Editor’s Note

God jul!

As the editor, I considered each of these articles as gifts – I hope you do, too.

We may all have to add band weaving to our New Year’s resolutions; Heather Torgenrud’s new book will be out this month to inspire and instruct us.

Or maybe you will be inspired to weave a new piece on a warp-weighted loom after reading about Marta Kløve Juuhl’s exploration of diamond twill.

This issue inaugurates a new series.  Occasionally we will publish the story of a “fabulous find,” a Scandinavian textile that has been found and and now preserved and loved.  We’ve all heard stories of marvelous runners or coverlets or tapestries found in a pile of textiles in an antique store or thrift shop, or handed over from a distant relative, or at the bottom of a box at an estate auction.  The thrill is in the find.  To share those stories, and display our finds online, I’ll continue to search out stories and images of “fabulous finds” to share.  Do you have one?  This series will serve as a virtual exhibit of the beautiful Scandinavian textiles we have in our homes.  They may never be displayed in a museum or gallery, but they will be shared and appreciated within our Norwegian Textile Letter community.

Robbie LaFleur


A Fabulous Find: A Rya from Ryd

Here you see a very basic, functional version of the rya, woven in Sweden, a manifestation of the widespread pile-woven textiles for everyday use found throughout Scandinavia. It is of this everyday use and the place that this rya has in our family that I write.

One summer in the mid-1970s, my husband Roland, our children, and I were visiting my mother-in-law, Ellen, on her farm in Tröjamåla, near the town of Ryd in southern Småland, Sweden. One evening, we sat at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and discussing a multi-household auction that would be held in town, at Folkets Park.

DSCN2178Country auctions, in those days, were most interesting and educational for me. They revealed the inventories of a disappearing way of rural life, and I got to see up close and touch the tools, textiles, and every kind of everyday objects that reflected people’s lives. Those who came to auctions were mostly curious locals, in themselves interesting to me, who might bid cautiously on things they could use or things with which they identified.   But this auction was well advertised in the local press, a summertime auction sure to be attended by tourists and cabin folks, especially Danes and Germans. We decided to go, for the fun of it.

I suppose it is audacious to say that I spotted “my” rya immediately. In fact, it was piled on a table with other textiles of all sorts, but it caught my eye. When the bidding began, I didn’t trust myself to stay on top, keeping up with German, Danish, and the local dialect, but Roland helped. It seemed, at first, as though there was not much interest. Then, a Dane entered the bidding, and it went back and forth between us, until my bid won. Who knows? Did the Dane really understand what was at stake, that there was more than met the eye to this old thing that could be sold in a Copenhagen antique shop? No matter–now it was mine.

DSCN2176Next came finding out about the piece. Roland and I went to the Smålands Museum, in Vaxjö, where the curator explained the textile’s genre—slitrya–meant to be placed pile-side-down on the bed. Common, she said, ours nothing out of the ordinary.

But, this is not the end of the story.

In fact, my mother-in law Ellen’s place in this story IS this story. She tracked the slitrya’s history back to the household of a town merchant in Ryd, whose descendant remembered its being used in the upper floor bedroom, where the children slept close to a chimney for warmth. Which explains the wonderful smoky scent it had when we bought it. Imagine the skills that this simple, homely bedding embodies and the whispers of the children it kept warm.

DSCN2179Today this slitrya hangs on a wall in our living room. Woven in two pieces that have been sewn together, it measures approximately 47”x 72”. Its warp and weft are tow linen–likely handspun–with the exception of the top and bottom edges, which have dentate patterns, woven in blue and beige wool weft. There are a few blue wool picks in the body of one half, as well. The deep pile consists of various natural shades of handspun wool, combined with some linen yarns, knotted to form a goose-eye motif, best discerned from a distance. ¾” (2 cm.) weft separates the knots, which are visible on the presentation side. The person(s) who wove and assembled the coverlet chose to join the two sections in opposite directions, so that the piles face away from each other and the decorative head and foot edges do not match, although the overall motif is fairly aligned. Possibly, use and storage have faded the presentation side of the rya, but the pile side is true to its original, natural colors.

