Monday, August 11, 2014

The Fancy Blog is Moving!

We have moved! Join us on the fresh, new Fancy Tiger Crafts blog at

We are working on a new site there, too, where you can browse and purchase all our lovely classes and modern craft supplies. All sorts of fun things are in the works. We hope to see you there!

♥Amber, Jaime & the Fancy gang.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Nordic Travel Companions' Knit-Along with Sleep Season Goods


Our friend Megan makes stunning yarn.

Megan is the dyer and color magician behind Sleep Season Goods, one of our favorite local yarn dyeing companies. As we planned our trip to Estonia, some of our crafty Denver friends joined in on our international adventure. Megan, Alsn, and Jess traveled the whole trip with us, sharing the journey through the mossy lava fields of Iceland, the modern coffeehouses of Helsinki and the medieval streets of Estonia. Megan surprised our group with a special, five-of-a-kind, single edition colorway to knit with on our Nordic journey.

We all chose a few different patterns to knit with our single skein. Megan knit the slouchy Sockhead Hat, a simple hat with a ribbed brim that folds up and finishes with a stockinette stitch slouch. Perfect for a travel project!

Alsn took on the challenge of a Booknits lace shawl, the Mustardseed. She's pretty amazing and whipped this delicate shawl up by the time our trip was done. Impressive!

I have been wanting to make a Norby hat for some time and thought this was the perfect yarn choice for it. It was a fun stitch pattern, and simple enough to easily pick up for a bit in between learning all the other crafts at camp.

Jaime and Jess both liked Megan's choice, and they both knit-along with her, making the Sockhead Hat. Jess shortened her ribbing section so her brim is only one layer, and both versions turned out super cute!

We all love the deep teal grey color of our special yarn, and what a magical hand knit souvenir of our trip together!

Thanks Megan! We ♥ your yarn and your stinkin' cute face!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Estonian Adventures Part 9: Ribbon Plaiting, Bone Crafting and Ceramics

In addition to knitting, we were able to take other traditional crafts at craft camp such as ribbon plaiting, bone crafting, and ceramics. We are now really well-rounded crafters.

Jaime's Handmade Goods  |  Amber's Handmade Goods

Jaime's Ribbon Plaiting Class
In Estonia, many of the traditional clothes are decorated with beautiful, hand woven ribbons. These are made from the same wool yarn that the knitting is done with and thus incorporate many of the same colors. I was able to take a ribbon plaiting class and learn some of the techniques from talented ribbon plaiting instructors, Mari and Helve.

We started easy and then worked on harder and harder ribbons as class progressed. I started out feeling pretty confident, but soon realized the amount of detail and work that goes into these. Basically you are creating plain weave or twill weave patterns by hand - without the aid of a shuttle or needle. It is slow going and you have to make sure your many pieces of yarn aren't getting tangled.

My biggest ribbon was only about 1/2" wide and 15 pieces of yarn across, so you can imagine what goes into the large plaited belts that can be up to 3" wide! This piece took me about 3 hours and is only 10" long. I gained a ton of respect for all the trims and belts that decorate many of the textiles works in Estonia.

Amber's Ceramics Class
In high school I dabbled in ceramics, and I couldn't wait for the opportunity to try my hand at this craft again. I was intrigued by instructor, Kaie's, style of decorating the slab pottery with plants and herbs. 

By pressing our collected plants into the wet clay, and then filling the resulting impression with dark glaze, a print of the plant appears.

I enjoyed going outside and finding some of my favorite, familiar wild plants growing so far from home. Shepherd's purse, clover, and yarrow were all abundant outside the pottery classroom and so I gathered them for my plant impressions. I also used a few strange Estonian plants I'd never seen before.

After I made my large coffee mug I couldn't resist making a tiny mug , perfect for a little sip of whiskey!

Amber and Jaime's Bone Crafting Class

Jaime and I both signed up for bone carving class. What better place to learn the craft of bone carving than Estonia? 

