The Monk’s Belt Megado Project…Getting Underway

The Dobby Weavers Group at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, masters of the many-shafted computerized Megado loom, is going Scandinavian this fall. They are joining with the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group to weave a complex version of monk’s belt, one with blocks of pattern. In this joint project between the two study groups, the Dobby Weavers will do a bit of Scandinavian weaving, and the Scandinavian Weavers will get an opportunity to try out the beautiful Megado loom. The inspiration piece was one owned by Melba Granlund.

We decided to warp the Megado with the same warp, 20/2 cottolin at 24 epi, as the recent monk’s belt group project the Scandinavian Weavers wove on the Glimakra at the Weavers Guild.

I promised to compile some ideas for designing pieces for monk’s belt, some ways to think of the color of pattern weft and background weft, materials, and variations in stripe widths. There’s a crazy amount of variation possible using the “language” of these elements. Several of the examples from this quick and dirty compilation are from pieces woven by the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group in our recent group project.

Here are a couple of photos from a coverlet book from  1977, Åkleboka: Nye Mønstre i Gamle Teknikker, by Torbjørg Gauslaa and Tove Østby, Oslo: Landbruksforlaget, 1977. This piece is on wool warp. Note the use of a monochromatic color palette, with color changes made within long stretches of the same lines.

The second piece is completely asymmetrical, with a large difference in the long and short pattern elements.

Below, Sara Okern’s minimalist design used areas without pattern warp, but with stripes of varied linen colors.

Melba Granlund used several colors in bands of varying widths.

Notice two things in this bad photo of Jan Josifek’s beautiful small bag. It’s a wonderful way to use a small piece of weaving!  In the top band, a single skinny band of pink makes it pop. In the bottom band, note the use of pink in the background tabby weft–subtle and beautiful.

Many traditional monk’s belt pieces were woven with fairly consistent stripe sizes, making square, overall patterns.  This example is from Simple Weaves: Over 30 Classic Patterns and Fresh New Styles, by Birgitta Bengtsson Bjork and Tina Ignell. (English translation) Vermont : Trafalgar Square Books, 2012. The monk’s belt is shown as a backing for a skinnfell, a sheepskin, another traditional use of lightweight overshot coverlets.

Another monk’s belt piece on a skinnfell.  A very regular pattern with beautiful use of varying colors for long and skinny parts of the pattern. From Åklær, Å Kle ei Seng, Å Veve et Åkle. Trondheim : Trøndersk Forlag, 2002.

This image is from the same book, but of a skillbragd coverlet.  Still, it shows that a piece can be designed symmetrically in broad bands.

to be continued…..  Robbie LaFleur

A Summer Check-in for the Scandinavian Weavers

Our group doesn’t normally meet during the summer months, but because we neglected to take it off the online Weavers Guild of Minnesota calendar, and several members were around, we decided to meet. We had the best turnout of the year so far!

Melba Granlund and Stephanie Dickson showed the samples they completed during a recent week-long Swedish Art Weaves class at the Swedish Handicrafts Center for Skåne (Hemslöjd) in Landskrona, Sweden. They used trensaflossa, a short pile technique woven primarily in one area of Skåne. The class was taught by Gunvor Johansson. A Minnesota group took a similar Swedish art weave class two years ago, described in articles in the Norwegian Textile Letter.
Weaving the Art Weaves of Skåne.
A Wonderful Scanian Art Weaves Adventure
Fika and the Joy of Lingonberry Cake
Gunvor Johansson’s Exhibit at Bosjökloster

Stephanie Dickson’s sample

Melba sent me this photo of the other samples woven by students at the Hemslojd class. Melba’s piece is in the center.


Lisa Bauch has been suffering from a bit of tennis elbow from slamming the beater on her loom, so she’s devoted some off-loom time to making small birchbark baskets from the bark of a dead birch tree they needed to take down in her yard.

Someone asked how she cut her strips and Lisa told of a novel method.  A pasta machine–you know, the kind with a crank that unfurls lengths of pasta–works great.  And the fettuccini setting? Perfect for the small-scale baskets.

During this meeting, several people shared by showing photos on their phones. Five or six times, phones were passed around the large table. I think this “show and tell” technology will be used more and more, with no more excuses like, “I tried to get it off the loom before the meeting.” Linda Sorranno’s technology for this purpose was best; she had an iPad, so we could admire her piece on the loom in larger scale. She is weaving a boundweave rug in neutral tones.

