Skillbragd projects 2018

By Lisa Torvik

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Karin Maahs wove some small pattern elements in a contrasting color.

After enjoying our project in 2017 which focused on the Swedish art weave, “dukagång”, there was consensus to embark on a new group project in 2018 studying an overshot technique known as “skillbragd” [pron. “shill’ brahgd”] in Norway and as “Smålandsväv” [pron. “smoh’ lahnds vave”] in Sweden.  Regional variations in Norway go by other names, too.  Essentially, all forms secure long pattern weft floats with a single or double shot of tabby.

There are a few different ways to set up a loom for this technique, but most assume a loom with sufficient depth front to back to accommodate several harnesses separated in two groups, and the ability to adjust harnesses up and down independently of each other.  Historically, this technique would have been set up with counterbalance.  After review of a lot of different sources, and some experimentation, we found that setting up the ground on countermarch and the pattern harnesses using elastic bands worked the best.  Even so, most found it necessary to use a pick up stick to create a good pattern shed, though the plain weave sheds were pretty good.  Most of us used stick shuttles for the pattern yarn and some for the ground weft also.  Keeping the warp damp aided in getting a better shed and strengthening the warp under high tension.

The ground is threaded on two or four shafts, and the pattern is usually on 4 or 6 shafts, but a larger number of pattern harnesses is possible if the loom can accommodate them.  The warp is first threaded in regular heddles on the ground harnesses for plain weave.  Then contiguous groups of warp threads, often four at a time, are threaded through pattern harnesses in front, using long-eyed heddles or by threading the group of warp threads under the eye of regular heddles.  A single square in the drafts we used corresponds to one group of four threads in a pattern heddle. 

The two groups of harnesses should be separated by a few inches.  The sinking-shed pattern is created by treadling the pattern harnesses, one or more at a time, and following each pattern shot with a plain weave shot.  A side fringe of loops can be created by catching the pattern weft around a finger.  The ground weft is usually threaded so 2 or 4 warp threads create a selvedge that is not threaded through a pattern heddle.  This selvedge locks in the loops or hides the pattern weft turns on the backside of the weaving if no loops are desired. 

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Loops at the edges. The two outer pieces are showing the “right” side, with the narrow selvedges.

We set up two warps in succession, both with Bockens 16/2 unbleached linen yarn.  Weft was the choice of the weaver.  The second was narrower than the first, but on the second warp, a smaller number of weavers wanted to weave longer pieces.  In all, fourteen weavers completed nearly 30 pieces of varying lengths between the two projects.  Most used wool weft, but some pieces were finished with all linen weft or perle cotton. (Draft for the first warp in pdf; draft for the second warp in pdf)

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Lisa Torvik used used linen weft to make skillbragd flowers.

I would like to acknowledge the weavers and, of them, the many that helped set up the two projects:  Phyllis Waggoner, Robbie LaFleur and Lisa Anne Bauch worked with me to set up – and set up again when THAT didn’t work – the first warp. 

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Robbie LaFleur turning the crank; Lisa Torvik supervising and rolling on the warp, and Lisa Anne Bauch braced with the taut warp.

Robbie helped me monitor and aid those unfamiliar with the technique.  Melba Granlund, Lisa Anne and I set up the second warp, though we agreed four is best!  Thanks to Donna Hanson for instruction and tips on restoring the loom for the next group/class since I was not familiar with the vertical countermarch setup on the Glimåkra loom and technicalities of texsolv.  I’m more old school!  And last but certainly not least thanks to Jan Hayman for insights on aspects of newer linen yarns and assistance sweeping up the “chaff” we created. Help came from afar, too, with an “emergency” phone call while warping to Robbie’s colleague Shawn Cassiman in Michigan and a detailed letter from Ruth Ida Tvenge of the Øystre Slidre Husflidslag in Norway.

Thanks all!

 

Scandinavian-related Classes at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota

The fall class catalog for the Weavers Guild of Minnesota has just been released.  Here are the classes related to Scandinavian techniques.  Sign up soon! See the rich slate of all classes offered by the Guild here.

