RED – A Study Group Exhibit

Most years our Scandinavian Weavers Interest Group chooses a technique to study, but two years ago we chose to set our weaving goals to focus on a color at the heart of so many Scandinavian folk textiles — red.

Please come to see this warm and lively show at the Textile Center of Minnesota Community Gallery, May 12-June 25, 2016.

For our 2016 exhibit, members chose many paths in technique and materials.   We didn’t exclude the rest of the color wheel completely; our only criteria was that red needs to be a significant element of the piece. Some pieces are mostly red, and others are grand experiments in fitting red into a pleasing combination.


Featured Weavers

Lisa-Anne Bauch
Veronna Capone
Melba Granlund
Patty Johnson
Corwyn Knutson
Judy Larson
Robbie LaFleur
Connie LaTendresse
Karin Maahs
Marilyn Moore
Jan Mostrom
Keith Pierce
Lisa Torvik
Phyllis Waggoner

Exhibitions Opening Reception: 6-8 pm, May 12, 2016.

This festive evening will celebrate new shows in all the galleries at the Textile Center of Minnesota.  You won’t want to miss the other exhibits, either: On Borrowed Time: Postponing the Inevitable, Maggie Thompson (with an artist talk at 7pm); Hiaku Two Ways, Sandra Brick; and Joys & Tears in the Apron Strings, Yvonne Cory.

Old Weavings, New Knowledge

One of the great benefits of Weavers Guild membership is the opportunity to and learn from other members in the Guild’s interest groups.  I am constantly reminded about how much knowledge is held by members and constantly amazed at the generosity of time and talent by those members.  Our Scandinavian Weavers Interest Group has a long history of providing support to one another, and several new weavers have been nurtured.

We had a great learning opportunity at our January meeting, held on a frigid, cars-not-starting day.  Even so, many members met for a special viewing of Swedish art weave textiles at the American Swedish Institute (ASI), assembled by group member and super-volunteer at the ASI, Phyllis Waggoner.  She brought out treasures for examination and inspiration.

Counting Threads

Counting ends per inch

One amazing textile was a set of two curtains owned by Swan Turnblad, the turn-of-the-last-century owner of the Swedish American newspaper, the Posten, whose mansion is now the main building of the American Swedish Institute. The brown wool curtains, over 8 feet long, are embellished with Swedish brocading techniques, dukagång and krabbesnår. 51.03.132



The reverse side (this is the side that would face up while it was woven)

Here is the reverse of the bottom of the curtain.


Since that meeting, we learned more about the curtains.  Lisa Bauch wrote, “FYI,  I was curious about the date on the curtains from the Turnblad mansion, so I had my mom do some research. (She’s a retired reference librarian.) The Turnblads travelled to Europe in 1895 (including Sweden) and bought furnishings for the home they lived in before they built the house on Park Avenue. I think it’s safe to assume that the curtains were commissioned and woven in Sweden that year, hence the date and SJT initials.”



Here’s a detail from the top of the curtain.


Watch for more photos of beautiful Swedish textiles from the American Swedish Institute… posted soon.


So Many Sources for Inspiration

Looking at old textiles can be a wonderful inspiration for designing new textiles.  In our current Scandinavian Weavers Study Group focus on Swedish art weaves, I found digital images from Swedish museums that could help with ideas for patterns and bands.  You could look at the old pieces for color combinations, or to see how they were balanced into sections.  Just soak it in.

In the Swedish DigitaltMuseum, try these terms: Konstvävnad, halvkrabba, krabbasnår, dukagång. I know there is overlap, as many pieces may include more than one of the techniques.

There are images not only of woven items, but of patterns, too.  You could use them to chart your own, combining elements you like.  For example, here is a krabbasnår pattern.




Swedish Art Weaves at the ASI

This week Phyllis Waggoner, Jan Mostrom, and I looked at many Swedish Art Weave pieces owned by the American Swedish Institute, to prepare for our upcoming Scandinavian Weavers Study Group meeting and choose which ones to take out for display. As you might guess, we chose almost all the pieces we looked at, except in one category.  The ASI owns many 20th century pieces that are similar in pattern.  They were sold through Hemslöjd in Sweden in the 20th century.  Though beautifully executed, if you see a couple, you get the idea.  In contrast, the older, more one-of-a-kind weavings in the collection seemed to merit more individual study and comments.

This post includes a few detail shots of the pieces and some comments.  Later, we will post better, full-piece shots. This is just to whet you appetite!

We came up with a few general observations.  The sett for the tabby background on the Swedish brocaded pieces was uniformly fine, not less than ten ends per inch, and in one case, about 19 ends per inch.  The wool used was a single ply, thin wool, which in some cases may have been used double-spooled in the background.  The brocaded patterns were woven with multiple strands, from 2-5.

The first piece we looked at had a bright modern flair.  The abstract patterns included many colors, and some of them, like a light turquoise, seemed unexpected.  This piece is in dukagång.  It’s easy to recognize patterns woven in dukagång by their columnar appearance created by the tie-down thread.  In the pieces we looked at, most dukagång patterns floated over three threads and under one, but we saw one with over two, under one, and one with over four, under one.