The spinner’s and weaver’s hands have long been stilled, the children are long gone, the earth and animals that provided precious fibers are long forgotten. And yet they are here, in this slitrya, a meaningful part of our lives.

Edi Thorstensson write of her weaving background: “Until June 2009, when I retired, I was a librarian and archivist at Gustavus Adolphus College and a free-lance translator.  I took my first weaving class at the Art Institute of Chicago before I entered college, but it wasn’t until years later, while visiting my husband’s native Sweden, that I learned to weave rag rugs from my mother-in-law, Ellen Svensson, patient teacher and friend, who shared with me her stories and many, many skills.”

A Fabulous Find (Online): Wise and Foolish Virgins

It was five years ago and I had just returned from a trip to visit a friend in Bodø, Norway.  While there I was lucky enough to see an exhibit of tapestries by Hannah Ryggen. I was totally astonished with her work and had to learn more about the great Norwegian tapestry weavers, so I started searching the Web for information about Norwegian tapestry.

IMG_7933While searching the Internet, I ran across an article about a man in London who was selling his father’s textile collection. The inventory of textiles was fantastic, but not much interested me until I saw a picture of the Wise and Foolish Virgins.  I was able to contact him by email and asked what he knew about the piece. According to his father’s inventory information, it was purchased in Western Norway from a private party 50 years ago. The tapestry was put in a drawer and  only discovered recently by the son of the individual who originally purchased it.  Imagine this great tapestry filed in a drawer for 50 years.

The new owner was not really interested in Norwegian textiles and asked if I would like to purchase it for $140.00.  We agreed on this price and it arrived in Minnesota about a month later.

When it arrived, I was horrified to see the condition of the parcel.  It was wrapped in Christmas paper that had been turned with the back side out.  The tapestry was folded in a small bundle, wrapped in Christmas paper and sent by boat.  The parcel was in terrible  condition, but thankfully someone at USPS was kind enough to put it in a plastic bag and it was eventually delivered to me.  Fortunately there was no damage to the piece.

IMG_7936I contacted the seller regarding the condition of the package and he told me his father used to send packages in this shabby manner to his family in East Germany so the authorities there would not confiscate the package.

Again, I was so thankful it arrived in great condition.

Sometime later, I took the tapestry to Laurann Gilbertson, the Curator at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, for inspection. I was delighted to hear that is was Norwegian and from late 19th century or early 20th century. Most likely the piece was a cover for a bench and used for a wedding. The bride and groom sat on the bench for the wedding service. I can tell you from experience that Lutheran services can get fairly lengthy.
I’ve always had good luck at estate and rummage sales over the years, but never imagined owning a Wise and Foolish Virgin tapestry.

Corwyn (Corky) Knutson weaves in St. Paul, Minnesota.  A beautiful red-filled rya recently won a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair this year, along with the Doris Tufte Sweepstakes for woven items in the Scandinavian tradition.  One fortuitous event along his road to weaving in the Norwegian tradition happened years ago, when an old aunt died and left him boxes and boxes of Rauma yarn.  Corky is now a dealer of Rauma yarn, and can be contacted at:

Corwyn Knutson (Corky)
2742 Lakeview Ave
Roseville,  MN 55113

Diamond Twill Woven on a Warp-weighted Loom

Editor’s note:   Marta Kløve Juuhl wrote this article for the Østeroy museum blog, and for readers of the Norwegian Textile Letter,  after receiving many inquiries about their investigation of diamond twill weave on the warp-weighted loom.  If you would rather read the original Norwegian text, it is found here.  The English translation below is thanks to Edi Thorstonsson.

After having given many classes in weaving on the vertical loom, including at Østerøy Museum, where I work, and at Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, in Decorah, Iowa, I had Elizabeth Johnston from the Shetland Islands and Hildur Håkonardottir from Iceland as students in a class at Østerøy Museum in the summer of 2010. After the course, we discovered that we had so much in common that we wanted to continue our work together. We hope that our combined efforts will result in a published book. Others have become aware of our work, and we have received some inquiries about weaving particular textiles using this technique.

Up to the present, what has been the most exciting—and demanding—for us has been to weave fabric in broken lozenge twill, also known as diamond twill.

