Swedish Serendipity

July 17, 2008

I was a slow taker when it came to the internet.  I can boast that I was able to get clear through college (in 1999) without ever having had to do an internet citation, the same way my aunt can boast she graduated without ever having typed a paper on anything but a typewriter in the early 80’s.

For some things though, it’s perfect.  Like weaving.  You would think with my love of the obscure I would have got a lot more excited about the possibilities of a worldwide public forum a lot sooner.

I’m excited because Margaret Bergman’s great-niece in Sweden found my blog last week!  She sent me a link to an exhibit called Snilleriket that is open this summer.  The exhibit celebrates the local geniuses of a particular lake district in Northwestern Sweden.  On the website you can click on one of the faces in the bar at the top of the page to see a summary of the person’s achievements.  The only woman in the bunch?  Margaret Bergman.

I do think Bergman looms are on the cusp of a little renaissance.  I’m willing to take this Swedish serendipity as proof–although the looms and the wonderful history attached to them are enough by themselves to spark it.

I was curious what the Swedish take on Margaret Bergman would be, so I translated her profile on the Snilleriket website into English.  I haven’t taken it too far from a transliteration, because that’s what I always prefer when a translator isn’t sure of her idioms–and I’m not sure of much in Swedish.  Please forgive any translation mistakes.  I’ll be glad if you can offer corrections.


The Lady from Rörön Becomes a Genius in the Art of Weaving, Honored and the Recipient of Awards in America


Margareta Olofson was born in 1872 in Rörön south of Sventavik.  Her mother was clever at weaving, and Margareta divided timely modern interest with powerful talent.  Yet when she applied for a weaving course in Östersund she wasn’t accepted.  You see, the extensive admissions examination showed that she was more skillful than the teacher!

In 1901 she emigrated to the Seattle area in the USA to be reunited with her betrothed, John Bergman.  There she became Margaret Bergman and mother to six children, but little by little she worked on John, who was a carpenter, to build a loom.  In this way she entered into a successful career.

The rumors of her skill spread.  She gained standing.  She developed her own patterns.  She invited people over to tell them about and show them her weaving.  She was asked to hold courses around the western USA and Canada.  The culmination, perhaps, was that at 67 years of age she was asked to hold a course for teachers at the United States’ foremost craft school, Penland in North Carolina on the east coast.

In the course of her travels, the need arose for a loom that could be disassembled without the need to take off the warp. So she designed the Bergman Suitcase Loom.  It was little, it could fold when it was set up to weave, and it adapted well for demonstrations.  Her husband John made a little model that was sent with Margaret Bergman’s 1932 patent application.  The larger loom in the picture is her personal loom, and at the same time an example of her other invention, the Double-Folding Bergman Floor Loom.  It was patented in 1936 and manufactured by her son Arthur.  These looms were even manufactured and sold in Sweden by Margaret’s Brother Johan C. Iwald.

Margaret Bergamn passed away in 1948.  The year before, she was honored for her outstanding contribution to the circulation and development of the weaving arts in the United States by the National Weaver’s Congress in Salem, Oregon.  The special quotation of her philosophy that expresses Margaret Bergman’s gladness in life and at the same time a message to all weavers (and others):

”Öppna din hand och dela med dig av vad kan. Av en knuten näve kommer inget gott.”


“Open your hand and share what you can.  From a clenched fist comes nothing good.”


In the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, Margaret Bergman has her own exhibit. In the plexiglass case to the left stands the model that accompanied the patent application in 1932.

Folded up, Margaret Bergman’s loom doesn’t take up any more space than a piano.


*translator’s note:  The Bergmans cleared and settled a farm in what was then a very remote location on the Western Kitsap Peninsula.  Many of her early students came to her by boat.


There is one other little biographical article about Mrs. Bergman on the web that I know about, with some different but equally interesting information.  You can find it by visiting the profile of the Kitsap Weaver’s Guild on the the Association of Northwest Weavers Guilds website:


The link for the History of the Kitsap Weaver’s Guild will lead you to the Bergman article.


