The Carriage Cushion Mystery

Carol Johnson, whose collection of Scandinavian weavings is currently highlighted in an exhibit at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, once bought a Swedish opphampta weaving because of its beautiful red and green star pattern. (Note: the colors are more true in the second photo.) See this piece and 27 others in the exhibit “A Passionate Pursuit: Scandinavian Weavings from the Collection of Carol Johnson,” up through the end of June, 2018. 

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When she received it, she found that it was sewn to a more simply woven fabric. 

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book-johaheirlo_232x300Carol wondered, why would someone put these two together?  She started to undo the stitching, but stopped when she received the recently translated book, Heirlooms of Skåne: Weaving Techniques by Gunvor Johansson (translated by Birgitta Esselius Peterson, published by Vävstuga Press), because the mystery of the two sides was solved. She realized she shouldn’t take them apart.  The weaving is a carriage cushion, and the backs of cushions were often woven in a simpler three-shaft technique.  They also tended to be woven in the less expensive yarns: brown, yellow, green, and white. Carol’s example has other colors, too, and the patterning is fairly elaborate.  

It all made sense to Carol then.  She could see where tassels were sewn in each corner, traditionally done to protect the valuable textile during hard wear.  Johansson wrote in her book about the use of wheat flour and water rubbed into the fabric to prevent the stuffing from leaking through the fabric. Check! Carol noticed a good bit of dust on the interior of the cushion fabric. Oh, and she found a feather, too.

I first learned about carriage cushion backs when examining one at the American Swedish Institute with Phyllis Waggoner.  In this case, the front was a beautiful rölakan, and the back was woven simply in a two-shaft weft-faced technique, in exactly the inexpensive yarn colors noted in Heirlooms of Skåne.

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About Robbie LaFleur
Weaving in Minnesota, when I can!

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