A few years ago, objects including a tunic were found at the edge of a glacier, Lendbreen, in Lomsfjella (Gudbrandsdalen). This tunic was in amazingly good condition. It was eventually conserved by the Kulturhistorisk Museum (Museum of Cultural History) in Oslo and described as being 1,700 years old. Information regarding the find was placed on the Internet.

Last spring (2013), the director of the Norsk Fjellmuseum i Lom (Norwegian Mountain Museum, Lom) called us at the Østerøy Museum to tell us that this tunic would be exhibited during the summer of 2013. They would like to borrow a warp-weighted loom from us, therefore, for the purpose of demonstrating the kinds of equipment used to produce cloth. Lise Bender, textile historian and specialist in the study of Iron Age textiles, had determined that the fabric had been woven on a vertical warp-weighted loom. We were pleased to lend our loom to the Fjellmuseum, which promptly came to pick it up.

Then, a couple of weeks later, the museum director called again and asked whether we might consider weaving fabric in diamond twill on the warp-weighted loom that could remain on the loom through the summer. To this we answered yes, with a bit more hesitation. I don’t believe that the people at the Mountain Museum quite knew what they were asking for…

Weaving diamond twill on a horizontal loom is a simple matter, as it is on a vertical loom as well, if one knows how.   But the first time requires a lot of thought.

  • What kind of yarn should we use?
  • How many threads per centimeter should there be?
  • How large should the “diamonds” be?
  • How heavy should the warp weights be?

We could not find the answers to such matters, because the conservation report on the tunic could not be made public before it had been published in a national professional journal. Besides, not all answers to our questions would likely be found there.

But there were good images of the tunic on the Internet, and we knew that the material was made of wool yarn. It so happened that we had arranged earlier for Elizabeth to be at the museum with us during this week in May, which was incredibly good timing.

We ordered yarn from Hoelfeldt-Lund Norsk Kunstvevgarn (Helfeldt-Lund Norwegian Fine Handweaving Yarns), single ply spelsau yarn number 4.5, gray for the warp, brown for the weft. This yarn is suited for 10 warp ends per centimeter and somewhat fewer in the weft. We then calculated that our fabric would be slightly courser than the original, without being sure. We later learned that our calculation was correct.

diamantkypert+smallUsing the photographs on the Internet, we were able to determine how many threads there were in each “diamond” or repeat. The photographs were so good, in fact, that we could count the threads. Therefore, we counted the repeat using a close-up of one of the sleeves.

We decided to wind a warp 60 centimeters wide in the reed, that is, 600 warp ends, and use a heading cord along the beam edge, as is done in weaving åkler (coverlets) in the West Norwegian tradition.   Of course, we knew nothing as to what method was used in setting up the original textile, but we knew how to carry out this method and that it would work well. Besides, since we had so little information about the original, ours could not be an exact copy.

We started out cautiously with light loom weights, 50 grams per warp end. This worked.

So far, so good. The biggest problem were the heddles. For diamond twill, one needs four sheds: 3 heddle rods and a 4th natural shed. The warp is threaded so that points appear in the woven fabric. These points result when one threads two or one warp ends in their heddles on a particular order. With the help of Marta Hoffmann’s The Warp Weighted Loom, we figured out the procedure, which we modified for “our” cloth. Elizabeth and I worked together to thread the heddles. I stood behind the loom and picked out the threads that she, who stood in front of the loom, then knitted the heddles around. We threaded the second and fourth heddle rods (counted from the top) at the same time, and lastly the first heddle rod at the top. The natural shed corresponded to rod number three and remained between rods two and four during the weaving. In order to make sure that we wouldn’t skip any threads on rods two and four, we followed a rule that we repeated aloud every time: single, double, double, double, double, double, single times 2. This was one repeat. Each repeat, therefore, had 24 threads in both the warp and weft.

marta-warp-loom-smallThis process was the most time-consuming. All else was quite easy. After three days’ worth of fairly intensive work, the loom was ready. We wove enough to see that our technique was correct.

