TEXTILE NO. at 108, Noma's little sister


In June 2015 I received an unexpected email from restaurant Noma about a meeting to present my textiles and discuss a possible collaboration. They had seen them in one of the shops in Copenhagen that carries my textiles and had become interested in my collection.  

We had our first meeting on a hot summer’s day on the pier behind the restaurant. The catering consisted in cold water served from a plastic box that was placed on the table. Upon request I brought my whole collection of tea towels, napkins, pot holders, placemats and bath towels and carried my other things, telephone, notebook etc. in a tote bag sewn of one of my sample weavings. First we were looking at the different models and sizes of my collection. We were discussing the hand-crocheted pot holders which they really liked, the placemats and even my tote bag. One of the chefs put the handles of it around his neck, carried the bag hanging at his breast and looked at it as a possible apron called front-piece in this professional context.

After discussing different items they chose the napkin No. 9 as the first thing to work with. The napkin has the size 50 x 25 cm which is an unusual size for a napkin. They asked me: Why this size? l told the size consists of two squares that become one square when you fold it. They liked that idea and started to work with the napkin. They placed it on their legs as you do while eating and found the size width enough to cover a man’s legs and the length long enough to do the same. The napkin covers the body sufficiently and the size minimises the fabric consumption which they found appealing. They wet the napkin, put it in an oven and heated up to 90 degrees celsius to see how it would feel as a warm, wet napkin, given as the first thing you encounter when you are a guest at the restaurant. As my napkin No. 9 passed these brainstorming tests, we then had to decide the fabric design and the colour of the napkin. The fabric design YinYang was chosen, then the colour had to be decided. I had brought a sample weaving of a new colour which I named Lichen at the meeting. The colour is inspired by the grey/green lichen growing on trees and rocks and is a colour I have dyed and woven with since my very first weavings when graduating the Design School. It is an obvious colour choice for a restaurant working with ingredients from the Nordic nature. We decided the colour to be exclusively made for them at this size in the YinYang design and I was asked to deliver napkins for the then top-secret new restaurant in the Noma family, 108, which was due to open as a pop-up in January 2016. This was to be the first step in a long, challenging and exciting journey. 

During the coming months, the kitchen chef was very interested in obtaining knowledge about linen as a fibre. The facts that linen yarn is a fermented material and that it is the only plant-based textile fibre that originates in Europe especially interested him. They also served a delicious linen pie at the pop-up restaurant. 

To fulfil the goal of delivering linen napkins to 108, I had to solve one big challenge. Linen is a natural material with many exceptional qualities, but the fibres break if they are exposed to high heat combined with movement when dry. This means that linen cannot be tumble-dried. I found a laundry in Copenhagen that was willing to engage in a collaboration to find the right laundry procedure. They subjected my linen napkins to heavy-handed testing. The napkins were smeared in red wine, oil and lipstick, spun, lightly tumble-dried and rolled, over and over again. And they passed all the tests.

A few weeks ago 108 opened permanently in a warehouse next to Noma with my lichen coloured napkins in pure linen on the tables.

Photo: Jeff Hargrove and Karin Carlander

Karin Carlander