Vesterheim Presents the Exhibition “Knitting along the Viking Trail”


Photo: Courtesy of Vesterheim.

DECORAH, Iowa — Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum presents “Knitting along the Viking Trail,” a traveling exhibition designed by Scandinavian knitter Elsebeth Lavold and developed by The Textile Museum of Borås, Sweden.

The exhibition was first shown in Sweden in 1997 and has since traveled throughout Sweden, Denmark, and the United States. Elsebeth Lavold and Anders Rydell, her husband and creative partner, will install the exhibition, which consists of knitwear designs alongside the sources of inspiration for the patterns. There will be more than 50 knit items plus photographs and sketches of archaeological finds from all over the Viking world and eight replica rune and picture stones.

“We’ve been talking with Elsebeth since 2002 about having the exhibition come to Vesterheim,” said Laurann Gilbertson, Vesterheim’s textile curator. “We’re very pleased to have it because it shows how artists today can take inspiration from the past,” she explained.

Elsebeth Lavold has Norwegian and Danish ancestry and lives in Sweden. Already a knitwear designer, she began to adapt Viking and Iron Age interlaced motifs into her knitting after she illustrated a book on archaeological sites near Stockholm. The result is exceptional design based on ornament analysis and a thousand years of cultural history. Her work also shows an innovation in knitting to create the intertwined motifs. In 1998 she published a book of Viking patterns for knitting that has been translated into five languages.

Vesterheim uses the story of Norwegian Americans to explore aspects of identity and culture common to everyone. The museum cares for over 24,000 artifacts, among which are some of the most outstanding examples of decorative and folk art to be seen in this country. Founded in 1877, Vesterheim is the oldest and most comprehensive museum in the United States dedicated to a single immigrant group. This national treasure includes a main complex of 16 historic buildings in downtown Decorah, and an immigrant farmstead and prairie church just outside the city.

The exhibition will be on view from July 12 to October 11, 2009. There will be an opening reception from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on July 12, and Lavold will be present to give a gallery talk at 3:30 p.m. Lavold also will teach four knitting workshops on July 13, 14 and 15. Programs, focused on design and Viking culture, will be scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition—check for updates.


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