Valley Grove Tapestries: Adding Graphic Elements from Historical Norwegian Tapestries

The Valley Grove tapestries are intended to pay homage to historical Norwegian weaving from the golden age of tapestry in Norway, from about 1600-1750. So one of my design methods is to look at photos of old tapestries and find interesting graphic elements that would work well in the new tapestries. 

One of my favorite old tapestries is from the collection of the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo (full record here), woven in 1739. There are so many details to study. The animal border is my favorite part.

From the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo:

If you look throughout the background, there are 34 rectangles with this pattern in it.

Does it have a particular meaning? When I couldn’t puzzle it out with books I have, I asked Annemor Sundbø. She has a whole section on symbols in her book, Invisible Threads in Knitting (2007). She wrote a thoughtful response, which I translate here:

I thought of a possible explanation. Comb (“kam” or “cami”) means a spiritual being, in that something contains the divine or is of a divine nature (in Shinto religion). The word is contained in kamisol or camisol, the Southern European word for nightshirt. For example, we use the word bakkekam for an åsÅs is the Old Norse word for a god, or something that contains the divine. So my hypothesis is that the “combs” indicate that God is present and the weaving is holy.

Holy seems appropriate; I added three of the comb-like designs to the second Valley Grove tapestry (with the stone church and chickens). They are fun to weave, but NOT fast.

To the same tapestry I added a plant from the historical three wise men tapestry. Here is the inspiration plant, and the newly-woven plant.

My friend Kelly Marshall commented about my plant, “It’s corn!” I can see that. It also might be appropriate for this tapestry, as corn is an important southern Minnesota crop.


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