Then, Elizabeth returned home to the Shetland Islands, and Randi Andersen, director of our museum, and I removed the fabric from the loom, with the heddle rods still in place, and drove to Lom. When the Norwegian Mountain Museum opened for the summer, our cloth was on the loom, alongside the glass case with the tunic inside. I stood weaving on the opening day, and everyone saw the similarity between our cloth and that of the tunic.

Hildur was not physically part of this process, since she was back home in Iceland. Just the same, we all agree that all three of us can take equal credit for what we succeeded in doing.

Marta Kløve Juuhl taught weaving in the Norwegian Husflidsskole system for many years.  She now works part-time at Østerøy museum, primarily with textiles, and also in her private studio. Her current commissions include bands for bunads and wall hangings for churches.

A New Book on Pick-up Bandweaving

Fig 1. Schiffer Publishing ISBN 978-0-7643-4751-1 Size: 8½"x11" Illustrations: 152 Pages: 176 Binding: Hardcover Price: $24.99 Available: December 2014

Fig 1. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7643-4751-1. Size: 8½”x11″, Illustrations: 152. Pages: 176. Binding: Hardcover. Price: $24.99. Available: December 2014

I’m excited to tell you about my new book, Norwegian Pick-up Bandweaving, Schiffer Publishing, 2014 (Fig. 1). This is the book I would have liked to have had more than forty years ago, when I wove my first pick-up band on an inkle loom. I was fascinated by the beauty of pick-up patterns, but knew little of their history. As my fingers delighted in the rhythm of the technique, I longed to know about the culture in which pick-up weaving had flourished. What did pick-up bands look like in the old days? What had they been used for? What significance did they have for the people who wove them?

Although pick-up bandweaving in various forms has been known in many places around the world, for me a connection to Norway had the most personal meaning. My late husband’s ancestors immigrated to America from Norway in the mid-1800s. Some came from Hadeland and Valdres in Oppland, others from Hallingdal in Buskerud. Other than one spinning wheel from Valdres that had once occupied pride of place in his great-grandmother’s home in Minnesota, we knew of no textiles or textile tools that had been brought from Norway. But succeeding generations of the family had retained some of their native dialects, which sparked a desire in us to learn the language. This in turn led me to discover the links to pick-up weaving history that I had always yearned for, and I soon became passionate about putting the stories I found into book form.To summarize the book in a nutshell, “Part 1: History & Tradition,” tells how pick-up bands were used in the rural communities of Norway in the 1700s and 1800s. “Part 2: Vesterheim Collection” looks at a selection of pick-up bands brought to America from Norway. “Part 3: How to Weave Pick-up” has instructions for weaving two different types of pick-up on traditional band heddles. There are 123 photographs and diagrams, and 29 pages of charts that include more than 100 patterns from bands in museum collections. Part 3 is for weavers, but Parts 1 and 2 can be enjoyed by anyone interested in Norwegian culture, textiles, costumes, and folk art.

Fig. 2 Vesterheim Heddle 1979.027.001

Bandgrind (band heddle), collection of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum (Artifact No. 1979.27.1). Photo: Alison Dwyer.

For me, the bandgrind (band heddle) is the perfect symbol for the story of Norwegian pick-up bandweaving. Take the one shown here, from Vesterheim’s collection. It was apparently carved in 1828 for a young woman whose initials were MJD and was likely given to her as a courting gift as a token of a young man’s affection. As a courting gift, it represents a traditional way of life, governed by time-honored conventions. As a tool, it represents the value that the old farm culture placed on skill with the hands. It spoke to the young man’s proficiency in woodworking and to the young woman’s proficiency in the textile arts—highly desirable skills for a couple to have in a society where families had to be largely self-sufficient. This particular heddle might be empty now, but at one time the young woman likely wove pick-up bands on it in intricate patterns and rich colors—bands that played significant roles in many important and deeply-rooted customs of the day, from the way a young girl’s hair was braided to the way a baby was dressed for christening.