Swedish Art Weaves with Jan Mostrom

SwedishRed-591x1024Swedish art weaves are at their best in the highly decorated weavings of the Skåne area of Sweden. Dukagång, krabbasnår and halvkrabbe are woven in a similar manner using butterflies to inlay designs, but each have a distinctive look. Dukagång is made up of columns. Krabbasnår designs move on a diagonal while halvkrabbe is made up of squares like a checkerboard. Rölakan is a geometric tapestry technique that is also seen in the weavings of Skåne. Students will weave a sampler of these techniques, discuss color choices, finishing techniques and ideas for making a sampler into a pillow or bag.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday, September 10, 11, 12 & 14: 10:00am – 4:00pm | REGISTER

*Note: This class requires some independent weaving time on Thursday, September 13 as well.

Level and Prerequisites: Intermediate: Requires some experience in the subject and the ability to start and finish projects. Students must be able to wind a warp, warp a floor loom and read a draft independently.
Tuition: $240 WGM Member / $312 Non-member

Warp-Weighted Loom Weaving: Sami-Inspired Grene Blanket or Rug with Melba Granlund

IMAG1010Learn to weave on the historic warp-weighted loom. Used for millennia in many parts of the world, the warp-weighted loom is easy to use and is the traditional loom of the Norwegian sea Sami today. In this class, you will learn how to use the warp-weighted loom and weave a small Sami-inspired rug or blanket (grene). This project is suitable for beginning weavers and for those who want to expand their knowledge of weaving traditions. Warp yarn will be provided by the instructor and is included in the materials fee. Students may use handspun yarns or purchase commercial yarn for weft. Options for weft yarn will be viewed and discussed prior to class beginning allowing students time to obtain yarn of their choice.

Saturday, November 3: 1:15pm – 2:15pm; Monday – Wednesday, December 3 – 5: 10:00am – 4:00pm; Saturday, December 8: 10:00am – 4:00pm | REGISTER

Level: Beginning – no experience necessary!
Tuition: $250 WGM Member / $325 Non-member Student

 

Nålbinding I: Winter Cap with Melba Granlund 

Nalbinding-Melba-3small-768x608Learn the folk art tradition of nålbinding using a handcrafted wooden needle and continuous strand of wool yarn. While this looping technique was used by the Vikings to make warm garments such as socks and mittens, artifacts dating back 3,000 years show that articles made in nålbinding have been found around the world. In this class, you will learn basic nålbinding stitches to make a hat. Current samples, as well as pictures of historical pieces from Norway, Sweden and Finland, will be shown as inspiration. Discussion of yarns suitable for nålbinding will be covered during the first class. Instructor will provide students with practice yarn to begin. Students can bring their own needle or purchase a handcrafted wooden needle from the instructor

Saturday & Sunday, September 22 & 23: 1:00pm – 5:00pm | REGISTER

Level: Beginning – no experience necessary!
Tuition: $88 WGM Member / $112 Non-member

Try It! Sami-Inspired Bracelet with Katherine Buenger

bracelet-all-tinThese bracelets are based on the designs of the Sami people, who are the native people from the far northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. The bracelets are constructed with traditional materials including reindeer leather, tin thread (4% silver), and reindeer antler buttons. Students will learn to make a four strand braid using tin thread, and then they will hand sew their piece to reindeer leather to finish an elegant bracelet.