Our instructor, Monika, had beautiful examples to inspire us--bone tools and decorative objects that she had made. She gave us several options of things we could carve, needle cases, shawlpins, flutes, naalbinding needles....

Jaime and I both started by making a traditional needle case made by smoothing and decorating a hollow  jaw bone. Inside, a piece of felt holds your sharp needles, and is attached to  two pulls made of bone or teeth.

To decorate our bone objects, we carved designs into the smoothed surface. The circles are created with a special double pointed drill bit that Monika painstakingly adapts herself. To darken the bone etchings, beeswax is mixed with wood ash, softened with your hands and pressed into the carved design. You then scrape it gently off the surface so that it remains embeded in your design. 

Next, I wanted to make myself a crochet hook. This was the most difficult object I carved. Monika brought out special bone just for this purpose. She explained that you want to use a type of bone that is less brittle. We used a hand saw to slice off a rough, long rectangle from a larger piece of bone, then sanded it until it was even and starting to get rounded. 

Monika roughed out the shape of the hook in pencil and I used a file to slowly hollow out the hook. Finally, more sanding rounded everything out. It was a labor of love, but I adore my new handmade crochet hook. 

Jaime and I really loved bone carving class, and we spent the rest of class making a pile of amazing bone naalbinding needles that we will finish sanding and shaping at home. At the end of class we were covered with bone dust and happy.

Craft camp was awesome! At the end of our week, some local reporters showed up to see our progress on learning traditional Estonian crafts. They were impressed at how far we had traveled to attend, and we made it into the local paper! We are now world-famous crafters!

We also each received a certificate for our achievements in Estonian handicrafts. Its official: we ♥ Estonian Handicrafts!

Check back tomorrow to see the final Estonia post--the results of the Sleep Season yarn knit-along that we and our travel companions, Jess, Alsn, and Megan, made while we were traveling together!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Estonian Adventures Part 8: Setomaa Field Trip


My field trip was to travel to Setomaa, at the very southeastern most part of Estonia on the border of Russia and Latvia.

I was excited to experience not only the unique handicrafts of this region, but also learn about the food, music and way of living. We arrived and were welcomed by Evar and Ülle at the Setokunstiq Gallery. They told us about the history and traditions of the area.

Evar talks about Setu traditions

Red, black and white are the predominant colors in Seto textiles. The hand work is incredibly detailed and precise. Although there is clearly a style to the crafts of this region, Ülle explained that no two pieces would be the same. It was a show of skill to make your embroidery have a different design than anyone else in the village.

She showed us examples of some of the crafts, and I was amazed at their style of embroidery stitching that is as neat and finished on the back as it is on the front. Incredible!

Evar, Ülle's husband is an artist. The gallery space was decorated in his handprinted wallpaper and painted floors.

He is also passionate about keeping some of the old craft traditions alive. Evar is currently honing his metalwork and etching skills. One of the traditional jewelry pieces in Setomaa is a large silver pendant that married women wore on their chest. They were engraved with magical symbols and used in many ceremonies. There are few examples of them left, and some have been cut up or melted to make modern jewelry. He has been working on making replicas that are true to the originals in style and quality.

At the gallery we couldn't believe it when we saw our mitten knitting friend, Külli, who we had met previously at the Tallinn Medieval Days. She is originally from the Seto region of Estonia and was thrilled to have found out we would taking a field trip in Seto, so she showed up with her goodies.

She not only brought her mittens, but also giant skeins of amazing Estonian yarn which is what she uses to knit the traditional mittens. I, of course, had to stock up on it!

After we left the gallery we headed to a nearby house for a Seto style meal.

We had delicious chilled soup made with spring onion greens, cabbage and sour cream, black bread, smoked local ham, cheese, honey, and baked porridges made of oats, barley, and rice. According to the Estonians, the Seto region is known for this lineup of food.

Ülle explained that Seto people like to keep their meals simple, so there is more time for perfecting their handicraft skills.

The next stop was the Obinitsa Seto Museum. Here we were able to learn more about the life and crafts of the region.

Inside the museum were so many more amazing examples of Seto handcrafting skills...

