Swedish Art Weaves at the ASI

This week Phyllis Waggoner, Jan Mostrom, and I looked at many Swedish Art Weave pieces owned by the American Swedish Institute, to prepare for our upcoming Scandinavian Weavers Study Group meeting and choose which ones to take out for display. As you might guess, we chose almost all the pieces we looked at, except in one category.  The ASI owns many 20th century pieces that are similar in pattern.  They were sold through Hemslöjd in Sweden in the 20th century.  Though beautifully executed, if you see a couple, you get the idea.  In contrast, the older, more one-of-a-kind weavings in the collection seemed to merit more individual study and comments.

This post includes a few detail shots of the pieces and some comments.  Later, we will post better, full-piece shots. This is just to whet you appetite!

We came up with a few general observations.  The sett for the tabby background on the Swedish brocaded pieces was uniformly fine, not less than ten ends per inch, and in one case, about 19 ends per inch.  The wool used was a single ply, thin wool, which in some cases may have been used double-spooled in the background.  The brocaded patterns were woven with multiple strands, from 2-5.

The first piece we looked at had a bright modern flair.  The abstract patterns included many colors, and some of them, like a light turquoise, seemed unexpected.  This piece is in dukagång.  It’s easy to recognize patterns woven in dukagång by their columnar appearance created by the tie-down thread.  In the pieces we looked at, most dukagång patterns floated over three threads and under one, but we saw one with over two, under one, and one with over four, under one.

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Most likely, all the pieces were woven with the back side up.  Uniformly, the workmanship was lovely. Here’s the back side.

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Phyllis imagined that a brown piece with a simple art noveau pattern may have elegantly draped over a piano. In this piece we guessed that the rich brown-black sections were woven double-spooled, with a brown and black thread mixed.

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We looked at wool draperies woven for the Turnblad mansion, with brocaded borders. (No photo at this time.)

Some pieces had sections of rolokan, like the Norwegian rutevev, or square-weave technique.

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On this piece we puzzled over a change in color near the beginning of the piece.  Was the weaver just testing before settling on the desired color combination?  Also, it was a long piece, unhemmed on either end.  Perhaps it was woven to upholster something?

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This piece also demonstrates how dukagång is used to weave a less rectilinear pattern with curves; it’s along the edge.

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Another beautiful dukagång piece had heart images and a beautiful palette of acid green, gold, orange, purple, and cream.  It was a length of fabric, with unfinished edges.

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These Swedish brocading techniques were often used on bench covers.  One beautiful example in the ASI collection is completely covered with krabbasnår.  It’s also interesting to see the back of the bench cover; they were generally woven in a less time-consuming weave structure.  this one was still quite beautiful and would have been even more striking if the brilliant purple we could see on the inside was not faded to gray.

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The halv-krabba and krabbasnår brocading techniques of the Swedish pieces are exactly the same technique used in Norwegian Vestfold pieces, and many of the designs I’ve seen on Swedish pieces are exactly the same as on old Norwegian Vestfold pieces.  However, the fine tabby background differed from what I know of the corresponding Norwegian Vestfold technique.  The Vestfold pieces I have seen (and made) use heavier yarn for the background.

The Swedish Institute owns several pieces that were woven and sold by Hemslöjd stores in the twentieth century.  Those pieces were characterized by larger-scale and more sparse, less all-over, designs.  They include rosepath patterning in the bands.  They were also characterized by a broad stripe in the background, behind the patterning.  Most were not hemmed nicely, but just cut and knotted.  Considering the design in the weavings as a group, they seemed more commercial and less interesting than some of the earlier pieces. Still, they are bold and beautiful.

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Finally, we noticed on a couple of pieces that the warp threads were of alternating colors.  Perhaps that was to make the counting easier when picking up patterns?  It’s a good idea!

About Robbie LaFleur
Weaving in Minnesota, when I can!

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