Stars and Octagons

As do other weaving cultures, traditional Swedish textiles have many frequently recurring motifs, among these the 8 pointed star and the octagon.

auktionsverket rolakan

Image above is a spectacular traditional rölakan, unidentified as to date or size but probably early 19th c, sold by Stockholm’s Auktionsverket, found via a google search of “Skane weaving.”

Both shapes have obvious advantages to a weaver: they are symmetrical, and composed of stepped or serrated triangles. Often the centers are large enough to contain another figure, and they can be composed of several repeating  colors, which only makes the pattern more complex.  The use of both of these forms in more modern Swedish weaving evokes traditional patterns.

Märta Måås Fjetterström herself observed about these motifs, “The stars, especially the eight-pointed star, the octagon, the rose, recur in all time periods and in the textile art of all countries.  However we squirm and twist, we textile pattern-makers, we will never surpass this handful of useful geometric forms, already repeated thousands of times in textile material.”  (This is quoted by Mailis Stensman , see Sources, below.)

This  partial image of a Moghan Kazak prayer rug, sold in 2013 by rug dealer James Cohen, certainly bears her out:

Moghan Kazak rug James Cohen

And here are some traditional examples of 8-pointed stars used in weavings from Skåne, Sweden’s southernmost county. The combination of red, green, yellow and black is typical.

Carriage Cushion or “Ågdyna” identified with 1848 date and weaver’s name. Owner: Malmö Museum (image via Creative Commons, object 45337)
Carriage cushion or “Ågedyna,” rölakan weave, 95 x 54 cm, ca 1910, based on earlier models. Owner: Malmö Musem (image via Creative Commons, object 25311)

Interestingly, these 8-pointed stars appear as motifs in 20th century Swedish rölakan, flat-weave rugs as well, but perhaps not as frequently as one might expect.  They are definitely evident in many of the MMF weaves (see last week’s post, and the one shown below, which is called “Ruttmattan,” from 1931), and also in several  mid-century rugs which while derived from  traditional patterns, use decidedly non-traditional color palettes, irregular color patterning and give the stars more “air” around them

Here are photos of a number of these:


Silow 3_19_15 162x250 cm
Rölakan designed by Ingegard Silow ca 1945. 250 x 162 cm. Sold by Bukowski’s auction house, Stockholm 3/19/15.
DLB Ruttmatan BB6017 9'3"x8'2"-
Rölakan designed by Märta Måås- Fjetterström,  9’3″x 8’2.” Owner: Doris Leslie Blau Gallery, NYC, object number BB6017. (Image used with permission)

Anonymous 8 pt

Rölakan, Anonymous (unsigned), possibly woven commercially. Designed in several different colorways.  Owner: Anonymous. (Image by author).

In another post I’ll look at how the 8-pointed shape gets modified in the mid-century rugs.  To be continued…


Mailis Stensman, essay, “Stars, Cows, Deer, Flowers”  in Marta Måås-Fjetterström, catalog of the 2009-10 exhibition, Marta flyger igen! 90 år med Märta Måås Fjetterström, Liljevalchs Konsthall, 2009.



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