Woolen Sails in Scandinavia

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark has been conducting research on woolen sails since 1977. Weavers and spinners from Denmark and Norway have been spinning single ply yarn in-the-grease from spelsau wool for the sails. Eight lengths of cloth are woven on warp-weighted looms and sewn together using round seams to construct each square sail.  The round seams result in a smooth join on the facing side of the sail.


Historically, depending on the geographic location and resources available, researchers believe that three structures were used to weave the sail cloth. There is evidence of plain weave, 2/1 twill, and 2/2 twill. Click here to read more about woolen sails.

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6 thoughts on “Woolen Sails in Scandinavia

  1. neat!

    in the article, mention is made of yarn “spun using a distaff”

    in this case, is the distaff something other than a stick holding the fiber supply? is it a tool that has a more active role in the spinning?

  2. Hi geeks!

    Sorry I don’t know the answer to your question. I’ll check in with our Spin-Off friends and find out what they know about it. It could be that something is lost in the translation?

    I was lucky enought to visit the museum this past summer and had the pleasure of speaking with one of the women who was actively working on the project.


  3. Good question Susanne! If my memory serves me, after they construct the sail, they treat it with additional “grease” and condition it by exposing it to the elements.