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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.

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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.

 

Danskbrogd Weaving from the Krokbragd Study Group

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5-harness danskbrogd by Lila Nelson (detail)

Each year the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group in Minneapolis, Minnesota, chooses a weave structure or theme.  In 1996-1997 the theme was krokbragd.  Each participant compiled a notebook with drafts and photos of the projects undertaken.  Many of the pieces included danskbragd, especially those woven by Lila Nelson.

In the days before easy digital sharing, compiling this documentation and the notebooks was a true labor of love. The only ones who saw the inspirational contents were members of the group, or people who viewed the notebook at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota or at Vesterheim. Now the inspiration is further shared.

The reproductions scanned here are not the full contents of the notebook; they include drafts and photos of weavings that included danskbragd.  To avoid making one overly large file, the pieces are found in these two files:  Danskbrogd weaving 1 (large, 14MB), and Danskbrogd Weaving 2 (8MB).

There was overlap between the Danskbrogd Study Group, which was national in membership, and the Minnesota-based Scandinavian Weavers Study Group.  In particular, Lila Nelson was the superstar of both groups and you will see many of the same pieces represented in each group’s materials.

Enjoy.

The Norwegian Breakfast Club Danskbrogd Study Group: 1995-1997

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Betty Johannesen

In the fall of November, 1995, Jan Mostrom coordinated a study group to work on danksbrogd. It was a long-distance group; the first four members were from Rhode Island, Oregon, Alberta, Canada, and Minnesota. The group focused on learning and sharing.  As Jan wrote, “If we were all experts on the technique, there would be no need for the group.”  Two people in the group were experts: Lila Nelson and Betty Johannesen.

To get the group going, Jan sent out information on weaving danskbrogd from a class taught by Betty Johannesen at the Midwest Weavers Conference in June, 1995, reprinted with permission here.  Overall, the class was on weaving krokbragd, but there is a section with instructions for adding danskbrogd.

The notebook that resulted from this study group is filled with valuable instructional material, inspirational photos, preparatory graphs, and hints from member’s experiences.  The scanned pages linked below include photos and documents from the group members, but omit much of the administrative correspondence and personal information that was shared during the process. Still, there are a total of 96 pages in the combined files.  A full copy of the notebook is available to view at the library of the Vesteheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.

If you want to weave danskbrogd, the detailed information in this notebook will be of great help.  If you just want to be inspired by the work of the study group, look at the files of weaving by the individual members.

Tips for weaving danskbrogd on two shafts, here.

Article by Lila Nelson in the September, 1995, issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter, “An Introduction to the Dansk Brogd Tradition.

Lila Nelson’s hints for successful danskbrogd weaving, here.

A 1983 article on danskbrogd, “Vest-Agder har landets rikeste teppe-tradition,” with a translation by Lila Nelson.

Weaving: Syvilla Bolson.

Weaving: Betty Johannesen.  Betty includes useful photos of the front and back of her danskbrogd piece.

lila-mondrian Weaving: Lila Nelson.  One. Two. Three.

Lila Nelson wrote around Valentines Day of 1998, sharing a photo of her Mondrian-inspired danskbrogd, and a description of how it was woven. Here

Weaving: Sharon Marquardt

Weaving: Jan Mostrom.  One. Jan even included her preliminary sketches for danskbrogd designs. Two. Jan describes her observations about coverlets she saw in Norway.  Three.

Weaving: Rosemary Roehl

Weaving: Sally Scott, One. Two. Three. Four.

Weaving: Norma Smayda

Mary Temple wrote a draft for weaving krokbragd and danskbrogd, here.

modern-norwayAt the time that American weavers were experimenting with danskbrogd, contemporary Norwegian weavers were inspired by the old coverlets, too.  Betty Johanessen visited the museum in Kristiansand in the summer of 1997 and took this photo of three beautiful banded danskbrogd hangings.  If anyone knows the weavers, let me know!

