Helsinki in July

When I went to Estonia, to Craft Camp, last month, see previous posts, because of the lack of direct flights to Tallinn the capital, from the north of England, and my horror of the larger European hubs (Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Schiphol etc; bad experience both ways last year, long story), I decided to fly to and from Helsinki from Manchester, then complete the journey to Tallinn by ferry across the Baltic, just a couple of hours.

So it came to pass that I had two stopovers in Helsinki, one on the way to Estonia, and one on the way back.

On the way there, I had most of the afternoon and evening to explore and the morning of the next day, before catching the ferry. On the way back, I had an evening and morning before heading out the to airport.

So what did I find?

Well, I stayed in a trendy boutique hotel, The Klaus K, which was very central with helpful staff and had rather lovely bas relief in granite by the front door, the only thing is, I’m not sure what they are doing. Something with grapes perhaps, although you would think that Finland would be a little far north for that?

Bas relief outside the Klaus K hotel in Helsinki

Bas relief outside the Klaus K hotel in Helsinki

The water was not far away and of course it was light until late. I also found a great pizza place, my favourite, and some great shop windows.

 

The Louis Vuitton window complete with the planets

The Louis Vuitton window complete with the planets

The following morning, when I went into the main station to buy an English language newspaper (The Financial Times as you ask) I discovered that it is the most wonderful Art and Crafts/Art Deco building with it seemed, most of the original features still in place. Note the addition of the Burger King sign.

Railway station exterior

Railway station exterior

The railway station interior

The railway station interior

Then off to the docks to find the ferry, using the tram system, cheap and easy, but it would have been walkable in fact.

The ferry was brightly painted with a huge disco area and seemed to mainly serve people going across to Estonia to buy cheap booze, which I discovered on the way back when I saw inside a huge hard case full of multipacks of cider.

The ferry to Tallinn

The ferry to Tallinn

On my return visit, I stayed at the same hotel, and ate in the same pizza place (there’s no point in having to find out where things are all over again, I think). Then, having been told the names of the best yarn shops in Helsinki, I went out on a Saturday morning to find them. There were two out of three within easy walking distance of the hotel. Now, I am a big fan of people taking their holidays, and of having time off at the weekend, but in this case, these conspired against me. The first shop, Snurre, had just closed for a fortnight’s holiday, as I had thought it said on their Facebook page, which was confirmed by a sign in the window and my disappointed reflection:

The yarn shop

The yarn shop

It says it's closed for 2 weeks

It says it’s closed for 2 weeks

The second shop, within a few minutes of my hotel, didn’t open on a Saturday. The third was too far away to get to that day.

 

But after that, I had the Design Museum in my sights, Helsinki being one of the hotbeds of mid-century modern, so fashionable at the moment. The permanent exhibition is an excellent exposition of Finnish design from about 1850 showing how the emergent state used it, and still does to some extent, as a means of creating national identity and of improving standards of living. All this I approved of thoroughly and enjoyed very much.

Permanent display of Finnish design

Permanent display of Finnish design

Finnish hospital design

Finnish hospital design

Other exhibitions, which approached design more from the point of view of the design superstar, in this case, Eero Aarnio, I was not so enamoured of, although there was some interest in seeing the construction of ‘iconic’ 60s objects that he was responsible for like the ball chair that is an almost complete sphere.

Anyway, this is the type of ‘design’ that I find most irritating, the designer making statements about “it is also possible to create a new need, a good example of which is ‘Puppy’, which I designed. No one needs it, but there are so many who want it to have it” (from the web site). Why does the world need small models of puppies in brightly coloured plastic?

So that was Helsinki, for me. Next year, I might go via another route.

Double filet crochet

Going back to the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention in early July, one of the workshops I did was the Double filet crochet, on the grounds that it was something that I had never done and know little about. 

This is what I produced:


The piece is about 4 inches or 10 cm square and the top view is the face and the lower one the reverse.In the centre you can see the 2 layers of filet mesh, one over the other. The technique was very ably demonstrated and taught by Barbara a and Michael Mann, who have made this a speciality, running the East London Double Filet Crochet Group for many years. See their web site here for more about this fascinating technique. There’s also a Double filet/Interlocking crochet group on Ravelry.

