Fun with my Friend Phyllis; Examining a Barbro Nilsson Weaving

On a lovely summer day last month, a new donated weaving to the American Swedish Institute meant another opportunity for weaving immersion with Phyllis Waggoner: admiring, deconstructing, examining, figuring out the materials and how it is done.

We examined a piece designed by Barbro Nilsson, woven at the Märta Måås-Fjetterström studio. I found a reference to the piece at the Jacksons site, a Swedish gallery specializing in Scandinavian and international vintage design from 1900 – 2000, with its main focus on Scandinavian classics. Here. The piece is described: “Hand woven tapestry. Decoration of abstract fruit Signed AB MMF BN. Designed in 1942. Produced by Märta Måås-Fjetterström AB.”  Hmmm–abstract fruit…we hadn’t guessed that!


We observed the interesting details of its construction.  Woven sideways, the linen weft was completely covered in the yellow/green fruit sections, but the tan sections between the lozenges were woven in a balanced weave.  It may be difficult to see in the photo, but in the weft-covered fruit sections (you know, like the real tapestry sections), the weft covers doubled linen warp threads.  In the tan interstitial sections, the doubled warps are divided, and the resulting plain weave is thinner.


The lozenge shapes have beautiful color gradations.  Some include a hair-fine linen in with the wool weft.  We couldn’t quite figure out why the eccentric weft of all of the lozenges, and the switching from weft-faced to balanced weave, didn’t cause the weaving to be much more rippled.

The center “seeds” of the fruit came in a few varieties, some woven in the reverse color patterns of others.


The striped borders are lovely, and the top and bottom have a beautiful dividing line  created by thin hatching.


The piece is surprising and inspiring in its design and technique, a wonderful addition to the ASI collection.





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