 

 

Weaving Danskbrogd

By Jan Mostrom

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Typical danskbrogd designs

Traditional danskbrogd coverlets shown in an exhibition at Vest Agder historical museum in Kristiansand were of two types.  Pick up was used on plain weft face weave and on three harness point twill boundweave, i.e. krokbragd.  While light colored design spots on a dark background were woven in both techniques, larger motifs seem to be favored in the plain weave coverlets.  X and O patterns were often part of the designs and were perhaps protective symbols. On krokbragd threadings, smaller design motifs on a solid background would alternate with bands of multicolored krokbragd .

When weaving danskbrogd on plain weave, all of the design work is done by pick up.  When you are picking your design, you will push down the bottom layer threads of an open shed that are to be covered by the design spot.  Then put your pick up stick on its side to open a new shed within the bottom layer.  Throw your pattern thread through this new shed.  Remove your stick and now push down all the threads in the bottom layer that are not covered by the design thread.  Insert your background thread in this new shed.  Check to be sure you have covered every thread of the bottom layer with a shot of either design color or background color.  Now you are ready to change to your next tabby shed and if you have no design spots in that shed, insert your background color.

You will need to repeat until the spots are at least square or elongated a bit.  When you have squared your design spots and are ready to begin weaving the next row of design spots, be sure there is a shot of background on top of the earlier spots to separate them so that they do not touch the new design spots at the corners.  You may need to weave a complete repeat of sheds 1 and 2 in background to make this happen or it may happen naturally depending on which tabby shot the spots in the designs land.  Most of the old coverlets have the spots separated but the coverlet in Vesterheim’s collection has all of the spots touching at the corners which gives the designs a honeycomb look.  The important thing is to decide if they should all touch or all have background separating the corners of the spots and be consistent.  If some touch and some do not touch the designs will look like there have been mistakes.

Danskbrogd drafts

Danskbrogd drafts

When weaving danskbrogd on krokbragd threading, you treadle your shafts in order 1, 2, 3 and constantly repeat  just as you would when weaving plain krokbragd.  Design spots are planned on every other thread of a point on shed 1 or 3 or on every other pair of threads on shed 2.  Traditionally, light design spots float on a darker solid background.   To weave, treadle shed 1.  If there is a design on this shed,  pick down the threads that need a design spot and throw your design color in this shed.  Before moving to treadle 2, you must now pick down the uncovered threads in shed 1 and cover them with background.  Now you may move to the next shed.  If the design spots are on the second shed, you will likely be picking down every other pair of threads to create your spots.  Be sure to cover all of the threads in a shed before you move to the next krokbragd shed.  You will need to repeat the design pattern until it is at least square.  Usually the design spots are separated with background so that the spots will not touch at the corners.  When you are ready to lay in the next row of design spots, look at the design spot of the prior row of pattern and see if there is a shot of background over the spot.  If there is no background shot, you will have to continue in the krokbragd 1, 2, 3 treadling with background color until the spot has a background shot above it when you return to the design shed.  Now you can add the design spot color.  For instance if your design spot is on shed 1 in the first design row and in shed 2 for the second design row, you will need to weave background on shed 2, 3, and 1 before you put in the design color on shed 2.

Danskbrogd combined with krokbragd; sample, front and back, by Jan Mostrom.

Danskbrogd combined with krokbragd; sample, front and back, by Jan Mostrom.

Modern weavers Mary Temple and Lila Nelson developed a way to thread danskbrogd designs without using a pick up stick by using a five shaft point twill or a six harness threading.  Lila Nelson used a five shaft point twill; Mary Temple devised a six harness threading. Both are shown in the diagram above.

The five harness point twill allows you to treadle many designs that you might choose to pick up in a danskbrogd design.   It effectively divides the shed you would raise on treadle 1 in krokbragd by raising every other thread of that shed on treadle 1 and 5 and divides the second krokbragd shed raising every other pair of threads on treadles 2 and 4.  The third krokbragd shed is not divided in this threading and is woven on treadle 3.  In krokbragd you always treadle sheds 1, 2, 3.  With this threading you will treadle 1, 5, 2, 4, 3. When you have no design to split a shed, treadle shafts 1 and 5 together or 2 and 4 together.  When you have design spots, you are able to treadle them separately but you need to treadle both 1 and 5 or 2 and 4 before you move to the next krokbragd shed just as you would if you were using a pick up stick. It helps to think of 1 and 6 as two parts of the first shed and 2 and 4 as two parts of the second krokbragd shed.

