Beautiful birds from Karelia

Our object of the month in February is an embroidered piece of cloth from Eastern Karelia, brought over by Aino Ollila during the Continuation War between the Soviet Union and Finland (1941–44). Ollila was a craft teacher and member of the auxiliary paramilitary Lotta Svärd organisation for women, and this piece of cloth is part of a collection of Karelian embroidery samples. The object is a white linen cloth embroidered with a stylised bird in red thread and a folded and sewn hem at the bottom. On the right is the selvedge, the bound side edge of the fabric. The top and left edges have been cut with scissors. The embroidery threads have snapped at the left edge, which indicates that the embroidery was originally wider and the piece has been part of a larger cloth, possibly a rushnyk (in Finnish käspaikka), a long, narrow cloth common in the Karelian and Eastern Orthodox cultures. Although that is just about all we know about this particular piece, it can still tell us quite a bit about Finnish history.

A rectangular piece of cloth with a stylised tree embroidered in red at both ends and, in the centre, a bird looking to the left depicted from the side.
: A piece of cloth embroidered with a bird motif, possibly one end of a rushnyk. Photo: Anni Tuominen/Helsinki University Museum

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