A Baby Basket and Bands for Inspiration

By Jan Mostrom

cradle-wholeLisa Bauch mentioned that her interest in researching nordic bands for her paper, “Threads of Devotion: Possible Medieval Origins of Nordic Christening Bands,” was in part inspired by a beautiful christening basket and coverlet displayed at the American Swedish Institute. This style of basket and coverlet, which I first saw on display in Sweden on a Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum Textile Tour, is from the Dalarna area. This christening coverlet is typically red and woven in 3 harness krokbragd. Three sides of the coverlet are bound by a woven band with tassels at the ends of the bands that include colorful cloth strips. The head of the coverlet is bound with a wide red wool strip. The birchwood basket that holds the baby is decorated with squares and circles of heavy wool that are sewn into the bark. It would be common to place a wooden stick in the basket at the baby’s head with the baby’s and it’s sibling’s initials and dates of birth. I was fortunate to purchase the coverlet in the ASI exhibit from Suzanne Kramer of County Gallery Antiques.


marycoverletLisa was not the only one to be inspired by this type of coverlet. Mary Skoy, a member of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, wove a similar one, complete with handwoven bands on the edge, after viewing them in Sweden on the Vesterheim tour.


Threads of Devotion: Possible Medieval Origins of Nordic Christening Bands

By Lisa-Anne Bauch

draped-detailAt a recent visit to the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, several items in a folk art display caught my eye. They included a birch bark basket, a red coverlet, and a woven band, all dating from the nineteenth or early twentieth century. My friend Jan Mostrom, an expert in Nordic textiles, explained that the items were intended for use in baptism. All three were decorated with protective symbols, intended to shield the vulnerable infant from evil spirits until the sacrament could be performed. (See more photos here.)

A few months later, I happened to enroll in an art history course at the University of St. Thomas. The course, taught by Dr. Michelle Nordtorp-Madson, was entitled “Medieval Sacred Space.” In this fascinating seminar we investigated the idea of sacred versus mundane space, including not just the soaring cathedrals of the Middle Ages, but also its woven tapestries and illuminated manuscripts, its popular roadside shrines and dusty pilgrimage routes, the beehive huts of Scottish monks and the ancient holy wells of Ireland.

Besides regular coursework, each student was required to undertake an independent research topic focused around the following questions: How did people in those times understand and define certain places, times, seasons, objects, and activities as sacred? How did the newer sacred times and places of Christianity overlap with older pagan practices and beliefs? And how did medieval artists express these ideas visually?

I immediately remembered the red woven christening bands I had seen, used to protect babies as they traveled from the mundane world of the home to the sacred space of a local church and its baptismal font. Could this tradition go back to the Middle Ages, with echoes from an even-older pagan age? How did the bands visually represent the beliefs of those who wove them? How are the colors and patterns significant in answering these questions? Since Dr. Nordtorp-Madson specializes in clothing and textile arts, she was as curious as I was to investigate. With her help and encouragement, I began my quest.

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Below are a few of the photos I used to illustrate my presentation of the paper, leased from the Norse Folkemuseum. They illustrate bands used in christenings.

Doll 1

Christening 1

Band Sling 2

Band Sling 1


A New Book on Pick-up Bandweaving

Fig 1. Schiffer Publishing ISBN 978-0-7643-4751-1 Size: 8½"x11" Illustrations: 152 Pages: 176 Binding: Hardcover Price: $24.99 Available: December 2014

Fig 1. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7643-4751-1. Size: 8½”x11″, Illustrations: 152. Pages: 176. Binding: Hardcover. Price: $24.99. Available: December 2014

I’m excited to tell you about my new book, Norwegian Pick-up Bandweaving, Schiffer Publishing, 2014 (Fig. 1). This is the book I would have liked to have had more than forty years ago, when I wove my first pick-up band on an inkle loom. I was fascinated by the beauty of pick-up patterns, but knew little of their history. As my fingers delighted in the rhythm of the technique, I longed to know about the culture in which pick-up weaving had flourished. What did pick-up bands look like in the old days? What had they been used for? What significance did they have for the people who wove them?

Although pick-up bandweaving in various forms has been known in many places around the world, for me a connection to Norway had the most personal meaning. My late husband’s ancestors immigrated to America from Norway in the mid-1800s. Some came from Hadeland and Valdres in Oppland, others from Hallingdal in Buskerud. Other than one spinning wheel from Valdres that had once occupied pride of place in his great-grandmother’s home in Minnesota, we knew of no textiles or textile tools that had been brought from Norway. But succeeding generations of the family had retained some of their native dialects, which sparked a desire in us to learn the language. This in turn led me to discover the links to pick-up weaving history that I had always yearned for, and I soon became passionate about putting the stories I found into book form.To summarize the book in a nutshell, “Part 1: History & Tradition,” tells how pick-up bands were used in the rural communities of Norway in the 1700s and 1800s. “Part 2: Vesterheim Collection” looks at a selection of pick-up bands brought to America from Norway. “Part 3: How to Weave Pick-up” has instructions for weaving two different types of pick-up on traditional band heddles. There are 123 photographs and diagrams, and 29 pages of charts that include more than 100 patterns from bands in museum collections. Part 3 is for weavers, but Parts 1 and 2 can be enjoyed by anyone interested in Norwegian culture, textiles, costumes, and folk art.

