Sunday, September 11, 2016

Whittling and Spinning - Finnish Traditional Crafts

Now for something completely different.

This weekend I joined a group of women to learn some traditional arts. I've been an on-and-off member of a knitting group for over a year now. Due to my crazy schedule I have found it hard to make the sessions, but when one of the members offered a chance to learn wool spinning with a drop spindle I decided to give it a try. I enjoy learning traditional arts and methods, so this was a good chance to mix a bit of socialising with education and fun.

Our teacher was the lovely Saara Kantanen of Kurjennokka who taught us not only how to spin, but first how to whittle our drop spindles. Whittling is a talent that most Finnish children learn from an early age in Scouts or just with family. They are given knives and first taught how to whittle sticks to roast sausages over the fire and then more advanced work. There were six of us and most of the other women had experience with whittling. It was my first time, but I found it amazingly therapeutic. I quickly learned the benefit of a good knife, I borrowed one with a plastic handle and no guard and soon had a nasty blister, but I found my rhythm and really enjoyed it. Wonder if the Weans are ready to learn to whittle?

The class was run at the lovely Heavenly Scent, a friendly gift shop and monthly cafe. The weather was lovely, so we were able to work in the back garden with the sheep, chickens and rabbits who all came over to inspect our work.    

Photo by Monique Pyylampi
Our completed birch and apple wood spindles ready to go.
Photo by Monique Pyylampi
After a scrumptious lunch provided by Heavenly Scent, we learned how to card the raw unwashed wool and set up our spindles. 

All the women had worked with wool through knitting, felting or crochet, so it didn't take us long to get a feel for it. Some ladies even had a go on the spinning wheel.

Last two photos by Saara Kantanen.

I took home my spindle, a skein of hand-spun by myself yarn and two hanks of wool ready to spin. I hope I can find time to do a bit more. Bump even wanted to have a try. 

Thanks to Saara for a great day, to Lori at Heavenly Scent for the atmospheric and fun venue, I need to bring the kids out some time, and to Monique for organising it all. Hope we can do something similar again soon. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back to School 2016

Our summer, while full of mini-trips and local adventures, was actually pretty quiet as we didn't go abroad for a change. It was nice to be able to relax at home if we wanted, but it did feel a bit anti-climatic and there wasn't a lot of social interaction because everyone in the city goes away for summer whether to their family summer cottage or abroad. I feel like we didn't talk anyone except service industry staff for the entire summer.

The kids have been back to school for just under a month and it's gone shockingly fast. A big change this year was Pudding starting päiväkoti, nursery.

We had tried to prep her as much as possible with routine, some Finnish words and the idea that Mummy would be leaving her there. I also thought I had organised it that Bump would start the same week as her, before her actual pre-school started so she could help her settle in, but they nursery confused me by including the first week they opened as a holiday week, so Pudd had to start on her own. Which she wasn't impressed with that first day, but the following days were better. Her class started outside in the playground she had been desperate for a year to properly play in, so I managed to get away without too much hassle. Then she, Bump and Foo developed Hand, Foot and Mouth so I had to take her out of nursery for the rest of the week.

Starting back the following Monday was hell and it only got worse. She physically fought with the teachers when I tried to leave, she had accidents constantly, wouldn't eat, sleep or do anything that was requested of her. I'd like to say things have totally improved but it's a one step forward, two steps back sort of thing at the moment. And at home it's the same, she seems to have saved all her Terrible Twos for the last month before turning 3. We'll get there.

The other Weans starting back have been pretty mild and uneventful in comparison. Foo started second grade and Mouse fourth with the same teachers, so it was like sliding on an old slipper. 

One of the ways we got through the long summer was the boys went to a summer camp at Heureka, the science centre, the week school started. They went with Mouse's school friend of Mouse's because the camp is run in Finnish, but we hoped with Foo and his friend, Mouse would manage ok. They loved it and, as usual, Mouse managed to charm his camp leader into speaking English. Again, due to mix-up with dates I didn't realise that Helsinki started the week before Vantaa. Heureka works to the Vantaa schedule, so the boys were going to miss the last two days of camp. They loved it so much that I managed to get the boys to the centre after school on Thursday and Friday for a few hours. They dissected a fish, did smell tests, electrified a doll's house, learned about moths and generally scienced. I can see them wanting to do it again next year. 

Bump is in esi-koulu / kindergarten (see my post about all the fun that entails) at the same nursery she was at last year and is really keen to get going with school work.
She's been doing basic sums and writing out her letters all summer, but has ramped up a few gears by spending every evening writing sheet after sheet of the alphabet and 1-10. I hope she won't be too disappointed as they don't really begin to read in Eskarit, that's in first grade, but the teachers have been really good about allowing her to work on what she wants to attempt.

For the first time in a very long time, I'm on my own during part of the day. I'm studying Finnish again and have to pick Foo up for various appointments and Mouse finishes at 2pm everyday, so my portions of 'me-time' aren't long, but it's amazing how much I can get done when I'm not answering to Mummy every minute. We've had to juggle our lessons a bit over the past month to try and make everything fit, but we're now into a routine of ballet, swimming, guitar, physio, occupational therapy, English and Finnish classes that keeps my head spinning every weekday. 

I miss my quiet summer. 
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