Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Maid In Finland

Sometimes in summer I find myself missing Finland like crazy; the quiet streets basking in never-fading light, the clamoring of seagulls at the public market by our quiet inland sea, the rattling of old green and gold street cars as you're trying to bike in front of them on cobblestone streets...The scent of lilacs in the garden in the morning...

The shadows of sailboats against the old harbor. Sun glinting off the golden onion cupolas of the Russian Orthodox cathedral. Clusters of small islands on the lake, dotted with with blue smoke from so many saunas. The sound of oars on water as fishing nets are dribbled in behind the boat. Swimming at the public pool, the smell of chlorine and juice-boxes and sandwiches.

 Walking home on the shore at midnight, the ocean as calm as a mirror. Eating small, whole fish from a paper wrapper on the market place. Fields of wildflowers undulating in the silence of midsummer's night. A cuckoo calling out from the pine woods.

Fields of lilies of the valley blossoming out of the mossy ground in the woods. Jumping out of a rowboat onto the swaying dock. The smell of fresh birch branches wafting out of the sauna. Season's first potatoes with butter and picked herring and dill weed. Magpies flying in the yard.  Sun on the old stone buildings. Kids skipping rope.
The city's parks brimming with people, the narrow strip of grass between two busy roads littered with summer dresses, striped shirts, children running in primary colors. The colors of everyone's summer clothes in fact, bold, bright, as though they had just newly hatched from their drab winter cocoons.  
 An antipodean friend once remarked on how suddenly, in spring and summer, beautiful girls appear everywhere in Finland. "Where are they all winter?" He wondered, eyes trailing after this green summer frock, radiant smile, or shorts-clad bottom. An age-old Scandinavian mystery. 
And while we're on the topic of the Finnish summer girl, Kesäneito: I have to say, whatever charms she may lack in winter she receives thousand fold in the few brief summer months. She wears flowers, birds, green, red, yellow, clogs, dancing shoes, goes bare foot. 
She goes to folk dances in old industrial neighborhoods and hundred-year-old halls, she walks home through the empty streets at dawn, when the sun is up but the city looks deserted, she sun bathes on the rocky cliffs of inland islands and bikes around small towns. 
 There is something utterly magical about Scandinavia in the summer and lately I've been living it vicariously trough this blog. It might seem funny to experience your national identity so strongly through clothes, but as I've opined time and time again, clothes to me are personal expression and cultural markers, a language, and that in spite the globalization of our dressing there is still such a thing as national style. The Finnish Kesäneito is only in her true element in The Land of Nightless Nights.
 Sometimes I miss being her.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Solstice

 There is a tradition of flower crowns in the summer in my native land, especially at Solstice, when maidens often flocked to fields to gather their seven flowers for prophetic dreams about future husbands. First make your crown, then find out about your husband. A traditional Finnish crown might feature wheat stalks, daisies, cornflowers and maybe even the lupines that bloom later the farther up North you go.

While the traditional methods of braiding crowns are many, the few that I know require quite a bit more time and patience than I have most of the time, so I thought I'd share a couple of really simple, fun ways to make a crown of your own.


Cheater flower crown:
flowers (traditionally wild flowers), florist's twine (that soft, green stuff they wrap corsages and bridal bouquets with), or any other soft, pliable twine (I used artificial sinew cos that's what I had), scissors or a knife.

Rose crown/necklace:
Rosebuds, about a 1/2 cup. Make sure to not over-harvest, because while crowns are pretty, rosehips are a sublime source of vitamin C. Remember to gather only very young buds, any petals are likely to fall off as the crorn/ necklace dries. You'll also need a needle and thread and if you want to get fancy, pliers and chain to make your creation into an actual necklace. (Not shown on tutorial, but you get the idea.)

Time: Not very long at all. I kept getting interrupted, but still completing these two projects took less than thirty minutes, photos and all.

So first, gather your roses while ye may. I usually end up needing more flowers than I think and since the extras can easily be arranged in mason jar on the table, gather plenty. Always remember to forage sustainably, whether it be blooms or edibles. Luckily daisies are aplenty.
 First, cut a length of your chosen twine about twice the length of your arm.

Take two flower stalks. Lay them side by side with the flower head of one slightly lower down the first one's stalk. Bend the second flower's stalk around the first one, then bend it back over the second flower itself. Like so:
Then join the second stalk next to the first flower's stalk. Like this:
 Good job. Now pick up your twine and fold it in half. Wind some twine around the flower stalk in the same manner you folded the stalk over or simply wind one end of it around the other. You can also use a granny knot to tie it on, though this is not necessary. After the initial wrapping, the twine follows the path of the flower stalks except where additional wrapping is needed to ensure tightness.
Repeat. Make sure your flowers stalks and twine are taut and the flowers in a nice arrangement in relation to each other. (If you want to leave the twine out you can totally make a crown just by this wrapping method, BUT it's way less secure, and in my opinion, more frustrating;)
Sometimes, when your flower stalk is too stiff for the bending maneuver you can attach it by just going back and forth over it with your twine.

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Bind off with the twine. You're done.  Put on yer crown and admire the spit bugs.  

My, but that's pretty. 



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Our second project is an even easier one, though it does require the use of a needle, so you might wanna mind the fingers of very small folk here. 
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Thread your rosebuds through the fleshy stalk at their end. Repeat. Measure and tie off. Done. If you're feelin' ambitious, you can sort the buds in piles according to size and make sure the they are threaded in ascending order first and then in descending order. 
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Homemade, biodegradable, dries nicely, works as a crown or a necklace, pretty much the perfect summertime accessory. 
Happy Solstice everyone! Crown yourselves! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012








Do these shots, by chance, inspire you to make your own crown? Feel like your fingers are not quite nimble enough? Fear not. A super simple cheater-crown tutorial coming up on Tuesday so that you too can have your very own Solstice wreath.