Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Heimtali School Museum - Native Textiles

During our week of workshops in Estonia, we had a Field Trip to the Heimtali School Museum. It's an old parish school, similar to the one room schoolhouses of the American west. In fact, any students who lived far away would sleep in the upstairs and go home on weekends!

The school is still in use, but the classes are for students from Viljandi who are recording and conserving textiles, and for youth who are learning about Estonian culture. In a recent project, the fence posts were painted in the style of traditional mittens! (Take that, Pinterest!)
The youngsters also made these, a project to rescue a lonely glove when you've lost its mate. It's a small and simple way to teach them traditional skills and patterns.

The collection included traditional weavings - these remind me of pieces from the American southwest! Surprisingly, the stripes are created in weft, instead of warp.
Here is an entrelac crochet blanket, being held up by Anu - the museum's curator and a champion of Estonian Native textiles.
Here's an embroidered blanket with crochet borders. Anu told us that, after the collapse of the USSR, she would find these old blankets being used for dirty jobs and neglected. She said that she would go buy cheap blankets, and trade them to people she saw using them for things like placing car parts and gardening.
This one is crocheted, with embroidery on it!
Here is a pair of socks in the characteristic bright orange of the Islands. They were gotten from a young woman who was embarrassed to wear them, but they were knitted by her grandmother. She wanted to be more fashionable.

Here we have some of the traditional mittens, along with a detailed record of the pattern.
Students from the College learn to draw extremely detailed records of the collection, many of these I could have used as a knitting pattern!
Anu has written a book of patterns for stuffed animals and puppets that use Estonian patterns. She wants children to be able to recognize and name some of the many patterns that are part of their heritage! As a knitter, a stuffy is also more accessible than knitting an entire sweater on size 00 needles...
The museum included a selection of traditional farm tools, including these cards and combs. There were also a number of models of people doing traditional work and play that involved horses.

And here, in careful storage, is the meat of the collection. Knit garments from around the country and islands! Mittens, which can be traced to their origin by pattern and colors alone. Above, the mittens in black with greens and purples, are very modern takes on old patterns. The use of black/brown/grey with white and red is more common.
Here we have a pair of very simple gloves, but they have been darned and darned and darned some more! Well loved...
A baby bonnet, with a traditional "eye" on the forehead. All baby hats had such a structure to protect the infant from evil spirits and the like. Even today the custom is still common throughout the country.
And an entire dresser full of tablet and inkle woven ribbons! The patterns ranged from very old, to complex modern styles. The most common colors were red and white, and motifs with sun wheels and crosses were the norm.
Pawing through the collection (With gloves on!) was a textile historian's dream! However, having the curator on hand to give you the stories behind some of the objects was half of the experience. A blog post is coming up where I'll show you Anu's studio and tell you more about her work!

You too, gentle reader, could enjoy the culture and craftiness of Estonia!

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