Exhibition of woven blankets from Estonia

From 27 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 presents traditional woollen blankets woven by the Estonian Native Textile students of the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy in their weaving classes. The patterns have been copied from 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 woollen or sheepskin coats). Historically, brides wore large woven shoulder scarves called sõba. In time, the scarves dropped out of regular use, but their patterns were used for colourful striped, chequered, supplementary weft-patterned, and embroidered blankets. 

The aim of the Estonian Native Craft curriculum 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 Estonian Native Crafts in three specialisations – Native Textile, Native Construction and Native Metalwork – and a master’s degree in Creative Applications of Cultural Heritage. 

Estonian Native Textile is the oldest specialisation  of these 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. 

The students used traditional techniques and tools to make the items displayed in this exhibition. The patterned loom-woven blankets were 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 27 November to 29 February 2023.

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