Spring in the North - So much better.

I've been like a mad woman in the last year or so, taking courses in all kinds of strange things.  Mostly old handiwork.  This is not typical of me.  It's kind of not at all like me.  I have always told myself that I can't be taught.  I'm too impatient and arrogant to take instruction from others.  Or so I have always thought.  But it turns out that I can actually listen to what others say and learn from them.  Of course I knew that.  It's not like I haven't learned everything I know from other people.

I spent last weekend with eight women in the north of Iceland, at an agricultural college learning to weave on a warp weighted loom.  This is the old looms that basically date from the stone age and were used right up until 1750 in Iceland.  By that time, weaving had, in Europe, long since become a matter of Guilds and was the domain of men.  Except here, where the vertical loom was found at every farm and women wove every piece of cloth that was used.  And all the yarn used to weave was spun on a drop spindle too.  Right up until the 1750 there were no spinning wheels in use in this country and no horizontal looms.  So it may come as a surprise that this method of weaving has almost become lost in this country.  But now there are at least 8 of us, who know how.

Maybe it doesn't matter that the old ways of doing things get lost.  Some people don't seem to mind.  Maybe most people don't mind.  I don't know.  I have no idea why this had started to matter to me.  But I feel privileged to have been a part of the small group that got to learn this.  And it's not that I was chosen or anything.  I just happened to hear about this course by chance and immediately got interested and signed up.  They needed six people, but had to cancel because they couldn't fill the spaces.  Even if I offered to sign my mother up if needed.  So I kept telling everyone about it.  In the end they had a waiting list.

This really is a most satisfying way to weave.  The loom doesn't take much space.  One can take it down and put it up again, without finishing the piece.  Something that can not be done in the modern looms.  The construction is quite simple and it's not really hard work, although progress is undoubtedly slower than on horizontal looms.

We wove with tufts of "tog" to make a type of cloth that was used in Viking times as a warm and waterproof outer clothing.  It made for a shaggy fabric that hippies would have been proud of in the sixtees.  But my little piece may end up as a cushion cover one of these days.

It took about 7 hours to set the looms up and then the going was slow since we were two to each loom and had to co-ordinate our weaving.  We all did pretty different pieces, some using the natural sheep colours and others using natural dyed wool.  One can weave quite complicated pieces on this loom, twill being the very traditional Icelandic fabric that was so well known in the olden days and was exported in large quantities.  Twill uses 3 shafts on this loom, but we only used one shaft and did a pretty basic basket weave.

I fell in love with this type of weaving and I'm almost planning to build a loom in the garden.  They really look quite good, rustic and solid structures made of sturdy branches and woods.  It would make for a really cool garden sculpture.


  1. Lucky you, taking this course, I'd love to try weaving but time is the missing factor! Still, I enjoyed reading about your course, look forward to seeing your loom in the garden.


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