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National Exhibition of Weaving in the Norwegian Tradition, 2017: Even More Inspiration

Since The Norwegian Textile Letter is published as an online newsletter, we can include ALL the entries in the annual National Exhibition of Weaving the in the Norwegian Tradition.  Years ago, when print was our only choice, only a few photos of the top ribbon weavers were included.  The non-ribbon winners are of high quality as well! Also, pieces submitted by weavers who have earned a Gold Medal in weaving are not eligible for judging. Enjoy these excellent and varied entries, too. 

Gold Medalist Veronna Capone, from Brookings, SD,  entered “Slowly/Light Grows/Then Closes,” a wall hanging in pick-and-pick technique.

 Jan Mostrom, a Gold Medalist from Chanhassen MN, wove “Crossing Borders,” a wall hanging in Sjonbragd technique.

 Melissa Brown, Decorah IA, wove a table runner in Monk’s Belt Technique.

 Judy Ness, Gold Medalist from Eugene, OR, wove “Intention” bound weave rug.

 Lisa Anne Bauch from Bloomington, MN, wove a rya wall hanging, “Three Little Birds.” 

Meredith Bennett from Free Union VA, wove the rya “Confetti.”

Andrea Myklebust from Stockholm, WI, wove yardage in twill weave. 

 Nancy Ellison from Zumbrota, MN, wove a weavers flag in “Ja Vi Elsker (Yes We Love Wool).” 

“Lars” the sheep was commemorated in Nancy Ellison’s wall hanging with natural fleece rya.  Nancy (and Lars) live in Zumbrota, Minnesota. 

 Rosemary Roehl, a Gold Medalist from St. Cloud MN, wove “Fall,” in figurative bound weave.

Rosemary Roehl, Gold Medalist from St. Cloud, MN, also celebrated “Spring” in figurative bound weave.

See photos of the ribbon winners in this year’s exhibition, here. 

50 Years of Folk Art at Vesterheim

By Laurann Gilbertson

Exhibition: 50 Years of Folk Art

vesterheimVesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, is celebrating 50 years of folk art, through classes, the National Exhibitions of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition, and tours to Norway.  To mark this important anniversary, Vesterheim has created a special exhibition to share at least a few of the stories of 20 folk art tours to Norway, 90 Norwegian teachers, 145 American teachers, hundreds of class topics, and hundreds – if not thousands – of students between 1967 to 2016.

What is Folk Art?

Folk art is simply art of the people.  American folk art is often defined as the work of self-taught artists, artists who have not had formal artistic training.  It can be “outsider” art, created by artists who have had little contact with the mainstream art world and who may be expressing unconventional ideas or spiritual visions.

Folk art can also be defined as global art, fitting closely to local traditions.  At Vesterheim, Norwegian folk art typically refers to useful objects created and decorated using local materials by individuals of a particular, often rural, region of Norway between 1600 and 1900. These objects and techniques usually expressed regional aesthetic and styles and were borne of traditions developed over several hundred years. The craftspeople that made these items typically learned their trades informally or through apprenticeships. The objects they created needed to be functional and beautiful.

What is Tradition?

Tradition is a repeated pattern of behaviors, beliefs, or objects passed down from one generation to the next.  We follow traditions because they mean something to us. Traditions change through time and evolve with the availability of resources, forces of nature, personal taste, political or religious ideas, and foreign influences. All traditions change. But how far can they change?

Can an object made today be called traditional folk art? The artists of the eighteenth century didn’t have commercially-spun yarn, chemical dyes, circular knitting needles. Can an object made using these things be called traditional folk art?

Vesterheim often uses the phrase “in the tradition” to describe objects made today that are based on or inspired by historical examples. As long as there is a strong visual connection, it seems acceptable to change to the material OR technique OR medium. Too many changes, however, and the piece is no longer recognizable as having been part of the Norwegian tradition.

Folk Art and Vesterheim

Vesterheim began in 1877 as the Luther College Museum and folk art was part of the collection from the very beginning. Norwegian immigrant materials, including folk art brought from Norway, became the official focus of the collection by 1895.

In 1964, Luther College hired Marion Nelson, an art historian, to catalog the collection. He soon became director of an independent, world-class Vesterheim museum. Nelson was passionate about folk art and saw the collection’s potential to educate artists interested in Norwegian folk art. Nelson launched the Folk Art School and National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition in 1967.

Weaving was added to the National Exhibition, an annual judged exhibition of folk art in the Norwegian tradition, in 1981. A jacket woven by Marie Nodland of St. Paul, Minnesota, won a blue ribbon that year. The diamond twill reverses to rya (pile weave) and there are handknit collar and cuffs.

Weaving was added to the National Exhibition, an annual judged exhibition of folk art in the Norwegian tradition, in 1981. A jacket woven by Marie Nodland of St. Paul, Minnesota, won a blue ribbon that year. The diamond twill reverses to rya (pile weave) and there are handknit collar and cuffs.

While Nelson was interested in folk art as an academic, he did not create folk art himself. His wife, Lila Nelson, was an accomplished weaver and textile artist who would go on to teach many textile classes at Vesterheim in her capacity as textile curator.

The opportunity to study and practice of folk art is also offered through tours to Norway.  The first tours, starting in 1970, provided a folk art focus while traveling.  Since 1978, tours often included hands-on workshops with local artists as instructors.

Students learned Telemarksvev in the weaving class during Vesterheim’s first hands-on Folk Art Tour to Norway in 1978. The teacher, Elsa Bjerck, is standing in back, second from the right. Lila Nelson, the museum’s Textile Curator, is second from the left.

Students learned Telemarksvev in the weaving class during Vesterheim’s first hands-on Folk Art Tour to Norway in 1978. The teacher, Elsa Bjerck, is standing in back, second from the right. Lila Nelson, the museum’s Textile Curator, is second from the left.

