Vesterheim’s Danskbrogd Coverlet

By Jan Mostrom

1989.066.001The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum acquired a danskbrogd coverlet from Norway in 1989. (accession # 1989.066.001) Director Marion Nelson noticed the coverlet in the window of an antique store in Oslo and recognized it “as a very rare type from Vest Agder” which his wife Lila had been researching.  After a year of negotiations with the shop and the Norwegian government, permission was granted to allow the coverlet to leave Norway and become part of Vesterheim’s collection.

1989.066.001aThis beautiful coverlet dates from 1800-1870 and is woven in bands of red, cream, green, black-brown, gray-brown and yellow. It measures 73” by 47”.  At least some of the colors could be natural dyed, especially the red.   The cream and browns appear to be natural sheep colors.  The warp of cotton seine twine is sett at about 8.5 epi.

The back side of the piece show the long floats created by the danskbrogd technique

The back side of the piece show the long floats created by the danskbrogd technique

The coverlet is woven on a plain weft face ground with danskbrogd pick up technique for the pattern bands which are separated by bands of color stripes. The designs vary in how they are combined in the danskbrogd bands.  It was likely woven on two harnesses.  Once I started charting the designs, I realized that they could all be woven on krokbragd threading with pick up on two sheds, saving a few rows of pick up.

The overcast edge

The overcast edge

One interesting technique to weavers is that the weft ends are carried up one edge of the weaving and overcast with black-brown stitching rather than working the ends into the weaving.   Another interesting thing about this coverlet are that the “spots” that make up the design are a bit elongated rather than square and all touch at the corners, creating a honeycomb look to the designs.  In most other danskbrogd coverlets, the “spots” are squared or slightly elongated and separated with background so that they do not touch at the corners.


The Woven Coverlets of Norway: Dansk Brogd

For readers interested in both the historical and technical aspects of dansk brogd, Katherine Larson’s explanation, excerpted from The Coverlets of Norway, is a perfect background.

copyright statement:  Larson, Katherine. The Woven Coverlets of Norway. [original pages excerpted] © 2001. Reprinted with permission of the University of Washington Press.

The pages are shown below, or if you would like to print the section, here is the whole excerpt in one pdf file.









A Treasure of Danskbrogd Coverlets from the Vest Agder Museum

The Vest Agder Museum in Kristiansand, Norway, granted permission for the Norwegian Textile Letter to publish a document including images and descriptions of many danskbrogd coverlets from their collection. Conservator Tonje Tjøtte reported that these photographs, from the 1980s, are still the best available.  Museum staff members are in the midst of a digitization project covering all of their artifacts, but they have not begun the textile collection yet.  The first image below is the information sheet for the coverlet shown in color in the second image.  Following that are six coverlet images in color.  If you would like to see the information sheets and photos for all seven coverlets, together in one document, open the pdf document here. Photos within the article are low resolution; printed images will be clearer from the pdf document.



Danskbrogd, A Rich Heritage from a Small Area

By Robbie LaFleur

This month’s double issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter focuses on danskbrogd.


Traditional danskbrogd coverlet from the Vest Agder Museum

Danskbrogd is a little-known weave structure found in a small area of Vest Agder, Norway, with characteristic geometric patterns in a light color against a dark background.  In typical danskbrogd coverlets,  bands of small geometric designs were interspersed with bands of krokbragd.  A second style has larger, bolder designs, bordered with bands of teeth and stripes.

This issue begins with a digital display of traditional danskbrogd coverlets in this technique, originally documented by the Vest Agder Museum in Kristiansand, Norway, in the 1980s.

To understand the history and technique of danskbrogd, Kay Larson’s book, The Coverlets of Norway, is a thorough introduction. We are pleased to receive permission to share a chapter with Norwegian Textile Letter readers.

An article by Jan Mostrom describes how Lila Nelson and her husband Marion were able to purchase a danskbrogd coverlet for the Vesterheim collection.

In the United States and Canada, there was a burst of danskbrogd weaving in the 1990s, all stemming from Lila Nelson’s discovery of, and interest in, the technique.  We will see how she used danskbrogd both in a traditional format and as a way to enhance her tapestries.  She taught the technique and shared it with other weavers through study groups. Lila’s expressive use of the danskbrogd technique embodies the intention of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group, in which Lila was so influential, to learn about and preserve traditional Norwegian weaving techniques, not by only creating replicas of old textiles, but by using the techniques for expression in contemporary weavings.

Finally, an instructional article by Jan Mostrom may encourage several weavers to start winding warps.  However, you may want to wait until the second danskbrogd issue is published later this month, in which many projects undertaken through the 1995-1998 Danskbrogd Study Group and the 1996-1997 Krokbragd Study Group will be included.  Scanned sections of the study group notebooks include interpretations by several talented weavers, along with drafts and notes.


