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Skarvsöm in Sweden and Yakutia

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.

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“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”.

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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.

 

Edited:

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.

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

Lagre

Lagre

Lagre

The Yakut Wedding

As I said in my two previous posts here and here, there was a lot going on on the day of the Quilted Field.

One of the posts on the entertainment program, was a demonstration of Yakut wedding customs, especially on how to dress the bride.

 

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It all started with a small procession of the participants entering the field and the stage. First came the groom..

…then various family members and a shaman (…I think..).

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One person was at the microphone explaining what was happening, but only in Russian. We could guess quite a lot from what we saw happening on stage, but we probably missed out on a lot of interesting details.

The bride came on stage already with the pink dress on, but there was a lot more to be added, both clothes, jewellery, belt, handbag, hat and mittens, – all of this in beautifully made traditional style clothing.

Everything was done with slow, ceremonial movements while some haunting songs, reminiscent of sami joik, but not quite, were played in the background, occasionally interrupted by the storyteller explaining something.

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When the bride was ready, the groom came and led her to the other side of the stage, both holding on to opposite ends of what looked like a big tassel.

Afterwards there was some kind of ceremony, and then some serious gift giving, – everything in slow motion:

 

In the end they danced some sort of line dance, – again with very slow motions and sombre faces, – very dignified. No hoopla or laughter.

 

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No wedding is without food and drink, of course, and they had brought some of their traditional foods and drink on to the stage. After the ceremony and dancing, they came around and offered the audience tastes of both food and drink, served in carved wooden vessels.

The food was waffles and some small pancakes, – very good, – and the drink was white and had a sour-ish taste. After reading up on Yakut wedding traditions on the web, we think that it must have been fermented mare’s milk. Nobody got sick or died as far as we know,  😉 even though everyone drank from the same cup.

This also gave us a chance of a closer glimpse of their wonderful attire, – all beautifully made with lots of details to admire. I should have liked to examine them all more closely and in person, but the photos will have to do. There was a lot of fur, as would be expected on traditional clothing from the coldest place on earth, but there was also woolen fabric and what looked like silk brocade on some of the coats. There was also lots of silver jewellery, some of which reminded me of the designs from Juhl’s Silver Gallery in Kautokeino, who has got their inspiration from the tundra and the people living there.

Yakutia, or the Sakha republic as it is also called, is the largest republic in Russia, and is almost as far east and north as you can come in that country. This group had travelled 8-9 hours by plane to get to the festival, – all inland, which is telling of just how large this country is.

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The organizers had better cameras than mine, so the photos on their website have some more close ups and details from this event.

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Here is a Youtube video of a Dressing-the-bride ceremony at a big event in 2012.

(It stops rather abruptly, before they are quite finished, I think.)

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In my next post, we will take a closer look at some of their quilts.

🙂

Eldrid

Lagre

Lagre