Fiber Arts at Vesterheim

A wide range of fiber classes have been offered at Vesterheim, from embroidery, knitting, nålbinding (knotless netting), spinning, loom weaving, bandweaving, sheepskin printing, and basketry.

Oline Bredeli of Molde, Norway, taught weaving and working with teger, birch or spruce root, in 1982 and 1990. Canadian artist Karen Casselman’s specialty is historical plant dyes. She taught dyeing at Vesterheim in 1997, 2002, and 2005. For this placemat, she used korkje, a Norwegian dye made from fermented lichens.

Oline Bredeli of Molde, Norway, taught weaving and working with teger, birch or spruce root, in 1982 and 1990. Canadian artist Karen Casselman’s specialty is historical plant dyes. She taught dyeing at Vesterheim in 1997, 2002, and 2005. For this placemat, she used korkje, a Norwegian dye made from fermented lichens.

Fiber arts have been at the core of Vesterheim’s Folk Art School since 1967 when Carola Schmidt taught the first class in hardangersøm, a cutwork and embroidery technique from the Hardanger region of Norway.

Grace Rikansrud, a nationally recognized expert on Norwegian needlework from Decorah, began her two decade teaching career in 1970. Rug hooking was also added in 1970, along with the first weaving course taught by Lila Nelson, Vesterheim’s registrar and textile curator. Nelson gave students an overview of Norwegian weaving by focusing on traditional coverlet techniques, which continues to be a focus of weaving classes today.

Vesterheim hosted a rug hooking camp for many years and rug hooking was part of the National Exhibition from 1970 to 2005.  Now independent, the Decorah Rug School continues to meet each summer for classes.  Marianna Sausaman (West Lafayette, Ind.), Esther Miller (Decorah, Iowa), Anne Duder (Decorah, Iowa), and Dorothy Huse (Chippewa Falls, Wisc.) have directed the rug school.

The first weaving class with a Norwegian instructor was in 1978.  Elsa Eikås Bjerck, from Jølster in Sunnfjord, taught tapestry and bandweaving at Vesterheim.  An important weaver in her own right, Bjerck is known for traditional and contemporary textiles, monumental works for public buildings, and church textiles.

Elsa Eikås Bjerck was the first Norwegian instructor to teach weaving at Vesterheim. In 1978 she also taught weaving on a Vesterheim folk art tour to Norway. This piece replicates an early bed pillow from Jølster in Sogn, Norway, in plant-dyed wool on linen. The mittens were done in nålbinding, an ancient looping technique.

Elsa Eikås Bjerck was the first Norwegian instructor to teach weaving at Vesterheim. In 1978 she also taught weaving on a Vesterheim folk art tour to Norway. This piece replicates an early bed pillow from Jølster in Sogn, Norway, in plant-dyed wool on linen. The mittens were done in nålbinding, an ancient looping technique.

What has always set Vesterheim’s Folk Art School apart from other visual art and fine handcraft programs is the focus on historical objects – the collection – that can inform and inspire. Most classes at Vesterheim include a guided visit in the museum galleries or look at the depth and breadth of the collection in the museum’s storage facilities.

The Future of Folk Art

What does the future look like for Norwegian folk art in America?  Are traditions going to live another 50 years?

Some say that the future of folk art looks bleak. With each generation we are further and further from the original practice of folk art. What meaning can folk art hold for the sixth, seventh, or eighth generations?

Others say that the future looks bright. No matter how Norwegian you are (and even if you are not Norwegian at all) you can find enjoyment, fulfilment, and meaning in learning and practicing skills that are rooted in the past. The beauty and pleasure of creating is not dependent on a time period, an ethnicity, or a language.

“50 Years of Folk Art” is on view at Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, through April 23, 2017.  The exhibition was made possible by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts; Veronna and John Capone; Ron Hovda; and additional support.

John Skare, Bricelyn, Minnesota, in the exhibition. Handwoven rya wall hanging, 1987. “Mona took this photo of the kids and me by my rya weaving that the Vesterheim purchased in 1987.  I remember Marion Nelson relating this piece to the ryas that were placed in the bottom of the long boats.  Perhaps my heritage was creeping into my artworks without my knowledge.  I hadn’t seen this piece since 1987.  A reunion for me with one of my creations.  A bit emotional.  I like this piece.  It was created with handspun wool yarns and wool blankets scraps from the Faribault Woolen Mill.  Wool carpet mill ends where used for the weft.  The weft ends have been wrapped.  I know this artwork’s DNA quite well. An old friend with a good home, the Vesterheim.”

John Skare, Bricelyn, Minnesota, in the exhibition. Handwoven rya wall hanging, 1987. “Mona took this photo of the kids and me by my rya weaving that the Vesterheim purchased in 1987.  I remember Marion Nelson relating this piece to the ryas that were placed in the bottom of the long boats.  Perhaps my heritage was creeping into my artworks without my knowledge.  I hadn’t seen this piece since 1987.  A reunion for me with one of my creations.  A bit emotional.  I like this piece.  It was created with handspun wool yarns and wool blankets scraps from the Faribault Woolen Mill.  Wool carpet mill ends where used for the weft.  The weft ends have been wrapped.  I know this artwork’s DNA quite well. An old friend with a good home, the Vesterheim.”

Laurann Gilbertson is the Chief Curator of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum and a tireless promoter of Scandinavian textiles.

November, 2016

 

 

 

 

A Personal Scream Series

Editor (and author) note:  This article was published in the Fall 2015 issue of the British Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, and is reprinted with permission. Read the pdf version of that article HERE.

journal coverBy Robbie LaFleur

Almost every mention of Edvard Munch’s expressionist painting, Skrik or “Scream,” is followed by a phrase along the lines of, ’one of the world’s most recognizable works of art.’

