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.

skillbragdaakle_fra_gol_fullwidth

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.

Skillbragd1.xlsx

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.

lisa-driving

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.

warpgroup

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.

endofwarp

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. 

carriage-darker

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

IMG_5374

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.

thumb_IMG_3958_1024.jpg

 

 

 

Scandinavian Weavers Meeting, April 2018

IMG_1804Our Scandinavian Weavers group met on April , delayed one week because of the ridiculous weekend snowstorm of the previous week.  Members have been busy weaving!  I abandoned my fabulous weekend workshop with Catharine Ellis for a couple of hours to meet with our group, and showed some samples I had woven and dyed.  “I have to take a photo of your beautiful blue hands,” Mary Skoy insisted.

Sara Okern just finished a gorgeous abstract rug.  Of course this photo, holding it up in the air, makes it look a bit skewed.  Part of its beauty is the sharp geometry of the center shape, coupled with the randomness of the inner lines of color.
IMG_5143
Judy Larson brought three wall pieces, rag rug hangings woven in monks belt.  Given the extreme longing for spring among the attendees, we all were attracted to the one in the brightest pink and green. She tried out and liked the fringe tying method taught by Tom Knisely, in which each bundle drops one thread on the edge and pulls in a thread from the adjoining bundle.  It gives a sharper line to the edge.
D05B9B45-9E5E-4603-BC7E-7D63DAD4407C
m-hallc3a9n-4She also brought a rug woven from the new Swedish book, I trasmattas värld från a-ö. I heard about this book and Judy’s daughter in Sweden found it and sent over copies for Judy and me.  Judy is doing a great job of testing the patterns, even before I get to them!
IMG_5153
Marilyn Moore brought a beautiful wool rug and started a lively discussion of which side should be the “right” side. She solicited opinions about how the edges should be finished.  Fringes?  Straight edge?  I think fringes won, though either would be lovely.
DA980FA0-F719-426A-8CD9-88E1922ED80F
IMG_5157
Jan Mostrom brought a sample pillow she made for her upcoming class in Swedish Art Weaves at the Weavers Guild in May. !!!
IMG_5140
She finished the back in the method she learned in Sweden last year.  The opening is often closed with large hooks and eyes, but braid is also used. She made the fringe using the traditional two-person Swedish fringe-making technique.  The second person was her loving husband Mike, who spent two hours on that project. What a guy.
IMG_5141
Jan also brought in a fortuitous eBay find, a lovely Swedish dukagång piece. One beautiful aspect was the slight variegation of color in the pattern yarns.
IMG_5135

If You Can’t Read the Norwegian Weaving Book, So What?

comboHow did the contemporary weavers in the “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot” exhibit learn to weave in traditional techniques?  Sometimes it was a class, other times by studying an old textile. But books are key.

If you could create a state-by-state map showing ownership of weaving books in Norwegian, Minnesota would win, hands-down.  Many weavers around the state have collections of books bought on trips to Norway or many times, from the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.  It doesn’t even matter if the owners don’t read Norwegian, weavers find inspiration from the photos and can read the drafts for the loom.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Jeanine Swanson Ehnert‘s beautiful and traditional weaving in skilbragd technique was inspired by the draft for a “Skilbragd from Fosnes” found in a book published in 2001 by the Nord-Trøndelag Husflidslag, Om Fellen Kunne Fortelle: Åkletradisjon til Inspirasjon  by Randi Breistet (loosely translated as If the Blanket Could Talk: Coverlet Traditions for Inspiration). She used a draft similar to this one from the book.

Jeanine weaves in Frazee, Minnesota, with a concentration on traditional Norwegian weaving techniques.  She also conducts weaving workshops and classes at the Vevstuen Nordic Weaving Studio, located in her home, which includes two floor looms and several table looms. Some workshops are for beginning weavers, and others focus more on Scandinavian design aspects.

Here is Jeanine weaving the first section of her “Skilbragd fra Fosnes.”

IMG_0471

The piece progresses.

IMG_0489

Come to the wide-ranging exhibit at Norway House, July 20-September 10, “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot” to see the full piece. Don’t miss it! During the run of the show, there will be classes, demonstration days, gallery talks, and a lecture.  Full details here.

Flowers Translated to Thread

Two of the rya pieces in the “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot” exhibit are direct responses to flowers, both Norwegian and American.

corky copy

Corwyn K. Knutson

Corwyn Knutson, from St. Paul, wove “Hardanger Cherry Blossoms,” inspired by flowers he saw on a memorable driving trip through Norway.  The trees with red, pink, and purple form a beautiful abstract image.  It is so deftly balanced, in fact, that it was once hung in an exhibit upside-down and  it was just as beautiful! Corwyn’s rya was a double winner at the Minnesota State Fair; it received a blue ribbon and the Doris Tufte award for Creative Loom Weaving in Scandinavian Tradition.

corky-rya

IMG_6745

Marilyn Moore

Marilyn Moore, from Cedar, Minnesota, learned to weave rya from Jan Mostrom, co-curator of the “American Reboot” exhibit, at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. Excited about the possibilities of color blending, Marilyn quickly moved to an interpretation of her perennial garden, which includes 25 varieties of day lilies and gives her color all summer long. Marilyn wrote, “It  introduced me to a freedom that I had not experienced before working with color and fiber, and I loved every minute of it.”