So my scrap is but a tiny start, a beginning of many potential projects and design challenges.

Estonian Craft Camp 2016

Estonian Craft Camp 2016

Readers may remember that I went to this in 2015 and posted about it here:

and here:

You can see the wristlet I made here:

I enjoyed myself so much that the only doubt I had about returning was that it could be as good again. In the end I decided to take the chance and signed up for Craft Camp 2016, the third one.

You can read about the organisation and aims of the camp here:

The Estonian Government takes the promotion of ‘folk crafts’ seriously and they are taught at university level, for instance at the Vilanjdi Culture Academy.

The camp, for me, is a perfect combination of activities, location and people, and the language is English, which makes it possible, as I don’t speak any of the languages heard there – Estonian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, German, Dutch ….

The activities I chose this year were all textiles:

Fringed wedding gloves,

Techniques used in knitted garments in Saaremaa, an Estonian island,

Mugli embroidery, and

Saaremaa and Kihnu knitting bags

There are descriptions of the workshops here:

 

The fringed gloves workshop was taught by Kristi Joeste, author of Ornamented Journey, probably the most attractive knitting book I know. Fringes on gloves are said to protect against the evil eye and in this capacity they were worn for weddings. The fringes can be knitted in or sewn: this workshop did the latter. Kristi had studied three examples from the Estonian Museum collection and we knitted small pieces of these, flat rather than in the round, to have a base on which to sew the fringes. These samples incorporated purl ridges onto which the fringes are sewn and some two colour work. Here are the materials (note the 1.25mm dpns) and one of my samples:

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The next was Archaistic embroidery from the Mulgi region, taught by Liina Laaneoja and Annika Vaalma, see here for more information.

The teachers of this workshop are graduates of the Viljandi Culture Academy and have a business making garments decorated with embroidery. We were given the materials to make a game of noughts and crosses using a felt base and 9 small felt squares which were to be embroidered using the following traditional motifs: circle, cross, tree of life and rose. These are worked in only 3 stitches: blanket stitch, chain stitch and stem stitch.

There was a free choice of colours (fine wool thread) to use on a light brown base. I was stuck for colours until I decided to use a photo I had taken in the grounds of the camp that morning as a source:

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I chose to embroider 7 of these squares (about 2 inches/5.5 cm)  to put in a frame, rather than make the game. I discovered that I am a fast and accurate embroiderer (I did lots when I was a child), probably better at that than I am at knitting. This is what I made:IMG_0385(There’s a couple more too, but you get the idea)

The motifs are documented in this wonderful book and this is the page that gave me particular inspiration:

 

The day out was to the Setomaa region of Estonia, but I might post about this separately.

 

The third workshop was Knitted Sweaters and garments from Saaremaa, a large Estonian island. The workshop was led by Riina Tomberg, author of a book about these garments, see:

The project is a wristlet that incorporates some of the details found in these garments. This is tricky technically, as is all Estonian knitting, due to the extremely fine needles – 1.25 or 1.5mm – and relatively thick wool – 2/8s or about a woollen spun 4ply. Making stitches is physically difficult with this combination.

This is the completed wristlet, Riina’s example, NOT MINE, but one person did complete theirs in the course of the camp and showed it on the last day. However, I think they stayed up almost all night to achieve this!

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The opportunity to make a ‘traditional’ knitting bag was the last workshop and for this we were asked to bring fabrics cut ready for patchwork and a lining. These were to supplement those provided in the workshop by Riina. I decided to mix up the two types of fabric and was very pleased with the result:

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The national museum has examples of these bags in their collection and they can be seen here:

(not all have a picture, but it’s worth clicking through to see the variety). Most are clearly made from scraps and some include fabric and crochet; many have a similar aesthetic to the quilts of Gee’s Bend, which I blogged about in January this year.