I’ve contemplated Munch’s Scream since the first time I saw one of the paintings in Norway during weaving school in the late 1970s; he had painted several versions of the Scream. My own interpretations began in 2001, during a Scream-worthy situation. I worked for the Minnesota Legislature, and the legislative session dragged on in overtime, into the summer, filled with acrimony and budget dilemmas. It seemed like a good time to weave Edvard Munch’s image of angst. I set up my tapestry loom in the living room and wove as frequently as possible, telling myself that when the tapestry was finished, the special legislative session would wrap up its work. I was right.scream-tapestry-s

A photocopy of the image, taped to a top corner of the loom, guided my color choices as I wove the background behind the figure on the bridge. The wavy lines created with a distorted, or eccentric weft, didn’t exactly match Munch’s paint strokes, but they created a similar feeling of unease. I’ve displayed the small tapestry (11in x 7in) many times during the past decade, often during a weaving demonstration. Each time at least one person asks, ‘Can I buy this?’. I could have sold it many times over, but maybe not, if I’d actually suggested a price that could make me part with it.

The tapestry was the beginning of a series, partially prompted by a friend who suggested I continue making Scream in various textile techniques. It is a great image for exploration. The painting is meaningful and powerful, yet also recognizable to the point of kitsch. It is also fun to examine for line and color, to determine how to use each textile medium to advantage.

French Knots

The French Knot Scream was an experiment in shading to achieve a photo-like quality. I chose a portion of Munch’s image and using an inkjet printer, printed it onto a sheet of fabric. I carried around the small embroidery (7in x 5in) for a whole summer, adding a few more of the approximately 9,500 knots during car trips and snatches of free time. The knots were made with two strands of embroidery floss, which made many subtle shades possible. I framed the embroidery in a substantial gold frame, which seemed to draw viewers in to figure out how it was created.

french-embroidery2

Line Embroidery

Another summer, a line embroidery of Scream occupied my travel bag, starting, appropriately, on a trip to Norway. The face is surrounded by a phrase used by my Scottish grandmother in a letter to me when I was 21, ‘We sure have missed you, but life doesn’t hand us all our desires’ (I think Munch would agree). This has been embroidered in her handwriting. The line drawing itself, embroidered in a variegated purple silk thread, seemed dull, so I quilted the linen backing with thin batting and short, randomly-placed linen stitches. The practical part of me felt this piece should become a pillow (completed size: 15in x 13in).

scream-pillow-s

Fabric Printing

I carved a Scream linoleum-block image for textile printing. It has been well-used; many of my friends have napkins and guest towels with the image. I titled my original textile piece was “Edvard Munch Kommentarer Paa Opvask” (Edvard Munch Comments on Washing Dishes).  Five IKEA dishtowels, printed with the same screaming figure, hang from a towel bar, which portrays the title in gothic script. (total dimensions: 29in x 31in) It’s intended to be amusing, but also a comment on Munch, a serious male Expressionist painter who likely spent little time thinking about domestic arts.

kommentarers

Skinnfell

In 2010 I took a course from a Norwegian instructor, Britt Solheim, on making skinnfell (coverlets sewn of several sheepskins). In traditional skinnfell pieces, which have become popular again in Norway, the smooth side was either wood-block printed with traditional motifs or covered by a woven textile, or sometimes both, leaving secret designs underneath the fabric. After the class I created a Scream wall piece (18in x 26in) on sheepskin, incorporating the iconic image with traditional wood-block patterns. I wanted to explore the relationship, or lack thereof, between Munch’s fine art prints and the traditional folk arts of the period.

skinfell-ryaRya

The largest Scream piece (36in x 60in), a Scandinavian rya, was an experiment in weaving in a pixelated fashion. I cut the full-sized pattern into narrow strips. With each row of knots on the rya I entered bundles of yarn to match the colors along the strips. This technique did not work perfectly; after unrolling the finished piece from the loom I spent many hours with a tapestry needle, putting in some bundles and taking out others to improve the image. This piece is much larger than the original images in Munch’s paintings, and while weaving it I was surprised by my emotional reaction to the image which I had reproduced many times before. As I tied the knots of the face and hands, I worked at close range and spent many hours looking at my blown-up pattern and back at the unfolding face on the loom. To me the yarn gathered the sense of psychological unease in Munch’s painting. Would the piece be large and frightening? Once completed, however, the shaggy image was striking, but not scary.

219 Lafleure-Moore Robbie Scream no number PRThe 150th anniversary of the birth of Edvard Munch was celebrated in 2013, a fitting time to complete my textile appreciation series. Still, I might pick up the theme in the future. Could the collection be complete without a knitted Scream?

Robbie LaFleur is a weaver and librarian living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She began her weaving study with a course in traditional Norwegian weaving at Valdres Husflidsskole in Fagernes, Norway, in 1977. Since that time she has studied with several Norwegian and American weavers. Among other projects, her current series is an exploration of family members, current and long past, in tapestry. You can follow her weaving activities at her blog, boundweave.wordpress.com. She is the editor of The Norwegian Textile Letter, and recently converted it to a digital publication, norwegiantextileletter.com.

cartoon1 2Postscript: The Scream series was also featured in an exhibit in the Community Gallery at the American Swedish Institute from June-September, 2015.  As well as the Scream pieces, the exhibit included Munch-related cartoons and magazine covers.  (Read more here.)

Rya—The Adventure Continues! (Or, Rya with Not-So-Hidden Knots)

By Lise-Anne Bauch
Jan Mostrom's beautiful sample rya

Jan Mostrom’s beautiful sample rya

Last summer, master weaver Jan Mostrom taught a popular class in beginning rya weaving at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota (WGM). (See The Zen of Rya). This winter, students braved both the bitter cold and a more complicated weave structure in Rya with Hidden Knots.

Jan drew her inspiration from an antique coverlet in the Vesterheim collection, which she previously analyzed for the Norwegian Textile Letter. The coverlet features sparse knots on a ground cloth woven in an irregular houndstooth twill. (The side with knots would have been placed toward the body, trapping air for warmth.) Due to the weave structure, the knots do not show on the non-pile side. The result is a vibrant masterpiece uniting form and function (See “Visiting the Vesterheim Collection” from the August 2012 issue.)

