Weaving Traditions


Mar 10 2020 - Nov 20 2020

Weaving Traditions: Finnish Textiles from the Collection of Jay and Lotta Stewart

This exhibition features three types of Finnish weavings, which include ryijy, raanu, and täkänä. Ryijy rugs are a longer pile, typically made of wool; raanu weavings are single-ply and usually made of cotton or linen; and täkänä are a double cloth made of two fabrics woven together at the same time.

While weaving has been a part of Finnish culture since the 9th century, the first documented mention of the ryijy rug is in the early 1400s. At that time, ryijys were utilitarian, mostly undecorated, and used in sleds or on boats and as blankets or bedcovers. Ryijys, traditionally made of wool, provided warmth and maintained their structure even when under the attack of salty sea spray. As time passed, ryijy rugs became more ceremonial and decorative. The quality of their decoration was often associated with social class. Patterns for decorative elements were passed between generations and included protective symbols, dates, and more complex narrative elements.

Täkänä and raanu weavings served as table and bed-coverings in domestic settings, but over time they took on a decorative function. Small in size and at times big on narrative, these weavings were employed wall hangings and recalled stories important to Finnish culture. The täkänäs and raanus on display in this exhibition use cultural symbols, illustrate rural scenery and depict scenes from prominent Finnish novels.

Thank you to Jay Stewart for loaning the Museum this cherished collection of Finnish weavings. The weavings belonged to Helmi Osterberg, who passed them down to Jay and Lotta Stewart née Osterberg. Helmi Osterberg was born in Viipiri, Finland, but immigrated to the United States as a teenager. Osterberg was active in promoting Finnish culture and acquired the collection through trips to Finland and her connections there. The collection will soon find a home at Finlandia University as a part of the Finnish American Heritage collection.

Exhibition Images