The six harness threading allows division on all three of the krokbragd sheds.  You must remember to treadle in order, 1, 6, 2, 5, 3, 4 but remember if there are no design spots on a krokbragd shed, you can treadle 1 and 6  or 2 and 5  or 3 and 4 together to make a krokbragd pass.  You only need to treadle them separately if there is a design that splits the shed.
Contemporary weavers can explore beyond the traditional spot patterns and solid backgrounds, as well as looking at different materials and setts.  Lila Nelson and other researchers and experimenters in danskbrogd can provide us with much inspiration.  Many of Lila’s beautiful danskbrogd weavings are in the Vesterheim collection.

Danskbrogd sample, front and back, woven by Jan Mostrom

Danskbrogd sample, front and back, woven by Jan Mostrom

The Woven Coverlets of Norway: Dansk Brogd

For readers interested in both the historical and technical aspects of dansk brogd, Katherine Larson’s explanation, excerpted from The Coverlets of Norway, is a perfect background.

copyright statement:  Larson, Katherine. The Woven Coverlets of Norway. [original pages excerpted] © 2001. Reprinted with permission of the University of Washington Press.

The pages are shown below, or if you would like to print the section, here is the whole excerpt in one pdf file.

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A Treasure of Danskbrogd Coverlets from the Vest Agder Museum

The Vest Agder Museum in Kristiansand, Norway, granted permission for the Norwegian Textile Letter to publish a document including images and descriptions of many danskbrogd coverlets from their collection. Conservator Tonje Tjøtte reported that these photographs, from the 1980s, are still the best available.  Museum staff members are in the midst of a digitization project covering all of their artifacts, but they have not begun the textile collection yet.  The first image below is the information sheet for the coverlet shown in color in the second image.  Following that are six coverlet images in color.  If you would like to see the information sheets and photos for all seven coverlets, together in one document, open the pdf document here. Photos within the article are low resolution; printed images will be clearer from the pdf document.

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Lila Nelson’s Danskbrogd

Danskbrogd/Boundweave pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.004

Danskbrogd/Boundweave pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.004

By Robbie LaFleur

Several of Lila Nelson’s pieces in danskbrogd technique are included in the retrospective of her work currently hanging in the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.  Next to this piece, hanging prominently at the beginning of the show, Curator Laurann Gilbertson wrote,

Lila felt a special connection to danskbrogd because she and Marion “discovered” the technique in a coverlet for sale in a Norwegian antique store.  The Nelsons eventually received permission from the Norwegian government in 1989 to purchase the coverlet for Vesterheim’s collection.  The coverlet inspired numerous weavings by Lila and other American weavers in several different loom threadings.

Danskbrogd, which can be translated as “Danish weave,” is known in Norway in just one area, southwest Agder County.  Old danskbrogd coverlets had a stippled look and a combination of rows of large motifs and narrow pattern bands.  The weaver picked up the designs while weaving.

This piece was also featured in the September/October, 1996, issue of Handwoven magazine.

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Collection of Aaron Swenson.

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Collection of Aaron Swenson.

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.006

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.006

For Lila, a traditional weaving technique was a language.  She could speak the language plainly and eloquently.  But then it became poetry, as she used the technique expressively and creatively.  These pieces show her moving on, making the technique her own.

Piet Mondrian would approve of this piece, completed in 1997 or 1998 as part of a study of danskbrogd and variations for Scandinavian Study Group of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. (Vesterheim collection number 2011.032.047)

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Lila wove two pieces using danskbrogd to depict northern lights. (Vesterheim collection number 2007.404.009)

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Which came first — the chicken or the egg?  (Vesterheim collection mumber 2011.032.046)

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“Neighborhood” dates from 1996-1998.  From the Vesterheim description: “For many years, Lila and Marion Nelson lived in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood in Minneapolis.  Neighbors included downtown Minneapolis (top row), I-35W and the Mississippi River (second row), blocks of Craftsman-style apartments (third row), and the University of Minnesota (fourth row). One of several works created as part of the Danskbrogd Study Group, Lila used danskbrogd on two harnesses here.  She worked some wefts separately with a needle to give a raised effect.”

