Hjalmar with Vitalis on his lap and Augusta with daughter Viola.
With the strong influence of Glafsfjorden, Billingen and Sörtjärnet and its water systems, artisan traditions were nurtured for generations. The water systems were strong enough to power a dozen mills and sawmills.
Our story begins in 1884 when our grandfather Hjalmar Johansson was born in Klässbol in Värmland. The family was large and there were eight siblings. At the age of nine, grandfather Hjalmar started at the village woolen factory as a running boy. It was there that his interest in weaving began and the interest grew over the years. He got employment as a weaver in Arvika and Sågmyra, and after some years, he moved to Borås and trained at the weaving school. He gained professional experience at Borås Jacquard weavemill and later at Västergötland’s Yllefabrik in Tidan.
In 1918 he received a request to return to Klässbol. Stafnäs Ullspinneri needed help due to a generational change. Grandfather Hjalmar, grandmother Augusta and their eight children moved back to their home village and Hjalmar started as a Weaver at the wool spinning mill.
He soon realized that the wool spinning business could not be saved, he began in the evenings to weave linen sheets and towels on a handloom in the kitchen at home. The linen came from the area’s farmers and Hjalmar wove linen products for friends and acquaintances.
Over time his clientele grew and in 1921 he bought his first mechanical loom. It was in the living room and the ceiling to the bedroom had to be opened up to make room for the long-awaited jacquard. The loom worked day and night and in 1924 grandfather Hjalmar was able to buy a soldier’s cottage about 400 m from his house and he moved his business there. He also invested in two more looms. Grandfather Hjalmar managed to start seven patterns before he passed away quickly in 1928, aged only 44. What if he had known that his craft would become the foundation of an international company.
When grandfather Hjalmar passed away, his family faced a difficult decision – should they continue the weaving business or not? There were plenty of debts but no money. The answer came when the family found a life insurance policy that Hjalmar had signed without Grandma’s knowledge. It was worth 4,000 SEK, which was a fortune at the time. It was as if Hjalmar had known what was going to happen. Now the family could continue the business he had built up. Our father, Vitalis, took over the responsibility for the weaving. Aunt Viola took care of the accounts, Grandma Augusta was in charge of the sales and the other siblings helped as they got older. Despite tough times and many setbacks, they continued to run the weaving business and carried on the tradition.
In 1975, the weaving business was left to us sons, Sven-Olof, Torbjörn and the undersigned, all weavers since the age of 14. Today, brother Urban and nephew Stefan, as well as niece Cenita are also among the owners, who took over from their fathers Sven-Olof and Torbjörn. Andreas, who also belongs to the fourth generation, has shouldered the responsibility as CEO.
Just like for grandfather, quality is our clearest guiding light. Our weaving patterns are a cultural treasure that we have inherited and which we manage with the greatest respect. The joy of being able to share these timeless patterns and our other beautiful designs, is our driving force which we hope will take Klässbols further on the journey that grandfather once started.
Dick Johansson, one of four partners
If you want to know more about Klässbol’s history, our book “To weave our history” is available to buy at our weavingmill in Klässbol and in our store in Stockholm. You can also find it in some online booksellers, such as Bokus.