Archive for the ‘Tapestry Crochet, Europe’ Category

Eva-Lotta Extraordinaire

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Multi-crafter, Eva-Lotta Staffas (aka EvaL8 on Ravelry), is a VERY talented and prolific seamstress, embroiderer, knitter, and yes, an extremely creative tapestry crocheter from Uppsala, Sweden.

Eva-Lotta explains, “I´ve been crocheting since the mid 60´s. My mother taught me and in the beginning it was the dolls who got the clothes. Over the years I learned more and more. Today I like most to crochet in wool and tapestry crochet.”

During the day Eva-Lotta teaches knitting, crochet, and sewing to boys and girls (7 to 13 years old) in school. Swedish children spend one to two hours a week learning how to make handicrafts when they are 9 to 16 years old. At first they have to try all types, later they choose between wood or textiles.

In the evening Eva-Lotta teaches knitting, embroidery, crochet, and amigurumi classes to beginners and those who want to learn more advanced tips and tricks.

Eva-Lotta helps preserve her Swedish heritage by tapestry crocheting reproductions of Swedish folk costume accessories. She’s a member of the Swedish handicraft organization, Hemslöjden (they save and develop traditional techniques, but crochet actually plays a very small role).

Using the traditional Swedish method, she tapestry crochets in the back loop with a size 4 (1.75m) steel hook, a technique sometimes called Fair Isle.

Wristwarmers are usually worn by men under their shirt in Gagnef, Dalecarlia, during major events, like weddings. Eva-Lotta was inspired by a picture to crochet the pair below with wool for herself.

Eva’s Cuffs
Wool wristwarmers, 2006.

In addition to crocheting reproductions, she’s also a designer. Eva-Lotta explained, “I design many of the things that I crochet and knit. I have many old and new books with cross-stitch and weaving patterns that are very inspirational.”

When I asked Eva-Lotta about her exquisite bags, she offered this insight: “In Sweden and Finland you can find small crocheted purses. Our two countries have almost the same history and 200 years ago we were one country. About four years ago I attended a course in crochet. We only used wool and small needles. Our teacher had some purses and I wanted to make my own. On Ravelry I saw purses made by Paivi. Her purses are very beautiful.”

Eva’s Crocheted Bag
Eva-Lotta began crocheting this unique purse at the bottom, around a piece of sheepskin, in 2007.

Eva’s Bag with Mink
Eva-Lotta’s Party Bag with golden yarn, beads and mink over wooden balls, May 2007.

Eva’s Fair Isle Bag
Eva-Lotta’s Fair Isle Bag, 2007-2008.

The beautiful bags below showcase Eva-Lotta’s interests in crochet and sewing.

Eva’s Crocheted, Knit, and Sewn Bags
Eva-Lotta’s Evilla Bag, October 2008, and Fox Bag, December 2008.

Eva’s Bag
Eva-Lotta’s Bag with Flowers, 2007.

Eva-Lotta’s heartwarmer (below) is a reproduction of a traditional Swedish example from Nås, Dalarna. Crocheting is not common in Sweden. In fact, only in a few small villages in the country have a crochet tradition.

Eva’s Heartwarmer
This heartwarmer took more than 100 hours to make. The first row has 800 single crochet stitches.

Eva-Lotta is tapestry crocheting a basket, while wearing her heartwarmer.

The back of Eva’s Heartwarmer

Eva-Lotta has posted hundreds of pictures of her fabulous pieces (with in process details) on Flickr and even if you don’t understand Swedish, you’ll probably enjoy seeing her extraordinary work at Tålamodspåsen, “The bag of patience”, too.

Misers Spotted in Florence

Monday, May 31st, 2010

May is a great time to visit Italy – before the deluge of tourists and sweltering heat arrive. I’ve been bringing students to Europe since 1995, when I began teaching art history at Tennessee Technological University. This year we went to Rome, Florence, and Venice, staying in monasteries (booked through Monasterystays) that were clean, affordable, and centrally located.

My life is full of ironies. My parents dragged me through museums and churches when we lived in Europe, promising to do fun things if I was good. Although it was my least favorite activity back then, it’s now one of my favorite pastimes – go figure! Another irony is that I avoided art history in school, but now I love teaching it! Again, go figure!

My Dad put a lot of time into planning the family trips so that everything went smoothly – and he brought us to the top of everything – and now that’s what I do.

Carol Ventura on top of Giotto’s Tower in Florence
On top of Giotto’s Tower in Florence – I climbed the dome last time (notice the tiny people around the base of the cupola).

