The Weaver's Tale - Mona Lise Martinussen The Weaver's Tale - Mona Lise Martinussen

Mona established her workshop at her home in Ribe in 1994. Her skills as a weaver have been acquired through many weaving courses and practical experience gained in Mette Rössing's workshop. She has also travelled extensively around the world, studying the methods of traditional weaving in Norway, Turkey, India, South-East Asia and Central America.

In recent years, her work has largely been based on the designs of Ullrich Rössing. She specialises in tapestries and ecclesiastical textiles, and her commissions have included altar carpets for churches in Bjerringbro, Korsør and Tjæreby.

Mona and her husband Ejvind are members of the Twin Town Association in Ribe and frequent visitors to Ely.

Mona describes the process of turning Ullrich's design into the final work of art:

"The first stage is to understand the motivations and themes behind Ullrich's design, so we meet to discuss the commission and decide how a drawing on paper should be transformed into a piece of art with texture and colour.

"The design for Ely was drawn out initially at around 1/4 size, as a pencil sketch. I think that we were all amazed to see how much detail Ullrich had managed to include in the design, based on one short visit to Ely and the information he collected about the important features of the two towns. Of course there were some changes, as the clients in Ely asked for new people or places to be included, but the main ideas that Ullrich put forward have been retained.


"For everybody, it's important to see how the design works out at the full size. Therefore the first thing I do is to project Ullrich's drawing onto a large sheet of paper hung on the wall and re-draw it at the final size. Ultimately, this new drawing will be mounted on the loom behind the threads and used as a plan on which to weave, but before that, it has another important function.

"On a very detailed design such as this, it's very important that I can replicate the small shapes, curves and angles with the threads on the loom. So I have to calculate whether this is possible, based on a certain number of threads per centimetre. Some small changes were needed to the Ely-Ribe Tapestry, but these calculations also helped to finalise the overall size of the finished piece. At 1.8 metres by 1.2 metres, it's not the largest piece of work I've had to accommodate on my loom, but it's certainly one of the most detailed!


"The next stage is to introduce some colour to the design. In many ways this is when the piece of art really comes to life. I use woollen yarn in my weaving, and dye all the colours myself, so it's important that my colours capture the mood that Ullrich is trying to convey in his design. On Cromwell's picture, for example, variations in colour are used to show light and shade and to bring out the contours of a very rugged face. All in all, there are 11 different main colours and 2-5 shades of each, in the Ely-Ribe Tapestry.

Choosing colours

"And so, with the design finalised and the colours chosen, I can finally get down to the weaving. I'm fortunate to have a well-equipped workshop at my home in Ribe, and a project like this will take up my largest loom for up to 9 months. It's quite a painstaking process, but I really enjoy the picture building before me.

Weaving technique

"The tapestry is actually mounted and woven on its side on the loom, so on the finished article the carrying threads (warp) will run across the tapestry and the coloured yarn (weft) goes up and down the picture. It's not a question of completing each row of weaving and moving on to the next. Instead I will usually work on a single shape and colour and then move onto the next one to the side or above it. The yarn is threaded by hand and pressed down onto the threads below to keep the weave as tight as possible. Any loose ends of thread are then sewn in to produce a smooth finish on both sides of the tapestry.

Weaving in progress

"The finished piece, which took around 550 hours to weave and weighs around 5.5kg, was then brought to Ely for hanging.

"Of course it's important that the tapestry is displayed to its best advantage. The piece is designed to be durable if displayed properly and it needs to fit in and become acclimatised to its surroundings. Over time, any tapestry will stretch because of its own weight - this one by 2 or 3 centimetres from top to bottom. It’s also essential that the lighting used replicates as far as possible the lighting conditions in the workshop.


"So, while I was busy weaving the tapestry, the important job of designing and building its cabinet for display in The Maltings was under way in Ely. Finally, the two elements of the project came together in August 2006, some three weeks before the official unveiling.

"This has been a fascinating project to work on, and I'm very honoured to have been commissioned by our friends in the Ely-Ribe Association. A 50th anniversary is always a special occasion. I hope that the citizens of Ely and Ribe will enjoy looking at the tapestry, and long may this special link between our two towns continue!"

Click on Where and When to View to find out how to see the tapestry.