Tapestry Crochet in Finland

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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.

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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.

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

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Continue to single crochet with white while working around blue.

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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.

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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!

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Students bead tapestry crochet a small basket.

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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.

22 Responses to “Tapestry Crochet in Finland”

  1. Pam Schad says:

    This was so awesome to find to read as my grand mother came to America from Finland when she was 18 years old, through Ellis Island, with nothing more than a Finnish/English dictionary. She knew how to knit and crochet but had no written directions, she just had all the patterns in her head. I wish I had known her when she was younger so we could have talked about needlework, but by the time I was born, she was already an old lady with altzheimer’s and didn’t make much sense of anything. I dream of going to Finland and finding my relatives that I know live there now. Thank you for telling us about your experience there.

  2. In that case, I’m sure you would enjoy the “Decorative Crocheting” book that I mentioned (ISBN 951-96888-4-6) because it has a great history section and some wonderful patterns.

  3. Judy Grivas says:

    What do you mean by “going UNDER the back loop” to get the neat line ? Would that be just like picking up the back loop in ordinary crocheting in order to get a pattern when working in a single color?

  4. I just edited “under” to “into” to make it more clear. Yes, the hook picks up the back loop instead of the top two loops.

  5. Bobbie Mills says:

    I like the cuffs. That would be a fun project to try. I’m going to have to play a little with that technique of holding the different threads. I may not be coordinated enough to do it but will give it a try. Enjoyed reading your excerpt about tapestry crochet in Finland.

  6. I still switch my thread for each color change, wrapping it around my fingers each time. I thought I would include the information in case some people would like to try it, though, since it would be much quicker when mastered.

  7. Judy Grivas says:

    Thanks so much for clarifying the back loop thing…I have a curved portion of a graph ghan coming up and thought this would help the look tremendously.

  8. The photos on holding the 2 threads were a godsend: I had invented my own particular choreography for switching colours, but it did not work for long stretches of colour. This method is incredibly fast and it DOES work for long stretches of colour! Thank you!

  9. Noreen Crone-Findlay says:

    I love your flying pigs! They’re a treat!
    :) Noreen

  10. Elizabeth ay says:

    Thank you for having the pictures and web site. Very interesting and seeing new kinds of crochet from other countries.

  11. Bonnie Smith says:

    Can you tell me where I can find the pattern for the patriotic bag. I just love it! Please email me back and let me know. Thank you!

  12. You can see where all of my patterns have been published at http://iweb.tntech.edu/cventura/pubs.html . The Special Stitches: Patriotic Stars project was published in ANNIE’S FAVORITE CROCHET, June 2005: pages 38-40. Thanks for asking!

  13. Hillary Pappas says:

    I saw your Flying Pigs purse last year through a window. Went inside to inquire, and was told the maker couldn’t remember where she got the pattern. Flying pigs are my favorite, for the same reason you say you made the pattern in the first place! How can I get this pattern?

  14. The “When Pigs Fly Beaded Bag” pattern was published in 2006 in SIMPLY CREATIVE CROCHET, 2006. Unfortunatly, the magazine is no longer published and they hold the copyright, so I cannot send you a copy of the instructions. Perhaps you can find the magazine on EBay. SIMPLY CREATIVE CROCHET was an annual, not monthly magazine. I’ve had lots of requests for this pattern!

  15. syeda says:

    I also tried to carry to thread like this and find very easy:-)

  16. Hillary Pappas says:

    Thank you so much for responding. If I can’t find an issue on ebay, perhaps I will try to count it out from the pictures! Beautiful work — I’ve done some tapestry work before, and am anxious to get back into it. Thanks again!

  17. graciela says:

    CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR WORK ! I AM AN ARGENTINIAN TEACHER OF ENGLISH AND FRENCH IN MY COUNTRY AND IN MY FREE TIME I LOVE CROCHETING. NOW I WOULD LIKE TO CROCHET GLOVES BECAUSE WE ARE GOING TO VISIT CANADA FOR THE FIRST TIME AND THEY TOLD US IT IS REALLY COLD THERE. HAVE YOU GOT ANY PATTERNS AND EXPLANATIONS FOR ME PLEASE ?

  18. I have not crocheted gloves, but Danielle Kassner has some wonderful glove patterns . Her blog is at http://crochetcodex.blogspot.com/

  19. Zoe Langley says:

    This is a great article on crochet history that is so hard to find.

  20. Diana says:

    I found my way to this page after searching for the book, Decorative Crocheting.(found it before arriving here) Love those Flying Pigs.

  21. […] playful hat was inspired by the blue baby beanie (below) that Maarit Aalto gave me in 2005 at the Crochet Days Conference in Finland. Instead of starting at the top, the crocheting begins at the rim. The rounds spiral […]

  22. Pallie says:

    Although I never saw my mother do tapestry crochet at all when I was growing up she used the same type of finger method to control as many as 6-8 colors at a time when doing intricate crochet work. She did a lot of floral lacework and had learned from her great grandmother how to control many colors at once for shading things the way she wanted. I rarely saw her use a pattern but she made the most amazing things.
    I am almost 70 now and wished I had learned the technique to be able to pass it along to others. My mother’s great grandmother was from France.

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