The Norwegian Textile Letter (NTL) is a quarterly publication for fans of Norwegian (and other Scandinavian) fiber activities, published since 1994. Scholarly or informational articles aim to raise the level of knowledge about historical and contemporary weaving and other textile techniques in Scandinavian countries, and highlight related activities in the United States.
The Norwegian Textile Letter began at the 1994 biennial Convergence weaving conference, when Lila Nelson gathered more than 70 people interested in Norwegian weaving to form a group and begin a newsletter. More history is related in From the Norwegian Breakfast Club to the Norwegian Textile Guild – a Brief History.
The first devoted editor, Betty Johannesen, continued her work until 2008. Mary Skoy followed, and readers were happy with the addition of color photos. In 2013 Robbie LaFleur became the editor, moving the newsletter to a digital format, allowing the publication of many more color photos and world-wide access.
What is covered in Norwegian Textile Letter issues?
The NTL includes articles about exhibits of weaving in Scandinavian techniques, for the enjoyment of fans worldwide, and to inspire contemporary weavers. Each summer the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum sponsors the National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition, and the newsletter covers the weaving entries (Examples: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017. Another example is an exhibit of historical Scandinavian textiles owned by members of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota, from family treasures to fabulous flea market finds. Read Part One and Part Two). The May 2018 issue covered an exhibit of a Minneapolis collector, in “A Passionate Pursuit: Scandinavian Weavings from the Collection of Carol Johnson.”
In the early years, the newsletter focus was on historical textiles and techniques. More recently, it also covers the work of contemporary Norwegian weavers, like “Celebrating Contemporary Tapestry Artist Brita Been,” “A Rag Pile, My Lot in Life” by Annemor Sundbø, and “Influences in my Art: Reflections” by Unn Sønju.
Reprints and Translations
Relevant articles published in other venues are often reprinted with permission, resources of high quality that NTL readers may not have seen the first time. Recent reprints include “Wisdom and Folly: Norwegian Pictorial Textiles,” by Jo Nilsson, originally printed in HALI Magazine, January 1998; and “A Common Thread: Weaving Traditions of Norway and Sweden” by Katherine Larson, originally published in Vesterheim, a publication of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in 2005.
By translating articles from Norwegian sources, many more readers gain access. For example, “A Synopsis of the History of Norwegian Tapestry – and Some Thoughts about Tapestry Today,” by noted artist Unn Sønju, first appeared in a special issue of Lokalhistorisk magazine (a Norwegian local history magazine). Other examples include “Nettles – For Clothing and Much More” by Annemor Sundbø (originally from Lokalkulturen, a local culture blog produced by the newspaper Fædrelandsvennen), and “Virgin Tapestries and the Bridal Theme“, a section from Randi Nygaard Lium’s recent book, Tekstilkunst i Norge (Textile Art in Norway).
For the many readers who are active weavers, the newsletter includes articles on technique, including weaving drafts. After teaching a class at the Osterøy Museum near Bergen, Norway, Icelandic instructor Hildur Hakonardottir wrote about an historical Icelandic weave structure in “Weaving Glit on the Upright Loom.” Minneapolis weaver Jan Mostrom has written several articles, including “Weaving Danskbrogd.”
The preservation of Norwegian weaving techniques and using them as inspiration for contemporary weaving is important to NTL readers, and there are frequent articles about classes in those techniques. Examples include “Craft and Identity: An Immersion Course in Norway,” “A Wonderful Scanian Art Weaves Adventure,” “Rya—The Adventure Continues! (Or, Rya with Not-So-Hidden Knots),” “Warp-Weighted Loom Classes at Vesterheim, July 2013,” and “Developing a Loom to Teach Scandinavian Weaving.”
Not just Weaving
The newsletter was founded by weavers, and Norwegian weaving remains the main–but not only–focus of the publication. One of the most-viewed articles in the past few years was a translation of a scathing review of knitting books in the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten. See “Norway’s Recent “Knitting War” of Words and “The Knitting War of Words — A Reaction.” Carol Colburn wrote about sewing a timeless garment in “The Busserull (Norwegian Work Shirt) Tradition. Read about traditional Danish embroidery in “Hedebosyning at Greve Museum.” How about a practical article? See: “Snow-washing: An American Account and a Norwegian Story.”
Not Just Norwegian
Americans who are passionate about Norwegian textiles are generally interested in weaving from all the Nordic countries. The Norwegian Textile Letter reflects this wider interest, for example in “Weaving the Art Weaves of Skåne,” “Varafeldur: An Icelandic Rya Reconstruction,” and “Finnish Ryijy Rugs at the American Swedish Institute,” and “Sagnlandet Lejre – the Land of Legends (and Textiles).
Scholarly historical articles
From the first issue in 1994 featuring “Historical and Modern Lichen Dyes: Some Ethical Considerations” by Karen Casselman, the newsletter has included scholarly articles on textile topics. Recent examples include “Threads of Devotion: Possible Medieval Origins of Nordic Christening Bands” by Lisa Bauch, and “Taking a Play to Norway: The Costume Designer’s Story” by Carol Colburn, about designing costumes for characters from Norway of the 1830s.
We are always looking for sources about Scandinavian textiles. Do you have suggestions for new articles, or content to reprint or translate? Please address any question and comments to the publisher and editor, Robbie LaFleur, at email@example.com.
The digital-only NTL is scheduled for publication each February, May, August, and November of each year.
Subscribe and Support the Newsletter
Sign up to be notified of new issues of the Norwegian Textile Letter. The sign-up box is at the top of the right-hand column of any page.
Any reader can sign up for notification of new issues. Currently there is no subscription cost. In this way, new readers won’t hit a paywall and the information can be spread online as widely as possible.
Support is still needed! With a “buy now” button on the newsletter sidebar of each page, it’s easy to use PayPal to pay the amount you choose with a credit card. Support for ongoing research and publishing is necessary and all contributions will be accepted with gratitude. Help keep the Norwegian Textile Letter free of charge and free of ads. Thank you for your interest in the newsletter these past years!
You may also mail a check, made out to Robbie LaFleur, to:
Norwegian Textile Letter, c/o Robbie LaFleur
1801 Fremont Avenue South, #2
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
If you would prefer to read and store your articles on paper, a print button follows each article to enable printing in pdf format. From the “Previous Issues” page, you can also choose to download a pdf of the entire issue.
- Robbie LaFleur, Editor
- Kay Larson
- Laurann Gilbertson
- Jan Mostrom
- Mary Skoy
Please address any question and comments to the publisher and editor, Robbie LaFleur, at firstname.lastname@example.org.