When visiting quilty events in foreign places, especially abroad, I hope, and expect, to see something different, – something we do not have at home, something new and exciting, – even exotic perhaps. But I also notice things that are familiar and similar to things I have seen before. Some times I know right away what the object reminds me of, and at other times it is just a feeling that I have seen it before, but cannot quite pinpoint what, where or when.
When walking the Quilted Field in Suzdal I came across a couple of quilts made in a technique I thought looked familiar. When studying the photos after I got home, I recognized the sewing technique as “Skarvsöm”.
I remembered reading about this technique many years ago in “Norsk Quilteblad”, the newsletter of the Norwegian Quilter’s Association. It was then described as a traditional patchwork technique in Sweden, well documented as far back as the 1700s, and mainly used for ceremonial cushions for weddings.
“Skarvsöm” is made with woolen fabric which is felted so it will not unravel. It is often traditional patterns formed with squares, rectangles and triangles, but in between each and every patch or design element, a narrow strip, most often in a contrasting colour, is inserted, like a passepoil or piping. When the seam is finished, the strip is cut even with the surface on the right side of the work.
Here and here are examples of how it is made, and in Sweden’s Digital Museum you can see many examples of old items made in this technique, so it is well documented. Here is a blog post with a short article on the history of this kind of quilting in Sweden.
Åsa Wettre also dedicated a whole chapter to this technique in her book “Old Swedish Quilts”.
Since I could see no names on the quilts above, I wondered at first if someone from Sweden had entered their work in the Quilted Field project, but dismissed this idea as I thought our Swedish travel companion, Anita Fors, would have mentioned it if this was the case. My curiosity aroused, I messaged the organizers and asked about the names of the quilt makers, and if this was a traditional quilting technique throughout Russia. Within a few hours I got to know that this is a traditional technique from Yakutia, and the two makers are Anna Zverova and Vera Vorfolomeeva.
The latter also made these two quilts hanging in the special exhibition of Best Quilts from Previous Quilt Shows:
I noticed she had used not only one, but three strips of fabric in the seams between the patches, all throughout the red/yellow/black quilt, and in a few places on the other quilt too.
Further study of my and my husband’s photos revealed that this technique was also used in some of the clothing and other gear presented at the Yakut wedding demonstration, like on this coat:
…. the mittens:
… and the saddle bags/carpets:
It has been interesting to observe and learn about all this, and as often happens, new information creates new questions and more curiosity, – in this case as to what could be the connection between the Swedish and Yakut traditions.
Given that the two geographical areas are almost half a world apart, it is probably pure coincidence, – but I cannot help but wonder.
After studying all this, and also having long online conversations about the subject with our travel companion Anita, I got a sudden urge to try my hand at “skarvsöm”.
Just take a look at the beauty here.
This kind of sewing is called “kybyty” in Russia. Here is a You-tube-video where Vera Vorfolomeeva shows how to do it.
Here is also a stunning picture of the StBasil cathedral in Moscow that she has made in this technique.
Filed under: art, patchwork, quilt, quilt show, quilting, sewing, textiles, tradition, travel | Tagged: art, crafts, cushion, fabric, felted, patchwork, quilt, quilt block, quilt festival, quilt pattern, quilt show, quilting, Russia, Russian, skarvsöm, Sweden, tradition, travelling, wall hanging, wedding tradition, woolen fabric, Yakutia | Leave a comment »