The Saami of the North, the Inspiration for my People of the Sun Pattern Collection
Textiles & history of the Saami, the inspiration for my newest Pattern Collection
The Saami People are the Indigenous people of the Northern Scandinavia and Western Russian Peninsula. I first saw their clothing when I was a teenager, and remember being enthralled by the needlework and tapestry strips on their clothing.
I found out later that they are known for many other things, their curl-tipped shoes, tin-thread embroidery, shawls reminiscent of the Northern Lights, a very recognizable hat, and reindeer!
So who are the Saami? They are people who have inhabited the area pictured below for over a thousand years. A nomadic group, they criss-crossed this area mostly above the Arctic Circle, following the migration of the Reindeer. Like other Nomadic groups, their clothes and tools were created from the reindeer, and each version of these items were lovingly made for practical purposes.
The Saami typically wear Blue, Red, Yellow, Green and Black clothing often consisting of a tunic (“Gakti”) with woven textile embellishment, and shoes, leggings and coats of reindeer. Women wear a shawl with colored fringe that is said to mimic the look of the Northern Lights. Designs and specific patterns signify the area the person comes from, sometimes even a particular Family. It’s amazing to me that photographs from the 1800’s are so recognizable to the current styles.
Saami Clothing and Textiles
The Saami wear bold colors, which come from processing and dyeing materials around them. For example, yellow was wraught from sorrel root, juniper moss, wild primrose flowers and the Arctic Dwarf Birch tree. Red came from Alder bark and a type of moss root. This red was also used to stain the scrimshaw designs.
Clothing is embellished with beautiful detailed woven textiles with the appearance of fine ribbon. If you get a chance to see these, take the time to appreciate them. They are done by hand on looms traced back to the Bronze Age (600-550 BC). Drawings from the 1700’s show entire tents created with these woven strips.
Metal jewelry is added to the clothing and decoration such as belts are often created with thread designs made of pewter or tin to make long lasting and eye-catching designs.
Traditional crafted items are called Duodji.
Another fascinating and important part of Saami culture is the famous singing/chanting style called a Yoik. It is a cherished part of their cultural expression and even now, a true treasure. These very personal songs are often dedicated to a person when they are born, and are often dedicated to a landscape, animal, or person.
Yoiks have sometimes been incorporated into a version of pop music, even sometimes found in major European music contests. The ones I have heard have all been very beautiful to the ear, and remind me of the music from PowWows I used to go to when I was younger. To me and my Synesthete senses, many sound like the moon shining through the silhouette of trees on a dark night. They are absolutely beautiful, wistful, haunting. Again, I have to say that losing the Traditional Cultures of the world would be a terrible loss!
Here are a few of my Designs inspired by the beautiful textiles of the Saami:
Saami People in America
To find out more about my lifelong interest in textiles and world cultures, read this Blog
I collected this information from privately owned materials and the websites below. Pictures were utilized from countless websites which I have credited when possible. I’m happy to update with sites any time I find out more.