We admonished Mary Skoy for not bringing in the rug she recently finished, which is now in its intended spot in their house. She told the story of seeing a similar rug at the American Swedish Institute (ASI) and thinking, “I need that rug.” Here’s the ASI rug.

Woven by Ruth Skyttes, who wove the rug on loom built by her husband, for an ASI Christmas program for the Värmlands Forbundet in the early 1960s. Ruth emigrated from Värmland, Sweden to Minneapolis in 1927. 20”x 42” cotton warp, wool fabric strips weft and inlay

Mary liked the slarvtjäll technique, with short inlay tufts.  She haunted thrift stores, picking up woolen tweed jackets to cut up for the weft strips.  It turned out great, but she seemed sheepish when her rug looked like an exact replica of the original, not what she really intended to do.


Judy Larsen has been making runners with a pattern from a recent Handwoven magazine, “Distorted -Weft Rep Runner & Trio of Pillows.” (Her sisters have already announced how long Judy should make their runners.)

Jan Josefek has been busy weaving.  She showed a small piece inspired by the patterns of Estonian bands. Jan wove a piece on her tapestry loom, pick-up on a plain weave.  Bands are woven lengthwise, but this stack of three patterns was woven horizontally.  People were in awe. As a follow-up, author Piia Rand write that her book is now available in English.  See:

Jan also made a sample rug using rosepath stripes, in anticipation of making the “real” one with handspun yarn.  She used a draft from a notebook from our Scandinavian Weavers group, making it extra appropriate to share with the group.

Ever Woodward came to her first Scandinavian Weavers meeting, and shared towels she just took off the loom.  She claimed that she is most drawn to neutral colors in her life, but who can resist pink yarn?

My report was an iPhone one, too–a photo of a piece in Frida Hansen’s open warp transparency technique. The underground portion of the potato plant is complete.

More on this piece at

Robbie LaFleur


Monksbelt on the Wall at the Weavers Guild

Are you stopping by the Weavers Guild of Minnesota this summer?  You can see some of the monksbelt pieces woven by the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group members this spring up on the back gallery wall of the “Rug Room” (the room with the bigger looms). It’s possible to stand below them for a good look, but impossible to get a good overall shot because of the stacked-up looms right now.  So here are two very bad photos, looking to the left and looking to the right, with the center pieced repeated.

Left: Lisa Torvik. Top row: Mary Skoy (it’s hard to see, but that is a tray made of clear acrylic with the weaving in the base), Lisa Bauch. Bottom row: Jan Josifek, Susan Mancini

Top row: Lisa Anne Bauch, Robbie LaFleur, Judy Larson. Bottom row: Susan Mancini, Robbie LaFleur

One fun aspect of this small show is seeing how some of the pieces were finished to use as practical items.  Karin Knudsen, Operations Manager at the Weavers Guild, commented, “Cool.  It’s always nice to have ideas for your toolkit for using your weaving.”

Susan Mancini made a lovely small bag.  She wove her piece with that end game in mind, so the matching is meticulous. Mary Skoy put her piece in the base of an acrylic tray.  Jan Josifek made a pillow–see the pink bands on the piece that looks thick, ready for puffy stuffing? The other pieces, of course, make lovely runners.  The long runner made by Lisa Torvik is called “For My Mother’s Danish Dishes,” and I’m sure it looks lovely with them.

Monksbelt Unveiling and a Fun Discussion

The monksbelt pieces from our Scandinavian Weavers group warp project came off the loom, and Mary Skoy was nice enough to sew seams on her machine in order to cut them apart without fraying. She brought the roll of pieces to my home.  A bag of treasures! You can see that some were woven with looped edges, some with plain selvedges.

A few members were able to make it to an afternoon celebration of cutting them apart and talking about our experiences. This marks the culmination of another successful collaboration on a Weavers Guild loom. Hopefully, everyone is happy with the learning experience.  Perfection was not the goal, but it’s hard to set that aside, isn’t it? It’s marvelous to see the work of the other weavers, but sometimes a bit frustrating. I know I looked at the beautiful pastels of several pieces and wished I had gone for a brighter palette. We were short a few threads and had to adjust the selvedge size during threading, so it was quite difficult to get a neat and clean selvedge.  Darn, I wish I had chosen loops, was my feeling after weaving.

