Finally, Weaving is Trendy

Editors Note:  We have been following the great work done with warp-weighted looms by Marta Kløve Juuhl and her colleagues at the Osterøy Museum.  See “Diamond Twill Weaving on a Warp-Weighted Loom.”  Interest in the ancient type of loom is growing.  Thanks are due to Nils-Ove Støbakk for permission to translate and present his article in the Norwegian Textile Letter.  Read the original in Norwegian:

Bygdanytt, October 19, 2015
By Nils-Ove Støbakk

Why in the world is Osterøy Museum at the Interior and Home Show at Griegshallen in Bergen?


Photo: Nils-Ove Støbakk

It’s a completely ordinary Saturday afternoon in October.  As a responsible and conscientious husband, your reporter for Bygdanytt is naturally at the Interior and Home Show at Grieghallen, together with my better half.

Suddenly something popped up that was completely different.

Right in the middle of enthusiastic salespeople from Adams Matkasse, fancy chairs from various Danish designers that no heterosexual men can manage to remember the names of, new paint colors from Jotun, and two gregarious celebrities from TV2, a delegation from Osterøy Museum turns up.  With a huge loom.

What in the world?  Have they made a mistake?


I man up, get in line behind curious Bergen-ites and finally blurt out the question I just had to ask: What in the world IS that?

Marta Kløve Juuhl looks at me and smiles.  She works as a curator for the museum, with responsibility for textiles, and manages, luckily, to describe historical knowledge in a simple and clear way – even to a clueless newshound on a city tour.  “We’re not selling anything; we’re here to spread knowledge about the warp-weighted loom (oppstadveven) – which has survived at Osterøy,” she told me.


Marta Kløve Juuhl. Photo: Nils-Ove Støbakk

Oppstad?  Is that a historic person from Osterøy?

“No, the loom gets its name from the manner in which it stands – up against the wall,” the curator explains. We are weaving something we call a varafeld.  For the Vikings it served as rain gear, a boat coverlet, a bed covering – basically, a total outer garment.

Trendy colors

The varafeld at Grieghallen was woven with wool right from the sheep.  Good sheep from Osterøy, of course.  “Using this wool makes the water run off.  It was waterproof,” explained Kløve Juuhl, who hopes to inspire many others to weave. She smiled and said, “You know it’s a trend now to use natural colors and natural materials.  It works well for us, too.” Kløve Juuhl emphasized that the museum group was invited to the home show; it wasn’t anything they had planned.  “It’s great that they placed us on a stand with the title #vevlab.  “We aren’t a weaving studio or factory, but a laboratory,” she laughed.

In addition there are references to the oppstad-loom on the walls and floors all over the hall, which lead people to the stand.  Excuse me, the lab.

A Manly Loom


Photo: Nils-Ove Støbakk

The professional weaver had several helpers who have attended a weaving course.  They took turns weaving during the entire run of the show. Right now Birger Berge (27) stood and managed the loom.  Berge is a masters student in history. He ended up taking a weaving course after an internship at Osterøy Museum.

“This is really a man-loom,” he said and grinned as he put more wool in the large upright loom.

Ancient Norwegian, Yet Modern

Around the Osterøy Museum delegation are several others who are selling woven products.  Has weaving become honestly trendy?  “Yes!” Marta Kløve Juuhl responds quickly.  “We’re getting many signals that’s true. That we were invited here is a part of that picture.”
She said that these days it’s possible to even learn weaving on YouTube. “That’s what is new.  People learn weaving in a variety of ways, and it pops up where you don’t expect it.”
The weaver from the museum is happy that the rough and ancient tradition is on its way to becoming modern.  “And especially among young people.  That’s what’s so inspiring.”


Handicraft in Grini Prison Camp

By Nina Granlund Sæther

Editor’s note: This article was taken from the blog of Nina Granlund Sæther, Hjertebank, originally published on September 16, 2015Thank you to the author for permission to reprint her interesting observations, and to Katherine Larson for translating it into English.
Grini Prison Camp was the largest camp for political prisoners in Norway during the Second World War.  Almost 20,000 Norwegians were imprisoned.  The camp opened as a museum in 1996.

This evening I visited Grini Museum in Bærum with the Asker Historical Society. Almost 20,000 women and men were imprisoned in Grini for some period of time during the Second World War. The museum has an assortment of items that were made by the prisoners in secret. Especially evocative are drawings that illustrate life in the barracks and terrorism by the Germans, but a number of small handicraft items also captured my interest.

grini1There were about 6,000 women imprisoned in Grini during the war. They were kept strictly separated from the male prisoners. Several spent long periods in isolation cells after torture and abuse at Møllergata 19 or Victoria Terrasse. Prison guards did their best to torment them, but in the dead of night, they still managed to both embroider and knit.