As usual, I was on the lookout for tapestry crochet during my travels. The only examples I found in Italy, though, were in the Costume Gallery of the Pitti Palace in Florence. Like the purses I saw in Germany last summer, they were poorly lit (since light fades fabric) so the photos are not too clear.

Miser Purses in the Costume Gallery of the Pitti Palace in Florence

Miser Purse in the Costume Gallery of the Pitti Palace in Florence

Miser Purse in the Costume Gallery of the Pitti Palace in Florence

Miser Purse in the Pitti Palace in Florence
Miser purses in the Costume Gallery of the Pitti Palace.

These little bags are exquisite examples of late 19th century European tapestry crochet. The tiny, metallic beads highlight the floral motifs and really put them over the top, don’t you think?

History in the Making

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

In case you haven’t already found them, I thought I’d tip you off about two very informative articles that appeared yesterday and today on the internet.

For a look at tapestry crochet in the Himalayas, you will enjoy reading Larisa Vilensky’s From Carpets to Jourabs in Issue 11 Spring 2010 Crochet Insider.

Pamir socks from Crochet Insider
These Pamir socks are featured in the recent issue of Crochet Insider.

You might remember Barbro Heikinmatti from my earlier blog. She first wrote about Bosnian crochet in Swedish, then today posted another version in English. As you can see below, Barbro experimented with a number of techniques – all of which are discussed in her blog.

Barbro’s Purses
Barbro Heikinmatti ‘s experimental purses.

I’m an art and craft historian by trade, and you know how much I love tapestry crochet. Can you tell that I’m excited?

I had no idea tapestry crochet was so widespread, but new information about long standing traditions are slowly coming to light, thanks to people like Larisa and Barbro. A BIG THANK YOU to each of you for sharing your research with us!!!


Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

My head is spinning! I’ve been looking at Siglinde’s exquisite tapestry crochet hats, pillows, and tablecloths – trying to decide which ones to include in this blog. Oh, my gosh! This talented German woman is incredibly talented! Her sense of design and color are amazing!

Siglinde inserts her hook into the back loop in the European manner.  She started to crochet clothes for her dolls when she was a little girl. Siglinde’s motifs are inspired by Mexican, Indian and Scandinavian designs. She also modifies embroidery or knitting graphs and is constantly on the lookout for motifs on drapery, dishes, wallpapers, etc. She says there is inspiration everywhere 🙂

Siglinde’s tapestry crochet bag

Tapestry Crochet Pillows by Siglunde
April 2006

Siglinde’s tapestry crochet hat
September 2006

Siglinde’s tapestry crochet hat
September 2006

Siglinde’s tapestry crochet hat
September 2006

Siglinde’s tapestry crochet tablecloth
October 2006

Siglinde’s tapestry crochet tablecloth
October 2006

Siglinde’s 2006 tapestry crochet bag
December 2006

Siglinde’s 2007 tapestry crochet bag
January 2007

Siglinde’s tapestry crochet bag
April 2007

Two tapestry crochet bags by Siglinde
April 2007

Siglinde’s 2007 tapestry crochet bag
September 2007

Siglinde is a very private person, so we owe a depth of gratitude to her son for sharing his mother’s exquisite masterpieces with the world! To see more of her work, just take a look at his Flickr page.


Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Barbro Heikinmatti (hillevi3 on Ravelry) belongs to the small Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. She attended my tapestry crochet workshop in Vasa / Vaasa, Finland, in 2005. Like most of the others, she was already an accomplished tapestry crocheter, but did manage to learn a few new things.

Barbro’s bead tapestry crochet basket
Iiro’s been eating from his bead tapestry crochet basket since 2005!

Barbro explains, “I think I did my first tapestry crochet when I crocheted/knitted a Korsnäs sweater in the early 80’s. Since then I have crocheted a few (giggle) purses and bags (more giggle). Yes, I love tapestry crochet, and thanks to Carol I learned how to add beads. I mostly crochet by simply casting on and see what will happen. That means I keep unraveling a lot.” 🙂

The sweater below was “Knitted / crocheted at Marketta Luutonen’s first workshop in Vasa in the 80’s. This traditional sweater was made for men in the 19th century, in the 20th and 21st also for women. Nowadays they are often changed into cardigans. Note that the tapestry crochet is worked in the back loop.”

Barbro’s Korsnas Sweater
Knitted and tapestry crocheted (into the back loop) wih Novita Marimba wool in 1984.

Detail of Barbro’s Korsnas Sweater
Detail of the sweater’s crochet and knitting.

“This bag (below) is perfect when I walk around the house doing things. I hang the purse around my neck.”

