Monthly Archives: January 2013

Love Marimekko

Yesterday it was incredibly warm in Toronto –  14 degrees C – therefore,  in spite of the rain, I decided to go down to the Textile Museum of Canada to view their new exhibit “Marimekko, with Love” curated by Shauna McCabe.

The Textile Museum of Canada

The Textile Museum of Canada

Marimekko Oy of Finland has a large place in my own history: in my late teens/early twenties I worked for a Finnish Design Company here in Toronto that imported and retailed Marimekko textiles, clothing, and homewares.    I  absorbed the Marimekko design aesthetic – geometric pattern, bold and bright colours, and spontaneous expression.    I’ve noticed recently that Marimekko is trending once again – hopefully this will continue.

Marimekko Fabrics, screen printed cotton.  The first two from the left were designed by Maija Isola, on of the company's chief designers, in the early 1960s.

Marimekko Fabrics, screen printed cotton. The first two from the left were designed in the early 1960s by Maija Isola, one of the company’s chief designers.

A largely agrarian nation historically, Finland was a latecomer to industrialization.  The Finns had more than their share of unwelcome visitors over the centuries as well: first the Swedish, then the Soviets followed closely by the Nazi Germans.    By 1945,   their economy was in dire straits.  The 1950s witnessed a period of rapid industrialization and today Finland is one of the wealthiest per capita of the developed nations.   Marimekko Oy was founded by Armi and Viljo Ratia in 1951.

An image of Armi Ratia in 1975 from the exhibition.

An image of Marimekko founder Armi Ratia in 1975 –  from the exhibition.  She is wearing a “Jokopoika” (every boy) shirt designed by Vuokko Nurmesniemi in the early 1950s.  These  distinctive colourful shirts are still made today and are commonly referred to as the ‘architect’s shirt’.

The collection on display at the Textile Museum draws largely from that of Janis and Helga Kravis, the founders of  Karelia Studio ( est.1959) –  the first Canadian importer  and retailer of Marimekko products.   There are several vitrines throughout the exhibition that display early fabric samples, marketing brochures, and magazine articles, as well as   Christmas cards, photographs, and personal letters.  The latter are a testament to the friendship that developed between the two companies.

vitrine

The paper archive arranged in these vitrines  is fascinating and well worth studying.

vitrine 1

The clothing Marimekko manufactured was designed to be worked in – sturdy cotton fabrication with a loose and comfortable fit.   The big innovation was that this ‘uniform’ was not grey and ‘institutional’  but bright and bold and invigorating.

Samples of clothing beginning with the Juolukko (bilberry) dress on the left (1962) and ending with a dress in the 'Oasis' pattern from 1967 by Annika Rimala.  The jokopoika shirt is second from the left.

Samples of clothing manufactured by Marimekko beginning with the Juolukko (bilberry) dress on the left (1962) and ending with a dress in the ‘Oasis’ pattern from 1967 by Annika Rimala. The jokopoika shirt is second from the left.

I love this “Shoemaker’s Apron” from c. 1978 made from several different scraps of Marimekko fabric.

'Suutarin Essu'  or Shoemaker's Apron, designer unknown, screen printed cotton. Helsinki, Finland.

‘Suutarin Essu’ or Shoemaker’s Apron, designer unknown, screen printed cotton. Helsinki, Finland.

I can think of many dark and dreary days when wearing this pink ‘bog bilberry’ dress would just make the day that much brighter.

dress

Without doubt it is  the Marimekko textiles that are the real stars of this show.  I’ve noticed many Canadian design magazines recommending that an effective way to add a professional  flair to your room is to mount a big piece of bright fabric on the wall.  Well, in the the modern era, it was Marimekko Oy who  re- invented this concept.

Helsinki pattern 1952/2012 - originally designed by Per-Olaf Nystrom in 1952, this fabric was brought back into production in 2012 to commemorate  the designation of Helsinki as a World Design Capital.

Helsinki pattern 1952/2012 – originally designed by Per-Olaf Nystrom in 1952, this fabric was brought back into production in 2012 to commemorate the designation of Helsinki as a World Design Capital. (Collection Marimekko)

Pippurikera pattern, 1963, designed by Annika Rimala, screen printed cotton.