(Vesterheim collection number 2007.404.003)

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neighborhood-backThe danskbrogd technique creates long floats on the reverse side of the textile.  From the back of “Neighborhood,” you can see that Lila was not afraid of floats!

If you look carefully at the Mississippi River portion, you can see that the white water flecks are almost, but not quite, the typical diamond designs found in traditional danskbrogd coverlets.  It’s almost like an inside joke for weavers.

 

“Best of Show” Background

By Judy Ness

“Playa Summer Lake, Spring 2014” was woven with a combination of tapestry and krokbragd, a technique I developed while I was in graduate school at the University of Oregon. While the front worked well, I was not able to design an elegant back side while weaving the combination. In regular tapestry, the back side is not reversible and has a mass of yarns tied neatly to keep the ends from coming to the front. In krokbragd, the reverse side with the blocky geometric floats is expected to be clear and clean of any odd disruptions. Over the years, the judges at the show would sometimes ding me for the finishing of the back. I did the best I could to keep the tapestry joins that occurred in the middle of a shot from showing too much on the reverse side. Over the years, pieces would come back to me with the judges’ comments, sometimes dinging me for the unorthodox backside finish. Ticketed by the ‘Krokbragd Police’ again.

This piece evolved from a five-week artist’s residency in Summer Lake, Oregon, in 2014. The residency allowed me to concentrate without distractions on a difficult piece in the Diné (Navajo) technique that I couldn’t seem to face at home. The Oregon high desert in early springtime has subtle colors in the land and outrageous panoramas of dramatic color in the sky. The view out my cabin window was the inspiration for the work that was in the show this year. It was made to honor the experience–to be grateful for the opportunity and to mark it as important.

"Playa Summer Lake, Spring 2014" by Judy Ness. Detail.

“Playa Summer Lake, Spring 2014” by Judy Ness. Detail.

There was a little breakthrough on the structure issue. Clasped wefts. On a smaller piece like this one, using the clasped weft technique (à la Peter Collingwood) made the curves in the clouds. It only took me 17 years to figure that one out. Weaving is not for weenies.

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“Playa Summer Lake, Spring 2014” by Judy Ness. Detail of clouds.

I can trace my deep interest in two favorite types of textiles: Norwegian and Navajo.  As a child, I visited the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, Washington, during Nordic Fest and was fascinated by the beautiful historical items. The tools and textiles on display guided me to a connection with my people. I didn’t know I had people! The idea of becoming a weaver began when I saw the primary colors and startling geometric patterns in Diné (Navajo) rugs as a child. It was so clearly a way to weave beauty and harmony into the world.

Keep weaving. It doesn’t matter what they say or how many shows you get into. Impress yourself, and only yourself.

Judy Ness is a tapestry weaver from Oregon with special interests in Norwegian and Navajo weaving. She has shared her knowledge and love of textiles as an instructor in weaving, spinning, and dyeing since 1995.

Developing a Loom to Teach Scandinavian Weaving

As Heidi Goldberg, Associate Professor of Art at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota, developed her “Nordic Arts” class, she asked me to teach Scandinavian weaving to her students. There was a major challenge–we needed looms.

I had experimented with a cardboard tube loom first introduced to me by Latvian-American weaver Anna Smits, who taught weaving at the University of Minnesota over 37 years and was a founding member of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. She had invited the Scandinavian Weavers Group of the Weavers Guild to her home to learn band weaving on this simple backstrap loom. It is based on the principle of winding a warp around a tube first clockwise then counterclockwise to produce a natural shed.

I adapted the loom for Heidi’s class by adding spacers to keep the warp spread at 8 ends per inch. Using the spacers, along with bubbling the weft to prevent draw-in, keeps the warps spread. The opposite shed is formed by using string heddles on a heddle stick. Tension is created by tying a slip knot in the warp and looping it over a C-clamp.

