[My Chamber of Textile Thoughts. No: V | By Viveka Hansen]

The double interlocked tapestries or “rölakan” – together with many other textiles – only begins to reach its beauty, strength and usability, when the details of preparation, weaving and post production all come together. When preparing the weaving of “rölakan” during the 18th and 19th centuries; each element was done by hand with the help of various simple tools. Hence it was of the utmost importance to be careful in choosing; materials, natural dyes, pattern composition, markings with names or letters, the cushion’s filling, as well as possible decorative borders, ribbons or corner tassels.

Tools for wool preparation with hand carders and a so called ‘scrub-stool’ (owner; Bjärnums hembygdsförening). Courtesy of: The IK Foundation & Company, London.

Tools for wool preparation with hand carders and a so called ‘scrub-stool’. (Owner: Bjärnum hembygdsförening). Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

To begin with, it is important to emphasise that the patterns and natural dyes chosen by the Swedish woman weavers were not random or down to her personal preference but stemming from historical traditions, local characteristics and the economic conditions of said time. However this did not prevent the development of personal colour/pattern choices in conjunction with the choice of decorative ribbons, tassels, borders or markings which gave a unique touch to each weave. Even with studying nearly 2,000 double interlocked tapestries alone for this project, no two were identical.

 Unspun flax, which needed to be spun and twinned before it was strong enough for a warp thread (private ownership). Courtesy of: The IK Foundation & Company, London.

Unspun flax, which needed to be spun and twinned before it was strong enough for a warp thread. (Private ownership). Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

Nearly all (c. 95%) of the documented double interlocked tapestries or “rölakan” have flax for the warp and wool for the weft. The other examples have hemp as a warp thread, yet it is sometimes uncertain if flax or hemp had been used, whilst in some individual cases jute or cotton may have been used. With the weft, the wool were on some rare occasions added with metal thread, used to strengthen the vividness of the woollen yarns. Whilst in poorer regions; a stronger cow-hair yarn could be mixed with the wool to increase the amount of raw material.  

To be continued…

[SOURCE: Hansen, Viveka, Textila Kuber och Blixtar – Rölakanets Konst- och Kulturhistoria, pp. 10-73, 1992].

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘The Importance of the Details – Materials’, TEXTILIS (August 13, 2013); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)