Book Review: The Warp-Weighted Loom

book-coverThe Warp-Weighted Loom, by Hildur Hákonardóttir, Elizabeth Johnston, Marta Kløve Juuhl, Edited by Randi Andersen and Atle Ove Martinussen

(This book can be purchased through the bookstore of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.)

By Wendy Sundquist

I love books that turn out to be more than what you originally expected them to be.  The Warp-Weighted Loom is one of those books.  Over the years I have seen exquisitely fine fabric that Elizabeth Johnston has woven on the standing loom at Old Scatness in Shetland.  I was able to handle the vararfeldur that Marta Kløve Juulh had in her possession on the Vesterheim Textile Tour in 2011.  It was remarkably soft and lightweight, fitting into a cloth shopping bag.  After these experiences, I was really looking forward to this new book.

This interdisciplinary book is a product of the main three authors’ research and weaving in collaboration with the Osterøy Museum and The Museum Center in Hordaland and others. It serves in part as a way to transfer and preserve the skills and knowledge within this traditional craft, which are truly our intangible cultural heritage.

book-spineThe Warp-Weighted Loom is bound in a manner that is reminiscent of a bound book from the Middle Ages, with thick cardboard covers and no spine.  The section-sewn binding makes this book incredibly accessible for reading and as a tool for instruction at the loom.

The book is written primarily in English and is divided into 3 sections.  Part 1 is an introduction to the 1000 year history of the warp-weighted loom told by Hákonardóttir, Johnston and Kløve Juuhl from their individual country’s perspectives of Iceland, Shetland and Norway.  Part 2 is a practical handbook that includes how to make, operate and weave on a standing loom.  This section includes detailed photos, and step-by-step instructions that are written in English, Icelandic and Norwegian.  It also covers some of the textiles traditionally produced on these looms, how to reproduce them, and an overview of spinning.  Part 3 is dedicated to research on a broad range of topics by several different authors.  Topics include The Loom in the Grave, Icelandic Textiles, Finishing Cloth in the Sea, Taatit Rugs, Weaving in the Dark, Safeguarding an Intangible Cultural Heritage and more.

The Warp-Weighted Loom is a remarkable book on so many levels.  It undertakes the preservation of women’s history as it relates to weaving and wadmal production within the North Atlantic cultural heritage.  But more importantly, it recognizes and addresses that the “knowledge of old crafts will be lost, if not maintained; the only way to do so is to conserve them, promote them and teach them.” (Sigridur Sigurdardottir p. 267)

This book is a must have for any serious weaver or student of Nordic textiles.  It is a joy!

Wendy Sundquist is a knitter, spinner, natural dyer, and weaver with a life-long passion for Scandinavian textiles.  She currently shepherds a geriatric flock of Shetland sheep on Whidbey Island in Washington state.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Warp-Weighted Loom

    1. Post author

      Hi Elizabeth, Hopefully, the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum bookshop still has copies. You can call them to check at (563) 382-9682.


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