Vestfoldtepper (I Made More than I Remembered)

Coming up in the next issue of the Norwegian Textile Letter: Vestfoldtepper, distinctive weavings from the area of Vestfold in Norway. The issue is sparked by a “Retro Reprint,” one of a series of articles that were published decades back, when the newsletter was black-and-white only, and mailed out to members. Lila Nelson wrote “Vestfoldsmett: New Interest in an Old Technique” in 1999. (Of course you can read the older version in an archived copy, or wait for the new version at the end of February, with color photos and updated information.)

This is a reproduction of an old Vestfoldteppe, woven by Laila Thorrud, who also published a book of patterns based on the old Vestfold weavings. (Owned by Kommandør Chr. Christensens Hvalfangstmuseum. Photo: Mekonnen Wolday. Details at digitaltmuseum.no.)

Additional articles will focus on the cultural importance of the traditional weavings and describe the spread of Vestfoldsmett throughout Norway. There will be an article on weaving technique, and many photos of pieces in Vestfoldsmett made by Norwegians and American enthusiasts, in traditional and contemporary patterns.

To clarify some terminology

Vestfoldteppe–Vestfold coverlet or Vestfold weaving. Plural: Vestfoldtepper.
Vestfoldsmett–Vestfold inlay or Vestfold brocading. In this technique, similar to the Swedish krabbesnår technique, patterns are laid in on a background of plain weave.

I love Vestfold technique, and began my experimentation back in 1997, when it was the annual topic for our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group. Lila Nelson had researched the technique and led our study. I started with a small sampler. When I wove my first large piece, I chose patterns I liked among the various historical coverlets; I didn’t reproduce any one weaving specifically. It was shown in the National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum around 1999, and purchased from the show by a cousin. Perhaps I’ll have to visit his lake home in Northern Minnesota sometime, to get a better photo.

The next year I wove another Vestfold piece, and it sold from the Vesterheim show, too. I don’t know who owns it, but Laurann Gilbertson told me afterwards that the owner had it framed and displayed it prominently in a hall area. That seemed so un-Norwegian to me, to put a weaving under glass.

Again, I wish I had a better photo….

I also like to make rag rugs, and I used the technique to embellish some pieces woven with fabric strips. This photo is from an exhibit our study group had at Convergence, a Minnesota weaving retreat, in 1998. I had completely forgotten this piece until recently, and have no idea where it went! Maybe I just used it as a rug; it wasn’t so great. The fabric strips I used were cut on the bias, and some looked too fuzzy.

This photo of a long white rug with Vestfold-inspired motifs was also taken at the Convergence exhibit. Again, I wasn’t so pleased with the result and I have no idea where it went.

But I really liked a third rag Vestfold I wove (despite some fuzzy inlay pieces), especially the colors, and I gave it to my cousin Gretchen. It is still at her lake home, where she uses it as a table covering. (It’s such a good idea–pretty rag rugs make lovely table coverings.)

The last Vestfoldteppe I wove was in 2008, and I am so glad I kept it. It hangs in my husband’s psychiatry office.

I hope this whets your appetite for more Vestfoldteppe history and inspiration in the upcoming Norwegian Textile Letter, out by the end of February.

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