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

A complex interaction of longlived traditions in combination with economical, social and geographical circumstances gave rise to the rich variety of woven and embroidered textiles from farmer’s homes in the southernmost Sweden (Skåne) during the period 1700 to 1850s. My aim with this “Textile Thought” is to demonstrate the changes of the villages and peoples daily life during the early 19th century with assistance of art-works and maps, and explain which possible effects it had on a decorative weaving technique as double interlocked tapestries.

Market day in Lund, depicting farmers and their wives dressed in best clothes. Oil on canvas by J.W. Wallander 1858 (Cederblom, G., Svenska folklivsbilder, fig 91, 1923).

Market day in Lund, depicting farmers and their wives dressed in best clothes. Oil on canvas by J.W. Wallander 1858 (Cederblom, G., Svenska folklivsbilder, fig 91, 1923).

A substantial increase in the population during the period 1750-1850 was one important reason for the farmers’ growing wealth. It was primarily the increasing life expectancy which formed the basis for the steadily growing population. Other favouring factors were longer periods of peace, fewer serious epidemics, the potatoes as an important source of nutrition and rearrangements of the villages by law in reforms of partitioning.

Unpartitioned village in south-eastern Skåne in early 19th-century. Water-colour by F. Lindberg 1934. (Owner & photo: Kulturen in Lund, Sweden).

Unpartitioned village in south-eastern Skåne in early 19th-century. Water-colour by F. Lindberg 1934. (Owner & photo: Kulturen in Lund, Sweden).

The map depicts how the farming land was divided between the villagers of Borrie, Herrestad in south-eastern Skåne 1802, before the partitioning of the village. (Owner: Christinehof Archive’s map collection, photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London).

The map depicts how the farming land was divided between the villagers of Borrie, Herrestad in south-eastern Skåne 1802, before the partitioning of the village. (Owner: Christinehof Archive’s map collection, photo: The IK Foundation, London).

A weaving technique as “rölakan” or double interlocked tapestry, was one of many traditions which developed and flourished with the more and more prosperous farmers especially in southern Skåne. This had several reasons. It can briefly be noted that the freeholders had few possibilities to increase in number when there was no more land to buy – an alternative was that ownership of land could be shared – it was instead the people without prospects of owning a property that grew. This “lower class” of country people including crofters, dependent tenants and other poor became cheap labour for the wealthy farmers as well as for the county’s many estates. Circumstances which amongst others contributed to the farmers’ wives improving possibilities to get more time to produce decorative textiles which displayed the prosperity of the family, when the everyday domestic tasks to a larger extent could be managed by paid servants.

Example of cushion in double interlocked tapestry woven in the area of Herrestad, Skåne. (Owner: Malmö museums, photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London).

Example of cushion in double interlocked tapestry woven in the area of Herrestad, Skåne. (Owner: Malmö museums, photo: The IK Foundation, London).

It can not be stated with certainty which exact implications the reforms of partitioning had for the development of the decorative textiles – like double interlocked tapestries. However decorative weaving and embroidering were both extensive domestic crafts already before the reform, but in many areas it increased further and became refined in the patterns during the 1820s-1840s. This can of course have been part of the technique as well as the patterns’ developments themselves, but the improving economical advantages as the reform gave rise to also had an influence. Another reality as a result by the reform was the purely social changes, with a more isolated life on the farms outside the villages where one to a greater extent had to keep company/work together with the people on the farm. Most probably this could among other matters make more time available for weaving, when a farmer’s family’s number of decorative textiles more and more came to display the home’s status and wealth, at the same time as the daughters’ dowries could expand in richness and proportion.

Building work and spring farming in East Wemmenhög in southern Skåne after the reform of partitioning. Many farms now became situated outside the villages in connection with the farming land, which gave each farmer fewer but larger pieces of land to work and therefore more efficient and economical. Oil on canvas by Carl Conrad Dahlberg 1866. (Owner: Malmö museums, photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London).

Building work and spring farming in East Wemmenhög in southern Skåne after the reform of partitioning. Many farms now became situated outside the villages in connection with the farming land, which gave each farmer fewer but larger pieces of land to work and therefore more efficient and economical. Oil on canvas by Carl Conrad Dahlberg 1866. (Owner: Malmö museums, photo: The IK Foundation, London).

The map is illustrating a small selected area of Svenstorp in Herrestad in 1811, after the reform of partitioning. One can clearly observe a change from the 1802 map – from the same jurisdictional district – where on the contrary the farming land only consisted of narrow stripes. (Owner: Christinehof Archive’s map collection, photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London).

The map is illustrating a small selected area of Svenstorp in Herrestad in 1811, after the reform of partitioning. One can clearly observe a change from the 1802 map – from the same jurisdictional district – where on the contrary the farming land only consisted of narrow stripes. (Owner: Christinehof Archive’s map collection, photo: The IK Foundation, London).

To be continued…

[SOURCE: Hansen, Viveka, Textila Kuber och Blixtar – Rölakanets Konst och Kulturhistoria, pp. 133-139, 1992.]

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘The Weavers and their Families’, TEXTILIS (November 22, 2013); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)