put outside to dry, exposed to the wind but not to direct sunlight. This technique ensures that the skin will remain supple providing it is done directly after the animal is killed.

Softening (manni-mi, talki-mi). The process begins by scraping the skin with an uu, a tool used to remove the dried membranes from the surface of the skin. Next the skin is crushed or kneaded by hand or using a softening tool, talki. This can be either a jaw (from 60cm to 4m in length) or a mill for the skins of moose and red deer. While the jaw talki is used by women, the mill is used by all members of the tent, men, women and children. The ideal time for softening skins is the damp weather of spring and fall.

Author(s): A. Lavrillier
Date created: 2004-03-02 - Date modified: 2004-04-14


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Scraping technique: Uu scraper (0MB)
The talki stretching mill. (0MB)

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