From the Norwegian Breakfast Club to the Norwegian Textile Guild – a Brief History

By Mary Skoy

The Norwegian Textile Guild and the Norwegian Textile Letter had their roots in a meeting held in 1994.  Lila Nelson, curator emeritus at Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, reminisced in the August, 2008 issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter,

I can still recall my amazement and disbelief. It was seven o’clock in the morning in the middle of Convergence 1994 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and about seventy people were hopeful of getting into the room for forty-five that I had reserved. I was sure that even forty was an optimistic guess; who makes a seven a.m. date on a day already packed from morning to night? I envisioned a very few sleepy people sipping coffee and stifling yawns.

Never had I been more in error. By the end of the meeting, we had an organized named group, ideas galore for goals, suggestions for possible futures meetings, and a commitment from Textile Curator at Vesterheim, Laurann Gilbertson, to provide assistance and direction.

But, possibly most important of all, during the spiritied discussion, Betty and Don Johannesen, modestly and without fanfare, offered to edit a newsletter to keep us connected.

I realize in retrospect that without the newsletter, we would probably not have survived.  It was the one element in which we could all share  Scattered over the entire United States (and eventually including members from other countries), we were united mainly by the printed word.  We continued to meet at Convergence and also at some regional conferences, but many members could not attend these nation-wide gatherings.

Betty and Don Johannesen edited and published the high-quality newsletter for fourteen years. During Mary Skoy’s tenure as editor, from 2008 to 2013, members received even more for their low dues, with the inclusion of full-color photos.

The first year of newsletters set the academic, informational, and collegial tone of the newsletter.

  • Number 1, November 1994. Karen Diadick Casselman, “Historical and Modern Lichen Dyes: Some Ethical Considerations.”
  • Number 2, January 1995. Lila Nelson, “The Ruteåklær Tradition in Norway.”
  • Number 3, June 1995.  Amy Lightfoot, “Primitive Norwegian Sheep” and “Fisherman’s Mittens.”
  • Number 4, September 1995.  Betty Johannesen, “An Introduction to the Dansk Bragd Tradition” and “Dansk Brogd Rug.”

Norwegian Textile Guild milestones include:

  • Summer 1994 — A group of people interested in Norwegian weaving met at the Convergence conference in Minneapolis, taking the name “Norwegian Breakfast Club” in honor of its first 7 am meeting.
  • Fall 1994 — The first issue of the Norwegian Breakfast Club Newsletter was published by editors  Betty and Don Johannesen.
  • Summer 1995 — Members met at the Frontiers of Fibre conference in British Columbia. The name Norwegian Textile Letter was formally adopted.
  • 1995 — The first study group was organized (topic: dansk brogd or boundweave with pickup).
  • Fall 1997 — The first translation of a Norwegian publication was in included, translated by Eva Hovde Douhit.
  • Summer 1999 — The first Vesterheim Textile Study Tour travels to northern Norway.
  • Fall 2008 — Mary Skoy becomes editor of the Norwegian Textile Letter.
  • Fall 2013 — Robbie LaFleur becomes the editor of the new digital version of the Norwegian Textile Letter

Mary Lønning Skoy traces her interest in Norwegian textiles back to her great aunt, Sunniva Lønning, a teacher, fiber artist, and fiber activist in Norway in the mid 20th Century. Today, she weaves to  surround herself with handwoven textiles.

maryskoy (at) hotmail.com

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