IMG_6735

This summer, enjoy flowers outdoors and the indoors at the Norway House Galleri, from July 20-September 10.  Come to the opening!  July 20, 5-8 pm.

Rya: From a Weaving for Warmth, to Just Plain Wonderful

Rya coverlets are perfect for Norway, aren’t they? If you are covered with shaggy threads of wool, just like a sheep’s fleece, the heat of your body is trapped, and you manage to keep warm in a drafty old wood home, or a loft in a barn, or in a cold, damp fishing boat along the coast.

boat rya

Båtrye, or boat rya, from the collection of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum

 

Along the west coast of Norway, boat ryas were woven by women for everyday use in a hard climate. They were utilitarian, yet valuable textiles. Fishermen used the båtryer in boats on their trips to the offshore fishing banks, or while bunking in a cold and damp rorbu, or fisherman’s cottage. They were ideal to roll yourself up in against the cold and raw weather. The båtryer, with thick pile, were woven counterparts of sheepskins, but much better because a sheepskin stiffens when it gets wet.

Women wove båtryer for their husbands and sons and they were used for many years, sometimes generations.  A boat rya used ten to twenty kilos of wool, which was a significant portion of the annual production of a small farm. To ensure they lasted it was important to dry them thoroughly between each use, so the yarns would not rot. They were crucially important objects, as illustrated by the story of a fisherman whose boat capsized. He floated in the water and thought about all of the things in the boat that were lost. When the rescuers arrived, his one thought was, “Save the rya first!”

boatryadetailThe “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot” exhibit includes a wonderful donated båtrye from Skodje, Sunnmøre, Møre og Romsdal, NorwayThe coverlet was made by Nikoline Indreberg, the great-grandmother of the donor, in ca. 1890, for her new husband Ole. The coverlet was one of the few belongings that the family brought with them when they had to move after Ole died.

The smooth side of the rya was woven in twill weave with red and white bands. The pile side was woven with rya knots of wool, along with narrow strips of cloth. To save wool, weavers often used wool rags in the knotted pile. You used what you had.

In addition to the important utilitarian boat ryas, by the eighteenth and nineteenth century another tradition of decorative rya bed coverlets developed, although not to the extent they were woven in Finland and Sweden. The patterns on the decorative top side were generally simple: checks, plaids, or warp-wise stripes in a variety of twills.

 

Lisa-Anne Bauch

Lisa-Anne Bauch

Moving to contemporary pieces woven in rya technique, American weavers generally create pieces for wall display, and sometimes for pillows, too.  The ability to mix yarns in each rya knot enables subtlety and depth in color changes.  The textural aspect of the knots adds richness. Locally, the interest in rya led to a year-long study group and exhibit in 2015.  See “The Fruits of Rya Exploration.”

moonlight

“Moonlight,” Edvard Munch

Lisa-Anne Bauch used the technique to mimic the atmosphere of a famous Edvard Munch painting, “Moonlight,” from 1895.  Lisa wrote, “I was fascinated by the way Munch captured the glint of moonlight on water. 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.”

BauchHighRes1

Watch for posts on more contemporary ryas in the American Reboot exhibit.

 

A Two-sided Textile: Pick Your favorite Side

Iowa artist Laura Demuth sets up amazing weaving challenges for herself.  Often, not content with just buying and weaving with beautiful wool, she spins and dyes yarn from her own sheep.  In a number of weavings she has gone beyond weaving for beauty on one side, and combined techniques to make unique two-sided textiles.  One of those will be included in the upcoming “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot” exhibit at Norway House from July 20-September 10, 2017.

On one side of the hanging, Laura wove an intricate pattern in a complex doubleweave technique.  She hid the knots of the rya pile between the two layers of the doubleweave. Because the doubleweave pick-up surface needs to be the upper side during weaving, she tied the knots upside-down on the lower surface. (Rya weavers would understand: this is tricky.)

Rya3-1

On the other side, colorful stripes of beautifully-blended yarns are dense and enticing. This piece perfectly fulfills its purpose as a warm throw.

Rya2

Biography:

Laura Demuth has been weaving for over 30 years and enjoys all aspects of textile production, from raising the sheep to taking a finished piece off the loom. Living on a small acreage just  seven miles northeast of Decorah, Iowa, Laura has a small flock of registered Blue Faced Leicester sheep that keep her hands busy spinning wool all winter. She often dyes the handspun yarn with natural dyes from the garden before putting it to use in a woven or knitted textile.

Because Laura lives so close to Decorah, Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum has been a continual source of education and inspiration throughout her weaving career. Laura has  focused on traditional weaving structures and techniques, especially bound weave and doubleweave.

IM000401.JPG

Don’t miss this piece and so many more in “Traditional Norwegian Weaving: American Reboot.” The opening night at Norway House, July 20, 5-8, would be a smashing time for a first peek.