By Robbie LaFleur
At every meeting of the long-standing Scandinavian Weavers Study Group of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, members and guests bring weavings for show and tell. Usually we discuss our own creations, but often members bring pieces they have purchased or otherwise acquired. These pieces are admired and studied, and in may cases, inspire new adaptations by group members.
Members of the group have seen many fabulous textiles over the years, and now we are sharing the opportunity to see them in person with visitors to the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, and digitally to the readers of the Norwegian Textile Letter.
These treasures from the collections of the study group members are a motley bunch, considering technique, materials, and method of acquisition. What they share is good design and owners who appreciate and treasure them.
The pieces featured in this article, arranged by owner, are on display at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota until the end of December.
Where do the textiles come from?
Several pieces in the show are Swedish weavings gifted to Melba Granlund by her friend from church who knew that Melba would understand them and value them.
Some of our members are veteran scanners of online sales and recognize treasures. Sylvia Mohn bought mid-century Finnish transparencies. Jane Connett knew quite well that a tapestry reproduction of a row of Wise and Foolish Virgins was not an Albanian kelim, as was advertised on Ebay!
While buying Scandinavian dining room chairs, Phyllis Waggoner spotted rag rugs that had been used in shipping containers from Sweden, and bought them for a song.
Judy Larson shared a tapestry from a Swedish weaver who inspired her weaving journey. And finally, Karin Maahs shares family pieces she has known and loved her whole life.
Prepare to be inspired!
Phyllis Waggoner Recognized Rag Rug Treasures
Long Rag rug: plain weave. Warp: cotton seine twine sett at 9 epi. Weft: rags, 2 cm wide of various fibers. Warp ends covered with fabric binding. 12’ 6” long, 21” wide.
This was a serendipitous purchases from the International Design Center, importers of mid-century Modern Scandinavian furniture, about 1998. Well-worn rag rugs were used to wrap the furniture that was shipped from Scandinavia to the US. Phyllis paid about $10 each for four Swedish rag rugs.
The rugs were in a big pile at the corner of the showroom where I was shopping for dining room chairs to go with our teak table. Not surprisingly, the mound caught my attention and I asked the salesman about the rugs and he explained how they came to his showroom.
Smaller Rag rug: twill threading, treadled as Overshot and plain weave. Warp: cotton sett at 8 epi. Weft: 2 cm for plain weave, pattern weft 3 cm. Warp finish, overhand knots.
This rug was purchased from a spinning wheel importer who explained that the rugs were used to wrap the spinning wheels during shipment from Sweden. Phyllis paid about $15.
Melba Granlund’s Gifts and Flea Market Find
Dukagång Pillow Cover. Warp: linen. Weft: linen background and wool pattern inlay. 23″ x 22″ wide. Similar dukagång motifs are depicted in Gunvor Johansson’s book, Skanska Allmogevävnader, now available in English as Heirlooms of Skåne: Weaving Techniques.
Swedish Art Weave Wool Runner, combining dukagång, and krabbesnår. Warp: linen. Weft: wool. 22″ x 75″ long.
Swedish Art Weave Runner, combining rölakan and dukagång techniques. Warp: linen. Weft: wool. 23.5″ wide x 48.5″ long.
Runner in M.M.F. (Marta Maas Fetterstrom) Technique. Warp: linen. Weft: linen tow yarn for structural background, wool for the inlay pattern. 23.5″ wide x 78″ long (including fringe). The technique is described in the Manual of Swedish Handweaving by Ulla Cyrus-Zetterstrom, pp. 132-4.
Melba explained the source of her beautiful pieces:
These four pieces were gifted to me from a close friend. She and her husband, a former pastor, had received them (along with other weavings) from a parishioner while serving a congregation in Worcester, Massachusetts. The pieces were apparently woven by someone in the woman’s family in southern Sweden. Because the woman had no family to which they should be given, she gifted them to the pastor and his wife. Knowing of my love for Swedish weaving and that my mother came from Skane, Sweden, close to where these weavings were created, my friend thought I should now assume the role of caretaker of these lovely pieces. Consultation with Laurann Gilbertsen, Chief Curator at the Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, revealed that all the pieces dated back to the late 19th or early 20th century.
Black/red/blue woolen table runner. Warp: linen. Weft: wool. 23.5″ wide x 89″ long.
On the final day of the 2013 Vesterheim Textile Tour, we had a free morning in Helsinki, Finland. Having heard of a flea market only a few short blocks from our hotel, some of us decided what better way to spend our last few hours before leaving for the airport. Besides, I still had $50 Euros burning a hole in my pocket. At the first booth, I struck gold at the bottom of a cardboard box, in the form of two wonderful textiles — one woolen paisley shawl and the other a long, black woolen table runner. Another shopper told me that the piece looked like weaving from the Karelia region of Finland, which our group had just visited a few days earlier.
Upon returning home, I showed this piece to Laurann Gilbertsen, Chief Curator at the Vesterheim Mususem in Decorah, Iowa. She confirmed that the piece was woven in the Swedish krabbasnår technique. Apparently, the clue was in the finely spun yarn and the colors used. Although Swedish krabbasnår is the same as the Norwegian Vestfoldmett technique, much heavier, thicker yarn is used in the Norwegian pieces. Upon further research, I located examples of similar motifs in Doris Wiklund’s book, Old Swedish Weavings from North to South (pp.232-5). In the book, the pieces are identified as being purchased in Dalarna from an itinerant peddlar woman.
The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum has similar pieces in its collection. The American Swedish Institute also has many pieces in this technique, probably because they were popular tourist items sold in Sweden.
See Part Two for more Scandinavian textile treasures.