In March 2014 I visited Finland where handcrafts and design were a big influence on my travels. In just under three weeks I visited Helsinki, Turku, Rovaniemi, Tampere and Jyväskylä and I want to share some of what I saw, beginning with Helsinki.
I hadn’t quite got in to the swing of travelling and I forgot to take photos of the yarn shops I visited but these are worth visiting if you find yourself in Helsinki.
Edit on 2 April 2015: Unfortunately this shop has closed. Novita yarns are a staple Finnish yarn and can be found at many shops around Finland such as food shops and department stores.
As soon as I had checked in to my hotel I battled sleety rain (where was the magnificent snow?!) to find the Novita LankaDeli yarn shop. This cute small yarn shop offered up a wide selection of Novita yarns that, as I continued my travels, I didn’t see anywhere else. I wish I had bought more than the couple of balls of yarns I did buy!
A general selection of Novita yarns, knitting needles, crochet hooks and magazines can be found everywhere around Finland in department stores, food shops, and discount stores. Prices varied at times by a euro or two so if you have the time it’s worthwhile to check a few stores before buying.
At the Hakaniemi markethall I visited the Vihreä Vyyhti stall. On my last trip to Helsinki I had a great conversation with a woman at the stall about knitting book authors and this time I received good advice about yarns and sock needles. I picked out a few balls and I was given a free sock pattern which has great information about the number of stitches to cast on for different sized feet.
They were just in the process of setting up their new shop on a street around the corner from the markethall but I didn’t get a chance to visit it.
Another yarn shop I visited was Fiinaneule.They had a great selection of yarns from different manufacturers including a big range of Regia sock yarns which I stocked up on. I spent a long time in the store chatting and learning about yarn, and they were the first to explain to me that very little yarn was actually produced in Finland these days.
In my effort to buy Finnish yarn, I made the mistake of getting excited over some Finnish sock yarn, picking up a couple of skeins and ignoring the fact that I couldn’t see a price tag. Stacked in amongst many other yarns that I bought, I later realised those two skeins had cost a small fortune which caused a feeling of buyers remorse… I justify it to myself now that I was supporting Finnish yarn manufacturing but I was definitely more sensible with my yarn shopping afterwards.
I poked my nose in to Menita yarn shop while I was visiting the Design Museum. They had possibly the widest selection of different brands of yarn that I found in Helsinki and I lost myself in the store for quite a while!
Edit on 2 April 2015: I went back to Finland in February 2015 so I’ve written another blog post about yarn shops I visited titled: Yarn shops in Finland.
Design Museum (Helsinki)
I first went to this museum around a decade ago and their museum shop is full of great design books and products.
The exhibitions I saw this time were Henrik Vibskov (Danish Fashion Designer), Shop Show, and the permanent exhibition showing Finnish design from the late 19th century to today.
The small Arabia Museum contains a collection of classic and rare Arabia ceramics. I wish I had booked a guided tour to see the factory as well but a wander through the exhibition space provided inspiration from the impressive Finnish designs, patterns and use of colour.
Other shops and fun things to do
I adore Iittala glass and homewares. There are a number of stores around Helsinki (and the rest of Finland) including an outlet store in the Arabia district.
Okra and Helsky
Across the street from Senate Square and Tuomiokirkko (Helsinki Cathedral) are a few small streets dotted with design and handcraft stores including Okra and Helsky (a branch of Taito Shop which stocks a large collection of items by Finnish designers).
I bought a beautiful clear and blue two tone glass pendant necklace by Nina Lehos from Okra.
The Akateeminen Kirjakauppa (Academic Bookshop) in Helsinki is my favourite bookshop in the whole world. Their collection spans many floors and I’ve been known to lose myself in there for hours. This time I headed to the handcrafts section and, after some nosing about, a shopworker helped me out with some books focused on Finnish knitting and crochet, and she also gave me the name of an Estonian sock knitting book that she highly recommended which they didn’t have in stock but I was able to find later on my travels. Super helpful!
I also stocked up on magazines that I didn’t bump in to again so I’m glad that I decided to weigh my backpack down with these at the start of the trip.
I found the Eurokangas fabric stores in various towns in Finland. They were all large stores with some fabric sold by length and some by weight. They also stocked a small amount of Novita yarns.
In many places around Finland you can find Kirpputori shops (flea markets). They are filled with furniture, homewares, clothes and collectables including many typical Finnish goods from brands like Iittala, Arabia and Marimekko for very reasonable prices.
Some of the shops are divided up in to tables or shelves that are managed by different people so they can be quick to wander around looking for the sections that contain the types of items you’re interested in. A Finnish Kirpputori is well worth exploring!
Coffee and good food were all around Helsinki in beautiful little cafes.
At the Johan & Nyström cafe I asked for a recommendation of tasty tea for a sore throat and they delivered a perfect brew.
At the Good Life Coffee cafe (at Kolmas Linja 17 up the hill from Hakaniemi Markethall) the coffee was perfect and I had to admire the rag rugs covering the seating by the window.
And Cafe Regatta served up a cinnamon roll with warm berry juice which I had sitting outside near the open bonfire while watching little birds beginning their spring adventures. Aaah… very relaxing!