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Learning Weaving Traditions of Western Norway: An Exhibit in Moorhead, Minnesota

Are you near Moorhead, Minnesota?  You will want to visit the upcoming exhibition, Craft and Identity – Summer School in Norway: Learning Weaving Traditions of Western Norway, at the Prairie Fiber Arts Center, opening this Friday, January 12, 2018. 

Last summer from May 9th through June 7th, four students from Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota went on a learning adventure. Alexis Anderson, Kristina Brunson, Rachel Johnson, and Alli Pahl, joined Heidi Goldberg (Associate Professor of Art at Concordia) and her daughter Aubrie (a freshman at Oak Grove Lutheran High School in Fargo) for a month in Norway. Based in art, craft, and the connection of making and identity, the group interwove art practice, art history, and exploration of places and cultures. Visiting sites and artists in Lillehammer, Gjovik, Oslo, Osterøy, and Bergen, the group focused a week at the Hordaland Museum on Osterøy learning warp-weighted weaving techniques from expert weavers Marta Kløve Juuhl and Monika Sunnanå Ravnanger. The works in this exhibition are samples woven during the course representing traditional åkler (bedspread) designs from Western Norway, and varafeldur (Viking cloak).

The Craft and Identity group (left to right); Aubrie Goldberg, Kristina Brunson, Rachel Johnson, Alli Pahl, Alexis Anderson, and Heidi Goldberg.

The opening reception will be on Friday the 12th of January, 4-5:30. The show will close on Friday February 16th. Prairie Fiber Arts Center is located at 127 4th Street South, Moorhead, Minnesota.

Concordia students working on back-to-back warp-weighted looms at the Hordaland Museum in Osterøy, Norway.

If you can’t make it to the exhibit, you can look forward to a lengthy description of the trip, with many photos, in the next issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter, coming in late February. 

Virgins and Nettles and Study in Sweden: The New Issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter

This issue of The Norwegian Textile Letter mentions Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of “The Wild Swan,” a smell worse that rotten eggs, and sex. Now that I have your attention… 


In Virgin Tapestries and the Bridal Theme, the translated section of Randi Nygaard Lium’s new book, Tekstilkunst i Norge (Textile Art i Norway) helps us understand why the Wise and Foolish Virgins image is the most common motif in Norwegian medieval tapestry. Her book is dense with background on historical and contemporary artists and hopefully we’ll meet more of them in coming issues of The Norwegian Textile Letter

Annemor Sundbø’s description of her escapades with processing nettles for fiber, Nettles – For Clothing and Much More, might not tempt a lot of other people to follow suit, but it is so interesting to read about the plant’s use historically. (Remember I mentioned that smell worse than rotten eggs?)

Edi Thorstensson did a wonderful job of gathering the thoughts and images of several lucky Americans who took a Swedish Art Weaves course last summer in Landskrona, Sweden. Like me, you will be sad you were not there too! 

In columns top to bottom going from left to right, Liz Hunter; Janis Aune, Sharon Marquardt, and Melba Granlund; Mary Skoy and Mary Erickson; Jan Mostrom and Edi Thorstenson.

But wait, you might be thinking, where was that article that mentioned sex?  Check the tapestry article. 

I am thankful to all the people who helped with articles in the past year — the authors; my trusty proofreaders; and those who have had great suggestions for articles to pursue.  Thank you to those who donated last year to support production of the newsletter, and to those who will do so again!
It is very much appreciated.

Robbie LaFleur


New Issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter Online

Editor’s note: With apologies, the August, 2017, issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter is now online. Nearly completed on time, it was set aside while I completed preparations for a four-day billedvev (Norwegian tapestry) workshop at Vesterheim. What an energizing set of nine students I had; you can read more about the class here. It was successful, and had a waiting list, so it will be repeated at Vesterheim next September. Official details will be posted later this year.

This issue highlights the 2017 Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum Textile Tour to Denmark and Norway.  It was the first time the tour included stops in Denmark. The header for this issue includes details from monumental tapestries in Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. We toured the Royal Reception Rooms to get an overview of 1,100 years of Danish history through the tapestries designed by Bjorn Nørgaard, which depict scenes from Viking times to today and were presented to Queen Margrethe II for her fiftieth birthday in 1990. It was great fun to examine the tapestries to find interesting details like the Queen’s dog, the Beatles, Albert Einstein, or a number of lions. Enjoy the tour recap and the articles about just a few of the places we visited.

This issue includes the annual article about weavings exhibited at the National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.  It is always inspiring to see the pieces and appreciate the work that goes into their creation.  This year, new entrant Andrea Myklebust submitted a linen runner woven with linen weft that she grew and spun herself.  Interest in spinning and weaving with linen is increasing here in the Midwest; I’ll bet that next year there will be even more linen weaving in the Norwegian tradition included in this newsletter.



“Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot” at Norway House, This Summer

Corwyn Knutson’s “Hardanger Cherry Blossoms”

This between-issue post is to alert anyone who can visit Minneapolis between July 20 and September 10: there is a great exhibit opening at Norway House. “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot” is  a collaboration between the Weavers Guild of Minnesota and Norway House.  

Inspired by historical textiles, American weavers have used Norwegian weaving techniques to create a new body of work, contemporary in design or materials. Enjoy traditional pieces from the collection of the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum and outstanding weavings from recent decades that honor the past and break through with modern expression.  

Susan Gangsei’s “Seal Skin Soul Skin”

The exhibit of invited pieces (40 in all) is based around several techniques, including rya; tapestry; krokbragd and other boundweave variants; band weaving; and overshot weaves such as monks belt and skilbragd.  Other pieces are chosen to illustrate where American weavers learned their skills in Norwegian techniques, and where weaving in the Norwegian tradition has been exhibited over the years.

Related events include lectures and classes and weaving demonstrations.  A loom will be set up in the gallery where members of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group will weave a rutevev (square weave) runner.

  • Opening celebration: Thursday, July 20, 2017, 5-8 pm.
  • Gallery talks: Sundays, July 23 and August 13, 2 pm.
  • Weaving demonstrations: Wednesdays and Sundays from July 23-September 10, 12 pm-3 pm
  • Afternoon with an Expert, featuring Laurann Gilbertson, Curator, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum: Saturday, September 9, 1-3:30 pm.  Following the lecture, “Warmth and Color: Traditional Norwegian Coverlets,” Gilbertson will conduct an Antique ID clinic.  Members of the public are encouraged to bring Nordic textiles to learn more about their age, origin, and function (but no appraisals).   
  • Classes: Sami-style Band Weaving, Mondays, August 14 and 21, 12-4 pm; Make a Viking Knit Bracelet, Monday, July 24, 10 am-2 pm; Cardboard Loom Weaving for Kids, Monday, August 7, 10 am – noon. Taking a class is a special opportunity to see the weaving exhibit in depth, as the Weavers Guild classes will be held at Norway House, right in the main gallery.

A traditional krokbragd coverlet from the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

Also, follow the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group blog in the coming weeks to read about the weavers and their inspiration for many of the individual pieces. Several posts are up; you can see which pieces by Lila Nelson will be included, 

Come to the opening!  Thursday, July 20, 5-8 pm (Welcome at 6 pm).  Many of the artists will be in attendance, wearing special “Ask me about the weavings” badges.  There will be a cash bar and refreshments provided by Envision Catering.  

From Icelandic Weaving of Viking Times to Contemporary Tapestry

The new issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter is up! 

This spring I ran across an issue of a Norwegian publication about local history, Lokalhistorisk Magazine. They had a whole issue devoted to art and handcraft, “Kunst og husflid.” I felt like I found gold; the issue includes several interesting articles on textiles.  I contacted the publisher, and editor Audhild Brødreskift was very gracious about allowing us to publish translations of the articles in The Norwegian Textile Letter. The first appears in this issue, “A Synopsis of the History of Norwegian Tapestry – and Some Thoughts about Tapestry Today,” by tapestry artist Unn Sønju.  Unn was delightful to work with, and she supplied the English translation.  I asked about her own influences for a bio, and that turned into a separate article featuring her amazing work. 

In March I wished I could hop over to Norway to take a course in Icelandic Glit, a weaving technique on the warp-weighted loom.  That didn’t work, but I managed the second-best option, getting a wonderful article about the class and technique from Hildur Hakonardottir. For added interest, there are comments from three students in the class, Marta Kløve Juul, Monika Ravnanger, and Randi Anderson.

Interest in warp-weighted looms is high these days!  When Melba Granlund demonstrated weaving a traditional Sami grene at the Shepherd’s Harvest Festival in Minnesota this spring, she was barely able to weave four inches in two days–she was talking nonstop to curious visitors to the Weavers Guild of Minnesota booth.  Clearly this is a perfect time for the new book, The Warp-Weighted Loom, by Hildur Hákonardóttir, Elizabeth Johnston, Marta Kløve Juul. Read a review of the book in this issue by Wendy Sundquist. 


HIlsen, Robbie LaFleur 

Wisdom and Folly: Norwegian Pictorial Coverlets


My inadequate Iphone copy of a page from the article

This is the reprint I was waiting for! I have a passion for tapestry, and particularly the Norwegian billedvev tradition.  Last month, while examining tapestries at Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, Curator Laurann Gilbertson mentioned this article and she pulled up the 1998 issue of HALI Magazine from their library.  I was amazed at the lovely illustrations and thought the article was so thorough and interesting. A couple of weeks later I thought it would be so nice to share the article with NTL readers, and even though I did NOT think I would get permission to reprint it, I received a positive response.  Please enjoy “Wisdom and Folly: Norwegian Pictorial Coverlets” by Jo Nilsson from the January 1998 issue of HALI Magazine.