So that’s all for now apart from a last picture, of me with my products at the show of work on the last morning:

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Estonian Craft Camp 2016

It’s day three already and I’m torn between feeling as though I’ve been here forever and thinking that it’s half over.

So far I’ve taken a class on constructing the fringes for wedding gloves which is an Estonian custom and done embroidery in the Mugli style.


These are the materials for the fringed glove workshop; note the double pointed pins are 1.25mm in size. The teacher was my glove knitting heroine, Kristi Joeste, who wrote a lovely book called Ornamented  Journey.

This is my first sample of three:


There is a film this evening so I hope to add more tomorrow. 

Estonian glove workshop: 16th June 2016

 

Thursday 16th June – Estonian gloves workshop.

(Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild)

 

I went to Estonian Craft Camp last year and am going again this year in July. The web site is here if you want to find out more:

http://www.kultuur.ut.ee/en/craft-camp

Other crafts than knitting are also covered and I did nalbinding (pre-knitting constructed textile) and making bone needles last year. I did blog about them in July 2015:

This workshop is just to give a taster of how to go about knitting wristlets, gloves or mittens in the Estonian style. You are going to knit a sample piece to try out three techniques and then from there you will be able to design and knit your own.

 

These are some resources for finding out more about Estonian knitting:

Books:

Estonian Knitting by Nancy Bush

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Folk-Knitting-Estonia-Symbolism-Tradition/dp/1883010438/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466009987&sr=1-2&keywords=estonian+knitting

 

Ornamented journey by Kristi Joeste

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ornamented-Journey-Kristiina-Kristi-Joeste/dp/B007ST3FZI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466009949&sr=1-1&keywords=ornamented+journey

 

YouTube has some useful resources: a book review:

Estonian Knitting 1. Reviewed here by Felicity Ford (Knitsonik)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UNoNisCCV0

Estonian Cast on by Nancy Bush

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frc5_9AIVy0

 

The materials for the Muhu wristlets: note set of 5 1.5 mm double pointed pins and pure wool 3ply

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Getting started on 4 pins

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A completed wristlet – not mine

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Knitting & Crochet Guild

Huddersfield branch, 16th June 2016

 

A taster of Estonian knitting for the workshop

 

N.B. Bare bones instructions

 

Use a set of 4 or 5 needles – and cast on 36 stitches using one of the Estonian methods

(any long tailed cast on will do, or a chain cast on)

Knit one round in purl and one in knit

 

Purl stitch with braid

Take a short (80cms approx?) length of contrast yarn and knit in with main colour on first stitch. Purl every stitch using the two yarns alternately, wrapping one over the other as you go. A two colour braid will form.

This can be done with one colour, but it’s easier with two to keep track of the yarns. Hot tip: unwind the yarns by letting the knitting spin around, not the yarns.

 

Knit 2 – 3 rounds main colour.

 

Two colour border with lace holes

First round: Knit 4 contrast, 2 main all round

Second round: YO K2tog all round

 

Carry on knitting

This would be a good time to try some small two colour patterns – little squares or just alternate stitches in the contrast colour to get used to knitting with two colours, one in each hand.

 

Estonian/peasant/after thought thumb:

Knit a few stitches, then knit say, 4 or 6 sts with your contrast yarn, replace these on the left needle, and continue to knit in the main yarn. When you are further up the knitting the contrast sts can be taken out and picked up for a thumb.

Use this as an opportunity to design your own wristlet or mitten – you will need more stitches of course. The amounts of yarn needed are very small.

 

Top edge of traditional wristlet is finished with a crochet picot edge – suggest this could be used on the cast on also, if this is a little ragged?