Barbros’s iPod Case
Tapestry crocheted with Sandnes Garn Mandarin Petit cotton in August 2007.

The bag (below) was “Improvised from Carol Ventura’s patterns in her book, More Tapestry Crochet. I can’t resist crocheted shopping bags and purses. This will be big enough to keep a few books and all the necessary things i.e. lipstick, pen, keys, wallet… Bird from Vibeke Lind’s “Sticka efter gamla nordiska mönster.”

Barbro’s Shopping Bag
Tapestry crocheted with Novita Kotiväki cotton in July 2008.

Barbro’s Bird Bag
Barbro’s Bird Bag crocheted in April-May 2009.

“I do have to make a purse for my favorite spindle, don’t I??”

Barbro’s Comet Purse
Tapestry crocheted in April 2009.

Barbro’s Horse Around Purse
Tapestry crocheted cotton and linen Horse Around Purse, May 2009.

Barbro tapestry crocheting
Barbro tapestry crocheting a cover for her spindle.

“My spindle, Precious (born at Journey Wheel), needed a cozy little home. I stole some elements from the Korsnäs sweater and crocheted them into both loops (traditionally worked into the back loop). I can’t resist the S-slinga (S-arabesque, festoon, creeper or whatever you prefer), so I use it quite often. The dancing girls are also fun to crochet. Bead crochet is a joy. I learned the technique at Carol Ventura’s workshop. I finally found a nice way to use a few meters of my handspun variegated merino-silkyarn, leftover from mother-in-law’s shawl.”

Barbro’s spindle holder
Not one day without a thread / Sine filo, nulla dies unum spindle holder crocheted in November 2009.

How did she do it? “Well, first you have to count your stitches. I had about 88 in the round, and the letters were planned to be 6-7 rounds high. I started to sketch in Excel, using colors close to my yarns. Carol Ventura has a great graph paper in her book More Tapestry Crochet, but I didn’t have it with me that day. I soon saw I had to crochet the text in two lines. I spread out the text to look balanced and started to crochet. It was GREAT fun!”

“I bead crocheted the rim, sew an inner lining, started thinking about how to close the purse. A casing was easiest to make. And Precious could go to bed in it’s new home!”

What will she be doing next? “Thanks to audio books that are now available everywhere, I will most certainly crochet more. I can’t tapestry crochet and read books simultaneously, which is what I do with knitting, lace crochet, and this autumn also spinning. My handspun merino-silk yarns are perfect for many projects: small purses, fingerless gloves etc. Maybe I’ll also start sketching own patterns, but that’s uncertain because of all the wonderful ethnic designs from all over the world that can be used.”

Are you hooked yet? If so, you can see more of Barbro’s work on Ravelry and you’ll want to follow her trilingual (Swedish / English / Finnish) blog.

German Miser Bags

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I’m always on the lookout for crochet in my travels – and especially for tapestry crochet. Most of the treasures encountered on my recent trip to Germany were behind glass or Plexiglass and poorly lit because light fades fabric. Flash photography was not allowed for the same reason – so please excuse the poor quality of these photos. At least they allowed me to take pictures – many museums don’t nowadays.

Miser bags were among the most intriguing historic crocheted items I photographed. I was introduced to them during a 1999 Crochet Guild of America Conference workshop led by Gwen Blakely-Kinsler and B. J. Licko-Keel. Their Magical Miser Purses book includes a short history and several patterns.

Probably because miser bags were used as chain purses at the turn of the 19th century, they were exhibited together with coins and other numismatic items in several of the museums I visited. The most popular style has a slit in the middle where money is slid in and out, compartments at each end (one for coins and the other for paper money or coins of a different denomination), and metal rings in the middle to keep the money in the compartments.

These small bags are colorful and elegant. The compartments are usually single crocheted in rounds, while the center of the bag is often double or triple crocheted in rounds near the compartments, then back and forth in the middle to form the slit. The center is crocheted with one color thread, while the compartments are crocheted with contrasting colors. Some miser bags are decorated with stripes, as seen below.

Miser Bag from Meissen
Miser bag in the Albrechtsburg Castle Gatehouse Museum in Meissen.

Others feature intricate bead crocheted motifs (like the one below).

Beaded Miser Bag from Meissen
Bead crochet 1850’s miser purse in the Albrechtsburg Castle Museum in Meissen.

And a few are bead tapestry crocheted. Since the bead slides to the back of the stitch, the fabric looks different than expected because it shows what we consider the back side.

Bead Crochet Miser Purse, Bode Museum, Berlin
Bead tapestry crochet miser purse in the Bode Museum, Berlin.

