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    Pattern for the Ormen Lange bargello quilt

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    Downloadable pattern for Bargello Flame

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    Downloadable pattern for Bargello Dancing Flames

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  • Downloadable pattern for Autumn Bargello

A Thousand Bodice Inserts

We were so lucky as to get to see the exhibition of 1000 Bodice Inserts at Hardanger Folkemuseum at Utne last October.

A bodice insert is a separate piece of fabric covering the front opening of the bodice on the folk costume from Hardanger and some other areas.


Folk costumes in Hardanger, and also in other areas in Norway, were influenced by continental fashions. The renaissance fashion trend with waist and skirt in differing colours, and often heavily decorated bodice inserts, kept its stronghold in this area till the costume was embraced as the National Costume of Norway in the late 1800s. It was a living tradition, so no need to go back to study old garments in order to reconstruct the costume, as has been done later in other areas to create local folk costumes. (We now have lots of different folk costumes in all areas of the country.)


Luckily a lot of old and new bodice inserts from Hardanger have been donated to the museum over the years. There are also collections in neighbouring districts, and some of these were also on display, – a total of more than 1000 bodice inserts, and not two alike.


People have used a variety of techniques to decorate the inserts, and cross stitch embroidery seems to have been a popular method. All the inserts on the wall to the left in the photo above, are decorated in this way.


The amount of decoration vary from very simple to elaborate. People used the same style of clothing both for every day use and for Sunday best and other festivities, and they often had several bodice inserts to fit the occasion.

Unadorned bodice inserts were used when attending funerals, and grieving.


The size of the inserts vary a lot. This may be due to variations of the waist front opening, and also the fact that people come in different sizes. A couple of hundred years ago, people were generally smaller than we are now.

Even though hardly two bodice inserts are alike, there are some common standards. They all have a ribbon hem on top. Most have a defined motif of various geometric shapes sewn on red or white fabric. Between the ribbon and motif there is often a border made of metal lace or ribbon, beads, or embroidery.  The decorated parts are mounted on a piece of fabric, which is mostly made of home woven wool or linen. This background fabric is not visible when the bodice insert is in use.

It is almost as interesting, – or perhaps more so, – to observe all the different background fabrics that have been used.

The most common geometric motif is by far the eight pointed star, also called an eight leafed rose in these parts. The variations are many, there may be one big star, or a few or several smaller ones set in a grid, most often on point. The grid itself may be narrow, or wider with geometric decor elements of its own.

In quilting terms we might call the decor on point blocks with narrow or wide sashings.


Quite a few inserts have beads on them.

At a time when most household items were home made, purchased objects would be regarded as finer and having a higher status. Beads have been produced and sold for many years, and bodice inserts decorated with beads were regarded as especially fine and for best use. The inserts can be dated by looking at the colour of the beads. White, green, mustard, and black beads were first available. Blue beads and straw beads came later. Also the older beads are bigger and of more irregular shape than newer ones.

The motifs are again mostly geometric borders and eight pointed stars, but also heart shaped decor has been popular.


On one insert with very small beads, they found that the maker had used horse hair to thread the beads. The horse hair is so stiff that you would not need a needle, which would perhaps have been to thick for the small pearl openings.


Pearls have been combined with both embroidery, metal lace and ribbons, and also applique as in some of the photos below..


There is a story about three vicar’s daughters from Ulvik who used to do very fine applique, mostly eight pointed stars. When their father died, they supported themselves by making fine bodice inserts for sale. At the time, paper was used inside the top hem to make it stiffer, and much later one of their father’s sermons was found inside one of these inserts.



Not all bodice inserts were made from woollen fabric. Some used fine imported silks, silk velvet and calamanco. A few of these were displayed behind glass.


The pattern darning technique has also been used to decorate bodice inserts.

Pattern darning is a very old embroidery technique, – even older than cross stitch, – and this technique has been used quite a lot.  Pattern darning is often used alongside other techniques, where the pattern darning will compose the grid, or framework, for the motif, while other techniques such as cross stitch or satin stitch, are used to fill in the pattern repetitions.

A very common motif on pattern darning inserts is the “eldjarnrose”, which looks like a modern day hashtag set on point. It is most often worked in black, while the surrounding grid has been made in red yarn.


This last group of photos show some inserts made in a variety of techniques, and some of them with unusual motifs. There are a few examples where the cross stitch embroidery patterns are made to look like bead embroidery or threaded bead grids. There is also one with a great variety of stitches, including the only example of chain stitch that I noticed.

Lastly, here is an insert mounted on a piece of fabric cut from a beautiful woven coverlet in the “krokbragd” pattern:



The exhibition was scheduled to be taken down last January, but due to its popularity, it has been extended till 1st November 2019. If you get the chance to visit, grab it with both hands.

