Norwegian Double-Weave and the Warp-Weighted Loom

Larson, Katherine L. Norwegian Double-Weave and the Warp-Weighted Loom: The Northern Gudbrandsdal Tradition. 2011. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

The warp-weighted loom is an ancient form of European weaving technology, documented as a living tradition in Norway in the mid-twentieth century. A group of 18th century double-weave coverlets from northern Gudbrandsdal, Norway, are believed to be products of the warp-weighted loom, but they were woven at a time when the more advanced treadle loom was probably in use. Were these textiles woven on the warp-weighted loom, and if so, why were they not adapted to the treadle loom?

This dissertation, based on textile observations, experimentation on the warp- weighted loom, and an analysis of the social context in which the textiles were woven, concludes that the warp-weighted loom was used for weaving these 18th century textiles. Further, it was found that sheep guardhair (a smooth, strong fiber) was predominantly used in one of the double-weave layers, a likely replacement for the smooth-fibered linen that was typical for one layer of medieval double-weave textiles in Scandinavia. Individual warp- thread characteristics in three coverlets indicate that they were woven on one long warp, providing evidence that specialist weavers probably worked in the double-weave tradition. Weaving errors indicate that pattern storing was employed in both the 18th century coverlets and medieval Scandinavian double-weave textiles, and experimentation demonstrates how well suited the warp-weighted loom is to this method. The central importance of pattern storing for the double-weave technique is shown by early 20th century archival papers, presented in this study, in which a pattern-storing implement is used as a designator for the coverlets.

Reversible double-weave is a complicated technique that is unlikely to have been part of ordinary domestic weaving. Instead, the evidence of specialist work comports with a limited number of weavers at the center of the tradition, and characteristics such as pattern storing and selective fiber usage represent both long-standing practice and adaptation over time. Although there is no technical reason why a treadle loom could not have been used to weave these coverlets, the warp-weighted loom would appear to be the preferred implement used by a relatively small group of specialists, the last expression of a centuries-long tradition in Scandinavia.