First, I want to thank all of you— the more than 2000 strong!— who have been reading and commenting on my blog this past year. I love doing research, learning more about Swedish weaving of rugs and tapestries (and a few miscellaneous excursions into other techniques like this one) and writing about these, but it is you, the readers the blog, who make me feel like this project is worth doing. So thank you and happy holidays to each of you, however you celebrate this time of year.
This complex piece of weaving is a cushion cover (“agedyna” or “åkdyna” in Swedish). A similar weaving technique has been used in many parts of Sweden, apparently even dating back as far as the 10th century AD. In the south Swedish province of Skane, it is called krabbasår (translated as “crab thicket”, possibly indicating the complexity of the weave— or maybe this is simply the best Google Translate can do!)
Used in southern Sweden, in the provinces formerly part of Denmark— Skane, Blekinge, Halland and southern Småland— during the 18th and 19th centuries to decorate cushion covers as well as bedspreads, krabbasår was a time-consuming technique to weave— one of several “art-weaves”— and thus was used particularly for dowry items or other special textiles intended for interior use. The patterns were always symmetrical, often in bands, and marked by the use of squares, hour-glass shapes, 8-pointed stars, birds and occasionally “tree of life” stalks. Ulla Cyrus-Zetterström describes the technique in her book, Manual of Swedish Handweaving, first published in 1949.
The weaving uses a basic taby, or plain, weave but is made complex by the fact that the weft pattern, picked by hand into a brocade, alternates with the shuttled weft-faced taby. Contemporary textile historian, Viveka Hansen, who has practiced the technique, notes,
“To create this richly patterned technique requires great precision, a fact which is accentuated by that the weaving process is also made more difficult when the weaver has the weave’s back towards her/him in the loom. Furthermore each change of colour in the pattern must be picked by hand with its individual small spool of wool, which in this case meant up to 35 colour changes/spools of wool used at the same time on a 60 cm width of the fabric.”
In any case, this cushion was unlikely to have been woven for Christmas, but simply reflects the fondness for red, green, (mustard yellow), black and white, and occasional blue, typical of Skanian textiles. But I think it makes a suitably seasonal statement of Swedish design and weaving skill! Merry Christmas!
Bukowskis, Auction of Folk Art Textiles, E228, 12/16/17
Cyrus-Zetterström, Ulla, Manual of Swedish Handweaving, Stockholm, 1977 (first English edition of Handbok i vävning).
Funk, Arianna, American-Swedish weaver (on Instagram as clothingformoderns), for reference to the Zetterstrom definition.
Please reference as follows:
Whidden, Anne, “Merry Christmas ” theswedishrugblog (12/20/17); theswedishrugblog.wordpress.com; accessed (day/month/year)