Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Travels around the Baltic: Finland

We toured Finland for two weeks visiting Lappenranta, Helsinki, Turku, Lahti, and Tampere.

Lappeenranta  is in the east of the country.  We had booked a canal trip on the Saimaa Canal to Viborg (Viipuri)to see the Alvar Aalto library.  It was stunning and we had a fantastic guided tour around the library.
Lappeenranta was a small but interesting place.  On the headland is the old ruined fortress. The old buildings have been preserved and include artist workshops, the oldest orthodox church in Finland, completed in 1785, the Museum  and the Art Museum.  I loved the craft shops.

This lovely building had shops and a fantastic tea room.

Inside the traditionally decorated tea rooom.
The food was very tempting and we stopped for a meal.

The craft shop was a gem. were some lovely hand woven items and I was very tempted.  The facebook page shows lots of examples of lovely Finnish textiles.

Lovely household linen

Leena in Galleria Kaantopoiju

I had a long chat with Leena.  You can see the beautifully dyed garments n the picture.  She lives in the countryside outside of Lappeenranta  and uses natural dyes inspired by the beautiful woods.   Here are her autumn/winter tops which had just been completed.

Further on were the two museums which had some lovely displays. There was one costume from 18th century Kakisalmi which shows a felt hat and a sprang belt. the cape is wool frieze with linen trousers and felt shoes.  The mittens are made using the nalbinding technique. 

close up of sprang belt. 
In Helsinki we visited the Open Air Museum.  Unfortunately by this time it was nearing the end of the season. However, there were still some people demonstrating crafts.
Poster for museum

There were still guides in costume and I was particularly pleased to find someone weaving.

tablet weaver at work

There was also a rigid heddle on display although not in use.

Here is a close up of the cotton band. 

Cotton band on the rigid heddle. 
In Helsinki, I had arranged to see some of the collection from the National Museum behind the scenes.  I cannot show you my photographs but I was thrilled to be able to examine some of these bands.  I hope to start analysing them and weaving samples in the new year. The curators were very helpful.  The National Museum was in the process of rearranging the galleries so there was very little in the way of traditional bands on display.

At Turku, there was another open air museum near the town centre. Again, som eof the crafts people who work there had finished for the season.  The loom was empty and the heddles and shafts had been removed for the winter. The smaller loom was still in use.

There were guides in costume to explain the different displays in the open buildings.
The Sweet Shop

The inside rooms were very dark so it gave a realistic feel for how it would have been for the original inhabitants.  Unfortunately, the low light levels made it difficult to get decent photographs.  This guide is wearing a cap with a woven band.

I tried to take close up photographs but this is the best I could do. It is a warp faced plain weave band rather like the one on the heddle in the Helsinki open air museum. One of the more interesting sets of rooms for me was the passementerie workshop.  It was closed but the view through the window showed a wide variety of equipment for making braids.
The passementerie workshop

When we go back to Finland, this is another 'must see again'. Finland is a beautiful country and I have only given a short over view of some of the weaving related items.  The architecture, museums and people are wonderful.  Do visit if you can.

Here are some additional pictures about Alvar Aalto. We have now visited most of his buildings and museums in Finland as well as the famous library in Viborg, Russia. The canal trip from Lappeenranta to Viborg was amazing.

The library hall with its famous rippling roof which has superb acoustics
The renovation of the building was assisted by architects from many countries.

The furniture, all designed by Aalto, has been donated by well wishers. The guided tour that we had was excellent.  The guide, who is one of the librarians, was very knowledgeable and brought the history of the restoration of the building to life with his talk. It was one of the best guided tours we have had.

One of the library rooms showing the elegant staircase. 

The famous stools stacked 
I have long admired the stool. They stack so beautifully.  We were tempted and gave in to buying one from Artek in Helsinki.  Thank goodness for the motor home!

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes (Durham, UK)

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