Note to viewers! These photos show pieces in process or just off the loom, with all of the stray threads, lumpiness, and imperfections that will be transformed as we bring them to their finished states.

It was interesting to see the variation in wefts used for the background.  Lisa Bauch used pink, which shows up more in the photo than it does in person. She also used two shades of green–one more olive in cast–but that hardly shows up in the finished piece.

Lisa Bauch

Lisa Torvik used green linen background weft. “I have so much of it,” she explained. We all agreed that the greenish cast was particularly effective with her piece made with shades of pink linen in the pattern weft.

Lisa Torvik

The pink piece was Lisa’s second piece, woven when one of the weavers was not able to use her time/warp. Lisa’s first piece was complex, a depiction of her flower garden, with a nod to tulips, prairie smoke, bee balm, and star gazer lilies.

Some weavers included a looped fringe at each edge, and others wove a clean selvedge.  In a discussion about adding loops, someone mentioned adding another warp yarn at each edge, a little ways out, to get nice even loops.  Lisa uses her fingers to estimate each turn, noting, “I have two index fingers and the last time I checked, they’re roughly the same size.”

Lisa Torvik

Lisa Torvik should get a special documentation prize for this one, too, since she added the year and her initials on her header.

Susan Mancini switched in a deep pink background weft in a few bands of her piece, sure that it would be very dramatic.  Barely noticeable!  Susan plans to make a bag with the piece so she wove the two halves to match. Here, Lisa Torvik is measuring Susan’s piece on cut-off day.

Susan Mancini

Melba Granlund did a wonderful job of incorporating thick and thin lines with color variation.

Melba Granlund

Marilyn Moore used beautiful spring-like colors in her linen pattern weft. I know that flowers are on her mind these days, but if she wanted to weave her flower garden, she would have to weave yards of fabric.

Marilyn Moore

Mary Skoy plans to use her piece to make a pouch or bag.  It should work great, with her modern graphic design.  Also, the crisp hand of the fabric will work well in a pouch.

Mary Skoy

Of any of these monks belt experiments, Claire Most’s piece will undergo the biggest transformation during the finishing process.  Claire wove the pattern in a silk boucle yarn, but just for a short distance.  The rest of the piece is woven in a waste yarn that will be taken out; the warp will become part of a deep fringe treatment.  Claire said she wasn’t quite sure how it will end up–but we all can’t wait to see!

Claire Most

One of the benefits of weaving on a group project is trying out techniques and weave structures that are new to you.  Sarah Okern weaves beautiful rag rugs for her business, Andasmer, so she rarely ventures to finer thread weave structures. Her incorporation of larger areas of plain weave was partly to save time; she said she could only take one day to devote to the project. Interestingly, her spare design relates to the graphic rugs that are her trademark.

Sarah Okern

Deb Reagan gets a prize for driving the farthest to participate, all the way from Grand Forks. She used red, too, and with her addition of blue, wouldn’t this make the perfect runner to put on the table for Syttende Mai?

Deb Reagan

Brenda Gauvin-Chadwick used red, also.  She said she wasn’t so happy with the colors–too Christmas-y.  I ‘m not sure that’s true, but maybe seems so compared to the pastels she saw in some other pieces.

Brenda Gauvin-Chadwick

Jan Josifek’s pink, neutral, and black color palette is striking.  Someone noted that the bands resemble those you often find in much larger rag rugs.

Jan Josifek

I learned a great deal from my piece (Robbie LaFleur).  I’m eager to put on a long warp of my own and continue playing with color and pattern, and I know how I will change my threading.  I’ll vow to count better, too; I’m a bit annoyed with the first and last bands, which should be the same size.

Robbie LaFleur

Our group projects only get done due to the wonderful collaboration of our members.  It takes time to wind the warp, get it on the loom, and test it out.  On this project Judy Larson was the first to weave, and  in that role she wanted to make sure that everything was in order–the threading, the reed sleying, the sett, the tension, etc.  Was it in shape for the next weavers?  Yes!