Most likely, all the pieces were woven with the back side up.  Uniformly, the workmanship was lovely. Here’s the back side.


Phyllis imagined that a brown piece with a simple art noveau pattern may have elegantly draped over a piano. In this piece we guessed that the rich brown-black sections were woven double-spooled, with a brown and black thread mixed.




We looked at wool draperies woven for the Turnblad mansion, with brocaded borders. (No photo at this time.)

Some pieces had sections of rolokan, like the Norwegian rutevev, or square-weave technique.



On this piece we puzzled over a change in color near the beginning of the piece.  Was the weaver just testing before settling on the desired color combination?  Also, it was a long piece, unhemmed on either end.  Perhaps it was woven to upholster something?


This piece also demonstrates how dukagång is used to weave a less rectilinear pattern with curves; it’s along the edge.


Another beautiful dukagång piece had heart images and a beautiful palette of acid green, gold, orange, purple, and cream.  It was a length of fabric, with unfinished edges.


These Swedish brocading techniques were often used on bench covers.  One beautiful example in the ASI collection is completely covered with krabbasnår.  It’s also interesting to see the back of the bench cover; they were generally woven in a less time-consuming weave structure.  this one was still quite beautiful and would have been even more striking if the brilliant purple we could see on the inside was not faded to gray.





The halv-krabba and krabbasnår brocading techniques of the Swedish pieces are exactly the same technique used in Norwegian Vestfold pieces, and many of the designs I’ve seen on Swedish pieces are exactly the same as on old Norwegian Vestfold pieces.  However, the fine tabby background differed from what I know of the corresponding Norwegian Vestfold technique.  The Vestfold pieces I have seen (and made) use heavier yarn for the background.

The Swedish Institute owns several pieces that were woven and sold by Hemslöjd stores in the twentieth century.  Those pieces were characterized by larger-scale and more sparse, less all-over, designs.  They include rosepath patterning in the bands.  They were also characterized by a broad stripe in the background, behind the patterning.  Most were not hemmed nicely, but just cut and knotted.  Considering the design in the weavings as a group, they seemed more commercial and less interesting than some of the earlier pieces. Still, they are bold and beautiful.



Finally, we noticed on a couple of pieces that the warp threads were of alternating colors.  Perhaps that was to make the counting easier when picking up patterns?  It’s a good idea!

October Scandinavian Weavers Meeting

In October a small group of Scandinavian Weavers Study Group members drove to Karin Maah’s home in the northern suburbs.  Karin’s home became a pop-up museum in our honor.  The walls and halls were covered in paintings by her grandfather, noted Norwegian-American painter Hans Berg.  He also was a rosemaler, and his work was exuberant and personal, like this piece.

IMG_2902The guests arrived to this beautiful array of food.  “Wait,” Karin exclaimed,”the cake isn’t out,” as if somehow the existing spread was inadequate!


It is always a wonderful experience to see the homes of  fellow study group members, to see what looms and stashed of yarn they have, and to see their personal art and weaving collections. Karin has amazing family treasures. I thought this was the most amazing set. She has a beautiful billedvev (tapestry) woven by her grandmother.


She also has the cartoon for the piece, painted by her grandfather.


Some people might also have lovely pieces along with the original cartoons, but the most amazing part of Karin’s collection is that she also has a painting of her grandmother weaving the piece!


My favorite piece was a tapestry done by her grandmother, based on a cartoon done by her grandfather.  This photo can’t capture the subtle color gradations in the tapestry introduced by beautiful handspun yarns with slight, but painterly, variagations.



All of this documentation was amazing.  Here, in another one of Hans Berg’s paintings, the shawl depicted is still around, and shown hanging on one edge.


Thank you to Karin!

The Fruits of Rya Exploration

An enthusiastic group of weavers (and one non-weaver) met four times over the past year to talk about rya in its many forms.  Impetus for the group’s formation included the excellent exhibit at the American Swedish Institute, The Living Tradition of Ryijy – Finnish Rugs and their Makers, and two great classes on rya weaving by Jan Mostrom at the Weavers Guild.

Our Rya Exploration Group discussed traditional ryas of the Nordic countries, some with the pile woven in, and others with pile added to a ground cloth.  The year began with an exhibit of ryas on the walls of the Weavers Guild, and the year was capped with a second exhibit, which is now up for the months of November and December at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.  Please visit!

Fred M.B. Amram

Lest We Forget: 1933-1945  23” x 28”  Hardware cloth, wool, barbed wire, old barn wood, rusty screws.
Fred wrote about his inspiration for the piece.

As a Jude (Jew) who witnessed the beginnings of the Nazi catastrophe, I continue to purge my anger. I’m dedicated to remembering past genocides so that our future will allow all to feel free and equal.

I’m relatively new to rya and eager to test how far the art can be stretched. The rya technique was originally used to make warm bedspreads, rugs and wall hangings. I’ve tried three-dimensional boxes and now I want to re-examine the use of space in a multi-media sculpture.


Lisa Ann Bauch

Rya Inspired by Edvard Munch’s ‘Moonlight.’  Wool warp and weft; wool and linen pile.

