Category: museums

Shetland Wool Week 2016: Shetland Museum and Archives

I have promised a post about Shetland Museum and Archives for a while now. I like museums, and I like this one very much. As with all museums, also this one has a lot more to show than you can see in the public exhibitions. For instance, textiles are often stored away from light that may damage them. In the Shetland Museum you can still see a lot, both originals and copies. They are behind glass, which you can see in my photos, sorry for that.

Sweaters, cardigans, vests, tops, hats, tams, scarves. Stranded colourwork has developed especially in Fair Isle, the little island southeast of Shetland mainland. But it’s been, and is, practised all over Shetland. In one of the photos below you can see a photo of Edward, Prince of Wales, wearing the sweater that started a boom in the 192os. Fair Isle knitting is an ever changing story. Throughout its history the fashion of the period has influenced the patterns, and the colours used.

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Sheila McGregor and her books have their own showcase:

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Shetland tweed. Weaving has been much more common in Shetland than is usually known. This would be something for me to explore next time.

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When you see all these beautiful textiles, you can’t but marvel at the women who did all this beside their everyday tasks. It’s overwhelming. I can’t fully comprehend it.

And when you come to the cases with lace – it’s then when a spinner and knitter would be happy for a chair to sit on, because the sight makes you feel weak.

Lace shawls and haps, case after case. Sometimes the lace is so fine you need a magnifying glass to see it properly. Samplers remind us that all knitters couldn’t read, and that there weren’t always charts to follow. The lace knitters were extremely skilled. They made their own patterns, and they varied them in their own fashion. Skilled lace knitters work like that still today. The finest shawls are still called Wedding Ring Shawls. Even the biggest of these shawls can be drawn through a wedding ring.

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The equipment for spinning the fine yarns are the same we use today. Hand carders for the very fine Shetland wool, a spinning wheel, a niddy noddy, a lazy kate. In the photo below there’s also something we don’t use anymore: a smoke barrel with sulphur for whitening the yarns. Nowadays some of us also use dog or cat combs to prepare the wool for worsted spinning.

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There’s lots more in this amazing museum! But I want to show you the Gunnister Man. The link takes you to Wikipedia, but there’s much more to read about him and his clothes and accessories. I like this article with lots of links: Costume Historian. There are a free purse patterns on Ravelry, the link takes you to one of them. I’ve made a few purses to give away to friends.

This year’s Shetland Wool Week hub was in the museum. In the hub you could meet other attendants, sit down and knit for a while, have coffee or tea, get information about everything concerning Wool Week. You can see some of the knitters behind the Gunnister Man.

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You could also take part in a charity project by knitting a square or two for a blanket, bring them to the hub, and have them sewn on to a blanket. The blankets will be sent to South Africa to children that have lost their mothers because of aids. I knitted three squares.

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If you want to know more about knitting in Shetland there are lots of books and articles, and much to be found on internet, like the museum’s digital photo archives. I will show some of the books I own in my next post.

Spreadsheet and distaffs

Don’t worry, I’m here! I have been dyeing wool, and I’m not finished yet. I’ll show you later.

Today I want to show a spreadsheet from the 19th century. It was used for keeping count of the work that was done by day workers on a farm here in my municipality.

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The odd looking pieces of wood on the table and the wall are bidding sticks, older times telephones. When something alarming or urgent happened in a village, the stick was hastily passed from house to house together with the message. These are small local sticks. The object hanging above them is a book support. The book in this case would’ve been a Bible.

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To the left the worker’s mark, then the amount of days done. I don’t know what the different signs indicate.

The objects are from this summer’s exhibition at our museum Myrbergsgården. The textiles show examples of a kind of lace that was common in many parts of Finland. I don’t know the English term for it. If someone knows, please let me know! There are also a few beautifully worked distaffs.

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Talking about marks on wood: our dog Kasper is a carpenter. He slowly makes a piece of wood disappear. A couple of days ago he took a spindle from my box of class spindles and carefully put it on top of his latest work. I wonder what he thinking?

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Spinning in public

The outdoor museum and crafts centre Stundars, where I spin in public a few times every year, opened a couple of weeks ago. I love spinning in the old farm house, one of the almost 70 buildings on the grounds.

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About 1500 school children, refugees, and senior citizens visited us during the three days the museum was open for groups in May. In June it’s open every day.

This visitor wasn’t afraid to sit down by my wheel! She hadn’t spun for a long time, but proved what all spinners know: once you’ve learned to spin, you know how to do it.

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A distaff for flax strick I found in one of the rooms. Wish I had one of those!thumb_P1000402_1024

A small wooden box that must’ve been even more beautiful when new. The yellowish strips are straw. Straw seems to have been used for decoration in most parts of the world. Behind the box is a Bible, a book that could be found in every home.