Saturday, October 6: 1:00pm – 5:00pm | REGISTER

Level: Beginning – no experience necessary!
Tuition: $48 WGM Member / $60 Non-member

Swedish Kavelfrans – Minnesota Style with Robbie LaFleur

IMG_3044Inspired by historical mitten trim, contemporary Swedish knitters, weavers, and embroiderers love to add kavelfrans—fuzzy, wooly worms to grace mitten cuffs, pillows, bags, or other handwoven or commercial items. In this three-hour class you will learn a two-pronged fork method to wind the base fringes, securing them by hand or sewing machine. After sewing down layers of the prepared loops, we’ll learn to steam and clip to make the irresistible thick edging. Students can bring a pair of hand-knit or purchased mittens or gloves to embellish (the instructor will have a limited number of gloves to purchase), or add kavelfrans to a Swedish-inspired wool pincushion (materials can be purchased from the instructor). With discussion of the best materials to use, and many examples of items made with kavelfrans, the class is a combination of design inspiration and technique. Richly-illustrated instruction booklets and kavelfrans forks will be available for purchase. (For links to more photos and information, type kavelfrans in the search box on Robbie’s blog, robbielafleur.com.)

Sunday, October 14: 1:00pm – 4:00pm | REGISTER

Level: Beginning – no experience necessary!
Tuition: $36 WGM Member / $45 Non-member

Skillbragd Inspiration

Just as the students in Jan Mostrom’s Swedish Art Weaves class could view lovely pieces in that technique as part of the exhibit, “A Passionate Pursuit: Scandinavian Weavings from the Collection of Carol Johnson,” the members of our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group can view skillbragd weavings to inspire and inform us as we participate in our group project.  Here are the skillbragd/opphampta pieces on display right now.

 

For more wonderful weaving photos and information about the current exhibit of Scandinavian weavings and the tapestry collection of Carol Johnson, too, see the new issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter, which includes these articles:

A Passionate Pursuit: Scandinavian Weavings from the Collection of Carol Johnson

Dipping Into Carol Johnson’s Tapestry Collection

The Swedish Art Weave Tradition Continues in Minnesota

 

 

Skillbragd Weaving Continues…

The members of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group are continuing their skillbragd samples, but many have been wound around before photos could be taken.  The cutting-off ceremony for this warp will be significant.

Karen Weiberg snapped a photo during her turn at the loom. Good work!

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Here is the draft and treadling, thanks to Lisa Torvik. Here it is in a nice pdf document.

Revised Skillbragd Treadling #1

 

What’s the Front? What’s the Back?

Next up?  Judy Larson chose green for her piece. More success!  This warp is working.

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Skillbragd weavings can look equally beguiling from either side.  On our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group project, the deep red and green of skillbragd floats on the two pieces are wonderful, and I would definitely use the side I saw while weaving as the “front.”

I took a new look at a small piece I own that was woven by Lila Nelson.  Interesting!  She used the side that shows the most of the ground tabby as the right side, and that is very clear by looking at how she hemmed it. The other interesting thing is that she made fringe on either edge as wove the piece, hemmed it, and then added fringe to the other two sides. That looks nice.

Good ideas for future pieces!

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Starting on the group Skilbragd Project

Our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group is working on Norwegian skilbragd; we began warping a loom at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota yesterday.

Lisa Torvik, our leader in this project, was inspired by a pattern for a group project undertaken by the Gol Husflidsslag in Norway.  See the Skillbragdåkle fra Gol here.

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Inspiration coverlet from Gol, Norway

She took elements of the wider piece and narrowed the pattern to runner-width. Lisa didn’t use weaving software to make her draft; she’s a whiz with spreadsheets and used Excel to make the draft and treading variants.

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Lisa Torvik, Lisa Bauch, Phyllis Wagonner, and Robbie LaFleur met to warp the loom; Lisa Torvik had already wound the ten-yard warp of 16/2 linen.  Using a variety of print resources, including Lillemor Johansson’s book Damask and Opphämta, we figured out how to sett up the tabby heddles for the ground weave and the pattern heddles.  Beaming was a four person job! Lisa Torvik oversaw and “drove” the process from the front. As we worked, the linen had a wonderful hay-like scent.

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Robbie turned the wheel, Lisa Bauch braced her legs against the back of the loom and held the warp tight as it was rolled on, and Phyllis inserted sticks to pad the warp on the back as it was beamed on.

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Lisa had the tough job, as she had to keep hanging on to the the warp for dear life even as it was approaching the front beam, pulling her through the loom.

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Many tricky warping steps remain.

 

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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