Simple materials and low-cost yarns kept the cost at about $5 for each loom. I used ¾-inch PVC pipe purchased at a hardware store, mini-blinds from a thrift store for spacers, pick-up sticks and shuttles. I punched holes for the spacers with a regular paper punch. Thrums or cotton rug yarn served for warp. Many types of yarns were donated to Heidi’s class for weft.

The pvc loom is set up and ready for a student.

The pvc loom is set up and ready for a student.

photo 3 copyInstructions for assembling the loom and weaving a sample accompany this article.  PVC Pipe Loom: An Affordable Loom for Teachers and Students is published in two sections: “Part One: Loom Construction and Starting to Weave” and “Part Two: An Introduction to Scandinavian Weft-Faced Weaving.”

In five hours of class time, students progressed from plain weave to stripes, kjerringtenner (pick-and-pick), krabbasnar (brocaded tabby), krokbragd (boundweave), and flossa (rye with shorter pile).

Sharon explains a chart.Students received already-warped looms; the weave structures were graphed. Here I learned a valuable lesson: the clearer my graphs, the faster my students learned. Students were misinterpreting my handwritten graphs, so I took the time to computerize them.

Once students grasped plain weave and the importance of bubbling the weft to keep the warp spread, the graphs served them well. I demonstrated each weave before students advanced to that structure and remained available to trouble-shoot as they were weaving.

I noticed one student with severe draw-in on his loom. As a result, he had fallen behind on weaving each structure. We fixed it by bubbling the weft a little more and flicking our fingers horizontally across the warp to spread it. As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” He tried. His mother, who had taken Heidi’s class the previous year and had since purchased a loom, reported to Heidi that her son had taken his finished piece home and had hung it on the wall for all to see.

IMG_0672It was a teacher’s dream to teach Heidi’s capable students. We had introduced them to both cultural activities and to Scandinavian handcrafts. It seems quite a few people have an inherent desire to work with their hands. Weaving may fulfill those desires, and its many techniques engage the mind, as well.

Gallery of student work in various stages of completion:

See also the article in the February, 2014 issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter, “Transforming Through Tradition: Teach Nordic Arts at Concordia College, Moorhead.”

Sharon Marquardt holds a Master’s degree in theater arts with an emphasis in costuming. Instead of constructing costumes and placing them in storage after a show’s run, Sharon decided to weave heritage textiles. She learned Scandinavian weaving techniques at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, where she also took private weaving lessons from Syvilla Tweed Bolson. Her interest has taken her to her grandmother ‘s home in northern Norway where she still has relatives in Tromso. Sharon has a broad range of teaching experience.  She has been employed as an English and gifted/talented teacher in two public schools. She has taught rigid-heddle weaving through weaving stores, university extension classes, and conferences. She has also taught warp-weighted loom weaving. She adapted the Norwegian West Coast weaving techniques, which she taught at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, for the PVC loom used in Professor Heidi Goldberg’s Nordic Arts class at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota. 

shmarquardt (at) gmail.com

Warp-Weighted Loom Classes at Vesterheim, July 2013

By Melba Granlund

The Warp-weighted Loom

Based on finds in ancient burial sites in the Palestine city of Jericho, it has been estimated that the warp-weighted loom dates back 9,000 years – or to the seventh millennium BC.  As such, it is the oldest type of loom and, remarkably, remains in use even today.   No one has ascertained the exact location where the warp-weighted loom was first developed, but evidence of its use is widespread across Europe, Asia Minor, and Scandinavia, as far north as the Arctic Circle.

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Sketch by Kay Larson

It’s my guess that the simplicity of the loom construction, and the ease with which it can be moved from place to place, are the reasons why it has survived so long.  The warp-weighted loom consists of two vertical uprights, a horizontal warp beam, a shed rod, a heddle rod and weights.  Warp threads are held parallel under tension by being tied in small bundles to weights made from either stone, round rings of fired clay, or metal.  In Norway, soapstone was often used.  A spacing cord is used to keep the threads in order, half of which are positioned through string heddles attached to the heddle rod, enabling the weaver to create two sheds for the weaving process.  More complex patterns and weave structures such as krokbragd, rosepath, boundweave, and twill are also possible with the use of additional heddles or by finger-picking additional sheds.