Danskbrogd by Veronna Capone

These issues will be a feast for your eyes, and inspiration for weavers to try the technique. Since the 1990s, and the time of the Danskbrogd Study Group, several weavers in the Minnesota-based Scandinavian Weavers Study Group have used the technique.  Through the wonders of technology, danskbrogd has spread even to New Zealand.  At the end of 2013, Laurence Gatehouse read a post on the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group blog about a piece woven by Veronna Capone (Danskbragd Done More Cleverly than I Knew), and he wrote to me for information on the technique.  I sent him materials from the Norwegian Textile Letter and Kay Larson’s book.  He wove test pieces and then a beautiful danskbrogd piece with a honeycomb motif and small bees.

Laurence Gatehouse danskbragd

This piece was exhibited at New Zealand Creative Fibre, a national exhibition, in 2015. The technique was introduced to a whole new audience through his piece and accompanying explanation:

Green Danskbragd with Bees.  96 cm x 188 cm.  Wall hanging/floor rug woven in danskbragd with hexagons and other geometric designs. This design is based around a green that was produced by plying ancient thin singles of unknown origin. I have taken a very geometric approach to the design although the hexagonal pattern irresistibly suggested the bees. Danskbragd refers to a class of weaves often involving pick-up techniques and long floats on one side (usually the back), allowing for an interesting range of design possibilities. This danskbragd is loom controlled, is based on krokbragd and has frequent interlacement that produces a strong dense weave structure. As all the floats can put on the back it is a good weave for rugs, albeit, like krokbragd, one sided. Danskbragd is a Norwegian word meaning Danish weave although it is unknown, at least by that name, in Denmark.

With these two issues of the Norwegian Textile Letter, we continue to spread the word — and images — about danskbrogd.  From its roots in Vest Agder, where will it continue to spread?

A note about spelling:  To be consistent, we have chosen to spell danskbrogd as one word, with an “o.”  However, you may see references to Dansk bragd, Dansk brogd, and danskbragd.

Lila Nelson’s Danskbrogd

Danskbrogd/Boundweave pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.004

Danskbrogd/Boundweave pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.004

By Robbie LaFleur

Several of Lila Nelson’s pieces in danskbrogd technique are included in the retrospective of her work currently hanging in the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.  Next to this piece, hanging prominently at the beginning of the show, Curator Laurann Gilbertson wrote,

Lila felt a special connection to danskbrogd because she and Marion “discovered” the technique in a coverlet for sale in a Norwegian antique store.  The Nelsons eventually received permission from the Norwegian government in 1989 to purchase the coverlet for Vesterheim’s collection.  The coverlet inspired numerous weavings by Lila and other American weavers in several different loom threadings.

Danskbrogd, which can be translated as “Danish weave,” is known in Norway in just one area, southwest Agder County.  Old danskbrogd coverlets had a stippled look and a combination of rows of large motifs and narrow pattern bands.  The weaver picked up the designs while weaving.

This piece was also featured in the September/October, 1996, issue of Handwoven magazine.

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Collection of Aaron Swenson.

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Collection of Aaron Swenson.

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.006

Danskbrogd/Boundweave Pickup. Lila Nelson. Vesterheim: 2007.404.006

For Lila, a traditional weaving technique was a language.  She could speak the language plainly and eloquently.  But then it became poetry, as she used the technique expressively and creatively.  These pieces show her moving on, making the technique her own.

Piet Mondrian would approve of this piece, completed in 1997 or 1998 as part of a study of danskbrogd and variations for Scandinavian Study Group of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. (Vesterheim collection number 2011.032.047)


Lila wove two pieces using danskbrogd to depict northern lights. (Vesterheim collection number 2007.404.009)


Which came first — the chicken or the egg?  (Vesterheim collection mumber 2011.032.046)


“Neighborhood” dates from 1996-1998.  From the Vesterheim description: “For many years, Lila and Marion Nelson lived in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood in Minneapolis.  Neighbors included downtown Minneapolis (top row), I-35W and the Mississippi River (second row), blocks of Craftsman-style apartments (third row), and the University of Minnesota (fourth row). One of several works created as part of the Danskbrogd Study Group, Lila used danskbrogd on two harnesses here.  She worked some wefts separately with a needle to give a raised effect.”

(Vesterheim collection number 2007.404.003)


neighborhood-backThe danskbrogd technique creates long floats on the reverse side of the textile.  From the back of “Neighborhood,” you can see that Lila was not afraid of floats!

If you look carefully at the Mississippi River portion, you can see that the white water flecks are almost, but not quite, the typical diamond designs found in traditional danskbrogd coverlets.  It’s almost like an inside joke for weavers.