Miser Bag from Dresden
The top two miser purses in the Folk Art Museum in Dresden are bead tapestry crocheted, while the bottom one is bead crocheted with one color thread.

Now that you know what to look for, I hope you’ll also be on the lookout for these beautiful miser’s treasures!

More Turkish Tapestry Crochet

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

I considered it “taking advantage” in my younger days, but now I rationalize, “They can always say no!” So what did I do this time? Well, when I heard that Adele Recklies was going to attend an International Bead & Beadwork Conference in Istanbul last summer, I emailed her (no, we have never met) with a request – to buy a few tapestry crochet purses for me (if she just happened to see them in her travels).  She graciously agreed to keep her eye out for them, but upon her return, reported that she had not found any. Of course, I understood. Then, out of the blue, she emailed me that she might have a lead to some Turkish tapestry crocheted purses – and sure enough – it all worked out and I’m now the proud owner of the tapestry crocheted bags below!

Turkish Pouches
These 6″ high Turkish pouches were tapestry crocheted into the back loop with half double crochet stitches.

Turksih Half Double Detail
Detail of the half double crochet stitches done in the back loop. The color was changed before the stitch was completed.

The other thread was only carried in the row when it was needed and 2 threads were carried, when necessary. The colors where changed after each stitch was completed.

These tapestry crocheted drawstring purses were inspired by similar ones used in Ottoman times for coins. Crocheted into the back loop, some are half double crocheted, others double crocheted with very fine cotton and (what might be) nylon.

Turkish Pouch
This 5″wide Turkish pouch was tapestry crocheted into the back loop with a double crochet stitch.

The next time you’re in Istanbul, make sure you visit Linda at the Deli Kizin Yeri (The Crazy Lady’s Place) in the Grand Bazaar! Unfortunately, she can’t do international orders, but she does have a great selection of these tapestry crocheted purses. I hope to eventually make my way there, but in the meantime, I have these wonderful treasures!

For my introduction to Turkish tapestry crochet purses, please look at my previous blog.

Tapestry Crochet in Portugal?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

The best way to travel is to stay with a friend and let them show you around! That’s what I did in 2005 when I visited my Portuguese friend, Isabel. She brought me to many interesting places. Of course, wherever we went I was always on crochet alert.

Crochet is popular in Portugal. I found lots of beautiful filet crochet altar coverings in large and small churches – each uniquely incorporating motifs that included crosses, words, flowers, birds, and hearts.

Altar Cover in Mafra
Filet crochet covers the altars of many churches, including these in the Mafra Basilica.

Altar Cover in Mafra
Christian symbols adorn the altar covers.

Detail of a Filet Crochet Altar Cover

Filet Crochet Altar Cover in Mafra
I really enjoyed visiting the churches, not only for the fabulous architecture, but many of the altars were covered with incredible filet crochet.

Crocheted hats and scarves were also in fashion – on young and old alike. Since most people crochet in the privacy of their homes, it was not easy to find them, but I did spot a few. One woman was happily conversing with a friend in a park while crocheting a black wool hat.

Crocheter in Lisbon
This woman, wearing a crocheted hat and scarf, is crocheting a hat. She passed the wool behind her neck to create the proper tension.

Another was crocheting a border around a tablecloth while keeping an eye on an historic neighborhood chapel.

Crocheting a Border at San Quintino
This woman from Sobral de Monte Agraço was crocheting a border around a woven tablecloth while keeping her eye on the Chapel of Santo Quintino. The chapel is kept open for visitors a few hours each week.

I even found a crochet enthusiast in a high school in Lisbon that specializes in the arts. Helena Estanqueiro, one of the fibers teachers, was very excited to learn about tapestry crochet, so I am confident that she will teach it to her students. Although my More Tapestry Crochet book is in English, Portuguese crocheters had no problem understanding the graphs and pictures.

Helena Estanqueiro
Helena Estanqueiro, a weaving teacher from Escola António Arroio, really enjoyed learning how to do tapestry crochet.

No, I didn’t find tapestry crochet in Portugal, but I found lots of filet images and did my best to spread the word.

An earlier version of this blog was published in the March 2006 CGOA Chain Link Newsletter as Ambassador of Tapestry Crochet Goes to Portugal.

Danielle Kassner, aka “laracroft”

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Another tapestry crochet artist of note is laracroft (her web name, of course). Although originally from Canada, after 20 years of living in Spain, it should not be surprising that Danielle has chosen the European back loop tapestry crochet technique. She says it best (the following is from emails or was originally posted on Danielle’s blog and in Ravelry):

Danielle’s Hats
Danielle’s Hat and her Russian Princess Hat (designed by Annette Petavy, from the French crochet magazine, 1000 Mailles) with Danielle’s addition of a tapestry crochet border.

