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.
Instructions 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).
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.
It 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.