...beautiful hand-plaited trims...

...and of course mittens upon mittens upon intricate colorwork mittens.

Our next stop was a recently renovated, historic Seto farm. The traditional farm was set up in a rectangle of buildings, with a home, grain storage, barn, and other buildings built around a courtyard, so that there was a private outdoor area for the family to gather, socialize and work.

The couple who renovated the farm bought the property and started work on it when it had begun to fall down, with leaking roof and drafty doors and windows. They painstakingly replaced wooden shingles and fixed it up keeping with traditional building methods. The farm is dotted with fruit trees and animals. The husband has also set up his own beer brewing area and shared some samples with us. The beer was a local style made with leftover black rye bread. It was dark, cloudy and delicious!

The day we visited, the farm was hosting an Estonian music camp for kids. There were children playing zithers and accordions and mandolins and dancing in the courtyard.

Intricate hand-plaited trims are a standard craft in the region, so it was no surprise when I saw the amazing braids all the girls had in their hair. Everything about the farm was so magical and I didn't want to leave!

Before we left to return to Olustvere, Ülle and a friend treated us to some traditional Seto singing. Enjoy!

Tomorrow--check back for more of the crafts we learned at Craft Camp!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Estonian Adventures Part 7: Anu Raud and Hemitali

Part of our Estonian Craft Camp week involved a field trip! There were several field trip options and Amber and I chose different towns to explore and we both have a lot to report on.

I went to the Hemitali Museum of Domestic Life and the house of textile artist Anu Raud.

Anu Raud is an Estonian textile artist legend. She has been making masterful folk art for decades and has also been a big collector of any and all textile artifacts of Estonia. She has written the knitting book "Pattern Puppets" which has patterns for traditional Estonian colorwork on stuffed animals and puppets (we now carry this inspiring book which is in English) 

We started our day at the Hemitali Museum of Domestic Life which is housed in a preserved 1840's school house. This museum actually houses much of Anu Raud's personal collection which she has donated to the Estonian National Museum and is now collected and on display here at Hemitali. She met us here and took us on a tour, showing us some of her favorite artifacts.

It was almost too much. I couldn't believe the sheer amount of work housed here and the diversity in the Estonian handicrafts. From tapestry weaving, to embroidery, to crochet, to naalbinding, to ribbon plaiting, to sewing, and knitting, this place has it all.

We started with weavings and embroidered blankets. I especially loved this horse blanket that Anu said was a portrait of the owners' beloved pets. Anu talked about each item. She knew the history of each piece, as well as its use and often who made it. One beautiful embroidered blanket would have been used on Sundays to drape over the carriage horses' rears en route to church each week.

In addition to actual textile samples, there are a lot of written and painted documentation of the Estonian textile tradition at this house. Scholars can come and study pages and pages of diagrams, paintings and sample cards of various types of textiles from all regions of Estonia. Painting mittens was an early way of preserving the patterns as the actual mittens would usually disintegrate over time with use. Anu showed us many beautiful sample cards of Setomaa embroidery and textile work.

This was all just the downstairs of this tiny schoolhouse. Upstairs was another world of mind-blowing textile work. Upstairs we were able to put on white gloves and handle boxes upon boxes of artifacts. Knit gloves and mittens, sewn costumes, plaited ribbons...the list goes on.

I had just finished my plaited ribbon class at Craft Camp so I was especially taken with the variety and workmanship of these boxes and boxes of ribbons. These ribbons are all hand woven without any needles, shuttles or tools. Truly amazing. They were mostly used as belts, but also as trims to be sewn onto the hems of garments. 

After our minds were completely saturated we went down the road to Anu Raud's house. Here we were able to see some of her contemporary work which was mostly weaving and tapestry wall hangings. Her studio and works were truly inspiring and you can see her appreciation of traditional textile motifs in her work. She also raises Estonian sheep in various natural colors. She uses the wool from her sheep to mill into yarn for her tapestries. 

We had a nice time relaxing outside with her sweet sheep.

Next up: Amber's field trip to Setomaa