The Pandemic Pillow Project: Little went as Planned

By Robbie LaFleur

Our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group members at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota have woven several successful group projects. When we decided on a rosepath pillow project, our main concern was packing in all of our weaving times before the Glimakra loom at the Guild was needed for a class. Little went as expected!

February 2020. In the before times, it seemed like a perfectly good plan to warp up a Glimakra loom and weave many rosepath pillow tops inspired by a Swedish book, Från Januariblues till Decemberröd: 18 kuddar i rosengång (From January Blues to December Reds: 18 pillows in rosepath) by Anna Östlund. (Ordering information)

Linda Soranno wound the warp; Patty Keubker pre-sleyed the reed to speed up warping day at the guild. Guided by Judy Larson, the loom was warped in mid-February, 2020. Judy finished the first piece on February 27. Eighteen people were slated to weave a pillow top, and everything was going to be wrapped up by April 18, to free the loom for an upcoming class. What could go wrong? You know the answer. The Weavers Guild was closed to weaving for a long time, and then hours were restricted. Many of the scheduled weavers felt uncomfortable weaving in a public building, were too busy working from home, or just didn’t want to weave while wearing a mask. The two-month project stretched to almost two years.

Now several of the rosepath pieces are displayed on the walls of the Weavers Guild, and are available to view until April 1, 2022. Thanks to Beth McLaughlin, Barb Yarusso, and Lisa Bauch for hanging the show. 

Judy Larson

Judy’s pillow was woven on opposites using stash yarn. Her expert testing revealed a threading error, which she fixed for the weavers who followed her.

Clever corner mounting in the Weavers Guild exhibit

Lisa Torvik

After all of our study group members finished weaving or bowed out of the project, Lisa Torvik, who was thoroughly enjoying her recent retirement, stepped in and wove several pieces. She wove a sampler to begin, to test the two ways of weaving rosepath. It includes two bands that were treadled in the same way. The bottom band was woven “on opposites,” resulting in a denser pattern coverage. Weaving on opposites takes longer, and takes more yarn, too. The top band was woven in “simple rosepath,” with a shot of the ground weft inserted between each pattern shot.  

For her predominantly blue/green Swedish-inspired pillow, Lisa pulled out a skein of bright yellow Norwegian prydvev yarn, purchased long ago for a tapestry project. It was the perfect pop of color. 

Her next two pillows in light, bright blue and yellow have a dizzying, op-art effect; “my Swedish test pattern pillows,” she called them. There went the rest of the yellow yarn! 

This was an unfortunate background color for the pillows, and a poor photo. Neither enhance the op-art vibrancy of these pillows.

A pillow with blue and lavender was woven for her sister, with colors to match her Dansk dishes. The weft includes both wool (prydvev) and perle cotton. Some borders were woven in simple rosepath, and others on opposites. 

Lisa devised a clever fold-over pillow casing edged with flowered binding, so the owner won’t have to choose which is her favorite rosepath side. The envelope-style pillow can be turned inside out.

Lisa has a rule—there will be no warp wasted!  So at the very end of the warp, she squeezed in a Christmas-themed piece, with border designs that form small figures. The white background suggests snow, and the borders, starting at the bottom, are trees, women (look closely for the skirts), houses with snow-topped roofs, then a row of little men, and at the top, more trees. Her friend said of the little men, “They look like chromosomes.”

Nancy Ebner

Nancy wove two cheerful rosepath pillows with festive corner tabs at home on her own. Her warp was 22/2 cottolin doubled, and the weft was Färo wool (6/1) doubled, or single-ply Harrisville Shetland, or Prydvevgarn Rauma (6/2).

Nancy Ellison

Nancy has a farm near Zumbrota and also wove her rosepath pillow at home. Nancy’s weft yarn was hand spun. “The background dark gray is from a Shetland Gotland cross sheep in the flock named Buddy who was a bottle lamb rejected by his mother about 10 years ago and he still  prefers the company of people rather than sheep. The lighter gray yarn is from Buddy’s brother Sparky. The long locks of wool on the rya side of the pillow are from an unnamed Icelandic sheep in the flock.”

She added other weaving details. “I wove the project on my Louet David loom.  I used blue 8/4 cotton carpet warp set at 10 epi.  I thought in places where the warp shows blue would be a nice color with the gray wool.  Some of the borders were inspired from the October pillow in Anna Östlund’s book. I thought a variety of borders would be more fun to weave than repeating the same one.  I’ll enjoy this cozy pillow on my couch.”

Brenda Gauvin-Chadwick

The story behind Brenda’s yarn acquisition is appropriate for this Winter Olympics season. She wrote, “My rosepath pillow was done with Fåro yarn that I purchased in Sweden six years ago. I carried it all over for 3 weeks in my suitcase. I bought it after skiing the Swedish Vasaloppet, and then we headed to Norway where I  skied the birkebeiner race. The colors represent the forests, the beautiful sunshine and my heart exploding with joy as I skied along!”

Brenda Gauvin-Chadwick. Brenda hadn’t picked up her piece from the guild after it came off the loom, so she hasn’t seen it for more than a year and a half.

Lisa-Anne Bauch

Lisa used stash yarns, and mounted her weaving on fabric to make a large pillow.

Sharon Marquardt

Sharon Marquardt lives in Henning, in central Minnesota, so she chose to weave on her own loom too, while in quarantine after exposure to Covid. She adapted her design from a piece by Doris Wiklund in Old Swedish Weavings from North to South: A Collection of Everyday Swedish Weavings from 1850 to 1950. She used 16/3 linen sett at 10 epi and Swedish Faro yarn for the pattern weft. The exercise employed use of color and switching from curvilinear to linear band areas. She thought she was weaving a rectangle, but because of her strong beat and thin yarns, the piece lost 2–3 inches in length when she took it off the loom!

Sharon Marquardt

If you can make it to the Weavers Guild of Minnesota in March, catch this display!

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