16 May, 2011

The Woven Coverlets of Norway

I am reading Katherine Larson's The Woven Coverlets of Norway, a book which describes more than just coverlets.  It gives an overview of textile production in pre-industrial Norway from the sheep or flax up.  There is a darling photograph of women washing sheep in washtubs.

The image which most captivates me shows a beautiful tapestry loom.  Most of the looms in the book are massive, chunky warp-weighted or horizontal types.  This tapestry loom is delicate.  The joints are pegged; that is, a cross piece goes through a slot and is held in place with a small peg.

The loom's construction and the pegs' size and shape remind me of a stool from my childhood home.  The stool was made in Canada a few generations back by the part of my family that came from Orkney, a cluster of islands in the north of Scotland historically supposed to have ties to Norway.

Speaking of resemblance and propinquity, some of the woven coverlet motifs look a lot like motifs in Fair Isle knitting, Fair Isle also being in Scotland's far north.  For example, the square weave coverlets' eight-petalled roses look like a stranded knitting Norwegian star pattern, and krokbragd (rosepath) coverlets look like peeries in scale and arrangement, if not exactly in their small shapes.  The Danish coverlets have Xs and diamonds arranged like Fair Isle Xs and Os.

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