Friday, July 26, 2013

Finnish Travels - Pt.3

As someone that has spent her life making textiles, I would have to say that I am in love with my tools.  Tools are such an important part of the process of knitting, weaving and spinning.  They can even make a difference in the quality of the finished product.  Not to mention that a beautiful, well made tool is a joy to use!

This post will mostly be a photo essay of some of the amazing textile tools I came across in the Ostrobothnian region of Finland.

Painted spinning wheel at the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vasa

Several spinning wheels at Stundars Museum in Solf

Spinning wheel in the priests house at the Korsnäs Hembygdsförening in Korsnäs

This upright wheel was on display at the Ostrobothnian museum in Vasa.  The sign said it was an early 18th century wheel from the town of Karijoki.  It was the only wheel of this type that I saw in the local museums.  I would like to have had a closer look at it.  Based on my own experience with upright wheels, this appears to be missing its flyer.  The distaff also appears to be in an unusual location.

I was really awed by the painting and chip carving used to create a number of spinning tools.  Here are several images that are from the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vasa.

Distaffs and a lazy kate from the late 1700's at the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vasa.

The lazy kates in this image date from the early to mid 1700's.  Note the beautiful pulleys used for a counter balance loom.

This display at the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vasa included several unique distaffs as well as a rigid heddle for band weaving that came from Voitby in Mustasaari.

This exquisite, carved distaff at the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vasa was made by Anders Andersson Bäck from Kronoby as an engagement present for his future wife while he was working at sea as a ship's carpenter.

I loved all of the detail carved into this lazy kate and the one behind it that I saw at the Korsnäs Hembygdsförening in Korsnäs.

This skein winder/counter is also known as a 'clock reel'.  This too was located at the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vasa.  It is the first one I have seen with a clock face painted on it!

This pulley on an old counter balance loom at Stundars in Solf caught my eye.  I am in the process of restoring an old 19th century American counter balance loom and was impressed that such care went into making this small part.

On a visit to a Vasa antique store shortly after our visit to Stundars in Solfs I came across this loom pulley. I couldn't resist bringing it home. It is a real treasure for me to have!

A short note/observation:  I was surprised to find several very old, carved and painted distaffs, loom parts and spinning wheel parts in the local antique stores.  While visiting my relatives in Molpe, I was pleased to see that they had a spinning wheel in the entrance of their home.  They told me that it was quite common for people to have one in their homes.  However, most people do not know how to use them.

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!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"A Legacy of Shetland Lace"

Published by The Shetland Times Ltd, Lerwick, 2012

Elizabeth Johnston of Shetland sent me this lovely book this past winter.  Most books that are available about Shetland lace are written by writers that are not from Shetland.  This book is actually the work of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers that was founded in 1988.  It's purpose is to preserve and further Shetland's traditional textile heritage.

This knitting book has all of the things that I most love about knitting books.  Not only does it have good patterns, it also has clear directions at the beginning of the book for finishing and grafting.  All of the pattern designers, including Hazel Tindall, have interesting bios so that we get to know who these Shetland knitters are.  

The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers logo is used to indicate the difficulty level of each pattern using one to five spinning wheels - five being the hardest.

Knitting Advise
 Throughout the book you will find tidbits of knitting advise from these masters written in their native English.  It brings the reader just that much closer to being in Shetland to be able to read all these little gems of wisdom.  It's a book that I highly recommend!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Shearing Day at Whoamule Shetlands

Skirting Fleece
Chris and Jerry Lubinski of Clinton, WA on Whidbey Island let me photograph their shearing day recently.  If you'd like to see the whole story, follow this link to my other blog...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In search of bed rugs and boat rya...

My sister and I are planning a trip to Finland this spring in search of our 'roots'.  Although I truly am an American mutt, 1/4 of my ancestry is Swedish-Finn...and for reasons I can't explain, I have always had a very strong interest in early Scandinavian textiles.

Reproduction of a 'proddy' rug that is on display at Stundars Museum in Korsholm, Finland
  Unbeknownst to my poor sister, I have already started my search for museums in the Ostrobothnian region of western Finland that have interesting 19th century household textiles.  Much to my delight I came across the website recently for the Stundars Museum in Korsholm, Finland.  Even better, their artifact of the month was a 'proddy' rug.