Judy Larson

When the pieces were cut off this week, the first one was Judy’s, with pattern weft on one color, a deep green wool, and the last piece was Karen Weiberg’s, in a lighter linen green.  It was almost like the change of seasons that happened during the time the warp was up. Winter dragged out in Minnesota with a snowstorm disrupting our schedule, but spring may finally be here now.

Karen Weiberg

Thanks to all of the weavers and helpers who helped to make our group project rewarding.





And MORE Weavers on the Monksbelt Warp….

April 2019: The Scandinavnian Weavers Study Group members continue their monksbelt exploration.

Melba Granlund focused on spring in her linen pattern palette. Her comment when she sent her photo, “This is so fun!”

Claire added fun and untraditional pattern weft. Shiny!

Susan Mancini had fun playing at the loom, too. She wrote, “Here is my piece, about 2/3rds in. I wove 12 inches and then reversed the pattern for the 2nd 12”. My plan is to sew a small tote bag with this sample. I changed the tabby color in the large magenta block to a dark pink thinking it would be dramatic. But not so!! It hardly shows up at all. Interesting lesson.
This was fun!” (Note: her e-mailed photo is not large enough to show it to advantage…)


Brenda Gauvin-Chadwick said she wasn’t fond of her piece, as it turned out too Christmas-y, even when she added plain weave between bands.  But she noted that the experiment achieved one important purpose: “Great learning experience!”

We’re in the home stretch, just a few more weavers to go on our cottolin warp.

More Weavers on the Monksbelt Warp

Deb Reagen traveled all the way from Grand Forks to take her turn at the loom.  She reported that she kept it easy by weaving a repeating design. The colors in this portion have a patriotic flavor–either American or Norwegian.

Sara Okern ( only wanted to take one day for her weaving, so she incorporated areas of plain weave to contrast with the monksbelt pattern.  The two shades of linen look particularly elegant.

We are making steady progress!

Monksbelt–Lisa Bauch

Lisa Bauch spent two days composing a birthday runner for her sister, with colors based on Linnea flowers that grow in Sweden.

Note some small tails on the beautiful surface.  Lisa likes to leave tails formed when changing color or a bobbin on the front, rather than the back, before she snips them off.

Judy Larson and I, on the first two pieces, wove a clean linen edge.  Lisa Torvik and Lisa Bauch added looped fringe. That hadn’t even occurred to me when I sat down to weave, but it is beautiful. It has a special charm on Lisa Torvik’s piece because she used so many colors.  You’ll have to wait to the end to see those loops, however; Lisa Torvik didn’t take a photo when she finished, and it is now hiding under the beam at the front of the loom.


A New Project–Monksbelt

By Robbie LaFleur

Our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group has a project underway, a group monkskbelt warp on the Glimåkra loom at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. 15 yards of cottolin warp! Our pieces will be modest, only 24″ per weaver, 16.6″ wide.  Interest was high; we have 17 people signed up. Jan Josifek offered to wind the enormous warp.  I bought a kilo of 20/2 cottolin in a half-bleached color.  She wound the warp and had almost NOTHING to spare. We chose a pattern from an old Väv magazine, #3, 1975.  (I am not going to post the whole article for copyright reasons.)


Extremely important pieces of thread to repair broken warps.

Threading underway

It took us a while to make progress on warping and getting started–you may have heard about the winter weather from hell in Minnesota this year. Jan J. was so excited about the pattern that she interpreted the draft in 8 shaft turned twill blocks for towels at home.  Beautiful! She definitely gets extra points.

Judy Larson was the first to weave, she took on the job of making sure that the weaving would go well for all the subsequent weavers.  Happily, she reported, “It wove up beautifully with no issues!” Here is her beautiful green color; she used doubled Shetland yarn for her pattern weft.

I was second, and wove four large blocks in saturated colors.

The third weaving is underway; Lisa Torvik is using green linen for the background weft, and wonderful color bundles for her expert experimentation.

Keep tuned in for more colors and variations on the warp in the coming weeks.


Vesterheim Classes 2019–A Fabulous Line-up

I have to admit, it’s satisfying and fun when a new class catalog comes out, and I find my classes listed. I love teaching the billedvev (Norwegian tapestry) class at the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, and my session from September 12-15, 2019, is listed in the new print and online catalogs.

