Friday, September 30, 2011

Weaving at Sidenväveri

A few months ago, shortly after booking my trip to Sweden, I began combing my guidebook and then the web for anything to do with Scandinavian weaving in Stockholm.  All of my favorite weaving books (and many of my knitting books), both old and new,  are from Swedish authors translated into English.  For some indescribable reason I assumed that everyone in Sweden was an avid weaver and knitter.  I was looking forward to perusing yarn and weaving stores, purchasing those, hard to get your hands on, Swedish yarns that are always cited in my books yet impossible to find.   After all learning to knit is a course requirement in public school.  Despite my best efforts I found not one fiber store in all of Stockholm.  I didn't even casually pass one on the street.  I did, however,  find one little gem of a place, tucked away on a sleepy street in Soldermalm. Sidenväveri Museum.  A 170 year old silk mill, now museum, the last remaining of its kind in Stockholm.  Inside, the tour is mostly self guided.  On the main level the looms and warping, and winding equipment is exactly where it may have been 100 years ago.  An expert weaver takes a break from her book to demonstrate on one of the looms.
This loom is from the early 1800's.  It takes about 3-4 weeks to warp with threadlike silk at 160 ends per inch.  The cord in the middle is an automatic shuttle enabling a weaver to weave 10x faster than hand throwing. 
Beside and above the loom is the punchcard that tells the loom which threads to raise in order to create the pattern.  That huge stack of cardboard is what is required to create 1 full repeat, in this case about 10 inches.
 The 3 crown pattern.  A damask weave still used by the royal family.  I find out that the Sidenväveri not only acts as a museum but also occasionally takes on custom orders.  This piece is being woven for upholstery.  The client had to first ask special permission from the royal family before commissioning this piece from the museum.  Later, as I walk near the royal palace, I easily spot 3 crowns adorning the buildings.  
In the upstairs loft of the museum, an archive of drawings and samples are stored in large climate controlled drawers.  The detail is exquisite. I can't imagine creating something this perfect without the aid of a computer.  
 Back downstairs, my expert weaver guide shows me what she works on when the museum is commissionless.  Ivory silk in the warp and horsehair in the weft, this is exactly what I love about the Swedish design aesthetic.  The contrast of the rough hair works nicely with the luster of the silk.  The face isn't smooth, as it is in the damask samples, but variegated and almost straw like.  The frayed edges are a lovely touch. 
The back, or the front depending on how you look at it.

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