Rauma YarnTo keep costs affordable, students used Harrisville Highland in contrasting colors for warp and weft, then dove eagerly into Jan’s treasured stash of Rauma yarn from Norway for their knots. Students also supplemented knots with yarns from their own stashes, including silk and linen for added visual interest.

Anne Tying Knots

Perhaps Anne Burgeson is counting to herself in this photo.

The weaving process was challenging. To achieve the houndstooth twill, the weaver must treadle continuously (1-2-3-4), stopping to tie knots every time treadle 1 is reached—while simultaneously changing weft colors every six picks. To further complicate matters, the knots alternate in placement. (Knots are tied above three lifted warp threads on one row, then tied over two lifted warp threads on the next row, and so on.) Students likened the process to patting one’s heading while rubbing one’s stomach, and there was plenty of counting-out-loud in the room.

In addition, students had the usual challenges of weaving, including keeping a consistent beat, avoiding draw-in, and creating even selvedges. Still, as in the previous class, students loved the tactile nature of rya: The soft knots just beg to be touched, and the simple, repetitive motion of tying them is soothing and meditative.

Lise-Anne's loom bench cover

Lise-Anne’s loom bench cover

Students created their own designs, choosing to weave pillows, wall hangings, or loom bench covers. Jan pointed out that a simple, bold design works best to showcase the rya knots. Students heeded her advice, sticking to basic shapes while choosing a variety of means to show off both the knots and the houndstooth in the background.

Students also chose which yarns to incorporate into their knots to achieve the desired effect. For example, Geri Retzlaff wove enough yardage for a large pillow, alternating ground cloth and knots in an abstract pattern. She included hand-dyed silk thrums from a previous project, adding a touch of luxury to the finished product.

Anne's Knots

Anne Burgeson added unspun fleece to her houndstooth background.

While a novice weaver, Anne Burgeson is a skilled spinner. She chose to incorporate her own handspun into her knots, creating a riot of color and texture to offset her cheerful blue-and-cream houndstooth. She even used unspun locks of wool for her knots, creating the illusion of fat, puffy clouds against a bright blue sky.

Carol Harrington used thick wool yarn in cheerful colors that matched her inspiration, a painting of bright red poppies. The warmth of the colors brought a touch of spring, a welcome contrast to the bleak February landscape outside. Likewise, Susan Andrews paired rich teal and orange in her abstract wall hanging, balanced with black-and-white houndstooth, while Mary Holmgren added rosy linen to her bold red and purple stripes.

Mary Holmgren traveled all the way from the East Coast for the class

Mary Holmgren traveled all the way from the East Coast for the class

In process on the loom - Susan Andrews starts on her deep colors

In process on the loom – Susan Andrews starts on her deep colors

A poppy in eye-popping pink on Carol Harrington's rya

A poppy in eye-popping pink on Carol Harrington’s rya

Lisa's Rya

Lise-Anne Bauch’s rya was inspired by an Icelandic sweater.

I chose to weave a loom bench cover using a palette of brown, grey, white, and blue inspired by a photo of an Icelandic sweater. The beautiful blue Rauma yarn was a present from my mother from her recent trip to Norway. As for those hidden knots…well, mine turned out more “partially-obscured” than hidden!

Finally, lifelong weaver Louise French recently earned the coveted Certificate of Excellence from the Handweavers Guild of America. (Lou is the first member of WGM to achieve this honor.) As part of the certification process, she wove several pile weavings using cut weft or Ghiodes knots, like those used in rya. Intrigued by the process, Lou signed up for Jan’s class to learn more. Lou wove a wall hanging in copper and grey based on a painting by Paul Klee, one of her favorite artists.

Lou French's hanging was inspired by a Paul Klee painting in a German book.

Lou French’s hanging was inspired by a Paul Klee painting in a German book.

“I had no idea what a treat I was in for,” Lou commented. “I’m normally not a particularly patient weaver – one shuttle is my game – but I loved it. I loved the mystery of the hidden knots, I loved the story of why the Norwegians created such pieces, and I loved the contemplative nature of choosing the yarns that would create the next knot.”

Throughout the class, Jan remained patient and encouraging, helping each student bring their unique vision to life.”It is wonderful fun to teach rya,” she noted, “because the weavers’ creativity goes wild and the results are inspiring.” Rya exploration will continue at WGM through a year-long interest group, to culminate in an exhibit in the fall of 2015. Stay tuned for more adventures in rya!

Lisa Bauch is a writer and editor – and newly-enthusiastic rya weaver – living in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  She is on the board of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.
labauch (at) visi.com

A Fabulous Find: A Rya from Ryd

Here you see a very basic, functional version of the rya, woven in Sweden, a manifestation of the widespread pile-woven textiles for everyday use found throughout Scandinavia. It is of this everyday use and the place that this rya has in our family that I write.

One summer in the mid-1970s, my husband Roland, our children, and I were visiting my mother-in-law, Ellen, on her farm in Tröjamåla, near the town of Ryd in southern Småland, Sweden. One evening, we sat at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and discussing a multi-household auction that would be held in town, at Folkets Park.

DSCN2178Country auctions, in those days, were most interesting and educational for me. They revealed the inventories of a disappearing way of rural life, and I got to see up close and touch the tools, textiles, and every kind of everyday objects that reflected people’s lives. Those who came to auctions were mostly curious locals, in themselves interesting to me, who might bid cautiously on things they could use or things with which they identified.   But this auction was well advertised in the local press, a summertime auction sure to be attended by tourists and cabin folks, especially Danes and Germans. We decided to go, for the fun of it.

I suppose it is audacious to say that I spotted “my” rya immediately. In fact, it was piled on a table with other textiles of all sorts, but it caught my eye. When the bidding began, I didn’t trust myself to stay on top, keeping up with German, Danish, and the local dialect, but Roland helped. It seemed, at first, as though there was not much interest. Then, a Dane entered the bidding, and it went back and forth between us, until my bid won. Who knows? Did the Dane really understand what was at stake, that there was more than met the eye to this old thing that could be sold in a Copenhagen antique shop? No matter–now it was mine.

