A Minnesota woman named Karen Davis sent me a photo a while back, wondering whether I could tell her anything about a tapestry pillow-top inherited from her mother-in-law 25 years ago.
At first Karen thought it was perhaps Zuni or Aztec or Mexican. She wrote,
Then I realized that I had stitched some similar flowers in a Norwegian counted cross-stitch sampler when I was younger. So I checked out Scandinavian and the Swedish weaving popped up. I’m still so excited, I tried to quiz my husband as to what he thought it was. His first reply was “What, there’s a special pillow in our bedroom?” So I showed him the pillow and he guessed – Swedish! I was rather upset as he was correct, so annoying! He said he decided Swedish because his mother was Swedish. I guess you can’t always count your husband’s opinions out.
I was quite sure it was Swedish. There were similar pieces in a show of Swedish tapestries at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota. See: “Carol Johnson’s Tapestry Collection: Florals.” https://robbielafleur.com/2019/02/22/tapestry-floral/ There were the same stylized lilies of the valley, tulips, and crown-like designs.
My friend Jan Mostrom has more books on Swedish weaving than I do, and she offered to look through her collection for more clues. Success! Jan found a similar piece in Textile Bildverk, published by the Nordiska Museum in Stockholm in 1925 — a bench cover in Flamsk weave (tapestry technique) from area of Blekinge. Knowing that name easily led to more examples.
Armed with the Blekinge clue, I searched the Swedish digital library and found this image, https://digitaltmuseum.se/021016786486/del-av-banklangd-i-flamsk.
This is a a larger blanket or coverlet included in the digital library: https://digitaltmuseum.se/021016786396/tacke-i-flamsk. Both pieces were part of an inventory of Swedish folk art done by Lilli Zickerman, a researcher who traveled the county and took photos of textiles from 1910-1932. She took black and white photos, and later hand-colored many of the images. A similar one: https://digitaltmuseum.se/021016786444/banklangd-i-flamsk. And another: https://digitaltmuseum.se/021016786470/banklangd-i-flamsk.
Karen Davis was putting together an inventory of keepsakes in her home, with the stories behind them. She was happy to learn more about her pillow.
The correction: Joel Greifinger, Administrator of the Scandinavian Folk Textiles Facebook Group (you should all sign up at https://www.facebook.com/groups/6534985116561646), wrote a clarification.
These weavings from Östra härad in Blekinge were referred to as ‘flämst’ or ’flämster’ in the old estate records, because they are technically a cross between flämskvav and rölakan. Like rölakan, they were woven on horizontal, multi-shaft looms. In his monograph on flamsk weaving, Swedish textile historian Ernst Fischer wrote: “Blekinge flamsk Flemish weave in the true sense does not seem to have occurred in Blekinge, if by flämsk is meant a product which has been produced on a standing loom. Since fabrics, which in Blekinge have been given the name ‘flämst’ or ‘flämster’, are woven on an ordinary loom with the warp in a horizontal position and short, loosely hanging threads picked up as on ‘rölakan’ and generally double-wound. The patterns also differ from the Flemish patterns in the rest of Sweden. In Skåne, there are a few individual specimens in this technology. The real Flemish tissues, which could be found in Blekinge, are generally of Scanian origin.”