Grini2Several of the embroideries show what it was like in the prison camp: barracks, barbed wire, bars on the windows.

The first women came to Grini in 1941, and they quickly discovered that this was no holiday retreat. In contrast to the male prisoners, they were not allowed to go outside, and they were given hard work to do. Uniforms were to be washed, mended and starched. According to All verdens historie, the youngest and fittest were sent to the washing cellar, older and weaker women worked in the sewing room.


I want out – out…

Access to materials was extremely limited. Gudrun Fuglestad, prisoner number 9326, was one of those who managed to steal various fragments of cloth that she could decorate. Belts were made of sackcloth from the mattress she slept on, but she also managed to get hold of a tablecloth, perhaps in the laundry. Threads [for embroidery] were removed from coats and sweaters. Many of the textiles are decorated with the Norwegian flag in red, white and blue. One of the embroideries is a map of Norway. With white stitches on a blue background, she embroidered: “Fight for all that you hold dear.”

grini4Among Gudrun Fuglestad’s creations are a miniature red knitted cap, a tiny knitted teddy bear, and a pair of tiny socks. All are knitted with hairpins. Those were the only “knitting needles” they could get. The red cap was of course a jab [at the Germans]. During the war, many indicated their opposition to the German occupation and Quisling’s Nazi administration by wearing a red knitted cap.

grini5The Germans were so angered by the red caps that in 1942 they banned their use:

Warning. Red hats. The use of red hats has recently increased so much that from now on they will be considered a demonstration. The use of these hats is therefore forbidden from and including Thursday, February 26, 1942. From that day forward, hats will be taken from anyone who appears in same and the offender will be subject to criminal penalties – for children under 14 years – parents or guardians will be liable. Trondheim Police Office, February 23, 1942.

grini6Another who knitted with hairpins was Dagny Qvist. In the photo below, one can see both the mittens she made and the hairpins she used.


MITTENS. Is it possible to knit with hairpins? Yes, if no other needles are to be found and if one has a lot of time. These small mittens were knitted by Dagny Qvist in 1945. The needles she used for knitting were hairpins that she bent straight. The embroidery on the backs of the mittens represents barbed wire. She was arrested for illegal activities. Her husband, bookseller Erik Qvist, was also imprisoned at Grini.

There are a number of other small handicraft items that are well worth seeing. The museum is open on Sundays, and if you are lucky, you might get a tour from one of those who was imprisoned here. Hopefully, the museum will be expanded next year.

The Chairman of the Grini Museum Foundation, Bjørn Krogsrud, wants to make sure that the prisoners who were incarcerated at Grini receive the consideration they deserve.

“They share the fate of wartime sailors. I am amazed that they have not received the honor they deserve. Here the silent heroes sat, [but] they were modest and would not promote themselves. I think all towns in Norway have had Grini prisoners in their midst,” he said to Budstikka.

Currently the museum is lacking only a few million [kroner] to rebuild one of the barracks that existed at Grini. The hope is that funds will be allocated in the national budget this fall.


A Common Thread: Weaving Traditions of Norway and Sweden

Editor’s Note:  This article by Katherine Larson was originally published in Vesterheim, a publication of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, volume 3, number 2, 2005, and is reprinted with permission.  Read the full article in pdf version HERE.   (Note: This is a large file with photos, and may load slowly.) In addition, Vesterheim Curator Laurann Gilbertson provided photographs and information below from the labels used in the exhibit.

Monk’s Belt  (Norwegian: Tavlebragd, Swedish: Munkebälte)
The small and large squares characteristic of both Norwegian and Swedish monk’s belt coverlets were often arranged to form either cross patterns (hanging) or square grids (trunk, left). Occasionally horizontal stripes of colored wool weft were used to separate the bands of monk’s belt patterns (trunk, right). The weavers in Skåne, Sweden, frequently wove their coverlets on a dark ground (hanging), a departure from the neutral linen or cotton ground that was more common elsewhere in Sweden and in Norway.