It is well worth a visit.






Rendezvous in Røros

27 years ago my family and I visited Røros during a holiday trip.

In the museum there was an exhibition of textile art, and among them were several works by artist Ela Monsen.


I was so impressed by her work at the time that I took several photos, using a cheap camera I had at that time, – and also using the expensive film and paper copies of that time. I wanted to remember what I saw.


The wall hangings were hung in a room with dark drapes on the walls, and even though my small flash light did its meager best, the photos were only so-so, – even by my then standards. But they were recognizable.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I visited Røros again, and we stayed at Røros hotel. In the lobby, I was pleasantly surprised to see the wall hanging with the dancing couple hanging on the wall.


Of course I recognized it at once, and was happy to be able to see it in better light conditions, and to be able to study the details. Of course I did not think twice about taking lots of photos, – these days photos are cheap.

The next morning I was again pleasantly surprised to see another of her works in the dining room:


This rendition of a wedding feast is the one I thought most impressive back in 1990, so I was very happy to be able to study it in closer detail. It has not lost its impact since then.

Ela Monsen died in 1978, so these two hangings were made just one and two years before her passing. Luckily, some of her works hang in public places so we can continue enjoying them.












The Yakut Wedding

As I said in my two previous posts here and here, there was a lot going on on the day of the Quilted Field.

One of the posts on the entertainment program, was a demonstration of Yakut wedding customs, especially on how to dress the bride.



It all started with a small procession of the participants entering the field and the stage. First came the groom..

…then various family members and a shaman (…I think..).


One person was at the microphone explaining what was happening, but only in Russian. We could guess quite a lot from what we saw happening on stage, but we probably missed out on a lot of interesting details.

The bride came on stage already with the pink dress on, but there was a lot more to be added, both clothes, jewellery, belt, handbag, hat and mittens, – all of this in beautifully made traditional style clothing.

Everything was done with slow, ceremonial movements while some haunting songs, reminiscent of sami joik, but not quite, were played in the background, occasionally interrupted by the storyteller explaining something.


When the bride was ready, the groom came and led her to the other side of the stage, both holding on to opposite ends of what looked like a big tassel.

Afterwards there was some kind of ceremony, and then some serious gift giving, – everything in slow motion:


In the end they danced some sort of line dance, – again with very slow motions and sombre faces, – very dignified. No hoopla or laughter.



No wedding is without food and drink, of course, and they had brought some of their traditional foods and drink on to the stage. After the ceremony and dancing, they came around and offered the audience tastes of both food and drink, served in carved wooden vessels.

The food was waffles and some small pancakes, – very good, – and the drink was white and had a sour-ish taste. After reading up on Yakut wedding traditions on the web, we think that it must have been fermented mare’s milk. Nobody got sick or died as far as we know,  😉 even though everyone drank from the same cup.

This also gave us a chance of a closer glimpse of their wonderful attire, – all beautifully made with lots of details to admire. I should have liked to examine them all more closely and in person, but the photos will have to do. There was a lot of fur, as would be expected on traditional clothing from the coldest place on earth, but there was also woolen fabric and what looked like silk brocade on some of the coats. There was also lots of silver jewellery, some of which reminded me of the designs from Juhl’s Silver Gallery in Kautokeino, who has got their inspiration from the tundra and the people living there.

Yakutia, or the Sakha republic as it is also called, is the largest republic in Russia, and is almost as far east and north as you can come in that country. This group had travelled 8-9 hours by plane to get to the festival, – all inland, which is telling of just how large this country is.


The organizers had better cameras than mine, so the photos on their website have some more close ups and details from this event.


Here is a Youtube video of a Dressing-the-bride ceremony at a big event in 2012.

(It stops rather abruptly, before they are quite finished, I think.)



In my next post, we will take a closer look at some of their quilts.





Transforming a Pillow

The mention of shoddy in my previous post, reminded me of a pillow I rescued from the bin when sorting out things at my parents’ house last summer.


I think it originally came from our grandparents’ home, and I remember sleeping with that pillow when I was a little girl. It was very lumpy back then, and even worse now. Nobody else wanted it, and my first thought was to toss it, but then I rather liked the two fabrics it was made of, and since it would also be good for supporting the breakables during our drive back home, it went into the car instead of the bin.


Back home I opened it up and emptied the filling into a plastic bag. This is what shoddy looks like after it has been inside a pillow that has been used for more than 60 years. Very lumpy indeed.


Shoddy is made from old woolen garments, like the socks in my previous post, which have been shredded and carved into fibers, and then carded and made into fillings for pillows and duvets. Close up, one can see some of the original threads and many different coloured fibers.


