Which textiles were in use in the viking period? And what should I sell on a medieval market? I asked myself those and similar questions after having been accepted as as exhibitor at the historic market in Trondheim. I wanted to weave something that could have been worn in that time period and decided to make large, quadratic shawls. They were an important part of a woman’s dress in northern Europe and would provide protection against wind, humidity and cold temperatures.
I wanted to use yarn from rare Norwegian sheep breeds and contacted Selbu mini-mill. I was able to buy single spun white yarn from Rygja and grey and brown yarn from a breed called “Grå Trønder”, meaning grey sheep from the region of Trondheim. Rygja is a crossbred breed from southwest Norway, the “Grå Trønder”is known for it’s soft wool and has an very interesting history, which I promise to write about another time.
The colors were absolutely lovely together and I decided on twill 2/2 with bird’s eye, which was a common binding during Viking age, as was the use of single yarn. The floor loom and the spinning wheel had not arrived in Scandinavia yet, and all yarn was spun on hand-spindles and the woven into cloth on warp-weighted looms. I get dizzy just imagining the time they used for only spinning…
Browns, greys and white are lovely, but I felt the need for some color. I climbed through the hatch in the ceiling of our corridor into the dark attic carrying a torch. When I opened the cardboard box containing my handspun and plant-dyed yarns it smelt strongly of lavender. It was like opening a window back to the time when the kids were small, before weaving became my day-job and there still was space for time-consuming hobbies.
I chose the brightest colors and made twelve one-of-a-kind shawls with different color combinations. I am intrigued by the way the single yarn curls up after washing, it looks almost like sheep fleece.
The shawls fitted perfectly with the market profile and we really needed to borrow them quite often in the cold summer weather. They are also great as baby blankets, light, warm and completely natural without any environmental poisons. Thanks a lot to Julie, who is a start-up entrepreneur and currently working as trainee at Selbu mini-mill, for making such a lovely shawl model.