Fig. 2 Vesterheim Heddle 1979.027.001

Bandgrind (band heddle), collection of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum (Artifact No. 1979.27.1). Photo: Alison Dwyer.

For me, the bandgrind (band heddle) is the perfect symbol for the story of Norwegian pick-up bandweaving. Take the one shown here, from Vesterheim’s collection. It was apparently carved in 1828 for a young woman whose initials were MJD and was likely given to her as a courting gift as a token of a young man’s affection. As a courting gift, it represents a traditional way of life, governed by time-honored conventions. As a tool, it represents the value that the old farm culture placed on skill with the hands. It spoke to the young man’s proficiency in woodworking and to the young woman’s proficiency in the textile arts—highly desirable skills for a couple to have in a society where families had to be largely self-sufficient. This particular heddle might be empty now, but at one time the young woman likely wove pick-up bands on it in intricate patterns and rich colors—bands that played significant roles in many important and deeply-rooted customs of the day, from the way a young girl’s hair was braided to the way a baby was dressed for christening.

“Part 1: History & Tradition” paints a picture of life in the old rural society and of the textile traditions that were an integral part of that life. Then it explores the customs surrounding pick-up bands of all kinds: Bands used in folk dress, as hairbands, apron bands, belts, suspenders, stocking bands, clothing trim, and coat bands. Bands used to swaddle babies and protect them from unseen harmful forces. Bands used to fasten and decorate baskets of food for special occasions. Bands with woven-in names, initials, or dates. And bands sewn together to make wider textiles like coverlets and cushion covers. The story continues through the social movements that began in Norway in the late 1800s to preserve hand crafts and folk costumes, and through the immigration to America of many people from areas with strong pick-up weaving traditions. Here you can also read about the tools that were used to weave the bands and what we know of their history and about the use of band heddles as courting gifts.

“Part 2: Vesterheim Collection” looks closely at twenty bands from Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, many of which were brought to America by immigrants. The bands came from Nord-Østerdalen in Hedmark, Øst- and Vest-Telemark, Setesdal and Åmli in Aust-Agder, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane, Trøndelag, and Øvre-Numedal in Buskerud. They represent the significance pick-up bands had for the immigrants, and they tell us much about traditional materials, colors, and regional patterns.

Bandgrind and Spaltegrind for NTG

Two kinds of band heddles—the bandgrind (at top) and the spaltegrind (which has extra slots for the pattern ends).

“Part 3: How to Weave Pick-up” is a complete primer for weaving your own bands, with information on tools, materials, weave structures, basic warping and weaving techniques, and two types of pick-up. One type of pick-up is shown on both the regular bandgrind (band heddle) and the spaltegrind (band heddle with extra pattern slots),  since the two heddles require different ways of working.  (See fig. 3) And the pick-up instructions are easily adaptable to other kinds of looms, such as the inkle loom. To help the beginning bandweaver, there are clear photographs, diagrams, step-by-step instructions, and hints and tips. For the advanced bandweaver there is a wealth of inspiration in the numerous pattern charts.

I like to think of Ingeborg Olsdatter, one of my late husband’s forebears, born in 1811 in Hallingdal, who likely would have put up her hair with a pick-up band and might have trimmed her skirt with a pick-up band, according to the customs of that valley. And I like to think that she would be pleased and honored that I, too, weave pick-up bands in the same techniques, 168 years after she and her family immigrated to Winneshiek County, Iowa.

To illustrate the two types of Norwegian pick-up bandweaving, let’s look at two Hallingdal-style bands, similar to those Ingeborg might have woven and used.

 Hallingdal-Style Bands

In Øvre-Hallingdal the bandgrind (band heddle) was used to weave hairbands and skirt bands. (Noss 1966, 126.)


Fig. 5 Red and White Band

Fig. 5 Band woven after hairband in Hallingdal Museum (HFN.11750)

Hallingdal hairbands traditionally used red wool for the pattern and unbleached cotton yarn for the background. A red end at each selvedge created a whipstitched appearance as it was encircled with the natural cotton weft on each row. Sometimes another color, like green, yellow, or blue, was used for these selvedge threads. Bands were named for their pick-up patterns. The finest bands were woven in a hatched diagonal cross pattern, like the one shown in Fig. 7, and were called spåraband (spår meaning animal tracks in this instance). Those woven in a simple chevron pattern were called klauveband (klauv meaning hoof). The bands varied in width from .75 to 1.5 cm. (from a little less than ⅜” to a little more than ⅝”) and were usually about 3.7 meters (4 yards) long. (Noss 1992, 17–18.)