“Part 1: History & Tradition” paints a picture of life in the old rural society and of the textile traditions that were an integral part of that life. Then it explores the customs surrounding pick-up bands of all kinds: Bands used in folk dress, as hairbands, apron bands, belts, suspenders, stocking bands, clothing trim, and coat bands. Bands used to swaddle babies and protect them from unseen harmful forces. Bands used to fasten and decorate baskets of food for special occasions. Bands with woven-in names, initials, or dates. And bands sewn together to make wider textiles like coverlets and cushion covers. The story continues through the social movements that began in Norway in the late 1800s to preserve hand crafts and folk costumes, and through the immigration to America of many people from areas with strong pick-up weaving traditions. Here you can also read about the tools that were used to weave the bands and what we know of their history and about the use of band heddles as courting gifts.

“Part 2: Vesterheim Collection” looks closely at twenty bands from Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, many of which were brought to America by immigrants. The bands came from Nord-Østerdalen in Hedmark, Øst- and Vest-Telemark, Setesdal and Åmli in Aust-Agder, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane, Trøndelag, and Øvre-Numedal in Buskerud. They represent the significance pick-up bands had for the immigrants, and they tell us much about traditional materials, colors, and regional patterns.

Bandgrind and Spaltegrind for NTG

Two kinds of band heddles—the bandgrind (at top) and the spaltegrind (which has extra slots for the pattern ends).

“Part 3: How to Weave Pick-up” is a complete primer for weaving your own bands, with information on tools, materials, weave structures, basic warping and weaving techniques, and two types of pick-up. One type of pick-up is shown on both the regular bandgrind (band heddle) and the spaltegrind (band heddle with extra pattern slots),  since the two heddles require different ways of working.  (See fig. 3) And the pick-up instructions are easily adaptable to other kinds of looms, such as the inkle loom. To help the beginning bandweaver, there are clear photographs, diagrams, step-by-step instructions, and hints and tips. For the advanced bandweaver there is a wealth of inspiration in the numerous pattern charts.

I like to think of Ingeborg Olsdatter, one of my late husband’s forebears, born in 1811 in Hallingdal, who likely would have put up her hair with a pick-up band and might have trimmed her skirt with a pick-up band, according to the customs of that valley. And I like to think that she would be pleased and honored that I, too, weave pick-up bands in the same techniques, 168 years after she and her family immigrated to Winneshiek County, Iowa.

To illustrate the two types of Norwegian pick-up bandweaving, let’s look at two Hallingdal-style bands, similar to those Ingeborg might have woven and used.

 Hallingdal-Style Bands

In Øvre-Hallingdal the bandgrind (band heddle) was used to weave hairbands and skirt bands. (Noss 1966, 126.)


Fig. 5 Red and White Band

Fig. 5 Band woven after hairband in Hallingdal Museum (HFN.11750)

Hallingdal hairbands traditionally used red wool for the pattern and unbleached cotton yarn for the background. A red end at each selvedge created a whipstitched appearance as it was encircled with the natural cotton weft on each row. Sometimes another color, like green, yellow, or blue, was used for these selvedge threads. Bands were named for their pick-up patterns. The finest bands were woven in a hatched diagonal cross pattern, like the one shown in Fig. 7, and were called spåraband (spår meaning animal tracks in this instance). Those woven in a simple chevron pattern were called klauveband (klauv meaning hoof). The bands varied in width from .75 to 1.5 cm. (from a little less than ⅜” to a little more than ⅝”) and were usually about 3.7 meters (4 yards) long. (Noss 1992, 17–18.)

Fig 7. Pattern chart for red and white band.

Fig 7. Pattern chart for red and white band.

A hairband in the Hallingdal Museum (HFN.11750), that I used as a model for the band shown in Fig. 5, was woven in red wool and white cotton and is 1 cm. (⅜”) wide. I used the same pick-up pattern for my band, in Bockens Möbelåtta 8/2 wool in red (color 3822) and Bockens Bomullsgarn 8/2 cotton in natural (color 0000), for a width of ½”.

DesignaKnit - Printing

Fig 6. Warp draft for red and white band.

