A Wonderful Scanian Art Weaves Adventure

By Edi Thorstensson

Our teacher, Gunvor Johansson

This issue includes contributions made by weavers—all of us Americans– enrolled last June 2017 in a Scanian Art Weaves class, taught at the Swedish Handicrafts Center for Skåne in Landskrona, a beautiful city on the western coast of southern Sweden.  Here we experienced the unforgettable opportunity to study classic Swedish weaving techniques under the tutelage of master weaver, Gunvor Johansson. 

Skåne (often referred to as Scania in English-speaking countries) is Sweden’s southernmost province and, historically, one of its most prosperous and populous.  Rich in textile tradition, Skåne has been influenced by its proximity to Denmark, of which it was a province until 1658.  Still, it’s culture is distinctly Swedish.  Landskrona is a quiet, thriving city with a citadel dating from 1549 and a lovely community garden colony, where one in twenty-seven city inhabitants has an allotment.  (For more information, see the Landskrona Wikipedia entry.)

Landskrona’s Old Train Station, home of Skånsk Hemslöjd.

Seven of us—Mary Erickson, Melba Granlund, Liz Hunter, Sharon Marquardt, Jan Mostrom, Mary Skoy, and Edi Thorstensson — came to Scandinavia with the  Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum’s 2017 Textile Study Tour through Denmark and Norway. It ended on June 24, and we prepared to leave Bergen for Copenhagen, the closest air connection to Southern Sweden.  A flight cancellation had us rebooked for a late arrival that gave us little time to catch the train from Copenhagen to Landskrona, but all went well, and we arrived at our destination in the dark— even though it was the weekend of Midsommar, the summer solstice celebration! The eighth member of our group, Janis Aune, met us in Landskrona. Here, we settled into the comfortable Hotel Öresund, situated within walking distance of Skånes Hemslöjd, located in Landskrona’s old railroad station, where our class took place.

Classroom, with Liz Hunter at the table, Melba Granlund and Edi Thorstensson at the looms

On Stiftelsen Skånsk Hemslöjd’s archives and the appreciation for historical textiles

In addition to rewarding class time at our looms, we were treated to a very special insiders’ tour of the SSH archives and a visit to Bosjökloster, where we saw a beautiful exhibit of our instructor’s work in a lovely historical setting (see Mary Ericsson’s article, “Gunvor Johansson’s Exhibit at Bosjökloster.” 

Field inventory, showing provenance, yarns, and pattern

A short walk from Hemslöjd to a quiet street, we entered a secured building that houses the Skåne Handicrafts Foundation’s textile archives.  Climbing a narrow stairway to a locked door, we followed Åsa and Gunvor into a room lined with storage cabinets and drawers where precious textiles encompassing many genres are stored.  Here are the historical links to a vibrant textile heritage, examples reflecting the skills of women who wove for their households and, in some cases, for others.  Much of the collection has been documented for provenance, but it includes items that have not been documented and field records, as well.  All are cared for with respect and pride, all are inventoried.  All are important and valued parts of Skåne’s and Sweden’s cultural history, its textile legacy. 

Åsa and Gunvor in the archives. Gunvor is wearing gloves used when handling textiles, paper, photographs, and other materials. The gloves help protect archival materials from skin oils and other substances that might cause damage.

Following are examples of items in the archives. 

Closing Words and Images 

Each weaver came away with special memories, only some of which are told here.  Liz Hunter writes, 

“this time in Landskrona was a joyful turning point for me!  i knew i wasn’t going to do the classical patterns. i did gain a greater understanding [for] them. instead, i concentrated on flossa and rya.   these will give me the ability to combine painting with weaving….and to turn from production weaving to more artistic expression.  gunvor and asa were so kind to me:  i’m sure having one student going in a different direction, and trying to speak to them in broken norwegian from 40 years ago, was not easy.  at the end of the session, they each gave me a vintage rya pile measuring tool, which i treasure.  i also treasure their passion and love of swedish weaving!”

Each weaver brought home with her a story and a sample of her own making.  Here are three samples that have found or are finding their way to completion:

Mary Skoy plans to make her sample into a pillow with ribbon embellishments.

Janis Aune’s sample, fashioned into a purse to wear with her folk costume.

Edi Thorstensson’s sample, showing knotted finishing in progress, for a wall hanging that will eventually include bobbin lace and inkle loom-woven band embellishments.

Special praise for Gunvor Johansson’s excellent book, Heirlooms of Skåne : Weaving TechniquesShelburne, MA : Vävstuga Press, 2016.  This is an excellent resource for both textile historians and weavers.  It features chapters on various techniques mentioned above, as well as three-harness weaving.  It is beautifully illustrated and includes pattern drafts.  Highly recommended.

We students share a feeling of deep gratitude for all that Gunvor Johansson and Åsa Stentoft gave us during our time with them.  They welcomed us and treated us with great optimism, patience and kindness.  They taught us skills that we will incorporate in our weaving–some of which will find its way into loved ones’ lives–and pass along to others. This is community.  This is who we, as weavers, are.

I wish to thank everyone who contributed words, photographs, and moral support to make this set of Skane adventure articles happen.  I apologize for not crediting photographers individually for the images they shared in our Skane articles.  Can you live with our being a collective of pretty good anonymous photographers? 

Read more about how this textile adventure came about and what it entailed in the other articles in this issue.

Weaving the Art Weaves of Skåne 
Inspiration, Outreach, and Connection   
Gunvor Johansson’s Exhibit at Bosjökloster 
Fika and the Joy of Lingonberry Cake

Edi Thorstensson is a retired librarian and archivist who has appreciated the history and creation of Scandinavian textiles since her first visit to Europe in 1961.    She is a member of the Minnesota Weavers Guild Scandinavian Weavers Study Group and the Pioneer Spinners and Fiber Artists guild.  She lives in St. Peter, Minnesota, with her husband Roland and Icelandic sheep dog Ára.

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