But when I opened the print catalog, I was amazed to see the number of Norwegian textile classes offered at Vesterheim this year!  Four members of our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group are teaching: besides my Norwegian tapestry class, Keith Pierce is teaching band weaving; Melba Granlund is teaching warp weighted loom weaving;  and Jan Mostrom is teaching the “Art Weaves of Norway and Sweden.”

Laura Demuth from Decorah is teaching an introductory weaving course, and “Weaving a Double Weave in the Scandinavian Style.” Britt Solheim is coming from Norway to teach skinnfell printing, a class she first taught at Vesterheim in 2009.

See the list and links to sign up here. Heads up–these are great teachers! I’ll bet that many of these will fill early.

Mary Etta Litsheim

Sadly, Mary Etta Litsheim, one of our long-time Scandinavian Weavers Study Group members and supporters, died recently and suddenly.  A celebration of her life will be held at Saint Anthony Park Lutheran Church, 2323 Como Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday, December 11th. Visitation is at 10am, followed by a memorial service at 11am.

I personally want to pay tribute to Mary for her long-standing enthusiasm for the work of our group.  I know that her active work life got in the way of attending our meetings–and getting to her loom! She was a trained designer and had many ideas for weavings, and it is seems so unfair that she won’t get the time she hoped for to spend at her Norwegian Hagen tapestry loom.

Mary often responded to notices of upcoming Scandinavian Weavers meetings, saying she would not be able to join us because she was traveling for work. If there was news of upcoming projects or exhibits, she would cheer us on. This is what she was doing, from the notice sent to me by her husband, James Litsheim–a pretty good reason to miss a meeting.

Later in her career Dr. Mary Etta joined the Department of Homeland Security Equal Rights Cadre after a distinguished career in civil rights and academia.Dr. Litsheim was deployed to over 50 disasters including the contiguous United States and territories. While with the Equal Rights Cadre, she was a tireless and accomplished trainer and sympathetic counselor to both employees and survivors.

We were lucky to know Mary, and our deep condolences go out to her family in this sad time.

This is the full announcement of her death.

Dr. Mary Etta Litsheim, Age 74, daughter of Ruby D. (Akre) and James P. Rorris, Esq. died suddenly in a car accident on 11/19 while in California with FEMA to help survivors of the recent fires. She is survived by the love of her life, James E. Litsheim, AIA, daughter, Sara M. Litsheim, son, Scott J. Litsheim, grandson Samuel G. Dustin, brother Eric J. Rorris, close friends Susan Lillehei, Janet Snyder, Jenene Fredell, Laurine Schuster and many friends and valued colleagues. 

Mary Etta, MA, MA, PhD, was mainly a professional homemaker until her children were in their teens. She received her two Master’s degrees one in Design and one in Organization Development as well as her PH.D. in Work and Human Resources Development from the University of Minnesota. She was currently a Certified Neutral Mediator for the State of Minnesota as well as Mediator for the Minnesota Human Rights Commission.  

Her research years were varied in substance; one thesis was a study of persons with disabilities that became an initiator of the nation wide Disability Student Cultural Center movement on college campuses; her PhD dissertation was on the museum education of Norwegian and Norwegian-American artisans which facilitated visits for the family with their Scandinavian relatives in both Norway and Sweden. (Litsheim-TviIde and Jonson and Olson-Akre). Later in her career Dr. Mary Etta joined the Department of Homeland Security Equal Rights Cadre after a distinguished career in civil rights and academia.  Dr. Litsheim was deployed to over 50 disasters including the contiguous United States and territories. While with the Equal Rights Cadre, she was a tireless and accomplished trainer and sympathetic counselor to both employees and survivors.  She emphasized the importance of education and equality – a passion that was threaded throughout her years of life. Volunteer activities were as a board member of the University’s Friends of the Goldstein Museum and President, College of Human Ecology Alumni Society.

Married for nearly 56 years, Mary Etta and James’ lives were full with love for each other and love of family, art and world travel adventures.

A Celebration of Mary Etta’s life will be held at Saint Anthony Park Lutheran Church, 2323 Como Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday, December 11th. Visitation is at 10am, with Memorial Service at 11am. Following lunch at the church an escorted motorcade will proceed to Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Memorials to St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church, Wounded Warrior Project, and Southern Poverty Law Center preferred and appreciated.