“I live and work as a classical musician in Barcelona, but really I’m from Toronto. I started seriously crocheting last October (2006) when I injured my back, but now that my back is fine I find myself with a serious yarn abuse problem. But the only thing I have in common with Lara Croft is our taste for Bach.”

“Mine is about Crochet Jacquard, or as the Americans call it, Tapestry Crochet. If you always work into the back loop, your designs will not lean over to the right, and the carried thread will not show through.”

“The cuff [below] is done in a new and utterly impossible technique which me and some girls from Ravelry have dubbed “Mensa Stitch” but which is also known as Backwards Crochet. In the small photo to the left you can see my new version of the cuff, now that I’m a bit more adventurous in Mensa Stitch. On the right is the button band, just waiting for some buttons.”

Danielle’s Warmer
Danielle’s Cuff.

Danielle’s Gloves
Danielle’s gloves were made for the Spanish glove swap, GUANTAZO, for a friend who likes skulls and purple!

“I came to Tapestry Crochet, not through tapestry crochet or even via crochet at all. I discovered it while surfing through Scandinavian knitting links. My biggest love in the fiber world is Nordic stranded colourwork, which turns on all my lights. One day I found a site called “Nordic Fiber Arts” and started scanning through their book list. When I came to a title called “Decorative Crocheting” my heart started racing. There on the cover was an exquisite, intricate stranded sweater, ostensibly crocheted! To me this was like Redemption from on high, because although I love the look of knitting, I find the act of it unspeakably tedious, while I simply love to crochet. Several seconds later I had ordered the book and started burrowing all over the Net to find more links and photos. By the time the book arrived at my door two weeks later, I had already figured out the technique by zooming in on the very few images then available, and was obsessively experimenting with it. Later I discovered your beautiful work, Carol, and was terribly disappointed to discover that I was not in fact the First Man on the Moon! Still later you posted your article on TC in Korsnäs and I went wild with delight over the photos, and wild with jealousy that you got to go there!!”

“Not much has changed since then: my first love is still Nordic colourwork. My second love is Medieval Art, and I suppose a little of that may be reflected in the designs that come to me. I have (obviously) a bit of a penchant for little cross motifs which are all over Scandinavian and Baltic knitting, and also figure highly in medieval decorative art.”

Danielle’s Bag
The motif on Danielle’s Latvian Mitten Handbag is from Latvian mitten designs.

“I consider myself very much a beginner still. I’d like to be able to say “Dale of Norway, move over!” but honestly a couple of hats, a few socks and a pair of gloves are not much competition for the masterpieces those northern folks have been making for the last couple of centuries.”

“And the best part is, after removing the icky circular needle which made the thing [below] look like a hula skirt, amazingly it turns out that it actually fits the DH [Dear Husband]!! However, the experience while character-building did not change the fact that I find knitting very, very tiresome. I’m glad it’s over, glad to be twirling again and finally done with all that Poking About with Pointy Sticks.”

Danielle’s Korsnas Sweater
Danielle’s WIP [Work in Progress] Korsnas sweater.

“And that’s it, the whole knitted section [above], thank God. I have paid my dues, and I have proven to myself that I can knit. I can knit while watching CSI. I can knit with 2 strands, and even with 3 strands. Well, actually that last bit is not entirely true. 3 strands is not my strong point.”

“I hardly have time to crochet these days. I like doing 5 or 6 test runs before making anything pretty, but that’s a luxury I don’t seem to have these days. So my dear, I wish I could have made your birthday present a bit classier, but you’ll have to be satisfied with this thing [below].”

Garden Pouch
The design on Danielle’s Garden Pouch is from Plate LXV of La Vera Perfezione del Disegno per Punti e Ricami, 1561.

“This is certainly getting closer [below]. Only problem is, this was supposed to be a Troubador Sock, or rather a Trouvère sock, and somehow it got to looking like a Santa Claus sock. No matter, I can always hang it off the mantelpiece on Christmas Eve.”

Danielle’s Sock
First, a few test pieces, then voila!

“I can’t believe it. Tejemanejes, the Spanish online knit magazine, are going to PUBLISH (omgomg) these very Troubadour Socks [below] in their next issue! In celebration of which I have decided to give them their very own Name, since Troubadour Socks Number 1 is less than romantic. No, like roses each sock deserves its Name, and this sock is hereby named after that most excellent troubadour, Bernart de Ventadorn. (He probably would have worn them, too, airy-fairy poetic type that he was, if only he’d had a day job to help him with the purchase of luxuries like socks.)”