I washed the fabric and put it away in a plastic bin.

Then we bought a new sofa, and I needed a couple of new pillows. I had seen one in a recent quilting magazine which gave me some ideas, and when looking through my stash for some background fabric, the old pillow came to mind.


I brought it out, and decided to use both fabrics, and I could even keep the old seam. I cut it one ruler width from the seam on both sides, and then cut the length into two parts, one for each pillow.

Then I added strips of a blue cotton damask fabric, which I had dyed myself many years ago. The two backgrounds are a bit different in size as the inner pillows I had available were of two different sizes. I also turned the stripes horizontally on one, and vertically on the other.


Then both backgrounds were layered and quilted with a wavy, on point, grid.

teikn sirklar

Next, I drew lots of circles in three different sizes on paper backed fusible web. They were ironed on to the back side of many different yellow, orange, red, and some purple scraps.



Then I placed my “flowers” on the green and blue background. I moved them around till I was satisfied with their placement, then ironed them down.



I sewed around each circle using the satin stitch on my machine. Since the background was layered and quilted, there was no need for a stabilizer.


I drew some stems with chalk, and then sewed them using a wider satin stitch.


In order to make some leaves, I ironed strips of different greens onto fusible web. Then I drew some leaf shapes in different sizes, and made some templates which I used to draw on the paper side of the fusible web already ironed to the strips. I cut out lots of leaves so I would have some to choose from when distributing them on the background.


When I was satisfied with the placement, I ironed and sewed around all the leaves using the satin stitch.


Then I only had to make backings for the pillows. Since I did not have zippers available, I made the envelope style backing. I use that a lot.


And onto the sofa they went.





In between commissions and sewing for the grandchildren, I have managed to get a few bags done this autumn.


I drew a mosaic leaf pattern which I appliqued using a variety of cotton fabrics, plus a few bits of gold lamé scattered in between.


Then I quilted a few leafs on each side and did some ecco quilting around each leaf.


The main fabrics are linen and linen blends.

The green bags have appliqued mosaic leafs on both sides, while the neutral coloured one has one applique leaf, and only a quilted pattern on the other side.


I also made a couple of purple bags similar to this one using my fabric prints. The original bag was made from silk noile, but the ones above have linen blends as the main fabric.


Both bags have one square and one oval fabric print motif.  The square fabric print motif is the same on both bags…

… while the oval fabric prints on the other side are different on the two bags.


All the bags have a lining with pockets and a zippered pocket.

These bags will be for sale.



A Christmas Present for Myself

Sometimes I just fall head over heels in love with a quilt. That is what happened with this one:


I spotted it as it was posted for sale at the website “Through our Hands”, and I could not believe my luck that it was still available when I came across it. I decided on the spot that this was going to be a Christmas present for myself, and hurried to buy it before someone else could snap it up from under my nose.


It was made by UK artist Annabel Rainbow in 2011. If you visit her website, you will see that it is very different from her current work, which is absolutely fantastic, by the way.

The quilt is approximately 58 cm square, each block is 6 cm, and it is made entirely of silk fabric. The centre is Cathedral Window blocks, surrounded by a row of Secret Garden blocks. Those of you who are familiar with the technique, will know that a lot of fabric goes into the creation of each block. It is hand sewn through and through.


The borders have a pattern in reverse applique, with border fabric re-appliqued on top of the circles in every corner. The blocks all have a small pearl in the centre.


The name of the quilt, “Hoc Sensu Modo”, is hand embroidered along the top border, and it means “This side up”.

It is a gem, and I just love it.




I have spent the first days of 2011 updating the galleries at my website, a task that has been postponed way too long. While looking up photos of works that were finished during the last couple of years, I was reminded of some topics I had planned to write about on the blog here, but which did not happen at the time.

One of the posts that have been on the back burner for a while, is this one about the chasubles I delivered to the small church in the village of Ålfoten in May 2010. This was a very special commission.

The church is very old. According to oral tradition, it was built in 1610, so in 2010 they could celebrate the 400th anniversary of the building. There is evidence that the chuch was built on the spot where an even older church had been standing, – possibly a stave church, – so the site has a long tradition of worship.

I was contacted by the parish council in 2007 as they wanted to commission a green and a white chasuble to be finished in time for the 400th anniversary.  3 years may seem like a very generous time span in which to finish this, but these things take time, as the plans for the design, fabric choices, etc. must be approved by authorities on several levels before the actual sewing can begin.

My first step in deciding on a design is to visit the church and take lots of photos. Working from photos alone is possible, but I think it is important to also visit the place in person to get to feel the atmosphere, so to speak.