DSCN2176Next came finding out about the piece. Roland and I went to the Smålands Museum, in Vaxjö, where the curator explained the textile’s genre—slitrya–meant to be placed pile-side-down on the bed. Common, she said, ours nothing out of the ordinary.

But, this is not the end of the story.

In fact, my mother-in law Ellen’s place in this story IS this story. She tracked the slitrya’s history back to the household of a town merchant in Ryd, whose descendant remembered its being used in the upper floor bedroom, where the children slept close to a chimney for warmth. Which explains the wonderful smoky scent it had when we bought it. Imagine the skills that this simple, homely bedding embodies and the whispers of the children it kept warm.

DSCN2179Today this slitrya hangs on a wall in our living room. Woven in two pieces that have been sewn together, it measures approximately 47”x 72”. Its warp and weft are tow linen–likely handspun–with the exception of the top and bottom edges, which have dentate patterns, woven in blue and beige wool weft. There are a few blue wool picks in the body of one half, as well. The deep pile consists of various natural shades of handspun wool, combined with some linen yarns, knotted to form a goose-eye motif, best discerned from a distance. ¾” (2 cm.) weft separates the knots, which are visible on the presentation side. The person(s) who wove and assembled the coverlet chose to join the two sections in opposite directions, so that the piles face away from each other and the decorative head and foot edges do not match, although the overall motif is fairly aligned. Possibly, use and storage have faded the presentation side of the rya, but the pile side is true to its original, natural colors.

The spinner’s and weaver’s hands have long been stilled, the children are long gone, the earth and animals that provided precious fibers are long forgotten. And yet they are here, in this slitrya, a meaningful part of our lives.

Edi Thorstensson write of her weaving background: “Until June 2009, when I retired, I was a librarian and archivist at Gustavus Adolphus College and a free-lance translator.  I took my first weaving class at the Art Institute of Chicago before I entered college, but it wasn’t until years later, while visiting my husband’s native Sweden, that I learned to weave rag rugs from my mother-in-law, Ellen Svensson, patient teacher and friend, who shared with me her stories and many, many skills.”

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

The Zen of Rya

Jan M Rya 2In August 2014, teacher Jan Mostrom offered a long-awaited class in rya weaving at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. The Weavers Guild presented the class in partnership with the American Swedish Institute, in conjunction with their exhibition The Living Tradition of Ryijy – Finnish Rugs and Their Makers. (For a description of the exhibit, see http://norwegiantextileletter.com/article/finnish-ryijy-rugs-at-the-american-swedish-institute/)

Jan is an accomplished teacher and weaver in the Nordic tradition, and her class was eagerly anticipated, proving so popular that a second session was added immediately. All in all, eleven students participated. None had prior experience in weaving rya, and several of the students were first-time weavers.

Jam Mostrom's sample rya, front (detail)

Jam Mostrom’s sample rya, front (detail)

Jan Mostrom's sample rya, back (detail)

Jan Mostrom’s sample rya, back (detail)

To make the class welcoming and fun for students at all levels, Jan chose a simple project to get us started. Her inspiration was a traditional style from the Närke region of Sweden that alternates rows of plain weave with rows of rya knots. This type is also known as a sparse rya, because the background fabric shows through the pile. This weft-faced fabric often bears distinctive checks or vertical stripes, providing a more symmetrical counterpoint to the softer knotted sections. Jan brought in several of her own pieces in this style for inspiration.

Yarn for Ryas 1Student projects were small woven pieces 16” wide, suitable for a wall hanging or cushion cover. (Length varied based on design.) The warp was sturdy Finnish seine twine and the weft was Rauma brand yarn spun from spelsau, a native Norwegian sheep. Rauma is tightly spun and has a beautiful sheen, making it both durable and attractive. Weavers supplemented the Rauma with a variety of other yarns from their personal collections. Overall, students found the rya knots easy to tie, making for a relaxing weaving experience, while the thick pile felt scrumptious to the touch.

Within the basic framework of size and materials, weavers were free to play with color and design. It was truly inspiring to see the wide variety of finished products. Each rya was completely unique, reflecting its maker’s personality and preferences, proof that this seemingly simple style of weaving holds endless possibilities.

Susan Andrews

Susan Andrews: Graphic rya with red

Kelly Nordstrom: Rya inspired by a fish graphic

Rya inspired by a fish graphic

Several students created clear geometric shapes with clean lines in contrasting colors, taking advantage of the rya’s graphic possibilities. Kelly Nordstrom’s project was inspired by the bold black-and-red design of a fish on a Finnish napkin. Susan Andrews and Edi Thorstensson also chose to work with red, paired with gray and white respectively, creating bright, dramatic contrast.

Edie Thorstensson

Edie Thorstensson

Marie . explored a stash of knitting yarns for an autumn palette.

Marie . explored a stash of knitting yarns for an autumn palette.

Cynthia Werner's piece includes the natural shades of sheep

Cynthia Werner’s piece includes the natural shades of sheep

Others created a more abstract effect by blending colors seemingly at random. Marilyn Moore was inspired by the abundant lilies in her garden, while Marie Larson dug into her stash of knitting yarns to create a riot of colors and textures in her favorite autumnal palette. Cynthia Werner is an experienced yarn spinner who loves to work with Shetland wool. Her design—featuring shades of white, gray, and black—echoes the natural tones of a dappled Shetland fleece.

Marilyn Moore

Marilyn Moore: The colors of lilies

Geri Retzlaff  explored shapes in soft tones

Geri Retzlaff explored shapes in soft tones

Wanda inspired by palette..celtic blue

Wanda inspired by palette..celtic blue

Jan brought a stack of books to inspire us, allowing students to draw on the rich history of rya to spark their own projects. Wanda Truman was struck by the flower design on a traditional wedding rya woven in red, but chose to weave in her favorite Celtic blue to reflect her own heritage. Geri Retzlaff and Carol Harrington were inspired by the abstract designs of twentieth century ryas and also took on the challenge of creating rounded shapes. Geri wove in soft pastels, while Carol contrasted purple and orange for a contemporary look.

