The Bergmans

The Pacific Northwest has been home to many renowned weavers and loom-makers. Margaret and John Bergman are two early examples. Margaret was born in 1872 in a small town in central Sweden. She learned to weave from her mother, who was a professional weaver. In 1902, Margaret moved to Washington and married her fiancÚ, John Bergman.

After 14 years and six children, Margaret convinced her husband John to build her a Swedish-style loom and she began weaving again. At first she wove rugs and tablecloths for neighbors and local customers but she was soon asked to demonstrate and lecture on her weaving. In 1935 she helped form the Tacoma Weavers' Guild, the first established weaving guild in the western United States.

Besides her expertise in the technical aspects of weaving, Margaret was known for her experimentation in structures and design. She developed a variation on the Summer and Winter weave that is now named after her (The Bergman Technique). Rather than the normal X, O, or brick pattern, the cloth has a rosepath design. You can study some of her drafts and designs in the old periodical, Northwest Weavers. The Nordic Museum in Seattle has many samples of Margaret's weavings online.

With all of Margaret's traveling about, teaching weaving, she needed a loom that was portable and could be moved with the warp intact. Along with her husband John, they built and patented the Bergman Suitcase loom in 1933. A handful of years later in 1936, they designed the larger folding Bergman loom. Their son Arthur joined in and it became a booming family business. The Bergman looms were sold to weavers all over the Northwest and were used for teaching weaving in the Army hospitals as well as the state hospitals, as a form of therapy.

The original Bergman looms were built up until the 1970s. Margaret's brother, Johan Iwald, began building his own version of the folding loom which he sold in Sweden as the Iwald Loom. Here at ETC we get used Bergman looms periodically, and they are always fascinating!

I hope we can all live by Margaret's often quoted words:

"Share what you have. Nothing ever comes out of a closed fist."

Hovermo Sweden Farm Museum exhibit

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John & Margaret Bergman from the Hovermo Farm Museum in Sweden

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An example of the 'Bergman Technique' from the Nordic Museum

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Margaret Bergman at her loom from the Kitsap Sun