I was fascinated by the way Munch captured the glint of moonlight on water in his painting from 1895. 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.


Houndstooth Rya Bench Cover
The ground cloth is a houndstooth pattern, while the rya section was made using the ‘hidden knots’ technique (the knots don’t show on the reverse side). It was inspired by a photo of an Icelandic sweater in blue, brown, and white.

Anita Jain


This ryijy (Anita is Finnish, so we will use this spelling) is a very different take on a traditional ryijy; it is knotted on a metal netting, using strips of fabric.    Anita wrote:

“It is inspired by the Universe, the way I think of it,  limitless in size and power, that gives me energy and creativity.  The piece is dark, but not at all in the negative sense. The darkness  contains the mystery and the power and the light, and the creative energy, the freedom and the direction;  just observe. listen and trust in its limitlessness.

“In the energy burst in the middle, I have used mostly wool yarn in different colors–that I see as life force color for this particular piece. The energy burst in the middle is fluid,like life itself, ever moving and reshaping and changing.  So each time the piece is hung it is hand shaped, thus looking  a little different each time, as well.”


Corwyn Knutson

Rya Pillow.  14” x 14”  wool
Exuberant gray pile explodes from a base of gray goose-eye twill.  In a switch from most exhibits, the weaver granted explicit permission to TOUCH.

Checkerboard.  34” x 27” Wool.
Woven on a diamond twill background, the squares of pile acquire beautiful shading by mixing colors in the knots.


Diamonds. 42” x 20.5”
In this rya technique, the flat, decorative knots on the reverse side echo the pile diamonds on the front.  The piece is hung to advantage with the top folded over, showing both sides.  When ryas were woven as bed coverings, the pile side would face down, and the decorative, flat pattern would face up on the bed.


Robbie LaFleur

Purple Power Field.  30” x 30”  Chicken wire, cotton fabric
The chicken wire rya started as an afternoon test for a possible collaborative art project, and ended up being a time-consuming abstract art piece.  Read more about its development at:


Jan Mostrom

Rya on Pick and Pick Backing. 14″ x16”  Cotton warp, wool weft, wool and linen pile
The blue and gray rya was inspired by ryas from the area of Narvik, Sweden, which use pick and pick-patterned weft face backing.


Goose-eye Rya. 15″ x 22”  wool
Red, orange and gray pile.  This piece was inspired by ryas at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum woven with goose-eye twill on the reverse sides.


Rya. 19″ x 27”  Cotton warp, wool weft, wool and linen pile
Jan wove this piece on a loom on a demonstration loom at the American Swedish Institute.  The teal, green, blue, and yellow pile rya was inspired by a ceramic fireplace in the room where she wove this piece.  It was woven on a weft-faced solid black backing.


Houndstooth Rya.  11″ x 22″ Wool warp and weft, wool and linen pile
The red, black, and gray rya was inspired by the houndstooth backing on an old rya owned by the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa.


Some Snippets from September

The Scandinavian Weavers Study Group will meet on the following Sundays at 2pm in the fall of 2015 through Spring 2016:  October 18 (field trip to the home of Karin Maahs), November 15 (Rya Exploration at 12:30 and Scandinavian Weavers at 2), December 13 (holiday gathering at the home of Karen Weiberg), January 17, February 21, March 20, April 17, May 15.

There will be an exhibit of Lila Nelson’s tapestries at the Textile Center, in the Studio Gallery, in November and December of this year.  It will be a great kick-off and tie-in to a larger retrospective of Lila’s works at Vesterheim.  The Vesterheim exhibit will include more than just tapestry, and will be in the large gallery space near the entrance to the museum.  It will be up from December 2, 2015 and probably through November of 2016.  Francie Iverson, Claire Selkurt, and I are meeting to choose the tapestries to be displayed, and Laurann will facilitate sending them to the Textile Center.

The Scandinavian Weavers next exhibit, featuring our work with RED, will be in the Textile Center Community Gallery, from May 13-June 25, 2016.  We will make plans for an opening celebration at our meeting on March 20.  We will make postcards, to be distributed by each weaver.  If you would like to have your weaving considered for the postcard image, a high-quality digital image should be submitted by March 20.

Keith brought two family pieces.  His mother’s side of the family is Finnish, and his mother’s cousin, who ran a Finnish design shop for several years, sent Keith two Finnish pieces. Keith said he has asked several people how he should clean the pieces, and the consensus is – snow!  (There was an article in the Norwegian Textile Letter on cleaning weavings/rugs with snow, here:

IMG_2331Karin Maah’s tapestry got a State Fair blue ribbon and honorable mention at Vesterheim.

IMG_2333She also brought a beautiful quilt top, her first, made with a rainbow of batik squares.

Marilyn Moore’s beautiful rag rug with rosepath designs got a red ribbon at Vesterheim, and a white ribbon and “Best First Weaving” at the State Fair.

205 sm

Lisa Bauch learned a Finnish raanu technique in Wynne Mattila’s class, and she made a new piece, based on the colors of early spring leaves.

IMG_2336Corky Knutson received a red ribbon for a pillow.  Robbie LaFleur submitted two pieces to the State Fair.  (See information on the ribbons here.)


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