 

Some gloves that were shown in the workshop at Craft Camp, and in other sessions

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The above gloves are all typical Muhu island gloves

The white/cream and colours are from another area, Ruhnu

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A couple of pairs designed and knitted by Nancy Bush for Estonian friends are shown as part of an online exhibition here: scroll across until they appear), or here they are:

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Never apologise, never explain

I’ve started hand knitting gloves again after a break since the end of February, and blogging about it too. I have a pair of Sanquhar damrod pattern ones on the needles, almost up to the fingers, which I returned to today. As always after a break, they take some sorting out. This is the general scene as I deciphered the pattern, which hand is which. I had to find some other Sanquhar gloves, one pair that were the first I ever knitted, just seen at the top of the picture, and a pair I bought in A’the Airts, the arts centre in Sanquhar when I made a research visit there in October 2014. These are brown and yellow, a rather unattractive (in my opinion) combination, but often found as an alternative to black and white for Sanquhar gloves. In fact, one pair in the Knitting & Crochet Guild Collection is in these colours.

 

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I found out after much trying on, deciphering notes etc that the initials and date are falling on the inside of the wrists … I thought that I had it planned so they are on the outsides, but no matter how much I tried to alter the layout of the patterns and which hand is which, there was no alternative. I much prefer knitting my own designs for this reason – you (I) know where I am with things, far more than when I am following someone else’ pattern.

There are several written patterns for Sanquhar gloves – from the Scottish (rural, now sadly dropped) Women’s Institutes, Patons and Baldwin’s, The People’s Friend,  the Alison Thomson booklet, and the one that’s on the Japanese web site. I wrote a bit about this in the Center for Knit and Crochet on line exhibition.

Anyway, now I’m knitting again it’s fun with the fingers as you have one square or damrod on each of three double pointed needles. I’ve started the first finger on each hand.

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A major reason for getting going again on the glove front was the workshop I gave a week or so ago, in York, on Yorkshire gloves, for Westcliffe on Tour. This was a very pleasant day as part of a Yorkshire themed knitting weekendbased in York. By the end of the day a good start had been made on the Yorkshire gloves that I designed for the workshop.

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I think the one that is furthest up the hand is the one I am knitting to test the pattern!

Never apologise, never explain, is a phrase that a friend of mine uses and I had always assumed that it was said first by someone like Dorothy Parker or Oscar Wilde … not so. According to Google (or similar) it was said by some naval commander in the first World War. However, I do usually try to do both, except today it would take too long. Sorry!

Project finished

In the new year, I set myself a challenge to design and knit a group of gloves that I would enter for an exhibition with the deadline of 1st March. Well, the challenge is completed, the entry is sent off, even though it hasn’t turned out as I expected.
I decided to machine knit so that I could make a group of gloves. In previous years I’ve hand knitted and made either two or three pairs in this period. The odd thing is that I still only made 7 pairs of gloves or mitts as I spent a lot of time researching and designing the range.
I actually went down some blind alleys too, and then had to start again … and in between times life intervened.

I went to the Lake District to stay with some very old friends (5 days out), then again to the Lakes to give a talk with my partner on his recent book about the Pyrenees (2 days away and lots of preparation), then half term and a 70th birthday party ceilidh to cater for – chilli con carne for 80+ anyone? which took a whole 7 days out of action but this included going swimming in the Splash Pool at Huddersfield and going to Leeds and visiting the university and family). Then there was the visit to Birmingham with the Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk show, a further 2 days out. Plus I went to the opera in Leeds twice and to Lee Mills two days a week most weeks. So all in all, not really two months of designing and making at all …..

So this is the finished group. I hope you like them.

Gloves, mittens and armwarmers

Gloves, mittens and armwarmers

 

So now I’m wondering what I’ve learnt from this. In terms of designing:

  1. Stay focused
  2. Work around one theme.
  3. Not to get too complicated.
  4. Ugly colour combinations may be a novelty in folk art but are still ugly if you use them in designs to be worn now

In terms of machine knitting

  1. You can make many more problems when machine knitting than hand knitting as it’s so much quicker
  2. The quality of finish depends on the quality of make – very dependent on edge stitches and selvedges
  3. There’s no substitute for making good design decisions. If you don’t, then you are always compensating for it.
  4. You can never have too much good quality yarn.
  5. It’s harder to pay the same attention to detail when machine knitting as hand knitting  – WHY?
  6. You have to make the machine do what you want it to do – concentrate!

So what am I going to knit next? I’m not sure but watch this space.