Yesterday was a fun day. I went over to Lopez Island for the quarterly Textile Guild meeting. The program this time was a presentation on Norwegian woven coverlets, by Kay Larsen. She's assistant curator of the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, and she gave a fantastic program. I have some Swedish roots, and have always been drawn to Scandinavia, though I've never been there.
What struck me most from Kay's presentation was how hardy the Nordic people are/were. She was discussing the rya weave, and how a rya coverlet was essential to the fishermen in Northern Norway. They would go on cod fishing trips in late fall, to the northern part of Norway (above the Arctic Circle) in OPEN boats! As in no cabin! They would take the sail down and lay it over the forward part of the boat, so some of the crew would have that shelter while they slept, but the main part of the crew would only have their rya to keep them from freezing. She had a quote (can't remember where it was from) she read about how the men often had to shake the snow off in the morning, and how a man whose boat capsized insisted that his friends save the rya before pulling him from the water. They were that important.
Wool from their own sheep, collected when the sheep shed it in spring (from Spælsau sheep- a primitive breed that sheds its fleece), spun by hand on drop spindles, woven and knotted on a simple frame loom into a thick pile coverlet. This was a tremendous investment of time and energy by the women of Norway, done with love to keep their men alive. A rya for every man, taken north in fishing boats to catch the cod that would keep their families alive. That's a really satisfying thought.