Tuesday, September 16, 2008

History lesson

I am fascinated by the history of crafts - not just the development of it, but the history behind specific pieces or patterns. I think that is what fascinates me with the Dear Jane quilt - knowing that Jane Stickler made this incredible quilt in the middle of a civil war while waiting and hoping for her husband to return safely. The need to keep mind and hands occupied in a time of stress and uncertainty is something I can relate to.

So here is another piece of the history of crafts in Norway:) - a two part story.

A couple of years ago my good friend in Colorado turned 40, and I wanted to give her something that was truly Norwegian. I got a carpenter to make her a typical towel rack from the time when a basin in the kitchen was the only way to get clean. This rack has little hooks on the back to hang the dirty towels, while you in front would hang a decorative 'towel'. This towel served a double duty - it hid the dirty ones and it showed how good a housewife and crafts woman you were. The towels were supposed to always be brightly white and starched, and made by your own hands in whatever line of crafts you preferred - Hardanger, embroidery, crocheted lace on white linen etc.

And! you had to have at least one for each season, preferably also for each holiday. So: winter, spring, summer, fall, easter and christmas.

I made my friend four - one for each season.

The one in the picture is the summer towel, and here comes history lesson part two:)

This pattern was made by a young woman in the late 18.. something, while she spent long summer nights most likely all alone on the summer pastures. In the olden days, the farmers living in the valleys in mid-Norway would send their cattle up into the mountains for summer pastures. Along with them went the young girls, either daughters or hired help, to care for the cattle during the summer, milking and prosessing the milk into butter and cheese. Once in a while they would come up from the farm to pick up what she had made, and bring news and food from the valley. But most of the time, she was alone with the animals the whole long summer.

If she was lucky, the neighbouring summer pasture was not that far away, and she could meet up with other girls, but not always. In some places she could sit outside her little hut and look down on the valley, see the people go to church on Sunday and hear the church bells. There has been written both songs and books about these lonely girls. 

Norway is far up north, which makes for a big change in length of day during the year. The sun comes up late and goes down early in the middle of December, but hardly goes down at all in the middle of the summer. That makes it possible to sit outside and sew even late at night, because the sun is still up around 10 pm. So this specific girl spent some of that time during a summer up in the mountain to design and embroider this pattern. And now a copy hangs in Colorado:-)

oh... and God Morgen means Good Morning in Norwegian!

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