A small portion of the Drawloom Interest Group met at the American Swedish Institute last Friday for a special behind-the-scenes viewing of textiles with volunteer Phyllis Waggoner. This was a trial run, as lucky tour attendees at the Midwest Weavers Conference will be visiting ASI in June, and Phyllis was interested in our opinions about presentation, timing and what should be displayed. Teresa Razidlo, Jan Hayman, Donna Gravesen, and I entered the elevator and traveled down to the storage room of enchantment, where everywhere you look, there are treasures. Look — there are spinning wheels way up there!
The ASI was founded in 1929; its archive and artifact collection record the Swedish immigration story in Minnesota, continuing to the present. Phyllis explained a bit about the history and care of the collection. In the current high-tech storage area the textiles are located in acid free boxes, cabinet drawers or rolled on cardboard tubes covered with an acid barrier material called Marvelseal. Currently volunteers are engaged in a long-term project to photograph the textiles and update their information in the museum’s cataloguing program, PastPerfect.
Our meeting was focused on Swedish textiles that were woven on a drawloom: damask, and Sma?landsva?v. We saw two examples of Jacquard woven damask, – napkins and a tablecloth woven about 1966 at Kla?ssbols linen mill in Sweden. The pattern, covered with flying birds, is included in the Swedish textile book, Damask och Opphampta, by Lillemor Johansson, 1982
They looked familiar to me, because I received a white-on-white tablecloth with the same pattern when my friend from weaving school visited me a few years ago. It was from the same Swedish company.
The ASI collection is strong in the works of Hilma Berglund–pieces she wove, notebooks she kept. We saw three pieces of Hilma’s work; Sma?landsva?v and Oppha?mta samples woven in 1922 at Handarbets Va?nners textile school in Stockholm and a damask piece, Dozen Hens, woven at Penland in North Carolina, where she studied with a Swedish damask weaver. (photo of the reverse side with Hilma’s label and ASI accession #79.04.68).
Hilma’s Sma?landsva?v piece (the same technique as the Norwegian skilbragd), and the notes she made while weaving it are in her notebook (she was allowed to take weave theory at HV because she was fluent in Swedish). The beauty of her documentation, both visually and functionally, is amazing. She even added a typewritten index to the beginning of the notebook.
Although our agenda was to see drawloom woven textiles, it was easy to digress. We were amazed at this mostly-red three shaft bunden rosenga?ng coverlet – two ply linen warp, sett 11 epi, wool singles weft. In the photos below, note the scale of the patterns; they were quite fine, as you can see by Donna Gravesen’s ring.
We saw a lovely small piece, likely a baby coverlet, woven on a 4 shaft rosenga?ng threading and woven on opposites (so that it is reversible).
This opphämta piece was examined and admired. Phyllis explained, “This coverlet, with a cotton ground and wool singles pattern weft, was woven with the pattern saved on half-heddle rods and using a weaving sword rather than woven on a loom with a draw device and two sets of shafts. The border pattern and the pattern on the rest of the piece could not have been woven on the same point threading.” The first photo shows the selvedge side of the piece, and the second photo shows a portion of the back side.
While we were poring over weavings on the large work table, Curator Kurt Peterson was showing a newly-acquired charming embroidery piece to Chelsea Bowen, a Swedish language teacher at the ASI. The piece will go on display in the servant’s kitchen area of the mansion. Appealing spring-time flowers accompany an embroidered proverb saying that if you find nine varieties of flowers, it ensures a happy day. In Minnesota right now, we would agree.
Postcript: Many thanks are due to Phyllis Waggoner for suggesting additions and correction to this article!