Because of my love for all things old, I have long wanted to try my hand at using one of these looms.   My opportunity came this summer at Vesterheim. Vesterheim staff invited Marta Kløve Juuhl to come from Norway and teach two warp-weighted loom classes, held during the two weeks prior to the annual Nordic Fest.  The first class wove a Sami grene (blanket) using handspun wool in natural colors.  In the second class, students chose between two weaving techniques – one, a western Norwegian åkle using traditional colors of ryegarn, and the other, a rya, “the Viking way.”   As it turned out, I was able to be a student in both classes.   In the second class I chose the western Norwegian åkle.

Marta taught classes twice before at Vesterheim.   Among other projects, Marta currently teaches warp-weighted loom weaving at the Østerøy Museum in Norway.  She describes her life as that which revolves around weaving, as that is all she does.   Her dedication to, and knowledge of, weaving was obvious from the start.   Marta’s easy-going and caring nature made the experience a joy for everyone.  She could trouble-shoot any problem and anticipated when you were going to have a problem even before it happened.   If you made an error, she showed you how to correct it and did so in a nurturing manner.   She is one of those teachers you will always remember with fondness and gratitude.

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Marta Kløve Juuhl winding a header (Photo: Robbie LaFleur)

Sami Grene

Instruction in the first class began by learning about the Sami tradition of grene weaving, which is still being practiced today by women in Finnmark, the northernmost region of Norway.   Those familiar with Sami band weaving and  Sami folk dress may think that all Sami clothing is adorned with brilliant colors of red, yellow, and blue.   Not so.  We learned the Sami people are currently wearing more clothing in natural colors, and not as many multi-colored garments as in the past.  This was also true of the grene, where only natural colored wool is used.  Marta’s sample grene piece was made from luxurious Norwegian sheep wool, handspun by a Sami woman from Finnmark. The wool was not from the Norwegian Spelsau sheep, but from a Norwegian ”white” sheep, which according to Marta is now more common in Norway.   Marta arranged for us to order this same lovely handspun wool, and she brought over 70 skeins for the class.  The grene incorporates three separate qualities or weights of wool – a different weight each for the header, the warp yarn and the weft yarn – each spun in a different technique, either for strength or loft.   The yarn is truly distinctive, and is not available at any Husflid in Norway (trust me, I know, because I tried to find it).  While some class members chose to bring their own handspun, we all used wool in the natural colors of the sheep:  white, grey, or natural black. One student even brought her own loom to the grene class, homemade following a picture she had seen in a children’s book.

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A variety of natural sheep colors in the student pieces (Photo: Melba Granlund)

The Sami grene begins with a header or narrow band woven in a checkerboard pattern using a small heddle.  Extensions of the weft threads from the header are used for the warp threads.  The header band with lengthy warp threads is lashed onto the top warp beam, and then the warp threads are arranged to create two sheds using a series of string heddles and a finger-crocheted spacing chain to keep them in order.

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Sami grene header (Photo: Melba Granlund)

The header is lashed to the loom (Photo: Melba Granlund)

The header is lashed to the loom (Photo: Melba Granlund)

Typical Sami pattern designs were depicted for us in the sample piece Marta had woven for the class and in the references provided in the Østerøy Museum booklet, Oppstadveven.   In addition, we viewed a Sami grene on display in the Sami collection at the Vesterheim Museum.

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Grene owned by Vesterheim (Photo: Vesterheim staff)

Weft yarn for the grene was made up into large butterflies called “udoos.”  As you can imagine, there were a lot of jokes flying about using, and abusing, that term.  As weaving progressed, the weft threads were eased into place by grasping and pulling apart the loose warp threads below,  snapping the weft threads upward into position.