Fig 7. Pattern chart for red and white band.

Fig 7. Pattern chart for red and white band.

A hairband in the Hallingdal Museum (HFN.11750), that I used as a model for the band shown in Fig. 5, was woven in red wool and white cotton and is 1 cm. (⅜”) wide. I used the same pick-up pattern for my band, in Bockens Möbelåtta 8/2 wool in red (color 3822) and Bockens Bomullsgarn 8/2 cotton in natural (color 0000), for a width of ½”.

DesignaKnit - Printing

Fig 6. Warp draft for red and white band.

The warp draft is shown in Fig. 6. The red squares represent ends in red wool and the circles represent ends in natural cotton. There are a total of 37 ends—11 pattern ends (marked with asterisks) in red wool, 24 background ends in natural cotton, and 2 red wool ends at the selvedges that are not a part of the pick-up pattern. The pattern chart is shown in Fig. 7, where dark grey represents red pattern ends. The natural cotton was used for weft. Each of the yarns I used was “lively”—when I allowed a large loop of yarn to hang freely it wanted to twist on itself—so the band has a tendency to spiral a little when it is hanging up, but it is delicate and lovely.

Skirt bands

Fig 8. Band woven after one in Norsk Folkemuseum (NF.1964-0160) and used to trim a knitted-and-fulled wall pouch or basket for holding bandweaving shuttles.

Fig 8. Band woven after one in Norsk Folkemuseum (NF.1964-0160) and used to trim a knitted-and-fulled wall pouch or basket for holding bandweaving shuttles.

Several different textile techniques were used to make bands to trim the lower edge of women’s skirts in Hallingdal. Pick-up weaving was one technique; ornate wool embroidery and weft-faced tapestry weave done on the cradle loom were two others. The pick-up bands had a diagonally-checkered pattern and were called rutaband (ruta meaning diamond or square), trerutaband (tre meaning three), or simply bragdeband or band med bragd (patterned bands). Most used wool for both warp and weft and were from 2 to 4 cm. (about ¾” to 1½”) wide. Red, green, and yellow was a common colorway. (Noss 1992, 188.)

The band in Norsk Folkemuseum (NF.1964-0160), that I used as a model for the band in Fig. 8, was sewn as trim along the bottom edge of a red plaid cotton skirt. I used the same pick-up pattern for my band, in Borgs Brage 7/2 wool in red (color 6745), green (color 6609), and yellow (color 6038), for a width of ¾”.

Fig 9. Warp draft for red, green, and yellow band.

Fig 9. Warp draft for red, green, and yellow band.

Fig 10. Pattern chart for red, green, and yellow wool band.

Fig 10. Pattern chart for red, green, and yellow wool band.

The warp draft is shown in Fig. 9. There are 38 ends represented by colored squares. The 36 pattern ends are marked with asterisks. The pattern chart is shown in Fig. 10. The dark grey represents red pattern ends, the medium grey represents green, and the light grey represents yellow. The red wool was used as weft.

I used my band to trim a hanging pouch or wall basket that I’ll use it to hold bandweaving shuttles, and it could have many other uses. The pouch was knitted in Rauma Vamsegarn 5/3 wool (color V27, a red/rust twist) and then fulled (its finished dimensions are 4¾” by 7¼”).

The skirt band technique uses an even number of pattern ends that are picked up in pairs, and an even number of total warp ends yields balanced selvedges. The hairband technique uses an odd number of pattern ends for a central pivot point, and an odd number of total warp ends yields balanced selvedges. In threading the heddle shown in Fig. 4 for the skirt band technique, I added an extra red selvedge end on the left (so I had 39 ends total, instead of the 38 shown in the warp draft). This built a slight curve into the band so it fit perfectly around the pouch, where the bottom edge of the trim needed to be slightly longer than the top edge.

I hope that in the pages of this new book you will delight in the beauty of pick-up bands, as I do, and find enjoyment, inspiration, and your own satisfying connections to the past.

Here is a beautifully-formatted print-friendly pdf of the article, provided by the author: A New Book on Pick-up


Noss, Aagot. 1966. “Bandlaging.” In By og Bygd, Norsk Folkemuseums årbok. Vol. XIX. Oslo: Johan Grundt Tanum.

———. 1992. Nærbilete av ein draktskikk—Frå dåsaklede til bunad. Oslo: Universitets forlaget AS.

Born and raised in Montana, Heather Torgenrud first dreamed of writing a book forty years ago, when the gift of an inkle loom sparked not only a passion for weaving pick-up bands but a longing to know their history. She taught many classes in pick-up techniques over the years, and published her work in Handwoven magazine, while working full-time as a paralegal. The dream finally took shape when she and her husband were immersed in studying Norwegian and she discovered some intriguing stories waiting to be told. Here she brings her award-winning weaving skills together with an easy, readable writing style, to create a well-researched and fascinating look at this historic craft.

Copyright Heather Torgenrud, 2014. All rights reserved.