The creation of Vävstuga is inspired by the many weaving schools throughout Sweden and the dedicated and talented people who have made them happen. Our goal is to perpetuate this amazing kind of education for generations to come.
- Becky Ashenden, founder and owner
- Tonya Grant, office and studio assistant
- Eva Gaultney, teacher
- Katie Cavacco, host
- Sara Jeanne Burke, teaching assistant
- Barbara Blumenthal, office assistant
- Leni Marcy, tool production
- lydia ievins, webmaster
- Past apprentices, 2009–2016
Becky’s 1981 introduction to the wealth of the Swedish textile world at Sätergläntan Institutet för Slöjd och Hantverk, a school renowned for weaving and other traditional crafts since 1922, gave her the motivation to pursue weaving as a life passion as well as a career. The following 13 years of production and sales added experience to her initial high-level training to build a unique set of complementary skills in both the theory and practice of weaving. Her use of equipment and techniques that have withstood the test of time adds to the value of what she has been offering her students at Vävstuga since 1991.
Becky has also worked on a series of publishing projects for her own Vävstuga Press, which includes translating weaving books from Swedish to English and republishing Swedish weaving books that have gone out of print. She has also been the technical editor for several Swedish weaving books that have recently been published in English.
Today the depth and breadth of Becky’s work at Vävstuga are the culmination of decades of teaching. She has spent much of her adult life formulating her courses to provide maximum exposure to her techniques and expertise at the loom. Her natural lifelong need to provide warm hospitality, including home cooked meals and a cozy environment, is well satisfied at Vävstuga.
Becky is also a professional musician in a variety of folk music traditions from Swedish to Balkan to Cape Breton, playing several instruments including piano, accordion, and fiddle. Lately she is most active with her great Balkan band Orkestar Banitsa.
Tonya has always enjoyed working with her hands and creating. She took her first weaving course in 2004 as an elective at her high school. In 2011 she took an overshot workshop at The Mannings Handweaving School and her passion for weaving was reignited.
Since her 2016 apprenticeship at Vävstuga, Tonya has dived into the drawloom world and lets her creativity run wild with color choices and one-of-a-kind designs—check out her spectacular creations at Tonya’s Wovens. She has the quiet perseverance to tackle any project and loves a good challenge. After heading up our shipping department for several years, she has now taken on a larger role in the Vävstuga office, as well as continuing to help with studio setup for classes and assisting drawloom students.
Eva started her weaving journey at Berea College. In her labor position as a production weaver she wove placemats, rag rugs, and rep weave; she also had access to different looms, tools, and weaving techniques. With her interest piqued, she spent much of her free time digging deeper into all aspects of weaving. After graduating from Berea, she accepted a position as an Environmental Educator at Pine Mountain Settlement School. There she discovered they had a loom room packed with 20+ looms of various makes and styles. She learned a lot about loom mechanics from working on and maintaining those looms.
Eva attended the Väv Immersion program at Vävstuga in 2019, expanding her knowledge of Swedish weaving and techniques. She then returned to Vävstuga as Becky’s teaching apprentice, and is now an integral part of our teaching staff.
Katie is a sewist with a deep respect for hand craft. She learned to sew at a young age and pursued that passion from high school through graduate school. Her education has centered around apparel design with a focus on sustainability, primarily through material upcycling and creative reuse. With her small business, Free Ramblin’ Kids, she creates toys and slippers for young children from upcycled, fulled wool sweaters. She is also involved in local slow clothing endeavors with dreams of seeing the success of localism, as with local food movements, extend to fiber, textiles and fashion.
Katie meets and greets our student lodgers when they check in and serves dinners during classes. She has also taken on the oversight of our ever growing Yarn-in-a-Jar manufacturing department.
An independent hand bookbinder and graphic designer, Barbara worked for 35 years at Smith College as the rare book specialist in the Mortimer Rare Book Room, and has taught bookbinding and book history. In March 2021 she offered an online paper-folding workshop through Fabric of Life.
As a weaver Barbara tries to find time to weave at Vävstuga at least once a year. As a musician she plays Bulgarian tambura in a band with Becky and others called Orkestar Banitsa. The band is named after a wonderful savory cheese and filo Bulgarian pastry, which fits in with Barbara’s other passions for cooking, and gardening, and food history.
In mid-2021 Barbara joined the office staff part-time, so she may help you with registration, scheduling, and other questions and concerns about weaving at Vävstuga.
Leni has been involved in various aspects of photographic work for over 40 years. His work in black-and-white printmaking for important contemporary and historically important photographers has been exhibited in many venues, including The Museum of Modern Art, The Wadsworth Atheneum, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Worcester Art Museum, and a traveling exhibition for the National Geographic Society.
Since retiring from his full-time printing work, Leni has begun production of a comprehensive print archive of his 40-plus years of photography. He is also busy working in his wood shop to produce custom Vävstuga designed weaving tools.
Sara Jeanne Burke
Sara Jeanne was first introduced to weaving in 1966, in the textile arts program at the Louisville School of Art. From there she set weaving aside for a time, going on to study business and open Burke’s Bookwork, her freelance bookkeeping business, in the mid-1980s.
Her return to the world of weaving began in 2002, with a Navajo weaving class at Harrisville Design School. A few years later, by happy accident, she was completely taken with Becky’s teaching style. The joy she has for her time at Vävstuga is vital to her. Becky’s world of Swedish weaving is like no other and Sara Jeanne is thrilled to be a part of this wonderful community. She joined us in 2018 as a teaching assistant for Rag Rugs and other classes.
When lydia took her very first weaving class at Becky’s house in 2002, back before Vävstuga reimagined itself into the current studio space, the very idea of a Vävstuga website seemed almost far-fetched. We’ve certainly come a long way since then!
A freelance web developer since 1999, lydia guides her current clients through site re/design, information architecture, and the world of ecommerce. In her other primary identity she is a folk musician, with a special love for Swedish folk fiddling traditions. lydia maintains an active international travel schedule touring, teaching, and recording on nyckelharpa and 5-string fiddle. She’s especially excited about her recent duo CD with Helsinki-based pianist and composer Juha Kujanpää. .:. infoTamers web consultancy .:. lydiamusic.org .:.
Between January 2009 and July 2016, 11 wonderful women were able to take advantage of our apprenticeship program. Every one of these women has become an accomplished weaver and a valued friend.
You can read what they have written about the opportunity of an extended amount of time with our looms and textiles.
If you long for the opportunity to study weaving at Vävstuga for an extended period of time and receive an excellent weaving education in the Swedish tradition, our Väv Immersion program could be a good fit for you. There are some financial aid opportunities for applicants 18–35 years of age.