Danielle's Socks
Danielle’s Bernart de Ventadorn Troubadour Socks.

“. . . a pair of my Troubador Socks should be in the next [Spring 2008] issue of Interweave Crochet, unless something terrible occurs like they decide they hate them or forget to put them in.”

Danielle’s Felted Hat
“Here’s a new technique I’m trying to get the hang of. It’s promising, but I fail to get the measurement right before felting. This is TC but leaving floats instead of carrying the second strand. Using a bulky 100% wool for the floats which after felting becomes a fuzzy, warm, thrum-like lining.”

“I’m a classical guitarist and I play, teach, conduct and crochet (and sometimes knit too) in Barcelona. Some days I have a hard time deciding which I like better, music or crochet. Guess I’ll have to keep doing both.”

I have not had the pleasure of hearing Danielle play, but if it’s anything like her unique approach to tapestry crochet, then it must be spectacular!

VASSA Fingerless Gloves
Update: Danielle’s free VAASA fingerless gloves pattern is included in the Spring 2008 issue of Black Purl Magazine!!!

Tapestry Crochet in Turkey

Friday, October 26th, 2007

My love of tapestry crochet and the internet have really expanded my world. Thanks to people like Marketta Luutonen, who teaches in the Master´s Program in Craft Design at the University of Joensuu in Helsinki and is the Managing Director of the Finnish Craft Organization, I learned that tapestry crochet is also done in southern Europe! Marketta has shared many of her tapestry crochet pictures with me, including the ones below from Turkey. You might recognize her name from some of her publications, including Decorative Crocheting (ISBN 951-96888-4-6).

Bags in Costume Museum, Turkey
Tapestry crocheted cotton bags that date to the 1800’s in the Costume Museum in Bursa.

Purse in Turkey
These crocheted bags are for sale in the Antique Market in Turkey.

Bag from Istanbul
Marketta bought this tapestry crocheted cotton bag in Istanbul.

You guessed it, I just added Turkey to the list of places that I MUST VISIT SOON!

A Tapestry Crochet Thesis

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Maarit Aalto and I first met online when she was a Craft Science student at the Savonlinna Department of Teacher Education in Finland. At the time, she was working on samples for her Master’s Thesis, “Similarity of a Square-Ruled Graph and a Tapestry Crochet Motif Made with a Single Crochet Stitch.” Maarit graduated in 2004 and meeting her at the 2005 Crochet Days was quite a thrill! Maarit was both an instructor and one of my students there.

Maarit teaching and her bag
Maarit (left) helps one of her students with a project that she taught at Crochet Days, a woolen bag tapestry crocheted in rounds.

Maarit’s Bead Tapestry Crochet Cell Phone Bag
Maarit’s cotton bead tapestry crochet cell phone bag is a variation of the project that I taught her at Crochet Days.

As you can see from her thesis abstract, Maarit took a very scientific approach:

     “Tapestry crocheted textiles can be made in a variety of ways. The technique varies according to which crochet stitches are used, which part of the stitch on the previous row the hook is inserted into, whether the crocheter is right-handed or left-handed, whether the textile is crocheted one way or back and forth, how many colours are used and how the yarns are carried and switched.
     This study focused on the similarity of a square-ruled graph and a tapestry crochet motif made with a single crochet stitch. The chosen motif was the consecration cross, which is a circle with a cross inside it. Sixty samples were crocheted using different versions of the tapestry crochet technique. The samples were compared to the motif in the square-ruled graph. The aim of the study was to find out which tapestry crochet techniques produce a motif similar to a square-ruled graph to the right side, wrong side and both sides of the textile. This was studied with the sensory evaluation method. A group of ten people evaluated the samples. The group of techniques that produces motifs similar to the square-ruled graph were formed on the basis of the average grades of the evaluation. Another aim of the study was to analyze the visual differences caused by the tapestry crochet technique. This was done using the qualitative content analysis method.
     The study showed that a tapestry crochet motif similar to a square-ruled graph can be made in a variety of ways, so that the motif is either on the right or wrong side of the textile. In both cases the textile can be crocheted one way or back and forth. A motif similar to a square-ruled graph can appear on both sides of the textile with three different techniques, but none of them are practical. According to the content analysis there are no techniques that would produce a perfect motif.
     According to the study, a tapestry crochet motif similar to a square-ruled graph can be made with traditional tapestry crochet techniques or new versions of the technique. An improved version of reverse single crochet stitch was developed during the study, which makes it possible to make good looking tapestry crocheted textiles when crocheted back and forth.”