Many students, like Carol Harrington, drafted cartoons before weaving

Many students, like Carol Harrington, drafted cartoons before weaving

Allison N Rya 3Other students explored rya’s three-dimensional possibilities. Allison Nassif chose to work almost entirely in white, using a heavy yarn similar to that found in mops for her rya knots. The knotted design of thick chevrons alternated with plain weave, creating heavy piles that viewers longed to sink their fingers into.

 

Lisa B Rya 1Besides working in wool, most weavers in the class added silk or linen to the knots to create varied texture and visual interest. My own project was inspired by Edvard Munch’s 1895 painting Moonlight. I was fascinated by the way Munch captured the glint of moonlight on water and tried to replicate the effect by adding linen, which catches the light, to the wool knots. I also used a pale yellow yarn, thicker than the Rauma, in the moonlit sections, hoping to draw the viewer’s eye.

Lisa Bauch was inspired by Edvard Munch's painting, "Moonlight"

Lisa Bauch was inspired by Edvard Munch’s painting, “Moonlight”

Jan’s class took place over four days, and visitors stopped to view our progress, many of whom had been to see the exhibit at the American Swedish Institute. Two of our guests were women from Finland, who were pleased to see their beloved national weaving style being taught in the United States.

For their part, Jan’s students are eager to continue their explorations. “Rya weaving was surprisingly easy to learn,” says Geri Retzlaff. “The weaving and knot tying are relaxing and I found myself pondering other designs while weaving my class project.” Students agreed that the simple repetitive movements of tying the knots can produce a zen-like calm—but also leaves the attention free for lively conversations in class, if preferred.

Inspired by the success of the beginning class, Jan is planning to teach a more advanced rya class in 2015. “I found it very exciting to teach this class,” she explains. “The creativity in the students’ rya pieces was inspirational. It made me excited to start a new rya piece myself. It is gratifying to an instructor when the students are excited and enthusiastic about what they are learning and have such successful results.”

In addition to classes, the Weavers Guild is forming a year-long interest group, open to anyone interested in beginning or continuing their study in this style. Members are invited to create work for an exhibit in the fall of 2015.

Thanks to Jan Mostrom and her students, the American Swedish Institute, and the Weavers Guild of Minnesota for helping to ensure that this living tradition lives on!

 Lisa Bauch is a writer and editor – and newly-enthusiastic rya weaver – living in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  She is on the board of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.

labauch (at) visi.com

Celebrate the Rye – or Rya – or Ryijy!

february-2010Nineteen years of the Norwegian Textile Letter are a trove of information on a variety of textile techniques – particularly rye.  Or is that rya?  The Norwegian authors consistently use the official Norwegian spelling – rye – but Americans often substitute  the version ending in ‘a.’ There have been articles on historical boat ryes, on contemporary ryes in Norway, articles about Textile Tour participants learning to weave ryes, analyses and drafts of ryes in the collection of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, and a report of a rye study group.  All told, rye articles from Volumes 1-19 comprise 50 pages! They’ve been scanned individually and as a compiled document.

The compiled document:

Rye – Rya – Ryijy? A Compilation from the Norwegian Textile Letter, 1999-2013

Individual Articles:

A Small Båtrya from Lofoten.” Janet Meany.  Vol. 6, No. 2, February 2000.

Weaving a Norwegian Style Båtrya. Sally Scott.  Vol. 5, No. 4, August 1999.

Nordnorsk Ryer.”  Inger Anne Utvåg.  Vo. 7, No. 3, May 2001.

Båtrya.” Ellen Kjellmo. Part of “Viking Women’s Textiles: A Report of a Seminar at the Viking Museum at Borg in Lofoten.” Vol. 10, No. 3, May 2004.

Ryas in Norway.” Helen Engalstad (translated by Loraine Leftwich and edited by Betty Johannesen). Vol. 11, No. 2, February 2005.

New Rya Study Group Forming (an initial notice).” Vol. 12, no. 2, February 2006.

Voss Ryer – Traditional Bedcover and Contemporary Art.” Marta Kløve Juuhl. Vol. 12, no. 3, May 2006.

Excerpt from Båtrya i gammel og ny tid.” Ellen Kjellmo (translated by Lorraine Leftwich). Vol. 13, No. 1, November 2006.

The Contemporary Rya Rug in America.” Marion T. Marzolf. Vol. 16, No. 2, February 2010.

Textile Artist Laura Demuth.” Vol. 16, No. 2, February 2010.

Visiting the Vesterheim Collection.” (First in a series)  Jan Mostrom. Jan analyzed a rya in the Vesterheim collection and provided a weaving draft to reproduce it. Vol. 18, No. 2, February 2012. (Vesterheim description)

Some Pieces from the Rya Study Group Exhibition at Vesterheim.” Vol. 18, No. 2, February 2012.

Visiting the Vesterheim Collection.” (Second in a series.) Jan Mostrom. Jan analyzed a rya in the Vesterheim collection and provided a weaving draft to reproduce it. Vol. 18, no. 4, August 2012.

Visiting the Vesterheim Collection.” (Third in a series.) Jan Mostrom. Jan analyzed a rya in the Vesterheim collection and provided a weaving draft to reproduce it. Vol. 19, No. 3, May 2013.

Visiting the Vesterheim Collection.” (Fourth in a series) Jan Mostrom. Jan analyzed a rya in the Vesterheim collection and provided a weaving draft to reproduce it. Vo. 20, No. 1, November 2013.  (Vesterheim record)

Robbie LaFleur

Finnish Ryijy Rugs at the American Swedish Institute

ASI-rya

“Etude Two,” by Katri Haahti. (2005) This study is a tiny piece, only 14 x 13 centimeters.

