Ostrobothnian textiles

We visited four museums during the Nordic Knitting Symposium 2014. The first one was Myrbergsgården, one of the museums in my municipality:

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There are 17 buildings on the grounds. The museum is known for its large textile collection with more than 5000 items. It has an especially large collection of embroidery, as many women earned their living by selling embroidery at the beginning of the 20th century. There’s also lots of crocheted lace for bed linen, knitted socks and other garments. This is my favourite closet in the musum:

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You all know how difficult stripes are! Susanne Hansson taught a class in designing and knitting jogless stripes at the Symposium. This closet with its bolster-cases was much admired!

The next museum was Stundars, where I use to spin in the summers. I didn’t take any photos, so lets go on to the municipality Malax and have a look at Brinkens Museum, where the staff had displayed knitted socks, hats, mittens, sweaters, and more.

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Yes, the winters in Finland are cold! You really need warm clothes. Why not make them pretty even if you can’t see them under the pants and skirts? You can at least see a glimpse of a beautiful sock when the women lift their skirts to step over a threshold or climb the stairs!

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The Malax sweater is knitted from rather thick yarn in the Finnsheep’s natural colours.

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Knitted and crocheted hats and mittens, and a small bag:

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Mittens and gloves with influences from Norway. The big mittens have human hair knitted into them for stronger wear. They also resist water well.

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A knitted and crocheted underskirt that was popular all over Ostrobothnia at the beginning of the 20th century:

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I feel tempted to make one myself…

This is one of the small bed chambers with it’s nicely made bed. This way of using crocheted lace was common in many places. I like it, but being a person who allows the dogs to sleep in my bed I don’t find it very practical :) The carpet has a stripe called the “Malax stripe”: there has to be a black stripe in the middle. The rag rugs often covered the whole floor in the winter to prevent draught.

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There was much more to see at Brinken, but let’s go on to the museum in Korsnäs. In this small municipality an amazing sweater was designed in the 19th century. It’s unique, as it’s partly crocheted and partly knitted. The women also developed a way of knitting where as many as four knitters work on the same sweater together, sitting in a circle, each knitting her own row and advancing in the same speed as the others. When we visited Korsnäs there were three knitters at work:

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The crocheted parts must be made by one person at a time:

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The Korsnäs sweater used to be a man’s sweater, but nowadays it’s used by both men and women. It’s often made into a cardigan now, as it’s easier to wear that way.

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I want to show Gretel Dahlberg, who researched and wrote a book about the Korsnäs sweater that was published in 1987, “Korsnäströjor förr och nu”. If you want to purchase it, please contact the museum.

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Also Korsnäs museum has a collection of crocheted lace:

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But most of all they crocheted the parts for the sweaters, and suspenders, purses, even reins for the horses.

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The reins where used when going to church in one of the fancy sleighs and chaises, painted in bright colours. These are from Myrbergsgården:

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There are astonishingly many textiles in the small museums in Ostrobothnia. You also get to see them, which is not always possible in the big museums. It’s usually possible to get a private showing if you contact the museum first. They are not open in the winters, as they aren’t heated. From late May to the end of August most of them are open at least in the weekends. Many of them have small special exhibition, like Korsnäs Museum, where there is a seal hunting room in the attic. For spinners: Myrbergsgården has its spinning treasures in two of the attics: wheels, lazy kates, skein winders. There is also a smithy that is still in use once in a while.

Brinkens museum has a beautiful flower garden. Let’s end with the fox gloves and a view from a window:

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Two-end knitting and crochet

I took a class in intermediate two-end knitting for Karin Kahnlund, one of the skilled Swedish knitters and teachers in this intricate technique. You may know it as “twined knitting”, a term that is also frequently used. It’s called “tvåändsstickning” in Swedish. The technique hasn’t been widely known outside the areas in Sweden where it has been practised for hundreds of years. It’s still an unknown way of knitting for most knitters. I first learned how to do it at the beginning of the 21th century, when I was able to attend a class with Marianne Wasberg. She’s the one sitting in the wheel chair here in our class at the Symposium:

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I somehow managed not to take a photo of our pleasant and skilled teacher. I did take photos of her mittens, but as she doesn’t want them to be published I can’t show them. Karin has made very beautiful knitted mittens and sleeves, as you can see from the few photos on her site.