The photos are useful in several ways. In addition to reminding me of how things look, I can also scale the design proposals to a size that can be placed in the photo, in order to get an impression of how they will look in their proper place inside the church. An impression is all I get, however, – getting the fabric colours right by manipulating photos is nearly impossible. Fabrics ought to be seen live inside the church before deciding on the colour.

Inside the church has bare timber walls, built log cabin style, and with no paint. The only painted items in the church are the pulpit and the large altar piece, – large compared to the size of the church, that is.  The top of the piece cannot be seen from the seats, – it is so tall they had to remove part of the ceiling to fit it in, and you have to go quite close to see all of it.

It is as old as the church, but was painted, or repainted, in 1767. Seen from a distance when entering the church, the visual impression, – except for the “wings” on each side, – is one of rectangles of different shapes, colour, and texture/pattern.

In the church there is an old, red chasuble that is still in use. The parishioners wanted the new ones to be the same size as this one, and approximately the same shape.

Taking my cue from the decor on the existing chasuble, and from the altar piece being divided into rectangles of different sizes, the chasubles ended up looking like this:

Green chasuble back and front


White chasuble back and front

When I visited the churh the first time, a small and curious detail on the altar piece was pointed out to me.

On the “wings” on each side of the altar piece, the twisted white oval surrounding the green branch has some red berries in between the twists. But one of the berries, – and only one, – is green instead of red. You can find it at the bottom in the oval to the right.

Nobody knows for certain why this one is different from the rest, but my thoughts went immediately to the stories we have heard about quilters making one obvious “mistake” so that the quilt should not be perfect, – the so called “humble block”. (The truth of, and/or reason for this is controversial, I know).

Another possible explanation is that this is the “signature” of the crafts person who made or painted the altar piece.

In any case, it is a special feature of this altar piece, which I chose to reflect in the design on the back of the green chasuble.

One of the grapes to the right is green instead of red.

The chasubles were officially delivered on the day of the anniversary service in May, – on Whitsunday. This was only a small part of everything that was going on, so with all the activities, I did not get a chance to get a decent photo of the chasubles inside the church.

Since my husband was away on his job, I invited my mother to accompany me to the service and to the celebrations afterwards. She took this photo inside the church while I was presenting the facts and ideas that led to the finished designs. It was not easy to get a good shot as the church was very crowded, –  there was even a tent set up outside for the ones who could not get inside the church itself. The service was recorded on video and sent live on the internet and on a large screen in the tent outside, and is still available here. Slide the time button to about 58 or 59 minutes into the video, and you can see two of the priests who attended the service acting as mannequins and walking the chasubles up and down the aisle so everyone could see them.

After the service there was a large celebration in the school gym, which doubles as the village hall.

These small villages really know how to organize and put on a celebration, and to make the guests feel welcome. With a population of less than 200, everyone had at least one thing, and in most cases several tasks, to do during the day, and everything went smoothly, – not one glitch was noticed during the whole day.

We were early, but all of the more than 200 seats were filled before the lunch was served: “rømmegrøt og spekemat” (sour cream porridge and cured meat), and home baked crunchy bread: “flatbrød”

The “rømmegrøt”, or “rjømegraut”  in the local dialect, was served wedding style: a procession with a musician (usually playing a fiddle, but in this case an accordion) marching in front, and all the “waiters” each carrying a bowl coming behind in a long row. The “rjømegraut” was marched twice around the perimeter of the room before it was served on the tables.

There were of course lots of congratulatory speeches, an overview of the history of the church, and lots of singing and music.

And then there was coffee, tea, and cake for everyone.


Lovely cream cake with a marzipan cover, – yum!


Before we leave Ålfoten, I want to show you a few more details from the church itself.

This is the baptismal font. Very handy when the space is limited like it is in this small church.


On the side wall to the right there are two rows of wooden pegs. In former days the menfolk sat in the seats to the right, while the women were seated to the left (as seen from the entrance). These pegs were for the men to hang their hats on during the service. The women would leave their headwear on.

The photoes above were all taken in summer time, but I had also occasion to see the church in winter time on one cold January day when I went there to photograph some fabric samples inside the church.

I took care to be there in the middle of the day, so there would be some light. This was an ordinary day with no service, so the heating was not on, and the “mood” was quite different.

There was ice on the window panes (which I could not resist capturing with my camera), but with the clear sky and the snow covered ground outside, we got the light we needed, even though it was different than in the summer.

I guess it could sometimes have been as cold as this also during services in former times, when heating was less available.


Satin stitch

Have tested the satin stitch on my new Sapphire 870.  Not bad, I think.

hearts applique