Resla pattern,1972 , designed by Maija Isola, screen printed cotton. (Collection of Gunter Kravis)

Fabric swatches (on walls) and bolts of various Marimekko Oy fabrics.

Fabric swatches (on walls) and bolts of various Marimekko Oy fabrics.

Possibly my favourite image from the exhibit is this promotional brochure photo from the early 1970s.  In the foreground is a comforter made of ‘Pepe’ fabric designed by Maija Isola in 1972.  It captures the essence of Marimekko – a fearless dedication to mixing the traditional (familiar) with the unconventional (bold)  in the belief that their design complement will force us to re-value and treasure both anew.

Promotional photograph showing 'Pepe' comforter in the foreground.

Promotional photograph showing ‘Pepe’ comforter in the foreground.

Here is the original fabric, from my own collection of Marimekko fabrics.

"Pepe" by Maija Isola for Marimekko Oy, 1972 (my own collection)

“Pepe” by Maija Isola for Marimekko Oy, 1972 (my personal collection)

The title of the show, “Marimekko, with love” comes from Armi Ratia herself.  This is how she ended much of her business correspondence.   She was a fiercely patriotic visionary who believed in the global community.   The success of Marimekko Oy is due in part to  the expressive freedom she gave to her designers – something she believed was her greatest legacy.  In so doing, she invigorated and united the design community of Finland, and paved the way for its current success.

The exhibit “Marimekko, with Love”  is on until April 21st, 2013, and  I  strongly encourage you to take a couple of hours and visit it.  If you are currently enduring the Canadian winter, you could definitely benefit from this wonderful injection of ‘colour’ and design passion.  Shauna McCabe has sensitively curated this restropective, effectively capturing the spirit of  Marimekko Oy and its early connection to Canada.

The Textile Museum of Canada is located at 55 Centre Avenue, Toronto (at University and Dundas/the St. Patrick subway station).  Visit their website http://www.textilemuseum.ca for more details as well as the related upcoming programs and events associated with this show.

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I know it’s cold outside…..

Okay, yes, it is January and pretty chilly out there this week.     I’m as guilty as anyone of just wanting to hibernate inside, but I’m reminded  how healthy it is to just bundle up and get moving.

Go for a walk – besides being good for your general well being, you never know who you might meet.    While out for some air one day near Lunenburg during December, I met little Miss Bossyboots herself.

sheep

 

 

Sheep three

 

 

sheep two

 

I guess she could sense the ‘Knitter’ in me so she wasn’t letting me come any closer!

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Knit a Hat for Bondadagur

Tomorrow is Husband’s Day or Bondadagur  in Iceland.

At least to the best of my ability to figure it out, I believe it is tomorrow – it is a moveable feast roughly calculated to the end of January, combining  the ancient calendar month of Thorri with the modern calendar. ( To all in Iceland,  please forgive me if I’m off a day or two.)

To celebrate,  wives and girlfriends in Iceland  pamper their men with a feast of traditional foods that include:  dried fish, putrefied shark, soured blood and liver pudding, and ram’s testicles, washed down with something spirited.  More recently men have started to receive flowers (which sounds like a better offering, but I’m not a guy, so who knows).

I started thinking that the concept of Husband’s Day is kinda great, but how would we celebrate it here in Canada?  Well, since it is January and it is pretty chilly out there, why not knit a hat ?

I’d like to suggest Jared Flood’s Turn a Square, a free download on Ravelry.  (According to their stats, 13,317 people have made this hat, as have most of my friends, so I know it’s a pretty good pattern) http://www.ravelry.com/

If you combine Noro Silk Garden with a soft tweed worsted weight yarn such as Mirasol Akapana you are guaranteed to get a stunning result.

This is my pick for my husband's hat:  Noro Silk Garden with Mirasol Akapana.

This is my colour  pick for my husband’s hat: Noro Silk Garden with Mirasol Akapana.

Here’s the link for the free hat pattern  download   http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/turn-a-square/

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Isn’t this Amazing?

