Scandinavian weaving


Claire Caughey Most submitted a piece from her series of weavings exploring luminosity.  This one certainly worked.  The bands of deep blue bordering  krokbragd weaving set off  the brightness of the interlocking narrow stripes within.  The shades of turquoise and green almost glow.

Jane Connett wove a krokbragd that is dense with pattern and color contrasts.  Though she titled it “Wisconsin Reds,” there are many more colors in the bands of pattern.  Shades of gold and brown and red are set off by white and deep black.    The color palette gives it a traditional Norwegian feeling.

In previous centuries the crosses formed in boundweave patterns had more direct and religious meaning to weavers and users of textiles.  Most contemporary weavers use the geometric patterns created by the weave structure as design elements rather than protective symbols.

One weaving in the show does use crosses as intentional symbols – as grave markers in a cemetery.  Nancy Ellison’s “Pasture by the Cemetery” includes krokbragd  crosses, charming black sheep and white sheep, fences, ladies,  farmers, and dark-suited pastors with hats.

While shopping one day, Sara Williams was enchanted by several autumn-colored cotton fabrics.   She loaded six bolts in her cart, three solid colors and three plaids.  They are now in a six-foot long rosepath rug.  Two details are shown here.  It’s so interesting to see how the plaids lose their plaid-ness, but add richness and depth to the colors in the rug.

Sara planned two rugs, the first one using solids as the background and the plaids as the pattern elements, and the second rug using plaid for the background and solids for the patterns.  How different would they be?  Her hard lesson learned?  Be sure to buy enough fabric to start!  Despite looking for more at several fabric stores, one fabric color is gone.

The second rug will no doubt be beautiful.  Come to think about it, doesn’t this happen with projects all the time – the weaving in the end is not the one you first envisioned?

Judy Larson’s vibrant rug was woven with fabric strips as weft.  The krokbragd surprise began with the realization that she had tied up the loom incorrectly, and the weaving was upside down.   Instead of seeing the crisp design on top, the visible side showed the long floats that are normally on the reverse.  She decided to continue weaving without climbing under the loom to redo all her setting-up work.  So the first time she saw the how the pattern really looked on the right side was after she finished and took it off the loom. It was a fun and pleasant surprise!

Subtle patterns in shades close to one another

These are both details of the same piece!

Ann Haushild’s amazing piece has an overall sense of calm, despite the fact is it filled with contrast.   Red,  green,  gold, dark midnight blue,  and snowy white are all pulled together with delicate geometry.  The bold color bands pop out when it is viewed at a distance.  Closer up you discover subtle patterns created with shades of the colors.  Those details are shown here.

Syvilla Bolson (detail)

Robbie laFleur Moore (detail)

Syvilla Tweed Bolson and I are showing pieces woven in the Flesberg boundweave technique, a three-shaft krokbragd on rosepath threading, typical of the Flesberg area in Numedal, Norway.  Samples and drafts of many patterns from old textiles were compiled by the Flesberg Farm Women’s Organization in the 1990s.  Many American weavers, including Syvilla and me, participated in a Flesberg Study Group in 2004.  We kept on exploring.

Syvilla aimed for a modern-looking piece, combining two patterns in a bold black-and-red color scheme.  She wove it to be displayed as a wall hanging or large runner, but now displays it draped over a tall chair back.  It is woven on black seine twine at six ends per inch.  The warp is Norwegian Rauma åklaegarn, and the resulting fabric is soft, with a drapey quality.

I wove a wall piece with bands in many patterns and colors.  The warp is the same, but sett at 10 ends per inch.  The weft is Norwegian Rauma prydvevgarn, thinner than the yarn Syvilla used.  As a result,  the pattern is finer in scale on my piece, bolder on Syvilla’s.  My 10 epi wall piece is stiffer.

The Scandinavian Weavers Study Group of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota has been meeting for inspiration and education since the mid-1990s. Each year or two the group chooses a weave structure to study and we help one another in our explorations.  There may be a formal workshop set up to learn a technique, but more often the tutoring is by way of information sharing – of plans, problems along the way, and finished pieces.  Most studies result in an formal or informal exhibit.

Our 2009-2010 study of various boundweave patterns led to the Textile Center Community Gallery exhibit, Scandinavian Boundweave: Timeless Tradition. (exhibit flyer: tradition1)  For fans of krokbragd and bound rosepath patterns, or anyone who is intrigued by 21rst-century weavers approaching a traditional technique,  this is a great collection.

Creativity is sparked by challenge.  Veronna Capone’s wove with vibrant hand-dyed wool she purchased from Mary Zicafoose, the “extras” left at the end a workshop.  Robbie LaFleur translated an article from a 1983 Norwegian magazine and recreated “The Old Pattern,” with motifs from Lom and Skjåk in Gudbrandsdal.  Sara Williams was drawn to a palette of fabric colors while shopping one day and decided to weave a large boundweave rag rug.

On a recent trip Mary Skoy and Jan Mostrom were captivated by a museum exhibit of cradle coverlets at the Zorn Museum in Mora, Sweden.   The small coverlets had narrow stripes, were edged with woven bands, and had festive tassels.

The squares of the geometric krokbragd pattern can be graphed to create rows of small figures. In Nancy Ellison’s fresh and appealing “Pasture by the Graveyard,” pastors, grave markers, and sheep line up on a grassy green background.

These are just a few of the 19 pieces featured in the exhibit!  (Details from some pieces are in the grahic at the top of the blog.)

The “Timeless Tradition” exhibit is a great opportunity to see how boundweave pieces vary greatly depending on the materials.  Thin wool gives a fine, precise result.  Heavier wool and thin fabric strips, woven on fewer warp ends per inch, yield a bolder, graphic impact.

Boundweave coverlets were prominent in many Norwegian homes, adorning the wooden corner beds, as in this photo from the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.

Boundweave holds the same appeal to contemporary weavers as it might have to a 19th-century weaver on a Norwegian mountainside farm.  The technique can be tricky, but is relatively easy to learn.  It gives the weaver wide latitude in creativity with color and pattern.  As the nineteenth-century women threw the shuttle at their looms, I’m sure they were as captivated as we are at the magic of designs unfolding on the loom – just by choosing the right color to enter.  But they surely couldn’t have imagined some pieces in the show.  Sara William owned an interesting vintage telephone table in need of reupholstering.  Melba Granlund wove a computer bag. None of the contemporary pieces are headed for a corner bed!

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