From May 31 to November 2, 2014, textiles fill the mansion of the American Swedish Institute.   The exhibit, The Living Tradition of Ryijy – Finnish Rugs and their Makers,  highlights Finnish rugs of the past 300 years, from early utilitarian pile rugs to wedding rugs filled with auspicious symbols, to mid-century abstract designs, and even a modern piece with hair bands and a bra strap woven in.

Collecting magnificent rijiy is the post-retirement passion of Dr. Toumas Sopanen, a former plant physiologist and biochemist.  He began with five pieces, purchased for his home.  After Dr. Sopanen purchased about 25 ryijy rugs, a local museum mounted an exhibit of his collection.  “I almost cried when I saw how beautiful they were,” he said.  It spurred his collecting, and he now owns 390, almost all purchased from auctions.  He became increasingly interested in the historical development of ryijy, which is considered the national craft of Finland, and in 2008, along with Leena Willberg, published The Ryijy-Rug Lives On: Finnish Ryijy-Rugs 1778-2008.

IMG_7196Dr. Sopanen visited Minneapolis for the opening of the exhibit.  He spent his first day up close with his collection, combing the pieces.   The ryijiys are rolled on tubes for transport between exhibits, he explained, smashing down the pile. His special textile tool?  An everyday hairbrush.

While combing, he told me a story of the difficulty of having textiles cleaned.  When he had the piece he is combing in this photo (“Penguin,” by Lea Eskola, 1962) professionally cleaned, it came back ruined.  All the dirt had been pulled up from the base and sat in the top ten percent of each strand.  It looked worse after the cleaning than before. A friend of his rescued it by painstakingly separating the strands of each knot and pulling off the dirt.  Hundreds and thousands of strands, Tuomas emphasized.

IMG_0479At an opening night tour, Dr. Sopanen enthusiastically described his collection, or at least the 42 rugs that hang throughout the ASI – in galleries, in a doorway, and even over bookcase glass.  We began in the Nelson Gallery on the lower level of the ASI, where his earliest pieces, dating back to the late 1700s, are beautifully displayed.  including one on an antique bed and another on a sleigh. Ryijys dating before 1750 don’t exist for a number of reasons: they may have been worn and thrown out, or buried with their owners, or destroyed in a time of pestilence.

The Nordic ryijy tradition dates from the time of the Vikings, but their exact origin is unknown – perhaps the Viking saw Coptic textiles with a similar structure in Ireland or Egypt. The basic structure is exactly the same as Oriental carpets, but with only about ten percent of the knots, and longer pile.

Ryijys were used on boats up to modern times, as the woven textiles with warm pile wouldn’t stiffen in salt water like animal hides. It’s difficult to find an old Finnish boat ryijy; Dr. Sopanen just purchased his first boat ryijy, dated 1814.

From the 1400s on, ryijys used as bed coverings were recorded for both the wealthy and the servant class.  The quality and decoration varied depending on social class.  When rijiys became popular as wedding textiles, the imagery became more complex.  Protective symbols, brides, and birds of happiness appeared.  They commonly included initials and the year.

IMG_0499

Detail of a wedding ryijy from 1798

IMG_1594

A wedding ryijy from around 1800. It features a tree of life, one of the most popular wedding symbols.

In old ryijys used as bedcovers, a narrow band was often woven at the head end.  People didn’t wash so much in those days, Tuomas noted, so you might not want to rest your head in the same spot as unwashed feet.  In the 1800s, when ryijys served more ceremonial and decorative functions, the tradition of the narrow band persisted.

A beautiful piece with this narrow band is hanging from a free-standing frame at the ASI.  Both sides have pile, and both the decorative side and the largely white side are visible. You can see that the top bar tilts at an angle in order to keep the sides of the ryijy hanging straight.  That didn’t surprise one tour participant, Craig Rasmussen, Exhibits Director for the Joan Mondale Gallery at the Textile Center of Minnesota.  “I can tell you after hanging many handmade rectangles – they are never square,” he commented.

IMG_1587

Scale surface bedcover ryijy for two persons. Turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.

IMG_1588Older ryijys can be divided in two groups: upper-class ryijys woven by professional weavers, with shading and sharper detail in the images; and folk ryijys—simple and naive, with broad borders, one color in each object, and clumsy letters and numbers (because the weavers were largely illiterate).

Sleeping under ryijiys stopped in about the 1820s. Through the rest of the century, they were more commonly used as daytime bed covers.

Dr. Sopanen talked about the beautiful, lustrous wool colored with plant-based dyes used in earlier pieces. In the later 1800s, newly-available analine dyes in bright colors were used, but the bright colors weren’t colorfast over the years.

In the late 1800s many ryijy weavers used motifs from cross stitch or embroidery patterns from Germany and Sweden. There was a loss of creativity in the images.  Also around this time they moved from bed covers and began to be hung on walls.

IMG_1598Two events help popularize ryijys widely early in the twentieth century.  A large exhibit in at a gallery in Helsinki in 1918, and a detailed study of ryijy in 1924 by U.T. Sirelius, educated Finns about the cultural and historical importance of the craft. By the 1930 almost all Finns wanted to own a ryijy.  In addition to woven ryijys, kits became available.  They included woven backing, a design, and wool to tie the knots.  Dr. Sopanen made one of the pieces in the exhibit from a kit, “Zebra One” by Eva Brummer.  He listened to music while tying knots, 250 hours in all.  “One row is about three piano sonatas,” he said.

IMG_7514The ASI mansion is a perfect venue for many of the pieces. Often, when the installation offers a distant view of a piece, the beauty and subtlety of the yarn combinations shine.  When seen close-up, you notice there are several red shades in “By the Midsummer Bonfires” by Eila-Annikki Vesimaa (designed in 1956).  When you back up, the flames of the bonfire shimmer.