Common Thread 030

(Hanging: Table cover from Skåne, Sweden, Nordic Heritage Museum; Trunk left: Coverlet from Sogn, Norway, Vesterheim; Trunk right: coverlet from Nordfjord, Noway, Nordic Heritage Museum)

Tapestry (Norwegian: Billedvev)
Norwegian tapestry coverlets commonly depicted Biblical themes, such as the Adoration of the Magi. Tapestries were woven on their side to reduce the number of vertical dovetail joins required. A tapestry of this size and complexity was probably woven by a specialist that worked on a loom as broad as the finished weaving was high. (Adoration of the Magi, Norway, Vesterheim Museum)

1984.123.001asm(Swedish: Flamskväv)
The weavers in northeast Skåne were noted for coverlets that contained eight-petaled roses and the figures of men, women, birds, and horse. These coverlets, woven in the geometric tapestry technique, were executed in such fine detail that they included buttons on the men’s jackets and tiny candles. In contrast to Norwegian tapestry coverlets, which were woven while turned sideways on wide looms, these coverlet were made in two narrow sections on the smaller looms typical of home weaving. The two pieces were then sewn together to create a coverlet. The inscription at the top reads, “In the name of God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Initials and date, 1857, also personalize the coverlet. (Left, below: Geometric tapestry coverlet, Skåne, Sweden, private collection)

Common Thread 034

Three Holy King billedvev match with a Swedish weaving. Right: Geometric tapestry coverlet, Skåne, Sweden, private collection

Tapestry (Norwegian: Billedvev, Swedish: Flamskväv)
The Red Lion, a popular motif in Swedish tapestry cushion covers, was probably a simplification of earlier tapestries depicting Samson and the Lion. Norwegian and Swedish tapestry weavers often drew on Biblical these for their subject matter. The Wedding in Canaan is believed to be the inspiration for the banquet scene in this cushion cover.

Common Thread 026

Left: cushion cover from Skåne, Sweden, private collection; Right: cushion cover, Vesterheim

Thanks to Laurann Gilbertson, Curator of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, for arranging permission to post the original article, and for providing extra information and photos from the exhibit labels.


A Personal Scream Series

Editor (and author) note:  This article was published in the Fall 2015 issue of the British Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, and is reprinted with permission. Read the pdf version of that article HERE.

journal coverBy Robbie LaFleur

Almost every mention of Edvard Munch’s expressionist painting, Skrik or “Scream,” is followed by a phrase along the lines of, ’one of the world’s most recognizable works of art.’

I’ve contemplated Munch’s Scream since the first time I saw one of the paintings in Norway during weaving school in the late 1970s; he had painted several versions of the Scream. My own interpretations began in 2001, during a Scream-worthy situation. I worked for the Minnesota Legislature, and the legislative session dragged on in overtime, into the summer, filled with acrimony and budget dilemmas. It seemed like a good time to weave Edvard Munch’s image of angst. I set up my tapestry loom in the living room and wove as frequently as possible, telling myself that when the tapestry was finished, the special legislative session would wrap up its work. I was right.scream-tapestry-s

A photocopy of the image, taped to a top corner of the loom, guided my color choices as I wove the background behind the figure on the bridge. The wavy lines created with a distorted, or eccentric weft, didn’t exactly match Munch’s paint strokes, but they created a similar feeling of unease. I’ve displayed the small tapestry (11in x 7in) many times during the past decade, often during a weaving demonstration. Each time at least one person asks, ‘Can I buy this?’. I could have sold it many times over, but maybe not, if I’d actually suggested a price that could make me part with it.

The tapestry was the beginning of a series, partially prompted by a friend who suggested I continue making Scream in various textile techniques. It is a great image for exploration. The painting is meaningful and powerful, yet also recognizable to the point of kitsch. It is also fun to examine for line and color, to determine how to use each textile medium to advantage.

French Knots

The French Knot Scream was an experiment in shading to achieve a photo-like quality. I chose a portion of Munch’s image and using an inkjet printer, printed it onto a sheet of fabric. I carried around the small embroidery (7in x 5in) for a whole summer, adding a few more of the approximately 9,500 knots during car trips and snatches of free time. The knots were made with two strands of embroidery floss, which made many subtle shades possible. I framed the embroidery in a substantial gold frame, which seemed to draw viewers in to figure out how it was created.


Line Embroidery

Another summer, a line embroidery of Scream occupied my travel bag, starting, appropriately, on a trip to Norway. The face is surrounded by a phrase used by my Scottish grandmother in a letter to me when I was 21, ‘We sure have missed you, but life doesn’t hand us all our desires’ (I think Munch would agree). This has been embroidered in her handwriting. The line drawing itself, embroidered in a variegated purple silk thread, seemed dull, so I quilted the linen backing with thin batting and short, randomly-placed linen stitches. The practical part of me felt this piece should become a pillow (completed size: 15in x 13in).


Fabric Printing

I carved a Scream linoleum-block image for textile printing. It has been well-used; many of my friends have napkins and guest towels with the image. I titled my original textile piece was “Edvard Munch Kommentarer Paa Opvask” (Edvard Munch Comments on Washing Dishes).  Five IKEA dishtowels, printed with the same screaming figure, hang from a towel bar, which portrays the title in gothic script. (total dimensions: 29in x 31in) It’s intended to be amusing, but also a comment on Munch, a serious male Expressionist painter who likely spent little time thinking about domestic arts.