I may show Karin’s swatch that we started knitting in the class:

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My swatch is still to be finished. I frogged the first one and started all over. After several hours of knitting I’ve come this far:

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I wanted to show the wrong side, because it’s different from how you usually knit stranded knitting and fair isle. Every stitch is bound or twisted, and you throw the yarns. The continental way of knitting doesn’t work in two-end knitting. I’m pleased with the swatch as it looks now compared to the one I first started knitting. You have to knit firm, otherwise the patterns won’t look nice. In this exercise you learn how many threads you need to use in each pattern, and how they are bound and twisted.

In two-end knitting you use Z-twist yarns, so now I have a new challenge in my spinning. For some reason I find it much more difficult to spin S than Z. I think it has to do with very small changes in how you use your muscles in your drafting hand. So, the way to cope with that is to spin more S-twist singles to train your muscles! We use Z-twisted yarns because S-twisted tend to loose rather much twist in this technique. This is of course, as so often when it comes to textiles, a matter of “it depends”. Your personal way of knitting, how you keep your yarns in your hands, how you pick the stitches or throw your yarns, whether you’re right handed or left handed, all this affect the yarns and how your knitting looks. So, test different ways and decide for yourself how you want to do it.

I also got engaged as a teacher at the Symposium, and found myself having promised to teach tapestry crochet at a knitting symposium. To my surprise my class was quite popular, so I ended up with more students than I had promised to take. It was a bit crowded in one of the classes, but we managed even if my legs still are covered with bruises from the table and chairs I had to round each time I wanted to show someone what to do :) I chose the traditional Ostrobothnian way to crochet this technique. My students learned the basics and some of them were able to finish the round, flat bottom of a purse. At least one of them had finished the sides of her purse the following morning! This is a photo I took while working with the hand outs for my class:

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We also could to listen to some very interesting talks during the five days, and we visited several museums and saw some of the beautiful textiles from my region. I met new people, and some that I’ve met earlier in Scotland, Shetland, Finland, Sweden. It was a wonderful five days!

Estonian mittens at the Nordic Knitting Symposium

I took two one-day classes at the Nordic Knitting Symposium 2014: the first one on how to knit cuffs for Estonian mittens. I have knitted Estonian mittens and socks in the “Nancy Bush-way”, and they are lovely. Nancy’s patterns are adapted from Estonian tradition, and with great care to not do violence to the Estonian tradition, but to suite knitters not used to the extremely fine knitting in most of the original textiles, and leaving the most difficult techniques out.

Knitting in the traditional Estonian way is something else. It’s not unusual to have up to 200 stitches per round in a pair of men’s mittens. Needle sizes go from 0.8 mm to 1.25. The yarn is thin and rather stiff, and the knitting is extremely dense. Most of the items made for weddings have never been used, or used only for a few hours during the feast. They were made to show the bride’s skills.

In the class we learned to knit three different cuffs found in mittens from Muhu island off the west coast of Estonia. Our teacher Kristi Joeste has done lots of research on Estonian mittens, and she also teaches at Tartu University in Viljandi. She has a blog in Estonian with lovely photos. She showed mittens that made us ooooh, and later, when we tried the stretchy cast-on on needles 1.5 mm you could here deep sighs from all these skilled knitters sitting around the table. In the afternoon we had to admit that we felt like beginners again! This is my cuff with fringes on needles 1.5 mm:

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I didn’t knit much more than that on any of the three cuffs. It’s slow! There are intricate techniques! But all of it was rewarding, and I believe all of us learned how to do the stretchy cast-on that is common in Estonian mittens.

Kristi Joeste has reconstructed more than 200 pairs of Estonian mittens. Here are some mittens she showed us:

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The fringes we learned to knit. These are knitted by Kristi Joeste:

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I used needles 2 mm in the first cuff, 1.5 in the second, and 1.25 in the third. I think that was wise, because starting with 1.25 would probably have made me quite unhappy. One of my spinning friends from Sweden took the same class, and we both got very excited. Now we want to find the right kind of wool and spin the thin yarns for a pair or two of these beautiful mittens.

