Telemarksteppe with Friends

Our Scandinavian Weavers Study Group at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota chose the telemarksteppe technique for our first group project in the new Weavers Guild of Minnesota space at the Open Book Building downtown Minneapolis. The technique is named for Telemark, a county in southeastern Norway, but is woven throughout Norway.

Here is a telemarksteppe woven by Åsne Halvorsdatter Mjaugedal Mogen around 1880. (record from the Norwegian Digital Library).

Telemarksteppe is related to the more complex Norwegian skillbragd technique, which uses double harnesses for the ground and pattern wefts and is tricky to set up. Telemarksteppe is a six-shaft overshot pattern wove with five treadles, and it is sometimes called enkel skillbragd, or simple skillbragd.

Here is a telemarksteppe woven by the late Syvilla Bolson from Decorah, Iowa. I include it because it shows the typical lozenge pattern of many weavings in this technique, sometimes referred to as “lemon peel.” Syvilla’s piece also has looped edges, a common feature.

If you would like to weave in this technique, Laura Demuth has a beautiful project in Handwoven magazine, “Telemarksteppe in Spring Colors.”

Our group decided to weave a similar runner, but opted for a slightly heavier warp, 16/2 linen rather than 28/2. See our draft and materials here. (Thank you, Lisa Torvik.)

Many of our study group members have already woven bright and wildly various runners. When our group meets in late March, I’ll take photos of many and share them. Most weavers used wool pattern weft, one person chose perle cotton, and I decided to play with linen tow yarn.

When I sat at the loom to weave, I had no plan, just a handful of photos to use as inspiration. I was able to understand the “language” of the three pattern shafts in a blink. But just because you know a language doesn’t mean you can write something beautiful, and just because I understood how to weave the pattern didn’t mean it would be balanced and pleasant and interesting. It’s an experiment. I planned to weave a long runner with banded designs at either end and a long, plainer center section.

In my book, red is always needed!

I wanted a long runner, so I opted for a series of bands with sections of white in the middle.

Will these experiments along the way turn out into a lovely and cohesive whole? A few more weavers will try their hands at the loom, and then I’ll find out.

I’m glad I have such large cones of my tow linen weft. I’m eager to continue my experiments.

This is only part of a large stash of 1980s Finnish tow linen I once received along with a loom I purchased, including my favorite colors of natural linen, olive, and red.

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