I really wish I was going to be in London,UK,  on February 23rd.  I would sign up for a class with Laura, one of the ‘Amazings’ called  “1940s Make Do and Mend”.   We would spend the morning scouring the thrift shops in the Angel Islington area, and in the afternoon settle into the sewing center  where we would re-cut, shape and stitch that discarded find into something sartorially splendid.   Laura is a retired corset and costume maker  and you can listen to her talk about her craft here:    http://www.theamazings.com/teachers/laura–2

The Amazings: I’ve been reading quite a lot of British press recently and they’re quite excited over there about a new business based on the old adage ‘learn from your elders’.  What if you could go to a modern, graphically appealing, easy to use  website and sign up for a class in  leather bookbinding, journalism, digital photography, spinning,  public speaking or foraging (whatever that is)…. and it was taught by someone with a lifetime of experience in the field…. an expert in fact.  Someone who was simply ‘Amazing’ ?  

Picture of a recent magazine article in (Mollie Makes Issue 22) about The Amazings.

Picture of a recent magazine article  (Mollie Makes Issue 22) about The Amazings.

The UK’s Sidekick Studios, in an effort to find a way to help retirees with skills supplement their pensions, came up with this clever model in 2011 that benefits everyone in the community.  Basically,  ‘Amazings’ suggest skills and an online community votes for the ones they want to learn.  These in turn are converted into classes that can be booked by the general public for a nominal fee.  According to the most recent article I read (“Well, That’s Amazing”,  Mollie Makes,  Issue Twenty Two,  p.51) there are already 120 classes being offered all over London, and the plan is to expand nationwide this year.  The new twist to the old trick is that these classes are as diverse as the skill sets and don’t have to fit into a previously determined program.  Things currently being offered include:  East End London walks offered by Sean, a historian;  how to build a box sash window by Thomas, a master carpenter; and how to make artwork from altered books, by Jacqueline, a retired librarian and crafter.  Check out all of this – classes, stories, teachers – on their website http://www.theamazings.com/ .  This business has figured out how to be successful AND give back to the community.

I think this is really AMAZING.

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Blue Monday

I think Dorothy had it right….the antidote to ‘Blue Monday’ is put on some sparkly shoes!!

 

 

sparkle

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Winter

Winter Road, near Lunenburg.

Winter Road, near Lunenburg, January 2013

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Colour at the LYS

A very windy winter day here in Toronto, giving us a stiff dose of cold.   The city is shrouded in monotone concrete grey.  Such a day is perfect for a visit to Passionknit Ltd, my local yarn shop.  I can think of few other places where you can get an immediate dose of colour (an overwhelming infusion in fact) – very good for the happiness factor.

shop

 

They have a new shipment of Malabrigo, a kettle-dyed yarn from Peru.  My favourite is the Rios, a pure merino superwash worsted weight that is  luxurious and soft to work with, yet hardy enough for the densest cables. Close behind on my ‘ favourites’ list is its little sister,  Arroyo, a sport weight superwash merino.  Perfect for finer garments, mittens, and hats. Rastita (dk) and Rasta (super bulky) are slightly felted single ply yarns that are  great for statement accessories.  The colours in all cases  are absolutely dazzling.

Pictured are three different weights of Malabrigo yarn: Rios, Rastita, and Rasta

Pictured are three different weights of Malabrigo yarn: Rios, Rastita, and Rasta

 

New Colours of Rios:  Marte, Volcan, and Liquid Amber.

New Colours of Rios: Marte, Volcan, and Liquid Amber.

English Rose, Niebla, Bobby Blue, and Fresco e Seco.

English Rose, Niebla, Bobby Blue, and Fresco e Seco.

While I was there, Alex J. and I had some fun making up this basket in the new Pantone Colour for the Year 2013: Emerald Green.  You need to really go into the shop and fix your gaze on this:  energizing and tranquil at the same time.

Pantone Colour of the Year 2013:  Emerald Green

Pantone Colour of the Year 2013: Emerald Green

Passionknit is located at 3355 Yonge Street, Toronto,M4M 2N6, ( north of Lawrence and south of York Mills). Or check out their newly launched mitten club at passionknit.ca.

They have classes for all levels of knitters, and a great staff that will help with all of your questions.

Grey, cold days are guilt free for knitters!

 

 

 

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