By Jan Mostrom
Traditional danskbrogd coverlets shown in an exhibition at Vest Agder historical museum in Kristiansand were of two types. Pick up was used on plain weft face weave and on three harness point twill boundweave, i.e. krokbragd. While light colored design spots on a dark background were woven in both techniques, larger motifs seem to be favored in the plain weave coverlets. X and O patterns were often part of the designs and were perhaps protective symbols. On krokbragd threadings, smaller design motifs on a solid background would alternate with bands of multicolored krokbragd .
When weaving danskbrogd on plain weave, all of the design work is done by pick up. When you are picking your design, you will push down the bottom layer threads of an open shed that are to be covered by the design spot. Then put your pick up stick on its side to open a new shed within the bottom layer. Throw your pattern thread through this new shed. Remove your stick and now push down all the threads in the bottom layer that are not covered by the design thread. Insert your background thread in this new shed. Check to be sure you have covered every thread of the bottom layer with a shot of either design color or background color. Now you are ready to change to your next tabby shed and if you have no design spots in that shed, insert your background color.
You will need to repeat until the spots are at least square or elongated a bit. When you have squared your design spots and are ready to begin weaving the next row of design spots, be sure there is a shot of background on top of the earlier spots to separate them so that they do not touch the new design spots at the corners. You may need to weave a complete repeat of sheds 1 and 2 in background to make this happen or it may happen naturally depending on which tabby shot the spots in the designs land. Most of the old coverlets have the spots separated but the coverlet in Vesterheim’s collection has all of the spots touching at the corners which gives the designs a honeycomb look. The important thing is to decide if they should all touch or all have background separating the corners of the spots and be consistent. If some touch and some do not touch the designs will look like there have been mistakes.
When weaving danskbrogd on krokbragd threading, you treadle your shafts in order 1, 2, 3 and constantly repeat just as you would when weaving plain krokbragd. Design spots are planned on every other thread of a point on shed 1 or 3 or on every other pair of threads on shed 2. Traditionally, light design spots float on a darker solid background. To weave, treadle shed 1. If there is a design on this shed, pick down the threads that need a design spot and throw your design color in this shed. Before moving to treadle 2, you must now pick down the uncovered threads in shed 1 and cover them with background. Now you may move to the next shed. If the design spots are on the second shed, you will likely be picking down every other pair of threads to create your spots. Be sure to cover all of the threads in a shed before you move to the next krokbragd shed. You will need to repeat the design pattern until it is at least square. Usually the design spots are separated with background so that the spots will not touch at the corners. When you are ready to lay in the next row of design spots, look at the design spot of the prior row of pattern and see if there is a shot of background over the spot. If there is no background shot, you will have to continue in the krokbragd 1, 2, 3 treadling with background color until the spot has a background shot above it when you return to the design shed. Now you can add the design spot color. For instance if your design spot is on shed 1 in the first design row and in shed 2 for the second design row, you will need to weave background on shed 2, 3, and 1 before you put in the design color on shed 2.
Modern weavers Mary Temple and Lila Nelson developed a way to thread danskbrogd designs without using a pick up stick by using a five shaft point twill or a six harness threading. Lila Nelson used a five shaft point twill; Mary Temple devised a six harness threading. Both are shown in the diagram above.
The five harness point twill allows you to treadle many designs that you might choose to pick up in a danskbrogd design. It effectively divides the shed you would raise on treadle 1 in krokbragd by raising every other thread of that shed on treadle 1 and 5 and divides the second krokbragd shed raising every other pair of threads on treadles 2 and 4. The third krokbragd shed is not divided in this threading and is woven on treadle 3. In krokbragd you always treadle sheds 1, 2, 3. With this threading you will treadle 1, 5, 2, 4, 3. When you have no design to split a shed, treadle shafts 1 and 5 together or 2 and 4 together. When you have design spots, you are able to treadle them separately but you need to treadle both 1 and 5 or 2 and 4 before you move to the next krokbragd shed just as you would if you were using a pick up stick. It helps to think of 1 and 6 as two parts of the first shed and 2 and 4 as two parts of the second krokbragd shed.
The six harness threading allows division on all three of the krokbragd sheds. You must remember to treadle in order, 1, 6, 2, 5, 3, 4 but remember if there are no design spots on a krokbragd shed, you can treadle 1 and 6 or 2 and 5 or 3 and 4 together to make a krokbragd pass. You only need to treadle them separately if there is a design that splits the shed.
Contemporary weavers can explore beyond the traditional spot patterns and solid backgrounds, as well as looking at different materials and setts. Lila Nelson and other researchers and experimenters in danskbrogd can provide us with much inspiration. Many of Lila’s beautiful danskbrogd weavings are in the Vesterheim collection.