A Discussion of Hems and Edges

By Robbie LaFleur

Note: I recently discovered this post, one that had not been posted after a meeting in 2012.  It’s a bit late!

At our March Scandinavian Weavers Study Group meeting, an interesting conversation began with a comment by Veronna Capone, whose craftsmanship is impeccable.  She’d struggled with a monksbelt runner; the edges had the slightest waviness, no matter how careful she was.

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So she solved that by taking a step that many weavers consider a sacrilege.  She sewed a straight stitch down the selvedge edges, about three threads in from the edge, and then cut the edge, perfectly evenly, next to the stitching.  (I don’t have a photo of that one.) She said that she owns a lovely Irish handwoven scarf with the same edge finish, and that gave her the permission to mimic it on her runner.  My photo of the edge of Veronna’s monksbelt doesn’t show the really successful and interesting total effect of the piece, woven with pearl cotton. One really nice effect was the contrast in sheen between the background plain weave and the monksbelt blocks done in the same color, very textural.

Veronna is not afraid to break rules.  Her additional ‘confession’ was that sometime when making a runner that was quite thick, she sewed a straight stitch across the end of it, turned it down once, and stitched it.  Uh-oh.  But really, how many people with real textile knowledge would turn over a lovely runner on Veronna’s table and note that a raw edge was visible?  This led to further discussion of hems and right sides/wrong sides and rules.

It felt like a discussion that could have been held by my husband’s psychoanalytic colleagues.  What do people keep hidden in order to show their best faces to the world?  What everyday parts of life –  the messy parts, the parts you might not be proud of – are best put away when  you worry about being judged?   What do people choose to reveal?  What do they keep secret?  But here we are talking about textiles.

Patty Kuebker-Johnson talked of her late Swedish mother-in-law, a wonderful weaving mentor.  Hems were important to fine Swedish weavers.  When planning a woven piece with hems, you should have a hem that is turned over twice and sewn by hand.  Ideally, the pattern should be taken into account when planning the blocks of the pattern blocks of the turned-over hem.  Once hemmed, the piece should appear the same on the front and the back.

Displaying pristine textiles for guests was a mark of skill and prestige.  Sometimes a runner was used on a table, or a towel was hung on a rack, hemmed-side-up, for everyday family use.  It could be quickly changed to the best side.

A double towel rack could be used.  When guests arrived, the lovely towel was put in front.

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When you are not trying to show a perfect face, then perhaps this stained towel displays the messy craziness of life.

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Rutevev Exhibit in Norway

Recently, Karin Randi Flatøy shared a set of photos on her Facebook site, from an exhibition of Nordhordaland-style coverlets at Galleri RusticaHolmeknappen, a cultural site  outside of Meland, a town situated on an island about 25 minutes north of Bergen.  The exhibit was part of  Ullveka på Vestlandet, or Wool Week in Western Norway, this year. 

Her post prompted many people to comment about the beauty of the pieces, the too-short duration of the exhibit, and pleas to have it mounted in other venues, too.  Annemor Sundbø visited the exhibit and heard an accompanying talk.  When she shared the photos on her site, someone commented that it was difficult to tell (given the quality of the photos) whether they were woven on warp-weighted looms.  Annemor responded that at least three of them were woven on a warp-weighted loom.

I wish I could have been there!  Because I know that many of my friends who are interested in Norwegian weaving are not Facebook regulars, I asked Karin Randi Flatøy if I could post her photos on this blog.  She kindly granted permission, saying that it was a fabulous exhibit for people of Norwegian heritage to see!

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Scandinavian Heirloom Textiles

Over the years, my friends have told me about their fabulous old Scandinavian textiles — inherited from family or friends in “the Old Country;” found in out-of-the-way antique stores, thrift shops, garage sales, or flea markets; or even rescued from barns.  Let’s tell their stories!

Later this fall we will be mounting a display of historical textiles from the Nordic countries, along with their stories, on the walls of the Weavers Guild.  The items will also be featured in the upcoming (November) issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter.  Pieces will be submitted not only by the members of the Scandinavian Weavers Study Group, but also by other Weavers Guild of Minnesota members.

At yesterday’s meeting of the Scandinavian Weavers, we saw great examples of old textile finds.  Jane Connett said that she had been a bit laid up recently, so she spent a lot of time on Ebay. Look at this beautiful Norwegian tapestry find.  It was advertised as an “Albanian kelim,” but fans of Norwegian tapestry know perfectly well that it is a replica of a portion of a Norwegian Wise and Foolish Virgins tapestry.  It was faded on one side, but the colors were clear and strong on the other.  And since the weaving followed Norwegian tradition, all the ends were sewn in so that either side is equally beautiful.

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Jane said she didn’t remember how much she paid, but probably only around $25.

She also bought a beautiful small rolakan weaving.  Judy Larson noted that the loops on the back side, where the colors jump over a few threads, are typical of Swedish rolakans.

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Lisa Torvik showed a treasure-in-progress.  She rescued it from a friend’s barn, where it had supported feed sacks and whatever else needed a resting place. The bench was badly damaged, but still retained one crudely-carved dragon foot.  The top of the bench cover was so dirty that no color peeked through.  Was it even woven, or just embroidered, Lisa wondered.

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Once it was off the bench, however, you could see that it was a nicely-woven dukagang.

The mystery remains – will Lisa ever be able to retrieve color on the dirty front side?  She had just taken it off the bench hours earlier.  Perhaps we won’t know for a while, as several members of our group thought that waiting until winter for a thorough snow-washing might be the best route.

 

RED – Phyllis Waggoner

“Untitled”  8’6” x 27”  Technique: 4 shaft point twill variation, treadles tied for 2/2 twill, “woven on opposites”  Materials:  5/8 linen warp, sett 6 epi, 3 ply rugwool weft.

In the case of Phyllis’ long, beautiful rug, red was part of a color challenge — could she make the red work with the other colors? She had a great deal of yarn left after completing a commission. Rather than weave a shorter red rug, she chose to use all the colors to weave a long rug.  “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and Phyllis invented a design to make use of her red, and more.

Unfortunately, the gallery configuration made it impossible to get a great head-on shot of Phyllis’s beautiful rug.  You’ll have to visit it in person, or look at it obliquely here.

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RED – Veronna Capone

Five Studies. Each 6″ x 6.”  Linen weft, wool warp.

Five small tapestries.  The first of these five small tapestries uses traditional Norwegian ‘lynild,’ or lightning weave’; the others are in rutevev, or square weave.

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RED – Judy Larson

“Rolokan Reds.” 30″ x 29″ Cotton warp, cotton weft.  Rolokan.

Judy used a variety of red quilting cotton prints in a rolokan (Swedish tapestry) technique, spacing out the “flames” with tabby stripes.  At a distance, the sharp edges of the flame-like image is graphic and bold.  It’s worth a close look, too, where the patterns in the fabric strips look unusually dizzying.

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RED – Lisa Torvik

“Transparent Tapestry #2 – Friends” 17″ x 13″ Linen and refleksgarn (reflective yarn).  Transparency Technique

This is part of a planned series of four transparent tapestries featuring a Scandinavian reflective yarn.

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