Billedvev Workshop #5

Robbie LaFleur, “Great Grandmother with Chickens”

In my Billedvev (Norwegian Tapestry) workshops, each student, inspired by Norwegian techniques or images, comes up with their own design. Days one and two are inspiring and chaotic, filled with lectures and images, looking at samples, and planning designs, colors, and yarns. I am always amazed at the variety of projects chosen, and the enthusiasm of each student. “It’s not nine o’clock yet!” Stephanie Van Housen exclaimed as I came in the classroom one morning, meaning she was thrilled the whole day was ahead of us.

Two students, Sonja Hoje and Stephanie Van Housen, came to the workshop for the third time! When I said I would not be teaching this workshop next year at Vesterheim, but rather a beginning tapestry course, they joked, “But this is our fall retreat together–where are we going to go?” They claim they learn many new things about tapestry each year. Sonja made a curvy, outlined snake last year; this year she switched to geometric symbols.

Stephanie embarked on borders and a star, inspired by a border on a piece from the Vesterheim collection. While weaving triangles to set up the diamonds in her border, she had an experience that mimicked one I had recently. “This should be easy; no, wait! How could I have counted wrong?” Finally, the diamonds are perfect and in the most beautiful colors.

Kristin Majkrzak drove down from Bemidji, Minnesota. I can’t wait to see her finished “Medieval Merganser.” While abstracting the shapes of the duck from her own fuzzy photo, she kept commenting about how it was so good for her to be more free, and concentrate less on weaving realistic details. The duck will have decorative joins in his legs and along the vertical aspects of his body. You can see the duck’s feet starting on top of a wonderful abstract rock.

Ann Vonnegut gets the farthest-away-student prize.  She flew from Virginia and is staying in Iowa to take another weaving class next week at Vesterheim.  Ann liked my sample cat with billedvev joins, but we adapted her version to a different orientation. She recently wove a circle sampler and was disappointed to end up with footballs. So she added a moon behind her cat to practice making a perfect circle. It’s coming along perfectly; I was sorry the class ended before the roundness was complete.

Anita Gorder, from St. Paul, came with the least weaving experience. She dove right in, and wove with innate precision. Because she was a beginner, I often said to the class, “I’m going to show Anita a beginner-y thing” (like pick-and-pick, or demonstrating bubbling and watching for good selvedges). Many times other students watched along, as a good review.

Everyone was so excited about how things unfolded on the looms in front of them. It’s fun to be with people making discoveries.

Darla Thorland from Decorah filled a last-minute cancellation. Wow, how did she get that whole bird woven, you might ask.  For Darla this workshop was a review and reason to pick up a billedvev she began long ago at a class at Vesterheim.  She had the weaving, but couldn’t locate the yarn she was using. Amazingly, a gold Norwegian yarn from my stash blended almost seamlessly with the gold yarn of a different brand from decades past.

Ann Reeves, a medieval historian, appropriately started a bird modeled on one of the birds in the famous Norwegian Baldishol tapestry. She also plans a companion bird woven in her signature cut pile technique; it all be an amazing diptych.

As usual, the facilities at Vesterheim were flawless, and the staff were attentive. Add in the charming town of Decorah with great restaurants and walking venues–I always enjoy returning. I highly recommend the weaving program; watch for the 2020 schedule in a month or so.


  1. Hi Robbie,

    As you know I sort the yarn donations at the Guild….Some yarns came in a tote bag that should live at your house. I have put it in a bag with your name on it in the closet at the Guild.



  2. Robbie- /i love your blogs. Would you be able to submit a weaving tip or two for the Next tapestry topics? I have been advertising the deadline, but could really use some more. The dead line is the first week in October. Cheers and all, Kathe

    > Kathe Todd-Hooker > Between Tapestry Studio > > 604 1st avenue East, > Albany, Oregon 97321 > 541-917-3251


    1. I would be happy to do that. One piece of advice I always give to students is to join the American Tapestry Alliance. The Let’s Learn Tapestry Facebook Group from ATA is marvelous, and Tapestry Topics is so great! I look forward to the weaving tips issue.