In 2010 I took a course from a Norwegian instructor, Britt Solheim, on making skinnfell (coverlets sewn of several sheepskins). In traditional skinnfell pieces, which have become popular again in Norway, the smooth side was either wood-block printed with traditional motifs or covered by a woven textile, or sometimes both, leaving secret designs underneath the fabric. After the class I created a Scream wall piece (18in x 26in) on sheepskin, incorporating the iconic image with traditional wood-block patterns. I wanted to explore the relationship, or lack thereof, between Munch’s fine art prints and the traditional folk arts of the period.


The largest Scream piece (36in x 60in), a Scandinavian rya, was an experiment in weaving in a pixelated fashion. I cut the full-sized pattern into narrow strips. With each row of knots on the rya I entered bundles of yarn to match the colors along the strips. This technique did not work perfectly; after unrolling the finished piece from the loom I spent many hours with a tapestry needle, putting in some bundles and taking out others to improve the image. This piece is much larger than the original images in Munch’s paintings, and while weaving it I was surprised by my emotional reaction to the image which I had reproduced many times before. As I tied the knots of the face and hands, I worked at close range and spent many hours looking at my blown-up pattern and back at the unfolding face on the loom. To me the yarn gathered the sense of psychological unease in Munch’s painting. Would the piece be large and frightening? Once completed, however, the shaggy image was striking, but not scary.

219 Lafleure-Moore Robbie Scream no number PRThe 150th anniversary of the birth of Edvard Munch was celebrated in 2013, a fitting time to complete my textile appreciation series. Still, I might pick up the theme in the future. Could the collection be complete without a knitted Scream?

Robbie LaFleur is a weaver and librarian living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She began her weaving study with a course in traditional Norwegian weaving at Valdres Husflidsskole in Fagernes, Norway, in 1977. Since that time she has studied with several Norwegian and American weavers. Among other projects, her current series is an exploration of family members, current and long past, in tapestry. You can follow her weaving activities at her blog, She is the editor of The Norwegian Textile Letter, and recently converted it to a digital publication,

cartoon1 2Postscript: The Scream series was also featured in an exhibit in the Community Gallery at the American Swedish Institute from June-September, 2015.  As well as the Scream pieces, the exhibit included Munch-related cartoons and magazine covers.  (Read more here.)

Editors Note

Happy New Year! Please enjoy this collection of articles about weavings and textiles, both new and old, at

Many of us understand the continuing allure of the ancient warp-weighted loom, but a whole new audience discovered it during a home show exposition in Bergen this year.  Read “Finally, Weaving is Now Trendy,” published with permission by journalist Nils-Ove Støbakk. We’re glad he attended the show!

1984.123.001asmThis fall, our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota decided to concentrate on Swedish art weaves techniques for our next study topic. An exhibit about Norwegian and Swedish weaving was held at Vesterheim some years back, and I decided to forward the article about it to our group members.  Why wasn’t it in the archives of the Norwegian Textile Letter?  I wrote to Kay Larson, who curated the exhibit.  The article appeared in the Vesterheim magazine, the general museum publication, and not the Norwegian Textile Letter. This made me happy that I wasn’t completely crazy, and I asked for permission from Vesterheim staff members to link to a pdf copy, for the many Norwegian Textile Letter readers who may not have seen it earlier.

grini6In a contemporary world filled with unrest and terror, this issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter brings a reminder of the power of textiles in another time of war and deprivation. Nina Granlund Sæther wrote on her blog, Hjertebank, about the handcraft of women prisoners at Grini Prison Camp in Norway during World War II.  Besides this interesting article, her blog is filled with inspiration for the knitters among our readers.

219 Lafleure-Moore Robbie Scream no number PRBack when Mary Skoy was editing the Norwegian Textile Letter, she asked me to write an article about my series of textiles based on Edvard Munch’s Scream painting.  I wasn’t quite done at that point, and then I was asked to write about the series for the British Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.  I waited for that article to be published, and am sharing it now with their permission. The series was featured in an exhibit at the American-Swedish Institute from June-September, 2015, and I’d be glad to share it again.

Finally, publishing the Norwegian Textile Letter online has been a grand experiment, and there are many improvements in style and access that could be made.  I hope to find a better software platform in the next year.  The software and hosting access is paid through the fall of 2016 from the $300 that was “left over” from the former print version.  By the end of this year, the newsletter may change to a paid online version, or I may ask for donations to cover the costs of the next years.

Tell me your thoughts on the articles, and please tell me about articles you would like to see (or write) in the future.

Hilsen, Robbie LaFleur