Friday, 22 July 2016

Finnish Folk Craft Museum:

Henri and Ilkka were such generous hosts. We spent a few hours  visiting the Finnish Folk Craft Museum in Jyvaskyla. A small museum. Just the the right size.Downstairs is the permanent exhibition that focuses on Finnish textiles. It was my third day in Finland and the third loom set with a rag weave. This grandma's grandma of a loom had some charming features. Wheels built onto the the frame itself for the shafts.

The crank for the back roll locked interestingly on some carved wooden hooks on the side of the loom.

There was this patched and worn sweater hanging in the display. There had been a young couple who fell in love. She knit him a sweater before he went off to war. She married someone else in his absence. He never married and lived a sort of hermits existence. He died with very few possessions. He did have the precious sweater repaired by himself over and over during his life.

There were mannequins behind glass wearing tradition clothing. Some of the clothing original and some painful reproductions.  The clothes were red and blue and white. Madder and indigo were available in Finland in the closing years of the 19th century.

We all got very excited to find a display with actual madder roots and a brief history of how it was used. It grew well in the short Finnish summers and thrived in the soil there. Henri was excited as his grandparents have a lot of extra land on their farm to start cultivating it.

We had plenty of laughs naming the future madder- product-design-studio with plays on English and Japanese and Finnish words.  We had plenty more laughs choosing the ideal red Finnish building as we drove along through the scenic lakeside birch forests.

Back to the museum...

The temporary exhibition upstairs was informative and we each fell into our own thoughts as we walked through.

The exhibition was simple enough. It centered around a 'make-it-by-hand' craft magazine called, 'Omin Kasin' which printed it's first issue in 1938 and it's last issue in 1971. 

Those dates alone started the wheels turning. Russia , their big next door country had been their enemy and the Finns took sides with the Germans. Paying war reparations for helping with the blockade of St Petersburg put stress on the country's coffers in the post war years.

 This magazines contents could not but reflect this reality.

" With Our Hands exhibition brings back memories from the past centuries. It presents parts of the development of Finnish handcraft, the craft industry, and design between the 1940s and the 1970's. The name of the exhibition refers to a magazine, which lived side by side with the Finns in the post war period. With it's  handcraft instructions and tips the magazine marked a way to a happy and practical everyday life in an era with major social transitions.

The models, instructions and patterns in the magazine were designed to be useful for everyone. They were suited to a traditional farm household as well as to a modern urban home. Besides crafts, hints were given to fashionable dressing and interior decoration. 

During World Was II clothes and supplies for the soldiers were made according to the instructions in the Omin kasin magazine.  After the war there was a  shortage of raw materials, but it was no reason to give up making handcraft. Instead new ways to fix, reuse and recycle the materials were invented. However, beauty was not forgotten: the companionship of practicality and beauty were highlighted in the magazine. "

I am interested to hear my readers thoughts and recollections on these kinds of magazines.

Some weaving from the late 19th century that indicated there was a source of rose madder  and indigo in Finland.

And some lovey hand knit mittens wth traditional patterns.

Here is picture of Henri's original weaving. There is a man out there with great taste and weaving skills!

 Here are some pictures of a wonderful wooden Finnish Church. The texture of the wood and the solemnness of the structure were impressive.


  1. The story of the patched sweater brought tears to my eyes. Such a humble culture.

    1. The three of stood in front if it and sniffled a little. Broken hearts are universal I suppose.

  2. the sweater, the wood on that church, the lovely patterns of those madder and indigo cloths, the feeling sense of finland, i have a strong sense of this place through your eyes. i have old bulletins from cooperative extension and old textiles magazines.., all fascinating, only a few move me much. i can't imagine how isolated homestead living was before phones and all the rest...and how that affected household making.

  3. What fabulous tales of wonderful textile travels. I particularly loved the knitting patterns but don't think I'd have the time to sit and do something like that now. So glad it has been such a wonderful journey for you.

  4. Oh, yes, the sweater, me too. It reminds me of that song title "What becomes of the brokenhearted?" In this case, so sad. Those magazines would be interesting and inspiring even today. It's too easy to buy whatever materials we so desire in most cases.
    People in the depression had to be inventive . At last there is a focus on up cycling, recycling , contemporary boro, etc that is so gratifying. Your pictures are lovely.

  5. the sweater's story touches me like boro pieces. My Mom loved the MacColl's Needlework magazine, I was brought up with it although I don't remember ever making anything from the instructions - but- it was the start of my love for needlework and textiles. I still have a couple copies and a copy of the Foxfire books which includes chapters on spinning and weaving, midwifing, burial customs. corn shuckin's and wagon making. It was a very different world and these magazines were eagerly read by many. Love your travel stories and the people and places you share.

  6. The story of the precious patched sweater illustrates how a handcrafted garment represents more than reflects the life of the individual who wore it, and one can only imagine the love that went into each sewn patch. The Finns strike me as a people who value the past, the land, their heritage. I admire the beauty of their clean, simple structures and earthy household goods.

    1. I found the Finns a little on the enigmatic side. I admire the stable and equal society they have created.

  7. I remember the MacCall's Needlework magazine also.I grew up in the Sates and then we found it was available in Australia later. My mother bought it and I used to fall on it and study it cover to cover and we kept them all but I don't have a single one left after all this time. I can't remember much except that it was eye candy and inspiring. Brings back memories as I had forgotten all about it.
    Claudia Fisk