The final stop on our Sweden adventure is Åland island. Åland is actually made up of over 300 islands of which around 80 are inhabited. There are bridges or ferries that connect the islands so you can easily get around. To get to Åland, there is a ferry from Sweden that takes a little over two hours. Åland is a Finnish island, but the population speaks Swedish.
The main reason for visiting Åland was because it's where fabric designer Lotta Jansdotter hosts her yearly printmaking retreat. While we couldn't make the timing of the retreat, we had seen photos and talked with Lotta and knew that Åland was a special place that we shouldn't miss. It was amazing! Åland is lush with wild raspberries and meadowsweet growing everywhere! Every village has its own Maypole and the Midsummer celebration is still a huge part of today's modern culture on Åland.
First stop on Åland: The Viking Festival. The Viking Festival on Åland happens the last weekend of July and it is the best. The Viking Festival had music, demonstrations for traditional crafts, a marketplace of Viking wares, Viking food and drink, and even staged battles. Once you go to the Viking Festival on Åland, you will not be able to attend another Renaissance Festival ever again.
At the Viking Festival, we were able to meet up with Lotta and hang out. We sat and learned about natural dyeing the way the Vikings would have dyed, using native plants local to this part of the world. Lotta was kind enough to translate this lesson, which was such a treat! The women also demonstrated how to plait ribbons using wool yarn. The techniques were not unlike the ribbon-plaiting we learned in Estonia a couple of years ago.
Many of the vendors were selling wool--sheep skins, yarn, and finished goods including woven fabric and garments. Much of the wool at the market was undyed or naturally dyed Finnsheep wool, a soft heritage breed known for their array of natural colors--white, brown, grey and black are all natural colors of this breed. I bought this gorgeous woven shawl made of four natural, undyed colors of Finnsheep--I love it so much!
We were able to visit a cute yarn shop cafe on Åland called Stickstuga'n Hantverk & Café. This shop sold many local Finnsheep wool yarns, as well as handknit goods. The cafe was a short walk down a path and had the best desserts like licorice cheesecake and rhubarb cake!
We were fortunate enough to stay at Bjornhufvud Bed and Breakfast which we absolutely loved. Our BnB was located in a picturesque seaside village. We went on bike rides and walks, and enjoyed the amazing cooking of proprietor Jackie. This was a wonderful period of down-time in our busy travels and we were able to relax and knit and enjoy the scenery.
We hope you enjoyed following along on our Nordic adventures!