The Fruits of Rya Exploration

An enthusiastic group of weavers (and one non-weaver) met four times over the past year to talk about rya in its many forms.  Impetus for the group’s formation included the excellent exhibit at the American Swedish Institute, The Living Tradition of Ryijy – Finnish Rugs and their Makers, and two great classes on rya weaving by Jan Mostrom at the Weavers Guild.

Our Rya Exploration Group discussed traditional ryas of the Nordic countries, some with the pile woven in, and others with pile added to a ground cloth.  The year began with an exhibit of ryas on the walls of the Weavers Guild, and the year was capped with a second exhibit, which is now up for the months of November and December at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.  Please visit!

Fred M.B. Amram

Lest We Forget: 1933-1945  23” x 28”  Hardware cloth, wool, barbed wire, old barn wood, rusty screws.
Fred wrote about his inspiration for the piece.

As a Jude (Jew) who witnessed the beginnings of the Nazi catastrophe, I continue to purge my anger. I’m dedicated to remembering past genocides so that our future will allow all to feel free and equal.

I’m relatively new to rya and eager to test how far the art can be stretched. The rya technique was originally used to make warm bedspreads, rugs and wall hangings. I’ve tried three-dimensional boxes and now I want to re-examine the use of space in a multi-media sculpture.


Lisa Ann Bauch

Rya Inspired by Edvard Munch’s ‘Moonlight.’  Wool warp and weft; wool and linen pile.

I was fascinated by the way Munch captured the glint of moonlight on water in his painting from 1895. I replicated the effect by adding linen, which catches the light, to the wool knots. I also used a pale yellow yarn in the moonlit sections to draw the viewer’s eye.


Houndstooth Rya Bench Cover
The ground cloth is a houndstooth pattern, while the rya section was made using the ‘hidden knots’ technique (the knots don’t show on the reverse side). It was inspired by a photo of an Icelandic sweater in blue, brown, and white.

Anita Jain


This ryijy (Anita is Finnish, so we will use this spelling) is a very different take on a traditional ryijy; it is knotted on a metal netting, using strips of fabric.    Anita wrote:

“It is inspired by the Universe, the way I think of it,  limitless in size and power, that gives me energy and creativity.  The piece is dark, but not at all in the negative sense. The darkness  contains the mystery and the power and the light, and the creative energy, the freedom and the direction;  just observe. listen and trust in its limitlessness.

“In the energy burst in the middle, I have used mostly wool yarn in different colors–that I see as life force color for this particular piece. The energy burst in the middle is fluid,like life itself, ever moving and reshaping and changing.  So each time the piece is hung it is hand shaped, thus looking  a little different each time, as well.”


Corwyn Knutson

Rya Pillow.  14” x 14”  wool
Exuberant gray pile explodes from a base of gray goose-eye twill.  In a switch from most exhibits, the weaver granted explicit permission to TOUCH.

Checkerboard.  34” x 27” Wool.
Woven on a diamond twill background, the squares of pile acquire beautiful shading by mixing colors in the knots.


Diamonds. 42” x 20.5”
In this rya technique, the flat, decorative knots on the reverse side echo the pile diamonds on the front.  The piece is hung to advantage with the top folded over, showing both sides.  When ryas were woven as bed coverings, the pile side would face down, and the decorative, flat pattern would face up on the bed.


Robbie LaFleur

Purple Power Field.  30” x 30”  Chicken wire, cotton fabric
The chicken wire rya started as an afternoon test for a possible collaborative art project, and ended up being a time-consuming abstract art piece.  Read more about its development at:


Jan Mostrom

Rya on Pick and Pick Backing. 14″ x16”  Cotton warp, wool weft, wool and linen pile
The blue and gray rya was inspired by ryas from the area of Narvik, Sweden, which use pick and pick-patterned weft face backing.


Goose-eye Rya. 15″ x 22”  wool
Red, orange and gray pile.  This piece was inspired by ryas at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum woven with goose-eye twill on the reverse sides.


Rya. 19″ x 27”  Cotton warp, wool weft, wool and linen pile
Jan wove this piece on a loom on a demonstration loom at the American Swedish Institute.  The teal, green, blue, and yellow pile rya was inspired by a ceramic fireplace in the room where she wove this piece.  It was woven on a weft-faced solid black backing.


Houndstooth Rya.  11″ x 22″ Wool warp and weft, wool and linen pile
The red, black, and gray rya was inspired by the houndstooth backing on an old rya owned by the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.


About Robbie LaFleur
Weaving in Minnesota, when I can!

2 Responses to The Fruits of Rya Exploration

  1. Pingback: Rya and Tapestry | Bound to Weave

  2. Pingback: Rya: From a Weaving for Warmth, to Just Plain Wonderful | Scandinavian Weavers Study Group

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