Sunday, March 3, 2013

Norwegians, Reindeer people and Amish

This past week a friend and I headed a few hours south and landed in the small town of Decorah, Iowa. Decorah is known for a couple things - it's the home of Luther College and it's the home of the Vesterheim Museum. The Vesterheim was our goal. It is a Norwegian-American Museum with a great collection of textiles and rosemaling among other items.

One of the current exhibits is about the Sami Reindeer people.Living at the Artic they created clothing for warmth but also for beauty.

The weaving looms were made from wood that was available and were not fancy like the ones we can purchase today but - they knew how to make beauty from these rough wood looms.
Their costumes were colorful and most of the ones we saw were combinations of red, blue and white.

They also used a great deal of leather, as you would expect. Again, beautiful decorations were added to their items.

The pouch and shoes are reindeer hide and fur. One thing my friend and I wondered about was the elf-like shoes. Why the little curved toes? This seemed a bit odd to us but we soon discovered the Sami were (are) a clever people. The curve is so they can hook their shoes onto the straps on their skis. Well, at least that mystery was solved!

The mittens look similar to the ones we see in the Scandinavian knitting books but these are the real deal. They are (if I right) from the mid 1800s. The cuff uses the braiding we use today and the design is created with stranded work possibly worked like intarsia. I only wish I could have taken them out of the glass case and checked the inside!


After the Sami collection we headed over the the regular displays. Unfortunately, flash photography isn't allowed so many of my pictures are pretty dark. Here's a few of my pictures that you can actually see what the items are:

 There were a few looms, all handmade. Stories of what people would pack into their trucks included bringing a spinning wheel but looms would be made with local wood once the family settled in.

There was so much textile work with more types than you could imagine. The crochet cabinet was light enough to get a picture.

Beautiful pieces that remind me of Irish crochet but, I don't know the exact name of this type crochet.

The knitting cabinet (one of them) had more knitting from the 1800s including a pair of fancy socks which I'm guessing were for church and special events.
The wool is very fine and the lace design is one I hadn't seen before. I tried to get a good close up but, no luck. However, the closeup does get the heel so you can see they were in flat and seamed together with the seam on the back of the heel. I don't think that would be very comfortable but then again, my feet don't like any seams, anywhere.
Wish more pictures would have turned out but no flash makes it tough. In the textile area they also have many types of embroidery, cross stitch, needlework, tatting, a beautiful darning sampler, and so much more. There's also rosemaling and other decorative painting, woodwork, full size boats, metalwork. The story of immigrants coming to the area.
It's a museum well worth the time if you are ever in the northeast part of Iowa. On the same street as the museum is a yarn shop and a quilt shop along with several other small shops to browse through.
Also, just north of Decorah in Minnesota is the Harmony area which is home to an Amish community. We did not do any tours of that area but while driving through we had many buggy sightings and had to slow down while passing a few on the highway. We also spotted a few barn quilts. All in all it was a great over night get away.

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