In the general category of weird stuff they do in Sweden, the photo below says it all. A Swedish man in the beautiful heart of downtown Stockholm transporting birch saplings on the roof of his Saab. The country’s pagan roots are never far from the surface, even at the holiest times in the Christian calendar and birch branches are heavily represented in all sorts of celebrations and rituals. So are candles.
The highlights from our trip are so many that each time we discuss it, we specify a different location, meal or activity.
I have to give a special call out to Björka Storgård, a bed & breakfast establishment near the town of Motala. Our hosts had thought of everything in fitting out their bed & breakfast and they made you feel like family visiting from overseas, rather than paying guests. We had unfettered access to their vegetable garden and greenhouse and they even treated us to field mushrooms from their own freezer.
On a more crafty theme, in the small town of Flen a weaving workshop for people with intellectual disabilities or psychiatric illnesses. They had lots of looms and staff who were happy to chat. The woven goods on sale were of a high standard and were very competitively priced. If you happen to be in Flen stop in at the Violen shopping centre and you’ll find it downstairs. It won’t be hard to find, believe me, as Violen is the only shopping centre in town and most of it is empty. It’s funny how some small towns go into decline and others continue to thrive. Sadly, Flen seems to be in terminal decline and it’s probably only a matter of time until the trains don’t even stop there.
Eskilstuna falls into the thriving category and is quite charming. It’s been a town since medieval times and has a lovely location by the river. It’s also the home of Vävknuten, where I bought three reels of cottolin yarn which the lady recommended as suitable for a beginner weaver. The range of colours was lovely and the only hard part was making a choice, knowing that whatever I bought was going to have to be carried to Australia. Prices were highish. A quick internet search tells me I could have got a very similar yarn here in Australia for only about 30% more, which surprised me. There’s no way a homewoven towel is ever going to be a bargain in a way that a towel from China, Bangladesh or India might be, but that’s not really the point.We stopped by a commercial weaving works Insjöns Väveri in the small town of Insjön in Dalarna Province. They have a mechanised workshop which we peeked into through the windows but their website says they also do tours for interested parties such as weavers guilds. Their looms were constructed in the 1920’s and have been in continuous use since then. They claim their wares are as close to handmade as you can get, and their merchandise (table cloths, table runners, tray cloth and towels) did indeed have the look of traditional handmade items
Another another crafty destination in Dalarna province is Sätergläntan Craft School which runs residential short courses in all sorts of traditional crafts, including knitting, weaving, woodwork and wirework. One thing that struck me is that a generation or two ago we wouldn’t have needed craft schools to teach us the basics of these crafts – we would have picked them up from our parents or grandparents as part of basic life skills, typically along strict gender lines. One of the weaving books I bought at their shop was de-accessioned from their library and it has a delightful line in it about how weaving is a good way for housewives and girls to spend their time as it allows them to add beauty to their homes and have something productive to do outside the normal routine of household chores.
We had a look in the Satergantans accommodation block and I’m sure that staying there would offer both comfort and inspiration.
Travel tip for quilters: Bring a quilt to to gift. The recipient will be delighted (or at least will be too polite to say if they hate it) and you’ll reserve a good chunk of suitcase space for the goodies you buy on the road. My MYO Charms Quilt has a new home in the northern hemisphere.