IMG_1607

IMG_1606Around 1980 artists began to experiment with varying lengths, creating relief. The piece may vary from the standard rectangular shape and in the use of materials, adding linen and other fibers.  Tenka issakainen, in “Rose-coloured Ryijy,” (2006) even added artificial flowers, elastic lace, and a bra strap.

Dr. Sopanen feels there is renewed interest in ryijy in Finland today. Young couples are having wedding ryijys commissioned.  Contemporary artists are interpreting the technique in new ways. If you visit this exhibit, you’ll understand the resurgence of ryijy.

Robbie LaFleur, July 2014

 

 

 

 

Snow-washing

Snow-washing: An American Account and a Norwegian Story

Heidi Goldberg:  Snow washing ryas at Concordia College on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

A cheerful visit from Solveig Storvick Pollei the week before served as the impetus for a rya snow-washing day. Solveig had stopped by the art department when she was at Concordia College to have a look at the weavings on campus. We found some ryas looking a bit drab and dusty, and her suggestion of a little snow cleaning spurred me into action.

Photos by Solveig Pollei.  The colors look bright here, but Solveig noted they were a bit dusty.

Photos by Solveig Pollei. The colors look bright here, but Solveig noted they were a bit dusty.

Rya from Concordia College

Solveig Pollei found a pair of ryas in storage at Concordia College

When we snow-washed the ryas, it was ten degrees and sunny. With only a light and variable wind, it seemed like a respite from the subzero temperatures and dangerous wind chills we’d endured in the last weeks.

At first I contemplated taking them home to clean them, away from curious eyes in my secluded front yard. Then I thought, “Why not celebrate the unusual activity of snow-washing handwoven articles and use the occasion as a learning and laughing opportunity with my Nordic Arts students!” We were finishing up our woodcarving unit and embarking on rosemaling; the fiber unit was still a few weeks away. I encouraged students to bring boots to the next class period.  When I announced that we should clean up early to go wash the ryas, the students seemed half interested, not really knowing what to expect. When it came time to go, even the reluctant scrambled for their coats, the oddity of the prospect urging them to see what it was all about.

Sonw-washing, Cassie

Cassie adds snow to the rya

We plodded off the sidewalk into the clean snow on Olin Hill; the snow was a couple feet deep. We flattened the three ryas out in the snow and started in. We dragged them a bit across the snow, gently stepped on them, piled and brushed snow across them with our mittens, picked them up, shook them out, flipped them over and repeated the process several times. The process not only cleaned the rugs, but provided a fun bonding experience for the class. I should note that one of the ryas is lighter in weight and needs some repairs; we took care to be quite gentle with this rya.

Nick and Heidi snow-wash the rya

Nick and Heidi snow-wash the rya

One could clearly see that the pieces were indeed cleaner, the colors were more vibrant, and the wool smelled fresher.  A few fine crystals stuck to the pieces after the washing. When we brought them back in, a little snow melted on the surface, dampening them slightly, but the pieces felt dry after a couple hours of being left to air out in my office. The crystals of the sparkling dry fresh snow worked beautifully to bring the ryas back to life.

Snow-washing

The ryas were turned over in the snow

Melissa, AJ, and the snow-wahsed rya

Melissa and AJ display the renewed rya

Marta Kløve Juuhl:  Snow-washing in the Mountains of Norway

(Editor’s note:  Since textile snow-washing is often done in Norway, I asked Marta Kløve Juuhl, from the Østeroy Museum in Hordaland, if she had any Norwegian instructions or photos to add.  She reminded me she is from Vestland, where there isn’t always so much snow, and her museum is even closer to the coast.  She didn’t really have instructions, but thinking about snow-washing brought up a great memory.  Here is her story, followed by a translation.)

Ein sommar på 1990 talet gjekk heile familien min, mann, eg og 3 barn (8 og 11år)  på ein lang fjelltur opp til ei jakthytte som far min bygde på 1960- talet. Det var 5 timar å gå, og alle ungane måtte ha ryggsekk med sine eigne ting i.  Hytta er ganske primitiv, men der er rikeleg med sengklede. Det vil seia mange ullteppe, eller kvitlar på vossamål, min dialekt.

Veret var strålande, så vi hadde ein fin tur opp, men gjekk i mykje snø. Dagen etter var det like fint ver, og då bestemte eg at vi skulle vaska kvitlane (ullteppa). Der var mange snøfenner rundt hytta, så vi bar ut alle saman, minst 20 teppe, breidde dei utover oppå snøen. Ungane fekk hoppa og spretta så mykje dei ville på dei. Etterpå snudde vi dei, og ungane gjentok hoppinga. Like ved er der nokre store steinar som vi la ullteppa på etterpå, så dei fekk turka seg. Og reine vart dei.

Jegerar har aldri tid til slikt når dei er på jakt, så eg er sikker på at kvitlane har ikkje vore vaska slik fleire gonger.

One summer in 1990 I took my whole family – my husband, me, and three children (our 11-year-old daughter and eight-year-old twin boys) – on a long mountain hike up to a hunting cabin my father built in the 1960s.  It was a five hour hike and all the children had to carry backpacks with their own belongings.  The cabin was very primitive but rich in bed coverings, that is to say, wool blankets, or “kvitlar” in Voss dialect.

The weather was brilliant so we had a fine hike up, but we walked in deep snow.  The day after had equally beautiful weather and we decided to wash the kvitlane in the many snowdrifts around the cabin. We carried them all out, at least 20 blankets, and laid them out over the snow.  The children got to jump and leap around on them as much as they wanted.  Afterwards we turned them over and the children resumed their hopping. There were several large rocks nearby, so we laid the rugs on them to dry. And clean they became.

Hunters never have time for this sort of task when they are hunting, so I’m quite sure that the kvitlane haven’t seen such washing many times!

Marta Kløve Juuhl taught weaving in the Norwegian Husflidsskole system for many years.  She now works part-time at Østerøy museum, primarily with textiles, and also in her private studio. Her current commissions include bands for bunads and wall hangings for churches.
marta.klove.juuhl (at) gmail.com