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My two fellow crafters, the two bobbin lace ladies Ulrike and Vuokko, trying to warm themselves on the first day when the house was still cold and a bit damp after the winter. I was warm and happy, sitting by the fire. The spinning traditionally took place next to the fire, because here in Ostrobothnia the wool was seldom scoured. You needed to keep it warm for easier carding and spinning.

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With so many buildings there’s always repairs to make.

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There’s a whole small village behind the buildings in the photo: the “Grey Village”. Those who could afford it painted their houses red and white. In the Grey Village lived the poor: often crafters like blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, seamstresses, carpenters.

There’s always a few easy crafts for the children to try. Here’s the rope maker waiting for the children to arrive. The gate way through the barn is typical for bigger farm houses here. It’s big enough for a horse and carriage. You could shut the door when needed.

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If shutting the gate door wasn’t shelter enough, you had your weapons close at hand in the farm house. The hunting weapon and the axes could be used also for defend.

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The mace is made especially for defend. The grim looking collar is for protecting the dog against wolves.

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There were good days, and there were bad days, as always. When I look at all the beautiful and clever things in our museums, I still have an impression that the good days were many. Maybe the mace was never used!

The Finnish Craft Museum

Hubby, Kasper and I made a trip to Joensuu in eastern Finland to visit hubby’s son. We took the southern route around the lakes so we could visit the Craft Museum in Jyväskylä. I was prepared for not seeing much of what I’d like to see most of all: knitting, crochet and fabric for clothing. And so it was. The reason for this is of course that showing these items in the museum’s permanent exhibition would damage them. But there was still much to see, and I strongly recommend a visit if you go to Jyväskylä. I’m sure you’ll be able to see items from the store rooms if you ask in advance.

First of all I heard intense talking and laughing from a room next to the exhibition. It was a gang of charity knitters! They knitted for disabled persons, and this day there was mostly socks and mittens on the needles. They didn’t mind me taking photos, and I was also allowed to publish:

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There was a stunning exhibition of new Estonian fashion inspired by the rich folk textiles in that country. But as photography was forbidden, I can’t show anything. So let’s move on to the museum’s own items:

There was a fine exhibition of Finnish folk costumes. This couple is dressed in clothes that could’ve been worn in the Kuopio area in the 19th century:

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Eastern Finland:

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The costume find in Eura in 1969 has been much documented and discussed in Finland, and it’s been reconstructed with great care. The grave was from Viking time, 1020-1070. The discussion in our media was especially intense when our former president Tarja Halonen came to the independence ball dressed like this, and yes, she also wore the knife in her belt. There are excellent pictures of old Finnish dress here, also one of our president: women’s dress.

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The rich women’s jewellery was striking in the Viking times, as nowadays. I like the bronze spiral embellishment in the hems. They add both beauty and weight to the apron, no unruly flapping in the wind here!

The knitted and crocheted items were sparse. But here are three sweaters, from top to bottom: first the so called tikkuripaita, or the sweater from Hailuoto, an island in the northern Baltic Sea, then a crocheted granny square heavy cardigan made from left-over yarns by a woman from Pargas in southern Finland called Qvidi-Mina (both she and her cardigan), and then the Korsnäs sweater from Korsnäs on the west coast. Qvidi-Mina was one of those women you can find all over the world. They have an eye for beauty, they have skilled hands, they make a meagre living by selling their products or changing them for goods or services. Luckily a woman in the neighbourhood inherited Qvidi-Mina’s textiles, and now you can see them in the museum in Pargas.

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I love the felted red boots! They are new. Felted boots in the old days did not look like that. The leather boots are still made, but typically for much that is made in our times, they are not made with such care and elegance as in older days. In the wild 70s and 80s I used such boots for years. They are nice in the winter, and excellent for walking in our stony woods also in the summer.

Now here’s what the felted boots looked like in earlier days. They are light and warm and at their best in very cold winters. I wore felted boots as a child in the 50s. But you have to remember: don’t use them when it’s raining!

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Re-use isn’t a new thing, if any of you thought so… which I don’t think you did. Here’s a corselet made from Marianne candy paper, our much loved peppermints:

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No, I don’t think you should go out in the rain dressed in that one either… of course, it depends on what effect you want to achieve.

Now here’s a sweater and a sad love story that make people go soft. It’s a tikkuripaita. There was a girl and a boy, living as neighbours as best friends in their village in Hailuoto. Everyone thought they would marry when they grew up. Then came WWII. The boy, now a man, had to join the army and fight against the Russians. He survived, he came home – and found that his friend had married another. But she still knitted him a tikkurisweater. He wore it for the rest of his life. He mended it himself. He loved it. I’m sure he loved her also.

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