Maarit kept the samples, but a copy of her thesis (with photos of the samples) is at the Library of the Savonlinna Department of Teacher Education. She said, “I did 60 variations, but theoretically there are hundreds!” Maarit showed me the samples and some of her other tapestry crochet work and was kind enough to give me the pieces below.

Tapestry crochet sample
Front and back of a cotton sample that Maarit tapestry crocheted back and forth, turning the piece at the end of every row, with alternating rows of the front and the back of the stitches.

Maarit’s sample
Front and back of a cotton sample that Maarit tapestry crocheted from right to left with all the front of the stitches on one side of the fabric and all of the back of the stitches on the other side of the fabric.

Maarit’s wool sample
Front and back of a pot holder that Maarit crocheted back and forth with wool, with all the front of the stitches on one side of the fabric and all of the back of the stitches on the other side of the fabric.

Maarit’s pot holder
Front and back of a similar pot holder with a border.

Detail of Maarit’s cotton bag
Detail of a cotton bag that Maarit tapestry crocheted around 10 years ago when she was first experimenting with the technique.

Maarit Tapestry Crochet Hat
Sisko Tynkkynen tapestry crocheted this cotton hat with the Finnish flag for one of Maarit’s children. It was tapestry crocheted from bottom to top, decreasing at the top.

Like most of us, just when you think you have something down, it surprises you! Maarit describes her experience with the mittens pictured below, “These tapestry crochet mittens are an example of “Woops, did I do something wrong?” I forgot to try the second mitten on while I was making it. I didn’t realize my tension was tighter so the second mitten turned out too small. The fine black woolen yarn is very difficult to work with and ripping out stitches is even more difficult. The mittens are still waiting for me to have more patience and time. I’m hoping to wear the mitten at Christmas. Hopefully this year! Someone once said that making mistakes is an efficient way of learning but unfortunately it’s also a bitter way.”

Maarit’s Tapestry Crochet Mittens
Maarit crocheted these mittens from the cuff up.

Maarit’s new job as an elementary school English teacher, and her 3 children and husband keep her quite busy. The Nordic Knitting Symposium she attended over the summer inspired her to try more new things. She says, “I feel like trying out ALL new techniques, yarns, colours etc. I do wish to live to be a hundred years old so I’ll have the time for all these lovely ideas.”

Maarit’s Woolen Mittens
Maarit will give these knit mittens to a Member of Parliament in November. It’s a teacher’s campaign to remind the Finnish government about the importance of craft skills. 

I can relate to Maarit’s lack of time and eclectic interests because I love diversity and variety, too. May we all live to be at least a hundred!

Korsnäs Tapestry Crochet

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Korsnäs is a municipality on the western coast of Finland. The people (of Swedish descent) continue many of their traditions, including tapestry crochet. The Korsnäs Museum, housed in a historic farmer’s cottage that includes a kitchen and sleeping quarters, provides an authentic look into the past. The textile room includes an extensive collection of tapestry crocheted sweaters, hats, mittens, cuffs, bags, sashes, and suspenders.

Men’s crocheted and knit sweaters, hat, and suspenders in the Korsnäs Museum.

A wide tapestry crocheted sash, a narrow woven sash,
and tapestry crocheted cuffs and bags in the Korsnäs Museum.

Korsnäs sweaters are a stunning combination of tapestry crochet and knitting. Beginning at the bottom, they are crocheted, then knit, then crocheted in rounds for both pullover and open styles. The top seam is hand sewn together, the tube is secured with machine-sewn stitches around the arm openings, then the arm holes are cut. The sleeves are crocheted, then knit, then crocheted from the shoulder to the cuff and then sewn onto the sweater. The neck is edged with a crocheted border. The front is cut open for the button down style, then a decorative edging is added for the button and its holes and to help secure and hide the edges. The last step is to hand sew a narrow, knit band over all the cut and sewn seams to camouflage the joins.

Locals occasionally dress in their traditional costume and demonstrate knitting and crocheting sweaters in the museum. Appointments can be made for group visits.

Tapestry crocheting in rounds the lower border of a sweater.

One color yarn rests on the front and the other on the back of the forefinger, while the other fingers grip them for proper tension.

After the crocheted border has been finished, loops are pulled through the crochet stitches so that the body of the sweater may be knit in a tube, traditionally by more than one person at a time on double pointed needles.

Each knitter completes one partial round, then it is rotated.

