Sunday, March 22, 2009

I ♥ the Nordic Heritage Museum

On my last full day in Seattle, I visited the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard (a neighborhood northwest of downtown). I knew that they were hosting the second Nordic Knitting Conference the same weekend as my library conference. I couldn't attend any classes, but I wanted to see the special exhibits on display. There were two: one called Knitting Along the Viking Trail, featuring work by famous Swedish designer Elsebeth Lavold, and another composed of knitted items from the museum's permanent collection (gathered specifically for this event).

I went with another librarian (Barbara from Nebraska) whom I met during a session the day before - we'd bonded over conference knitting and XO computers (she was using one to take notes on, and my son has one), then more over yarn shops and obsession with pioneer life (this started because of Pioneer Village in Minden, NE). I told her about this exhibit and we ended up going together. We took the bus to Ballard and, on the bus, met another couple who was headed to the museum, as well as a knitter who was returning to the museum for her conference classes. She eagerly showed us what she'd created the day (days?) before and we chatted away on the bus.

Both exhibits were fascinating. It was sooooo hard not to touch the knitwear to see how it was made. At times there were 4-5 women clustered around a single sweater, peering at it from all sides, trying to decipher it. Most had our hands in our pockets or behind our backs so that we wouldn't violate the rules. No cameras were allowed, either, so the exhibit website and postcard (in the photo below) will have to suffice. My understanding is that the patterns for the items on display were from several Lavold books, but they are out of print. Lavold designed a special hat/neckwarmer combination for the conference, which was for sale in the museum shop. Of course, I bought it as a souvenir! It is the Loding pattern pictured below. The museum shop was a lot of fun. They had many knitting books, most of which I had seen before - but there was one that was new to me: Setesdal Sweaters: The History of the Norweigian Lice Pattern, by Annemor Sundbo. It's published by Torridal Tweed, a Norweigian press, which probably explains why I hadn't heard of it (and looks, only 3 holding libraries in WorldCat). It is primarily a history book (with a few charts and motifs at the back) and reminded me of the Nancy Bush books like Knitting Vintage Socks. I have a soft spot for books like this and decided to get it, even though I have no immediate plans to knit a Nordic style stranded colorwork sweater with a lice pattern. A girl can dream, right?

The museum shop had plenty of other books, too, including a very nice collection of children's titles. Remember Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren? Pippi was out in full force, including a lovely hardcover edition illustrated by Lauren Child of Charlie & Lola fame.

There was a small marketplace set up for the knitting conference attendees, and I bought some Jacob/alpaca roving from Toots LeBlanc. I've heard of this company on the Stash & Burn podcast. They buy fleeces from farmers in Oregon, southern Washington, and northern California, then have them spun to specification at a local micromill. All the colors are natural. I can't wait to spin this!

The other exhibits included one room for each of the five Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland) as well as general exhibits about immigration, logging, fishing, and everyday life. There were plenty of sheep and spinning wheels and looms on display.

And it was more than just a museum... it is a living community center. This place has tons of interesting events and classes, like a Craft School series woodcarving and knitting classes, a kids knitting club, concerts, author lectures (Christina Sunley's The Tricking of Freya is big right now), Nordic storytime for preschoolers, and a Pippi Longstocking pancake breakfast with live music and dancing - come dressed as your favorite Pippi character!

Can you tell that I was smitten? This scrappy little neighborhood museum has a LOT going for it. It combines my lifelong love of the American pioneer/immigrant story with my relatively new obsession with the fiber arts. I was in heaven. I am actually thinking of becoming an out-of-state member so that I can receive their mailings.

Can one convert to Nordicism? If so, sign me up!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for letting us all know about this event...when you were describing it to me I could feel your excitement. I also love that you made your bus into a little community!