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Brita Katarina (Brita-Kajsa) Karlsdotter

1816-11-071915-11-24

Textile artist

Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter was a textile artist who created textile patterns. She also developed Anundsjösömmen (the Anundsjö stitch).

Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter was born in Näs, Anundsjö. She was the youngest child of bosun Carl Gustav Näsbäck and his wife Brita Danielsdotter. Her mother was active in local sewing efforts and Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter often accompanied her on her outings. She probably learned to embroider at a very young age. Despite limited means she used her own creativity and imagination to develop her own artistic form of expression. Her sewings were formed organically using her own made-up stitches.

Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter suffered from epilepsy as a young child. Various cures, including prayer, magic, and other housewives’ methods, were employed in an attempt to heal her and the epilepsy vanished leaving her completely cured. This gave rise to a lifelong belief in God which she expressed explicitly in each piece of embroidery through the inclusion of the acronym ÄRTHG, which stood for “Äran TillHör Gud” (the glory belongs to God). She believed that she herself was not worthy of any credit for her embroidery and that instead all credit should go to God.

In 1840 Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter married Olof Nilsson, who hailed from the neighbouring village of Ödsby. They moved to Sorsele and went on to have eleven children together. At that time one could only travel to Sorsele via an unpaved road or a narrow track. Their house, which is still standing and is used as a summer cottage, was thus situated far from general traffic. Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter was widowed after 41 years of marriage. Her eldest son took over the running of their farm making her somewhat redundant. She was given accommodation, eggs, milk, butter and other necessities. Now she had plenty of time for her embroidery. She took her inspiration from nature and embroidered flowers, wreaths, corn ears, myrtle and fir needles onto white woven sheets, both new and old. She was a skilled weaver and dyed her own woollen threads. She often used the left-over bits of woven material from cut-up pieces of woven towels. She was a master of recycling and repurposing. No two of her embroideries are alike and she hardly ever drew patterns beforehand, instead they evolved organically. She may have occasionally marked out certain details using her nail or a needle.

It was a four Swedish mile journey to Anundsjö church which Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter travelled on foot. She would spend the night at the home of friends but as she had no money she was unable to pay for her accommodation. Instead she would give them something she had made, or exchange it for something else she might need. It is said that Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter spent her long walks to church knitting. No time should be wasted and on her lengthy journeys she carried items on her back and in her mouth.

It was in 1910, when Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter was 85 years old, that her embroidery came to wider attention in connection with an exhibition in Sollefteå held by Ångermanlands hembygdsförbund (local historical association).

Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter created her last sewn pieces when she was 98 years old. Her sight had worsened during the final years of her life but she organised “needle parties” to which the local children were invited. They would thread a number of needles with red thread and as recompense they received a tasty morsel or perhaps a piece of cloth. Original works by Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter can be seen in the textile archives held at Murberget museum in Härnösand. Indeed a cultural heritage walk has been laid out which traces her four Swedish mile route to Anundsjö church. Bredbyn square contains a work of art entitled Nål och Tråd, by Åke Lagerborg, and another work of art, entitled Anundsjöpigan which is seven meters high, is located on road number 348 near Tjärnstugan in Bredbyn.

Brita-Kajsa Karlsdotter died in 1915 aged 99. She is buried at Anundsjö church.


Mona Johansson
(Translated by Alexia Grosjean)


Published 2021-02-08



You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Brita Katarina (Brita-Kajsa) Karlsdotter, www.skbl.se/sv/artikel/BritaKatarinaBritaKajsaKarlsdotter, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Mona Johansson), retrieved 2021-10-27.




Other Names

    Married: Nilsson
    Signature: BKKD ÄRTHG


Family Relationships

Civil Status: Widow
  • Mother: Brita Danielsdotter
  • Father: Karl Gustav Näsbäck
  • Husband: Olof Nilsson
more ...


Activities

  • Profession: Lillpiga hos prästen
  • Profession: Textilkonstnär


Residences

  • Birthplace: Anundsjö
  • Anundsjö
  • Place of death: Anundsjö


Sources

Literature
  • Forsell Braf, Rosie, Brita Kajsa Karlsdotter: mönsterskaparen från Anundsjö, Länsmuseet Västernorrland, Härnösand, 2007



Further References

Litteratur
  • Arnqvist, Frida, 'Brita-Kajsas stygn får ny färg', Hemslöjden, 2006:1, s. 42-47