Baltic and Scandinavian Textile

In the life of the peoples of the region the weaving was always so important that one may call the culture of Balto-Scandinavia “textile”.  Wealth and dignity of the house and the man was evaluated for the quantity and quality of used textiles. On festivals peasants hanged covers, carpets, towels and runners on the house walls and lavishly decorated beds. Festive costume distinguished by excessively large amount of woven details. For example, Latvian women could wear simultaneously up to nine shoulder shawls villaine and three skirts. The indispensable parts of dowry were shirts, skirts, jackets, veils, belts along with towels, tablecloths, blankets, and linen. The girl was considered a good bride if she could dress her future mother-in-law from head to toe as well as to present with belts and braids not only her relatives and guests, but also so-called “masters” of new house, barns and wells.  

The most widespread materials were and partly remain up today flax and wool.  Common for all Northern Europe tradition of their use has undergone significant changes in the culture of every people of the region.

Local textile production is characterized by significant variety of techniques: weaving with the help of rigid heddle and proper weaving, plaiting on “small boards”, and “fingers”, twisting, knitting, carpet-making and felt-making. Among the peoples of the regions the most ancient and widespread type of weaving is making of belts, lace and braids for different purposes. The pattern of belts is archaic and stable, as evidenced by its comparison with ornamentation of archeological medieval textile.

In late times the Hanseatic League – the unique system of trade cities, the Pan-European historical and cultural phenomenon gave powerful impulse for development of many trade and artistic contacts between the peoples of the region. The professionals from the renowned textile centers: Silesia, Bohemia, Flanders and France were invited to establish weaving industry in the cities of the region and to create manufactures in the estates of local aristocracy. Thanks to this circumstance the new technologies, labor skills  and improved tools were introduced.

 By the early 19th century there were large craft centers and significant number of professional rural weavers, special craftsmen unions were organized in the countries of the region, and hundreds of so-called “Finish” courses for the persons learning to use new looms, technologies and to make new kinds of textiles were created in the Baltic region. Special albums of patterns published as early as in the 18th century got widespread among the peasantry.  

In the mythology of Balto-Scandinavian peoples the weaving is conceived as the cosmic act of creation or the “weaving of the world”.  According to the ancient beliefs, the weaving as a rule is an occupation of the daughters of the Sun and the Moon, or sea maidens, when the time to prepare for their wedding comes.

The objects selected for the exhibition from the unique museum collection in Russia represent the diversity of textile traditions of the Baltic and Scandinavian peoples: Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Finns, Karelians, Ingrian Finns and Swedes in the 18th -20th centuries. They tell about regional specifics in ornamentation, composition and colour scheme. The textile heritage also shows the original ethnic features, the place of traditional weaving in economy, daily life and ceremonies. Many of them are pre-wedding gifts and have inscriptions, dates of their manufacturing and presenting, all of them are decorated with carving and painting.

Rich ethnic traditions of weaving formed the basis of professional textile industry in several countries of the region. Modern wall hangings, curtains, tablecloths, runners, woman palatine, etc. confirm this fact.

The exhibition material is arranged in thematic scenes, “read” from the position of folk mythology, ritual and religious culture.  It consists of introduction and four sections: “Weaving of the Light (world)” (weaving workshop), “The Celestial Wedding” (rituals of the life circle), “The Celestial Protectors” (woven votives in the church and chapel interiors) and “The Fair” (modern authors’ textile).

Space required -  from 150 square meters.

Number of objects - about 80-100