Following Tablet Weaving to Norway and my Family’s Sheep Farm

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I always knew Biri and Østre Gausdal, the name of the villages from where my family trekked off to “Amerika” with the spinning wheel, cards and swift on board. Their continuing voyage left many relatives in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Oregon, and Washington. I grew up with the remaining items, customs and culture from Norway and tried to pass it on to my family.

My interest in weaving started at a very early age at the Pendleton Mills in Portland, Oregon as my mother shopped for the plaid woolen fabrics for our pleated skirts. It amazed me that two color schemes were achieved by the fold of the pleats. In our home, we had remnants of the Scandinavian functional artwork from wooden shoes, breadboards and woven upholstery on homemade
wooden furniture. Beautiful rosemaling pieces attracted my eye to color and contrast.

My first teacher was from Sweden and ran a studio near my work so that I could daily learn and practice before buying my Glimakra loom. It seems funny, after making broad woven goods, to be using the loom to weave narrow yardage with cards. I found it much easier than backstrap and achieved my best tension and lengths of yardage needed for capes and festive clothing. I have 3 other smaller looms, usually with projects on them. My smallest loom fits in my suitcase first when traveling. My pieces developed over time to be bell-pulls, doorbells, belts, guitar straps, yardage for clothing decoration and both art and functional items. I stuck to ancient patterns for several years, selling in the National Norwegian American Museum at Decorah, Iowa. Other Scandinavian gift shops wanted more than strictly Norwegian items. I found tourist items, though tedious, sold well. I designed flag bands for each country and also wove bands for each country, weaving their names, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, etc. into keychains or bookmarks.

When it came time to design my festive bunad dress to blend with our family patterns in Oppland, Norway, I was excited to develop the weaves in the corresponding colors. I wear my bunad to weaving demonstrations, Sons of Norway meetings and events, church, weddings, baptisms in the US and in Norway. The old bunads were plain until independence when they acquired elaborate
embroidery and bands which were regulated by region. The latest two generations in our family all have the new Norwegian pride bunads, all colorful. Then I had a friend embroider the flowers to match. I designed all the apron straps and bands in the body of the apron; my daughter made the sterling wraps on the end of each of the ties. It became a family project which was fitting since my children had been underneath my Glimakra loom since they were born. My family has helped with spinning, warping, weaving and fastening and designing hangers for the bands.

During my first trip to Norway, I knew that the Viking Museum had the Oseberg ship, found in southern Norway with her queen and weaver. The tablets were of leather about 2 inches square and
were still threaded. It was the proof that card weaving was practiced in Norway. I do not have card or tablet woven bands passed down in my family, but I still have the 300-year-old wheel, swift and cards for processing spinning fibers that led me to weave.

I have only just begun. The world is so full of wonderful designs and techniques and one can’t live long enough to learn it all. Also there are many students wanting to retrieve the ancient patterns and methods and it has been fun teaching a few people  to weave bands. An early aspiration of mine was to be a textile archaeologist. I now plan on entering the 2020 contest, the International Sons of Norway Art Competition in Hamar, Norway, as it is only 12 miles from my maternal ancestral home. Last year I got to show and sell in Westby, Wisconsin where my ancestral, immigrant ancestors landed from Norway.

This year I get to card weave with the Oneota Weavers Guild at Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa for the Nordic Fest celebration. I am happy the years of weaving have led me back
to the family’s sheep farm with living cousins still involved in agriculture and crafting.

© 2019 by Julie Pratt

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