Another great place to see Korsnäs textiles is in private and museum collections. Since they are rarely able to exhibit everything, much of it is often in storage. If you make an appointment and are very lucky, though, a curator will let you into the “vaults” and allow photographs, too! Fortunately, luck was with me in Finland.

In the “vaults” of the Ostrobothnian Museum.

I suspect that Korsnäs tapestry crochet evolved from nalbinding, a much older looping technique that utilizes sewn loops. With tapestry crochet, only a small loop is pulled through with a hook, whereas with nalbinding, the entire yarn needs to be pulled through each loop with a sewing needle; very labor intensive. Even if the yarn is spun as needed, looping is still much more time consuming than crochet. Both techniques are still used to make mittens in Finland.

Nalbound mittens from the Karin Rosendahl collection.

Tapestry crocheted Korsnäs mittens from the Ostrobothnian Museum.

Korsnäs child’s sweater from the Ostrobothnian Museum.

Korsnäs sweater from the Ostrobothnian Museum.

Detail of the lower part of the above sweater.

Korsnäs sweaters from the Karin Rosendahl collection.

Collar detail of the above sweater from the Karin Rosendahl collection.

I will always be indebted to the many wonderful people who made this trip possible, especially Marketta Luutonen, Anna-Maija Bäckman, Leena Nyqvist, and Jeanette Rönnqvist-Aro.

Marketta Luutonen and me.

Anna-Maija, Leena, and Jeanette of Loftet.

Some of these names should now be familiar to you. Jeanette crocheted the cuffs in my previous post and Marketta and Anna-Maija have authored several excellent crochet publications. In fact, the best book (in Finnish, Swedish, and English) with history and patterns, is their Decorative Crochetingwhich was printed in Vasa in 2003 (ISBN 951-96888-4-6). Marketta also wrote Virkattuja Pusseja (Crocheted Purses), printed in Vasa in 1992 (ISBN 952-90-4278-7). Although written in Finnish, it includes several excellent photos and graphs. Another good book is Korsnäströjor Förr Och Nu, by Gretel Dahlberg, printed in Vasa in 1987, ISBN 951-99832-4-4. Although not in English, it includes historical pictures, several museum pieces (many in color), and some graphs for sweaters and mittens.

Carol Ventura
It took a year to get my ensemble, but it was worth the wait! Although I ordered mine at the Korsnäs Museum, it is also available online. I will be sure to wear it at the TKGA / CGOA Conference in Oakland in September. I hope to see you there!

Tapestry Crochet in Finland

Sunday, July 29th, 2007


I dreamed about researching tapestry crochet in Finland, but thought it would happen “when pigs fly.” So, when I was invited to teach tapestry crochet at the 2005 Crochet Days Conference in Vaasa/ Vasa, I was inspired to bead tapestry crochet a purse with flying pigs. I worked on the square base before the conference and continued onto the sides in Finland. The instructions for this purse were published by Simply Creative Crochet magazine in 2006.

The type of tapestry crochet done in Finland is similar to that of the rest of Europe. The hook is inserted into the back loop, which produces a cloth with wonderful drape and the front loop forms a horizontal line under each row of single crocheted stitches. The colored yarns are worked very efficiently by placing them on either side of the finger.

Tapestry crocheted cuffs are very popular in Finland.

A (right-handed) conference participant showed me how to switch colors back and forth (without dropping and picking them up for each color change) on my “Flying Pigs” bag. (I was actually working 3 colors for this bag, but her demo was for 2 colors, so please ignore the pink thread.) This method works well for quickly switching colors back and forth, but is awkward for crocheting several stitches at a time. As seen below, one color is secured on the front of the left forefinger and the other on the back, then fancy hook work allows one thread to be carried while the other is worked.

To change color, yarn over with white (ignore the pink thread).

Continue to single crochet with white while working around blue.

If you would like to give it a try, instructions for these cuffs (by Jeanette Rönnqvist-Aro) are in Luutonen and Bäckman’s 2003 book, DECORATIVE CROCHETING. Mittens, bags, and Korsnäs sweaters are also included.


The 2005 Crochet Days Conference was sponsored by Loftet and the Finnish Crafts Organization.

After presenting a slide lecture about the history of tapestry crochet, I led two bead tapestry crochet workshops to students who could tapestry crochet circles around me! Inserting the hook under two loops and incorporating beads was different for them, though, so they were very excited to learn something new. As usual, I learned a lot, to!

Students bead tapestry crochet a small basket.

Maarit Aalto wrote her master’s thesis about tapestry crochet
and also taught it at the conference.

After the conference we visited Korsnäs, famous for marrying knitting and tapestry crochet. That will be the topic of my next blog.