Dressing of pelts/tanning

Knowledge of how to utilise the skin from an animal and process it is generally known as dressing of pelts/tanning. Tanning is a craft where the finished hide has to be able to withstand being wet and regain the leathery feel when it dries.

Woman in workshop with pelts.

Category: Craft

Geographical location: All of Sweden

Completing all the stages in the right manner involves using one’s senses; vision, smell and touch. There are a number of different methods for tanning hide including fat tanning, smoke tanning and vegetable tanning using extracts from chestnut, for example. The time it takes to process a hide depends on the type of hide. After tanning the hide has to be softened, dried and reoiled. The common industrial method today is chrome tanning, which is a relatively cheap method that produces a soft, flexible and waterproof leather.

Processing pelts and tanning hide for trousers, leather aprons, shoes and reins has been common knowledge in certain areas, especially in rural areas, that has survived all the way into the 20th century. Industrial tanning was introduced in the latter half of the 19th century. Steam and electric power were used and new efficient extracts were imported. Over time, however, the manufacturing process became more technically complicated and required increasingly large investments. The small tanneries were replaced by a few large industrial tanneries. There are now only around ten tanneries left in Sweden.