11 Responses to “Swedish Serendipity”

  1. deborah Says:

    I am following your lovely postings avidly. It almost seems that Margaret Bergman is some relation with her child (my small Bergman) sitting beside me creating quite a presence. I am making progress.I have spent hours on the Internet finding weaving sites and suppliers. My husband is going to make me a replacement back beam. I need to buy linen cord /Texsolv to proceed. I have played around with string and wire just to see the jacks working, but nothing is balanced and I need the correct materiels. I have noted previous comments on Texsolv and Bergman looms so will start with cord.

  2. trapunto Says:

    It sounds like you’re making a great start, Deborah. Good for you! When it’s ready to photograph, I’m sure people would be really interested to see pictures of what may be the only Bergman Loom in the UK. Do you think you’ll be posting some on line?

  3. deborah Says:

    Not sure how to post,I found this site by accident and responded, but unsure what to do to get a blog site where I could post photos etc. its a bit of a mystery to me. Thanks ever so much for you support. I am really enjoying myself and very keen to get creating.

  4. Great article! Somehow, I must have missed any biographical information on Margaret Bergman when I visited the Nordic Heritage Museum. I love the line “but little by little she worked on John, who was a carpenter, to build a loom.”!!! That’s just the way I imagine many women (myself included) persuade their husbands to their way of thinking.

  5. I checked the Snilleriket site, but was disappointed not to see an example of the fabled suitcase loom. That was one thing I hoped to see at the museum that wasn’t there. As to the loom on exhibit — I had a terrible case of loom envy — I counted 14 treddles/12 harnesses — the Snilleriket site has a nice photo of the exhibit.

  6. Jane Says:

    I see thread people. . .

    And another lovely post! Have been offline this week as my Beloved had shoulder surgery. So when I’m not able to be in my studio, my other grand passion is genealogy and family history. Have been immersed in Poland in the 1700s this week and reflecting upon all of the generations of women in my family who have worked with thread.

    Then, here is your wonderful article about M. Bergman and not only her looms, but more about her as a person. That, to me, is what makes history come alive.

    To see your beautiful loom, and then to be able to connect it with the handsome, talented, intrepid woman who designed it — excellent. What a testament to her your blog has become.

    Sally forth,

  7. appreciation Says:

    “Open your hand and share what you can.”

    Since reading your post several days ago, I’ve had this engaging expression in mind with regard to weaving. I like to offer help when I can and frequently I’m writing for help.

    However, on this occasion, if I’m allowed, I’d like to give praise for help; in particular to Joanne Hall who generously always responds to my requests for help on weaving matters even though she’s never met me.

    An email to Joanne is always answered, and promptly. This kind of support is invaluable and I thank her for the assistance she gives to ‘new’ weavers like myself.

    • Fran Says:

      I am new to this blog but here to help with any one who needs it with Swedish Weaving/Huck Weaving.
      I have been weaving now for abuot 10 years and teach at my local senior center.
      I am happy to help anyone with questions you may have.

  8. trapunto Says:

    I have to admit, SpinningLizzy, that “little by little she worked on John. . .” was one of those idioms I wasn’t sure of. I scratched my head over my Swedish dictionary, extrapolated, and made my best guess. Maybe a Swede will stop by (Margareta?) and set me straight.

    Yes! I want to see a suitcase loom too! I’m wondering how many were actually made, and whether the patent was awarded. Nothing I’ve seen has mentioned what happened after the application was made. I believe Arthur Bergman gave his mothers papers to the Nordic Heritage Museum, so maybe the information is in their archives. If there are still some suitcase looms in existence, I imagine they might not have lasted as well as the double-folding looms that you and I have. Smaller, more fiddly, more metal-on-wood moving connections But wouldn’t it be cool to find one!

  9. Warner Lord Says:

    I own a complete working Bergman Suicase loom No. 177B, 1933. I’ve owned it for over 30 years and believe I was the second owner. It resides with me in CT far from its birthplace. It is only this week that I learned of Margaret Bergman. What pleasure to know of her.

    • Susan Berlin Says:

      I know you posted this several years ago, but I just found your note. Are you (and is the loom) still in Connecticut? Is there any chance I could come and see it some time?


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