That’s “Good day!” in Finnish. Growing up in my small hometown in northern Minnesota, Finnish influence was a quiet but certain presence in our lives: our neighbors took saunas, in school we celebrated St. Urho for driving the grasshoppers out of Finland, we told Finnish jokes, and our Finnish-heritage teachers made us learn how to spell their sharp, rolling long last names (can you spell Koskiniemi?). Even though it was a small town in the woods – population 2,976 when I graduated high school, and a two-hour drive from the closest city, Fargo-Moorehead – it fortunately happened to be home to a sweet little Finnish imports store, “Irene’s Favorite Things,” which was and still is housed in the back of Harvala’s Appliances (“The Wild Finlander!”, Irene’s husband).

My mother often admired and sometimes collected the store’s Iittala glass and ceramics, all clean lines and radiance and modernity from the famous Finnish company. Iittala made modern, glass tableware, bold and unusual creations from the 1970’s and earlier. Their designs were a far cry from the folksy, romantic floral Scandinavian design that my mom grew up with on the farm. They were also a refreshing contrast with American country designs.  When I went into Irene’s Favorite Things this summer, though, I saw a new look to the Ittala designs that seemed to bring all of those different styles together. Naturally, they used knitting to do it!  This is not the edgy, modern Iittala glassware that I remember from the 80’s and 90’s. This is still elegant but it is more folksy, and a nod to the traditional and the hand-made.

photo-5Looking at their whole line of designs you can see their inspiration in folklore and nature. This knit-themed series, called Sarjaton, according to the Iittala website, is “Shaped by tradition, tailored for today.” The red clay cup is called “Letti,” or braid, and the other cup is “Tikki,” or stitch.  The other design in this series is called “Metsä,” or woods. I like what one of the design teams said about these choices: “We collected rustic material and for half a year we examined textiles and abstracts.” (All of you knitting & textile enthusiasts, wouldn’t you love to do that for your job?) “Metsä” is particularly interesting to me: at first I thought it looked like stitches, but when I saw the translation of the name, I could see the pine trees instead (click on the Sarjaton link and you can see this design). The knit stitches mimic the pine trees.

The Iittala designers write further:  “Embossed patterns based on traditional basket braids, embroidery motifs and the forest that covers half of Finland, deliver a handcrafted feeling that invites you to touch. While modern life has made us crave for an authentic feeling, the Sarjaton collection takes us back to the way things were made before. The real way.” (My emphasis.) Is this not a craving we have when we knit? To know and feel how something real is made by your own two hands. Not only that, though, this series accepts and honors the home-made effect. Even the images on the “Tikki” cup, pictured in red clay, above, show the slight imperfections in hand-knitting, the rows being slightly uneven and inconsistent.

Well, it wasn’t only in my hometown’s lovely Finnish imports store where I saw knitting in porcelain. On my way  through Minneapolis, I found these cups in the American Swedish Institute gift store:

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These cups are made by Menu, a Danish company that sells on Amazon, Walmart, etc.. They’ve latched on to the knitting trend too, though not in such a rustic way. The Menu company writes: “Nordic Wool is a thermo cup inspired by the highly fashionable patterns known from Nordic knits. The knit sweaters were hot in the 70s but are again must-haves from several fashion houses this season, and now for the first time the knit patterns make their entrance on cool thermo cups.”

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Either way, whether you choose home-made authenticity or fashion spin-offs, to knit by the fire with a knitted cup beside you (especially one with lovely stitch definition) would be the ultimate in getting into the knitting mood.  A knitted cozy for the cup would certainly be appropriate; possibly a knitted coaster as well? Inspiration certainly abounds.

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