Heavy Metal Embroidery

A look at Finnish Iron Age textiles.


Finnish Apron from Kekomäki- The plotting

Now that I had found my “inspiration” it was time to take a closer look at the pattern and see how I can reproduce it! 😀 For me, once I figure out the pattern (either from a grave drawing or a picture of an actual apron from a museum) it is all downhill from there.

The first thing I do is blow up the picture and try to figure out which way the spirals are laying. Are they going from left to right or top to bottom? This, for me, is the hardest part, especially if I am studying a drawing because the apron is up to interpretation of the artist looking at the apron. But…when that’s all you got…you do what you can. 😀

Plotting the Spirals.

Plotting the Spirals.

When I created my first and third aprons (which were both based off actual finds), I had not plotted them out on graph paper. I DO NOT recommend that method. Lol. It was soooo much easier to look at a nice, un-blurry, neatly drawn pattern then a fuzzy…could be a line…could be a smudge drawing.

For this apron, I treated it as I had my previous aprons. I assumed the long rows of spirals were probably one spiral that had a space after every 4th turn. In the picture below, you can see where I thought the spiral rows would cross each other. Boy was I wrong….

After I had spent…probably…1 ½ hours drawing out my pattern and feeling VERY proud of myself…I went to the Helsinki National Museum in Finland and realized how VERY wrong I probably was.

Just days before I left for Finland, I had finished the spiral design and applied it to my 3rd apron. (Which was created by looking at pictures that a friend had taken at the museum of an 11th C. Iron Age apron.) I studied the pictures and spent about 50 hours, total, creating my apron only to find out that I had done it WRONG. Ouch!

The original spirals are about 1/2 the size of mine.

The original spirals are about 1/2 the size of mine.

The spirals where actually about half the size of the spirals I had used AND they were individual spirals and not rows of long spirals crisscrossed and then strung together. I was a little sad BUT it didn’t dampen my spirits that much, for I was in spiral HEAVEN at the museum. (You can check out my pictures from the museum in my Flicker account. Just click on the link to the right of my blog and you should be directed to the album.)

After I got home…I looked at the drawing I had done before and realized I needed to do it all over again. I then spoke with Satu Hovi , a Laurel in Finland (who actually got her Laurel, a few years ago, for her knowledge of Finnish Iron Age), and she said to me that the design of my blue apron was probably made using a flat board with many nails (or something similar) and had long threads that went straight through the tiny spirals and eventually weaved themselves together to form the pattern. That made TOTAL sense.

After I got home…it was back to the drawing board…literally…well…the drawing part anyways. 😀

Sitting down and taking a MUCH closer look at the drawings in my book, it was as if a light bulb had switched on in my head. I could actually SEE the threads going straight and not crisscross, which supported Satu’s theory about my blue apron and I can see no reason why they wouldn’t do the same for this one.

Showing how the threads actually go straight through and not crisscross.

Showing how the threads actually go straight through and not crisscross.

Something else the book provided was a basic scale of the spirals used in the pattern I was going to reproduce…so after testing some spirals with the rods and bronze thread I had a home (0.71 MM), my husband and I realized I needed to order thinner bronze wire (0,50MM) and buy a thinner rod (2mm knitting needle).

After making a few spirals, we decided the rod needed to be just a little smaller. So into the garage my husband went and out came a 1.8 mm rod which produced spirals we were both satisfied with.

Comparing size of previous spirals to the new ones.

Comparing size of previous spirals to the new ones.



Now I had a pattern AND spirals…next came the decision of what would go THROUGH the spirals.

Stay tuned….


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Finnish Apron from Kekomäki- The inspiration

Cecilia Jonsdotter, 42nd Queen of Drachenwald

Cecilia Jonsdotter, 42nd Queen of Drachenwald

When the 42nd Queen of Drachenwald (Queen Cecilia Jonsdotter) took me up on my offer to make her a Finnish Spiral apron, I was more than excited and a little nervous as well. For me, it is always nerve wrecking to make something for someone else. This is because of my personal battle of being a perfectionist and fear that what I make will not be EXACTLY what someone has asked for (even though her Majesty is the sweetest person, ever, and would be happy with anything she got). But either way, I had to overcome my fear and so, my search for the perfect spiral pattern began.

At first I did my normal search on the Internet and looked closely at the aprons featured in the Ancient Finnish Costumes.pdf but THEN I received an amazing book in the mail!

One happy customer!

One happy customer!


It was a reprinted copy of Theodore Schwind’s book: Tietoja Karjalan rautakaudesta from 1893 which can be purchased here (It is written only in Finnish but the drawings are worth the purchase).  It had amazing drawings of aprons found in the ancient village of Kekomäki in the area known as Kaukola. (This area is part of now a day Russia) and it contained the PERFECT pattern.

pg. 41

pg. 41, Schwind

Now that i had my “Inspiration” the next step needed to be started…the “plotting.” 🙂

Stay tuned…