Woven blankets from Estonia

From 14 November, exhibition of wool blankets woven by the native textile students of the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy is open in the lobby of the university's main building.

The exhibition shows student works of the traditional type. In weaving classes, the students wove woollen blankets on looms, making copies of the blankets and rugs found in the museums of Estonia.

According to old wedding customs, the bride had to make a blanket for the bridal bed (before marriage young people slept just under coats or sheepskin coats). Historically brides wore large woven shoulder scarves called sõba. In time the scarves were dropped from regular use, but their patterns were used for colourful striped, chequered, supplementary weft-patterned, and embroidered blankets.

The aim of the Estonian Native Craft study programme at UT Viljandi Culture Academy is to study and preserve Estonian handicraft heritage and to associate it with present-day culture. It is possible to acquire professional higher education in Inherited Crafts in three specialties – Native Textile, Native Construction and Native Metalwork – and a master’s degree in Creative Applications of Cultural Heritage.

Out of those listed above Estonian Native Textile is the oldest specialty at the Culture Academy. In this curriculum students explore traditional craft techniques, materials, dyes, and patterns, using Estonia’s textile heritage as source material. Students often visit museums and pick up old handicraft techniques straight from museum items.

Our students also study the impact of beliefs and traditions on the development of Estonian textiles over time. Traditional folk art is seen as a living and developing part of Estonian culture, and adapting to societal changes, so our students wish to broaden its usage and introduce it to a wider audience. Using ethnographical sources and high-quality natural materials, they value and respect visual heritage and sustainable thinking. They want to design items that carry a strong local identity and enrich the cultural space of Estonia, serving at the same time as a model and encouragement for other nations in the world to not forget their roots.

Traditional techniques and tools were used to make the items displayed in this exhibition. The patterned loom-woven blankets have been made according to whole or partially preserved blankets in museums, thus giving a new life to our handicraft heritage. In pattern-taking and weaving, the students were supervised by Lecturer in Estonian Native Textile Christi Kütt.

Exhibition is open from 14 November to 31 December 2022.