The warp draft is shown in Fig. 6. The red squares represent ends in red wool and the circles represent ends in natural cotton. There are a total of 37 ends—11 pattern ends (marked with asterisks) in red wool, 24 background ends in natural cotton, and 2 red wool ends at the selvedges that are not a part of the pick-up pattern. The pattern chart is shown in Fig. 7, where dark grey represents red pattern ends. The natural cotton was used for weft. Each of the yarns I used was “lively”—when I allowed a large loop of yarn to hang freely it wanted to twist on itself—so the band has a tendency to spiral a little when it is hanging up, but it is delicate and lovely.

Skirt bands

Fig 8. Band woven after one in Norsk Folkemuseum (NF.1964-0160) and used to trim a knitted-and-fulled wall pouch or basket for holding bandweaving shuttles.

Fig 8. Band woven after one in Norsk Folkemuseum (NF.1964-0160) and used to trim a knitted-and-fulled wall pouch or basket for holding bandweaving shuttles.

Several different textile techniques were used to make bands to trim the lower edge of women’s skirts in Hallingdal. Pick-up weaving was one technique; ornate wool embroidery and weft-faced tapestry weave done on the cradle loom were two others. The pick-up bands had a diagonally-checkered pattern and were called rutaband (ruta meaning diamond or square), trerutaband (tre meaning three), or simply bragdeband or band med bragd (patterned bands). Most used wool for both warp and weft and were from 2 to 4 cm. (about ¾” to 1½”) wide. Red, green, and yellow was a common colorway. (Noss 1992, 188.)

The band in Norsk Folkemuseum (NF.1964-0160), that I used as a model for the band in Fig. 8, was sewn as trim along the bottom edge of a red plaid cotton skirt. I used the same pick-up pattern for my band, in Borgs Brage 7/2 wool in red (color 6745), green (color 6609), and yellow (color 6038), for a width of ¾”.

Fig 9. Warp draft for red, green, and yellow band.

Fig 9. Warp draft for red, green, and yellow band.

Fig 10. Pattern chart for red, green, and yellow wool band.

Fig 10. Pattern chart for red, green, and yellow wool band.

The warp draft is shown in Fig. 9. There are 38 ends represented by colored squares. The 36 pattern ends are marked with asterisks. The pattern chart is shown in Fig. 10. The dark grey represents red pattern ends, the medium grey represents green, and the light grey represents yellow. The red wool was used as weft.

I used my band to trim a hanging pouch or wall basket that I’ll use it to hold bandweaving shuttles, and it could have many other uses. The pouch was knitted in Rauma Vamsegarn 5/3 wool (color V27, a red/rust twist) and then fulled (its finished dimensions are 4¾” by 7¼”).

The skirt band technique uses an even number of pattern ends that are picked up in pairs, and an even number of total warp ends yields balanced selvedges. The hairband technique uses an odd number of pattern ends for a central pivot point, and an odd number of total warp ends yields balanced selvedges. In threading the heddle shown in Fig. 4 for the skirt band technique, I added an extra red selvedge end on the left (so I had 39 ends total, instead of the 38 shown in the warp draft). This built a slight curve into the band so it fit perfectly around the pouch, where the bottom edge of the trim needed to be slightly longer than the top edge.

I hope that in the pages of this new book you will delight in the beauty of pick-up bands, as I do, and find enjoyment, inspiration, and your own satisfying connections to the past.

Here is a beautifully-formatted print-friendly pdf of the article, provided by the author: A New Book on Pick-up


Noss, Aagot. 1966. “Bandlaging.” In By og Bygd, Norsk Folkemuseums årbok. Vol. XIX. Oslo: Johan Grundt Tanum.

———. 1992. Nærbilete av ein draktskikk—Frå dåsaklede til bunad. Oslo: Universitets forlaget AS.

Born and raised in Montana, Heather Torgenrud first dreamed of writing a book forty years ago, when the gift of an inkle loom sparked not only a passion for weaving pick-up bands but a longing to know their history. She taught many classes in pick-up techniques over the years, and published her work in Handwoven magazine, while working full-time as a paralegal. The dream finally took shape when she and her husband were immersed in studying Norwegian and she discovered some intriguing stories waiting to be told. Here she brings her award-winning weaving skills together with an easy, readable writing style, to create a well-researched and fascinating look at this historic craft.

Copyright Heather Torgenrud, 2014. All rights reserved.