I continue my journey in search of sewing inspiration in the wonderful city of Tallin, the capital of the Baltic nation of Estonia. It's only a two-hour ferry ride (80 km/50 miles) from Helsinki where I was able to visit Marimekko and I find myself in what is without a doubt one of the most intriguing parts of Europe. Although small, Estonia is an advanced economy with a high-income society. The country is one of the fastest-growing in Europe and has the largest number of start-ups per capita in the world according to Wikipedia.
Tallinn is considered the Silicon Valley of Europe, but in my eyes, I think I have landed in Disneyworld. At first impression, it is a small modern city with an intriguing collage of architecture –both ultra-modern and historic. But on closer inspection, it's not difficult to see why most visitors gravitate to the “Old Town” where it sometimes appears that nothing has changed since the 1500s.
A bit of History:
The earliest trace of human habitation in Tallinn dates back to 5000 BC approximately, but it is well known this region was sporadically inhabited by bands of nomads after the last glacier era some 15,000 years ago. Written history first mentions a medieval town on the location of modern Tallinn somewhere around 1150 called the Hill Fort or Toompea as it is still known. Today, as it was the case then, housed the government and it is part of the castle in the “Old Town”.
Tallinn is an important port between Russia and Scandinavia has fallen under the rule of the Danes, Finns, Germans, Russian (twice) and finally became independent from the former Soviet Union in 1991 helped by one of the most amazing peaceful revolutions acts I've ever heard of involving two million people who formed a human chain stretching some 675.5 kilometers (419.7 mi) across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They still refer to this unique event as the Baltic Way or the Baltic Chain.
I feel ashamed I had to come all this way to learn about this important piece of history. But, then again this is why I love to travel.
A bit of Architecture:
There is no way to visit a city without taking in the architecture. As Julia Morgan said “Architecture is a visual art and the buildings speak for themselves” and the condition of the society is written on its buildings and walls, in my humble opinion.
Tallinn has had many cultural influences over the years and the houses display an incredible array of styles. Here are a few below.
There are four or five other styles, I am not sure (I am just an enthusiast) but I guess I will have to come back. If I got this wrong please do not hesitate to correct me.
I have only 48 hours in this lovely city. A quick search on the internet and it is abundantly clear the I must venture out of The Old Town to find what I want. Just my luck I find two stores just 20 minutes walk from my hotel. In my excitement and need of getting away from the cold, I forgot to take a picture of the name of the store. Sorry. I gather a few sewing items that pique my curiosity. Across from the sewing machine store is my destination Abakhan Fabrics.
My fabric picks
Linen is sewn in Estonia but the fiber is grown and woven in Lithuania, so I decided to leave the main hunt for linen until I'm in Lithuanian which will be in only a few days.
Instead, I find wool jacquard jersey ready-made clothes everywhere but unfortunately, the fabrics are not sold by the meter. I settle for what I can not find in Singapore easily.
Jersey 80%linen/20%cotton is a luxury to me. I have already shown you the boat neck top I made with it. I find 100% linen jersey knit a bit rough on one side and smooth on the other with great drape and stretch. I wish I could buy I whole roll because it would be so easy to dye and to print on.
I found leather and I purchased more than I should have. I know my suitcases just got a lot heavier. Not super exciting colors, but from what I can tell this is recycled leather is left over from the factories. It's not good enough to make a sofa with it but perfect for wallets and tote bags. When sewing leather, you can usually select the best parts and cut around the flaws.
It is time to exit the store because I can not buy more than I can carry. It's a 20-minute walk back to the hotel. I look at my watch and I spent four hours inside the store. By the time I ran out of energy, the wind has blown the clouds away and the sun is out. It's glorious weather so I head back to get rid of my purchases and head back to the Old Town.
The outdoor markets on the way are a bounty of handmade articles. Mostly knitting. If you are into it, the Baltics are definitely the place to come and to my surprise, knit articles are even cheaper than fabric. Too bad I live in the tropics….
More pictures about Tallinn
I am happy the sun is out because I am not a great photographer. The suns always make for better pictures.
Two days in this city is not enough to meet all the people I wish I had had the chance to. I sense there are great hand sewing skills here. I see it in the market in the embroidery and knitted garments. I want to meet the makers of such beautiful articles.
Suddenly, far in the distance in a window, I spot a linen fabric that makes me very happy. It turns out is a very common design and seen all over the Baltics. I have to admit the eye-watering prices and the 20 percent VAT (sales tax) in Estonia has left me wondering how do the locals sew at all. Even so, this is a busy town, full of creativity and a vibrant workforce and it's not hard to see why this is the fastest-growing country in all of Europe.
Unfortunately, my lack of Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Finnish, or Russian language skills limits my experience in the outdoor markets and local stores. I make a mental note: Before hunting fabric in Tallinn, Estonia, find a tracker/translator so I can hunt for the elusive Linen Jersey Jacquard seen only on the haute couture runways these days.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into fabric hunting in Tallinn, Estonia. Until next time, keep your scissors sharp. I'll be sharing new projects with you using these fabrics.
Have you been to any of the Baltic countries? Please share your thoughts and even some pics in the comments below.