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Western Norway Åklæ

We began the åkle with a twisted cord as the header, made from four strands of the same yarn to be used in the åkle (red, blue, green, gold).   The twisted cord is lashed to the top beam of the loom.  Warp threads are then inserted through the header at so many threads per centimeter, attached to weights, arranged in string heddles, and finally connected by a spacing chain to keep them in order, similar to that done for the grene.  Weft yarns were bundled up in “udoos” the same as for the grene, and as weaving progressed, rows of weft threads were beaten into position using a weaving sword made of wood or bone.  As an alternative, you could pull apart the warp threads to snap the weft yarn into place, as we did with the grene. At the edges, we used the western Norway technique of carrying the yarn at the selvedge rather than cutting the yarn with each color change. This creates a thicker edge, different from other weaving.

Students chose their own weaving patterns. My inspiration came from an åkle in the Vesterheim collection which is depicted in Kay Larsen’s book, The Woven Coverlets of Norway.  I decided to incorporate as many krokbragd patterns as I could find depicting crosses, as well as tapestry techniques including rutevev and Vestfoldmett. As an experimental color study, two other students decided to weave the same band patterns, but using different colors.

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Curator Laurann Gilbertson inspired students with coverlets from the Vesterheim collection.

Five students wove ryas. One rya weaver, who brought her own loom and planned to weave fabric to use in Viking reenactments, chose to weave a twill requiring four sheds.    She explained that twill fabric has been found dating back to the late Bronze Age in Denmark.

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For use as a Viking-era shawl, Elizabeth Christianson wove a rya with a twill base. (Photo: Melba Granlund)

Lessons Learned

Much to my surprise, while I thought I would not be able to tolerate standing all day at the loom, it came easy — I found it easier than sitting at a floor loom all day long.   Another thing that became apparent to me is that I spend a lot of time trying to make a decision about which patterns to choose, as there are so many beautiful ones from which to pick.

Probably the most important thing I discovered, however, was that when using a warp-weighted loom, be sure you have enough rocks!  It became obvious about halfway through my first project that my grene was doomed to fail due to the lack of enough rocks and the inconsistency in their sizes.  There weren’t enough rocks for everyone in the class, and the stones varied in weight widely. The inconsistent/inadequate warp string bundles caused my piece to draw in severely toward the center, as there was more weight there than on the outside warp threads.  I considered repositioning the heavy rocks to the outside, but decided that that might just have caused warp thread draw-in at a different area, or cause the piece to be tweaked or stretched to one side and make it more difficult to keep an even beat and straight lines.  So I left them as they were, which was probably a mistake.   I tried to compensate by leaving 3-4 inches of extra weft thread at each selvedge in each row, which was then needled into position towards the middle, trying to force the warp threads further apart.  While that helped, it was not sufficient to solve the problem completely.  Oh, well, it’s just a practice piece, I told myself.  Next time, I will devote more attention to this part of the set up.  Thankfully, I did not have this problem in the second class as more weights were found for all the looms, including weights in the form of water bottles.  In retrospect, I probably should have done something similar for my grene.

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Even, successful distribution of rocks in the second class (Photo: Melba Granlund)

At the end of these classes, many of us had fallen in love with this type of loom, and if we didn’t already have one, we wanted one and were looking for ways to acquire one, either by outright purchase or having one built.  I’m still working on that part, as my åkle isn’t done and needs to get back on a loom to be finished.  Even if my piece were done, I know that I will definitely be doing more weaving on this “way-back machine” called a warp-weighted loom.

REFERENCES

  • By og Bygd 1983, Norsk Folkemuseums Årbok:  Paper by Elsa E. Gudjonson, “Nogle Bemærkninger om den Islandske Wægtvev, vestadur.”
  • Hansen, Egon H.  Opstadvæv Før og Nu. København, Denmark: Teamcos forlag,  (1978)
  • Hoffman, Marta.  Fra Fiber til Tøy. Oslo, Norway: Landbruksforlaget A/S, 1991.
  • Hoffman, Marta.  The Warp-Weighted Loom. Robin and Russ Handweavers, 1964.
  • Kåstad, Anna Østerbø.  Oppstadveven. Østeroy Museum, 2000.
  • Sundt, Eilert.  Om Husfliden i Norge. Oslo, Norway:  Gyldendal, 1975.

By Melba Granlund

melba.granlund (at) gmail.com