If you like Estonian knitting, keep an eye on Kristi Joestes blog and Facebook site. In the autumn three new books will be published in English, the first one about Estonian knitting techniques, the other two about knitted textiles. I’m very excited about this, and will buy them all. Especially the first one will fill a gap, as there’s very little written about how to knit the mittens and socks. Lot’s of photos have been published, but often with no explanation on how to knit what’s shown in them.

A few views from the delicious table this very silent and concentrated gang of knitters sat around:

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Kristi also gave a talk during the symposium. She told us about the vast and interesting textile program they teach at the university in Viljandi, and showed photos of new interpretations of old Estonian textiles. It’s obvious you have to be talented and serious about what you do if you want to study at that university. And I have one more note on my list of places to go to.

Fine needles

I’m attending the Nordic Knitting Symposium this week. Five days of knitting and museums – I’ll return to that when it’s over and I have time to breathe. For now a photo of a work in progress by the Knit Master of my guild, Marianne Wasberg. It’s a miniature two-endknitted piece intended to be a brooch one day. Needles 0.5 mm. My first attempt at Estonian mittens with needles 2 mm in the background (I’m now down to 1.25 mm in my third attempt). Quite a difference in those two knittings, isn’t it? Marianne’s needles are so fine that I don’t think I could use them. I wouldn’t be able to see what I’m doing. She’s an amazing knitter. I’ll show more of her work later.

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Busy

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I have been spinning and sewing. I’ve been bad at taking photos. But here’s one from my room, where the chaos at least shows I’m working. I’ll tidy it up this week so a spinning friend from Sweden who’s coming to visit me next week will have space for her wheel. We’ll spend a fiber day together!

The brown-black Saxony wheel is one I bought a few weeks ago to replace my blue faithful servant from 1896. It’s made by a well known Finnish spinning wheel factory in Kiikka. I have no date for it, but probably around WWII. It’s well used, which I hold for a good sign in old wheels. You don’t want to spin on wheels that aren’t good, do you? I haven’t had time to spin much on it yet, but I like the little I’ve spun.

I hope July will be less busy. As for now I’m looking forward to the Nordic Knitting Symposium after Midsummer. I’m spinning a few yarns I will use in the workshops I’ll attend. The work for my own teaching at the event is done, so now I can relax and concentrate on other tasks, like pink and orange yarns for my class in Estonian mittens. Our teacher is Kristi Joeste, and I really look forward to learning more about Estonian knitting. I also spin Z-twist yarn for a intermediate class in two-end (twined) knitting with Karin Kahnlund. A blue yarn is spun, today I spin orange for that class also.

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In May hubby and I had two dear guests from Sweden, Monika and her husband Inge. Monika is a new spinner, but very efficient in her learning. We spent an intense wool day together while the men went kayaking, and the next day spun at the outdoor museum where the members of my guild work in the summers.

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Have a look at my apron and the yarn I’m spinning: thin red/white wool/silk on the high speed flyer against red and white stripes. I wonder what I was thinking when I arranged that? In that light? In front of an audience? I barely could se the thread, luckily I don’t have to see much nowadays as my fingers can feel what I’m doing, but it still made me uncomfortable. I also forgot to take along the threading hook, which as everyone with a Louet high speed flyer knows can be a disaster. A kind person gave me rusty iron thread for an hastily made hook! I spun a 4-ply cabled sock yarn:

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Now we’re looking forward to the Finnish Midsummer. It’s usually a cold and wet holiday, and as the weather report isn’t of any comfort this year either it may be my husband and I and the dog spend the night indoors.

Damn this old fur (please excuse the fox lingua)

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The fox that lives close to our house is having problem with last year’s fur. It’s changing into a bright red summer fur, itchy process!

Half way through. Brownish-gray old fur and new sparkling red. The tail looks quite unhappy a.t.m., no much fur at all.

ETA: I have looked closer at the pictures and also read about Sarcoptes scabie. It seems quite clear to me now that this fox is in fact very ill and will probably die. So it’s not at all a funny thing any more. In fact, I hope the hunters in the village will shoot him. We has foxes with this parasite some ten years ago, but I had forgotten what it looks like.

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