Thursday, June 27, 2013

Finnish Travels - Pt 2

Blankets on display at the Korsnäs Hembygdsförenings

As a weaver, I was really excited and surprised by all of the wonderful weaving that I saw in the Korsnas region of western Finland.  Even though the Korsnäs Hembygdsförenings museum is a tiny regional museum it is filled with surprises around each corner.  There are several rooms with coverlets and blankets that have been hung to show off their range of color and weaving style.  Several are woven in plain weave and several are woven in monk's belt.

More woven coverlets and blankets at the Korsnäs Hembygdsförenings

A display in one of the rooms that focused on the history of seal hunting in the region suggested that some of the coverlets would have been used for decorative purposes on top of a sheep skin 'blanket'.  A close look at the 'blanket' showed the seams where several skins had been sewn together.  The 'blanket' was displayed fleece side down.

Monk's belt coverlet on top of sheep skin 'blanket'.

Several of the coverlets were displayed as curtains on the box beds.  In the displays I saw, the curtains were often woven in monk's belt patterning.

Bed curtain on box bed displayed at the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vasa, Finland.

While visiting the city of Vasa, I had the opportunity to also go to a few antique shops.  Much to my surprise, I found one of the old monk's belt coverlets for sale. After picking the moths off of it, I brought it home (it also did a stint in my freezer for good measure).  The piece was obviously woven after the use of aniline dyes came into use.  The ground appears to be a mix of a florescent yellow two ply cotton yarn and a red single ply cotton yarn.  The pattern is a bright Barbie pink handspun singles wool yarn.  The blanket was woven in two narrower panels and then stitched together by machine. ...If you saw me on the street, you would find that I always wear shades of brown, olive or blue with lots of gray mixed in, so it was quite a shock to me that I really liked this bright coverlet!

Monk's belt coverlet from antique store in Vasa.  Actual block size is about 1/2" square. 

The sett on this colorful coverlet is about 60 epi with close to 50 pattern picks per inch and 50 ground picks per inch...and I thought that I did fine weaving on my coverlet patterns at 32 epi!  Each of the two panels was woven 25" wide and 65" long with a tiny 1/4" hem on the ends and a bit less for the center seam. 

Weaving from the Bengt Carlson farm in Molpe

The other woven treasure I returned with was an single panel of a monk's belt coverlet or bed curtain given to me by the wonderful folks we stayed with, Bengt Carlson and Greta Björkqvist.  The ground appears to be a black two ply cotton with a sett of 60 epi. The red and green part of the pattern is a single ply handspun wool while the yellow and white accents are a two ply commercial cotton.  The picks per inch in the pattern are about 50 ppi for both the pattern the ground.  The piece measures about 26 1/4" wide and 73" long with a tiny hand stitched hem on each end.  However, at some point this panel had one of the long sides turned over about 2" and was then hand hemmed.  Perhaps for use as a decorative valance for a bed?  (There is no evidence of fading on the back side which would suggest it had been used for a window valance). 

My two woven treasures from Finland

While at the Korsnäs Hembygdsförenings I also noticed the woven runners on the floor.  These weft faced wool rugs have colored patterning that was quite unique to Korsnäs. 

Korsnäs woven rug

Band weaving also played an important part of the textile production in the area.  These bands were woven on a rigid heddle loom.  They were used for decoration on the both the folk costumes and household textiles in the region.

Woven and tapestry crochet bands at the Korsnäs Hembygdsförenings
While visiting Stundars Open Air Museum in Solf, we had the opportunity to watch some of the local crafts people do demonstrations.  Barbro Sandin was using the rigid heddle loom to weave traditional patterned bands.  These particular bands are used to wrap around the waist of skirts for the women's folk costume and to hold up aprons and pockets.

Barbro Sandin demonstrating at Stundars
This women's ikat, weft faced wool skirt from the Korsnäs folk costume would have been wrapped with a three meter handwoven band around the waist.  The band was finished with decorative wrapping and tassels.

From the folk costume collection at Brage in Helsinki, Finland

I can only say that I am thrilled that my sister, who accompanied me on this trip, showed great forbearance as I slowed my pace to that of a snail as we explored all of these wonderful places!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Finnish Travels - Part 1 
 The Korsnäs Hembygdsförenings

The Hembygdsförenings located in Korsnäs, Finland

From very early in my life I have had an intense interest in my family history.  Like most Americans I'm a 'mutt'.  However, a quarter of my ancestry comes from the Swedes that populate the western coast of Finland.  The only problem was that aside from a few bits of oral history, some old photos and an worn wooden butter box, all traces of those origins had disappeared.  It wasn't until recently after much research and the help of some wonderful people I met five years ago, that I was able to reconnect with my Swedish-Finn roots.  The journey has been remarkable to say the least!

Oldest mans Korsnäs sweater in the museums collection

My great grandfather emigrated from Molpe, Finland in the Korsnäs region of Ostrobothnia in western Finland.  Korsnäs is known for a very unique type of textile that is often a combination of knitting and tapestry crochet. They have a wonderful little museum in the town center of Korsnäs known as the Hembygdsförenings.  Volunteer Inga-Britt Mannfolk graciously opened the museum for us on a Sunday so that we could see the incredible collection of textiles that it housed.

These sweaters are typically made by using a tapestry crochet technique for the top and bottom of both the sleeves and the sweater body.  It's a very durable technique that withstands wear quite well.  The body of the sweater is then knit, often with three woman working together on the 'lice' patten.  The knitted body stretched allowing for expansion as a person aged.  These sweaters were first made in the mid 1800's for men and latter were adapted for woman.

Korsnäs sweater with cap
The tapestry crochet technique was also used on a wide range of other textiles.  The museum had a sizable collection of small bags that were used for money or tobacco from the entire Korsnäs region.

Money bag from Korsnäs

Tobacco bag from Korsnäs
This technique also lent itself to a number of different styles of bands for use with trousers, dresses and blankets.

Decorative band for a sleigh blanket

Sleigh blanket woven in monksbelt with tapestry crochet edge, additional tapestry crochet bands and rigid heddle bands

Breast plate
This unique 'breast plate' for a man would have been worn in the v area inside of a mans vest.

Wrist warmer with decorative fringe

The caps that I saw as well as one pair of socks used the combination of knitting and tapestry crochet.  The mittens however were knitted only with patterns that emulated the tapestry crochet patterns.  I was pleased to see several pairs of mittens for sale in the lobby of the museum along with patterns for sweaters, mittens and hats.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of these textiles as well as how to make them, I would strongly recommend the book, 'Decorative Crocheting' by Marketta Luutonen, Anna-Maija Bäckman and Gunnar
Bäckman.  It was published in 2003 by österbottens hantverk rf in Vaasa, Finland.  The text is in English (as well as Swedish and Finnish) - thank Swedish is atrocious!