View the article here.  Check out the entire issue here.

If you’d like to read more about my day with the tapestries at Vesterheim, here’s a post from my blog about a charming tapestry with food.

Subscriptions.  I want to thank the readers who have subscribed/donated so far through the PAYPAL button on the Norwegian Textile Letter main page. Not only is it wonderful to have the expenses of publication covered, it is also a vote of confidence that readers enjoy reading the content. Tusen takk!





The Norwegian Textile Letter, Volume 32, Number 1

The February 2017 issue is up.  It was delayed because I am waiting for another wonderful article, a reprint I received permission to share.  (And I was amazed–I only asked because it never hurts to try, right?) The pdf was promised to arrive this week, but when it did not come by today, I decided to share the rest of the great articles, and let you know when the other article is added. As a hint, the header for this issue is a clue.

arvestykker-rotatorFor now, you can feel the same “Darn, I wish I could have been there” feeling I did, when I learned of a wonderful exhibit of the work of tapestry artist Brita Been.  After reading the remarks from the opening by Karianne H. Sand, be sure to explore Brita Been’s website, linked at the bottom of the article.

drapedMany of us have admired traditional red-and-white woven Scandinavian bands. Now you can learn more about their use in christening ceremonies, in Lisa-Anne Bauch’s paper, “Threads of Devotion: Possible Medieval Origins of Nordic Christening Bands.”  Lisa said that she was inspired to undertake her study after seeing a basket, christening blanket, and bands in a display at the American Swedish Institute.  You can learn a bit more about that display, too.

Finally, I was excited to receive more photos from Marta Kløve Juuhl of the “monster weaving” at the Østeroy Museum; it has now reached the ceiling.  I certainly hope to see it in person someday soon.

Marta Kløve Juuhl under the Norwegian star

Marta Kløve Juuhl under the Norwegian star

You’ll hear from me again as soon as I have the other article to share with you.  Be sure to comment on any of the content in this issue, and let me know if there are articles you would like to see written, or that you would like to write.

Hilsen, Robbie LaFleur

The Norwegian Textile Letter: Armchair Travel for the Holidays

I need to visit this coaster weaving in Norway

I need to visit this monster weaving in Norway

Armchair travel is the theme of this quarter’s Norwegian Textile Letter, with visits to wonderful Scandinavian textiles in Minneapolis, Minnesota;  Decorah, Iowa; and Osterøy, Norway.

If you are in Minneapolis before the end of 2016, be sure to stop by the Weavers Guild of Minnesota to see the beautiful textiles featured in the “Historical Scandinavian Textiles Exhibit.”   This was a test exhibit, in a way.  We know that there are many more treasures on the walls and in the cupboards of our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group — and of the readers of the Norwegian Textile Letter!  If you have a Scandinavian textile and story (and photos) to share with fellow readers, let me know. I will plan a future digital exhibit for the newsletter.

If you have ideas for articles for the NTL, or would like to write one yourself, please let me know.

Support the Norwegian Textile Letter

buzzFinally, publishing this digital newsletter has been a labor of love for the past three years.

While the NTL was a print publication, it had nearly 200 devoted readers.  Now over 800 people receive notices about each new issue.  Our readership is growing. In 2013 there was a total of 2,982 views of the newsletter online.  In 2015, there were 26,623 views. With one more issue to go in 2016, here have been over 24,000 views.

Largely because I wanted to concentrate on building readership and sharing the writing and work of many talented weavers and writers, and not spend time collecting annual dues (formerly, it cost $15/year), it has been free of charge. A modest nest egg from the print days paid for the initial web hosting and website theme charges. I would love to keep the newsletter free of charge and free of advertising. To that end, I added a “buy now” button to the sidebar of the newsletter, and will accept support for ongoing publishing with gratitude!  Thank you for your interest in the newsletter these past years.

Happy holidays and gledelig jul! The photo is of my cat Buzz atop my Christmas runner experiment from last year.

Robbie LaFleur

Danskbrogd, Part Two: The New Issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter is Live

The new issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter is Live, the second issue devoted to Norwegian danskbrogd, a technique mainly found in the area of Vest Agder.  In this issue, the focus shifts from design aspects to learning how to weave the technique.

Publishing these two issues, and pulling together all of the information I could find on the technique, has been partially self-serving.  I had seen the notebooks, and seen pieces done by contemporary weavers, but hadn’t tried danskbrogd myself.  I was not a participant in the study groups that investigated danskbrogd in the 1990s — I wanted that notebook, too!  So now after many hours of scanning and compiling and using a lot of printer ink, I have my own notebook, and about ten inches woven on a text danskbrogd piece.  I hope that others will be inspired to weave danskbrogd — I see an exhibit in the future!

I love these X designs.  Happy reading and weaving, Robbie LaFleur