I had never heard of a 'proddy' rug before.  However, when they started describing this textile that was woven in two sections with a hemp warp, rags for filler and a pile made out of wool fabric strips and wool and cotton yarn, I started to get excited!

Rag rya that is part of the collection at the Nedreberg Farm near Stryn, Norway
While in Norway in 2011, I had the opportunity to see some interesting ryas that had a pile made out of rags.  The back or ground, like many of the Norwegian ryas (rya is the Swedish name for these rugs) was a twill weave with colored stripes.  These ryas were designed to have the pile side facing down and the woven 'back' facing up. The pile would trap the air, not unlike our down comforters and create a very warm bed coverlet.  (The owner of the farm however, told us that the children slept under this rya with the pile side up because the wool rags tickled their noses.)

Detail of rag rya from Nedreberg Farm
The 'proddy' rug at Stundars also captured my imagination because of it's history.  Museum founder and curator, Gunnar Rosenholm, ..."During his expeditions in the region in the 1950's, he (saw) a rag rug in a seal-hunting boat in Replot.  His research showed that in the 18th century only farmers and people of rank could afford rag rugs, so called proddy rugs, with pile made from wool yarn.  Crofters had rugs made from rags.  Still in the 1880's, crofters used the proddy rug as a bedspread.  The rag rug was used in much the same way as a skin rug but sometimes the rag rug was more practical.  A skin rug would turn stiff and cumbersome once it had become wet.  This is why fisherman preferred proddy rugs in their boats well into the 20th century, and why the last rugs were found in the archipelago."

Batrya on a bed in a rorbu (fishermans cabin) at the Lofoten Museum in Storvagen, Norway
The proddy rugs got me thinking about the batryas (boat rye) that are found on the west coast of Norway. They have several nice examples on display at the Lofoten Museum in the Lofoten Islands. The batrya has a woven ground with a pattern in it, but the pile is made of plied wool yarn.  They were woven for the same reasons that the proddy rugs were woven.  When the fishermen went out on the fishing grounds and spent the night in their boats, these rya kept them warm and dry, were relatively easy to wash and did not deteriorate in the salt water like a skin would.

Detail of the front and back of a batrya at the Lofoten Museum.
In Shetland, a more decorative bed rug version of the rya is found in the form of a 'taatit rug'. The ground is woven on a loom like the other bed rugs in Scandinavia, but the knotted pile is then looped onto the ground after it is removed from the loom with a needle, and then some ways like the rya 'kits' that are available today from Finland.  Unlike the modern Finnish rya which is purely decorative, the taatit rugs were functional bed rugs.

Taatit Rug in the collection of the Shetland Museum

One of my favorite versions of the batrya dates back to Viking times in Iceland in the form of the 'varafeldur', a woven shawl that was used as currency. The pile in this case was made of locks of the sheeps fleece knotted around the spun wool warp yarns.

Detail of the 'varafeldur' woven by Elizabeth, Marta and Hildur

A few years ago Elizabeth Johnston (Shetland) along with Marta Klove Juuhl (Norway) and Hildur Hakonardottir (Iceland) wove a 'varafeldur' in Iceland using the old viking methods on a warp weighted loom.  They used the fleece from local Icelandic sheep.  The finished varafeldur is a remarkably soft, light weight textile that would keep any fisherman warm.
Marta Klove Juuhl with woven 'varafeldur'

Although I didn't have the privilege of seeing this piece woven, I did get to handle the finished piece.  This weaving technique is quite rare.  The only place I have seen it demonstrated was by the interpretive staff at the Lofotr Borg Viking Museum in the Lofoten Islands in Norway several years ago.

So as I plot 'my version' of our trip to Finland in search of our roots - I guess I'll also have to take a detour to the Ostrobothnian Museum in Vaasa to see the original 'proddy' rug.  It would be a shame to just see the reproduction and not the original...I do hope my sister ends up falling in love with these Scandinavian bed rugs like I have!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

More on sweaters and ponies...

Here are photos and commentary from the blog of the pony owners with an exhortation to 'Not try this at home."  This link was kindly sent to me from Elizabeth Johnston in Shetland.