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

Textiles woven in double interlocked tapestry are some of the many household items mentioned in southern Swedish estate inventories during the period from 1700 to 1850. These records are important complementary sources for the studies of the farmers’ homes’ furnishing textiles, among many other aspects of the individual family’s conditions and financial circumstances. A large number of said inventories were studied to be able to give a conclusion for the recorded textiles of this type; based on the extent of the possessions, position of the owners, the fabrics value etc. and at the same time compare with other relevant source material. This “Textile Thought” aiming to give a short introduction on my detailed study of double interlocked tapestries from Oxie district close to Malmö in Skåne.

Undated map – probably first half of the 19th century – depicting Oxie district in southernmost Sweden. (Owner: private). Photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London.

Undated map – probably first half of the 19th century – depicting Oxie district in southernmost Sweden. (Owner: private). Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

From several districts in the county of Skåne the estate inventories include few details about weaving techniques, but Oxie district is one of the exceptions where considerable numbers of ‘rölakan’ or double interlocked tapestries are listed together with other textiles from the country homes. The recorders were especially assiduous when it concerned the more valuable textiles, like various tapestry techniques and embroidered furnishing textiles. However one must take into account that the recordings from the estate of a deceased person have great variations over time. In the early 18th century large numbers of cushions are listed, but rarely with any notes of technique or any other details. During the 1740s a quite sudden change took place when double interlocked tapestries started to be listed in many homes. While the records from early 19th century and onwards gradually are simplified and revealing fewer details about singular objects, sometimes each homes’ cushions and covers are only listed as a lump sum. These circumstances  particularly affect the period 1820-40, when the lack of mentioned textiles primarily depended on changing manners in the description of the homes’ assets in the estate inventories. These realities can of course give a somewhat misrepresented picture of various weaving techniques’ occurrence during these decades, but the list below of the study from Oxie district still gives an indication for this sort of textiles’ rise, peak and decline in popularity.

‘Travel and bench cushions’ from an estate inventory in Oxie district after Anna Andersdotter in Staffanstorp dating 1785, which register a number of double interlocked tapestries described as ‘Röd lakan’. This particular year the ownership of furnishing textiles in mentioned technique reached its peak in Oxie district, as concluded from the studies of the estate inventories. (Owner: Landsarkivet (Regional State archive) Lund, Sweden). Photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London.

‘Travel and bench cushions’ from an estate inventory in Oxie district after Anna Andersdotter in Staffanstorp dating 1785, which register a number of double interlocked tapestries described as ‘Röd lakan’. This particular year the ownership of furnishing textiles in mentioned technique reached its peak in Oxie district, as concluded from the studies of the estate inventories. (Owner: Landsarkivet [Regional State archive] Lund, Sweden). Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

Here follows an extract of the studied periods, covering ‘rölakan’ or ‘röd lakan’ (double interlocked tapestry) from the estate inventories in Oxie district, added with the numbers mentioned during each year/period.



YEARS   /   NUMBERS
1700-10 / 8
1718-20 / 0
1730  /  1
1740  /  33
1751  /  34
1760  /  57
1770  /  56
1780  /  82
1785  /  137
1790  /  86
1795  /  40
1800  /  30
1810  /  28
1820  /  1
1830  /  1
1840  /  0


The most complicated marking found from Oxie district was placed on this unique cushion depicting a lady on horseback, including a long line of disconnected capital letters together with ‘KNB 1801’. The next sentence reads ‘Albertina Sofia prinsessa af Sverige’ (Albertina Sofia princess of Sweden) and the letters ‘DNEB’. If this woven seat cushion was intended as a gift for the person in question, or if the lady only was meant to depict Sofia Albertina is unknown. Otherwise the marking on the cushion corresponds well with her years of life (1753-1829) and the year 1801 is also within the period when double interlocked tapestries still were registered quite frequently in the estate inventories.(Owner: Malmö Museums no. 29.423). Photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London.

The most complicated marking found from Oxie district was placed on this unique cushion depicting a lady on horseback, including a long line of disconnected capital letters together with ‘KNB 1801’. The next sentence reads ‘Albertina Sofia prinsessa af Sverige’ (Albertina Sofia princess of Sweden) and the letters ‘DNEB’. If this woven seat cushion was intended as a gift for the person in question, or if the lady only was meant to depict Sofia Albertina is unknown. Otherwise the marking on the cushion corresponds well with her years of life (1753-1829) and the year 1801 is also within the period when double interlocked tapestries still were registered quite frequently in the estate inventories.(Owner: Malmö Museums no. 29.423). Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

Preserved woven textiles of known origin with markings including the year are especially significant to study jointly with the estate inventories. Signing of all kinds seems to be particular common on decorative textiles from Oxie district, which most probably was inspired by the area’s rich tradition of embroidered cushions, often marked with initials and year. Also on the double interlocked tapestries embroidered markings sometimes were added after the completion of the weaving, but usually initials, names or years were woven into suitable places together with the patterns during the weaving process.

Estate inventory dating 1817 from Hans Bergquist, Walleberga, Oxie district. Among the home’s interior decorations, two double interlocked tapestry textiles are listed as ‘Rölakans åke dyna’ and ‘Rölakans Gynne’ (travel- and seat cushion). This was a time when it had become unusual to describe the individual textiles in such detail. (Owner: Landsarkivet (Regional State archive) Lund, Sweden). Photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London.

Estate inventory dating 1817 from Hans Bergquist, Walleberga, Oxie district. Among the home’s interior decorations, two double interlocked tapestry textiles are listed as ‘Rölakans åke dyna’ and ‘Rölakans Gynne’ (travel- and seat cushion). This was a time when it had become unusual to describe the individual textiles in such detail. (Owner: Landsarkivet [Regional State archive] Lund, Sweden). Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

In addition it is possible to conclude from the estate inventories that it was the wealthier farmers, rich in possessions who owned double interlocked tapestries. The textile belongings were here usually extensive and divided into several headings: bedclothes, bed linen, bench covers, travel cushions and clothing. However the less wealthy families and even the poor sometimes had more textiles than expected, most often divided into bedclothes and clothing (but often there were never made estate inventories for the poor). The differences were foremost that striped cushions and feather-beds were owned by most people, while the richer homes also included large amount of bed linen, table linen, extra clothing and decorative textiles. The common characteristics for the “textile abundance” was its higher value from as well an economical as from a status point of view.

This travel cushion from the south west area of Skåne is exceptionally well preserved in its colours. The textile is undated, but probably woven during the period 1770-1820. (Owner: Malmö Museums no. 443). Photo: The IK Foundation & Company, London.

This travel cushion from the south west area of Skåne is exceptionally well preserved in its colours. The textile is undated, but probably woven during the period 1770-1820. (Owner: Malmö Museums no. 443). Photo: The IK Foundation, London.

[SOURCES: Hansen, Viveka, Textila Kuber och Blixtar – Rölakanets Konst och Kulturhistoria, pp. 192-199, 1992 & Hansen, Viveka, ‘Rölakan i Oxie härad’, Elbogen pp. 98-117, 1991.]

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘Textiles in 18th- & 19th century Estate Inventories’, TEXTILIS (May 14, 2014); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)

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