If it’s Monday when you’re reading this, there’s a good chance the knitting club is meeting tonight in Joensuu, Finland, and Suvi Helander is there.
Helander, 36, is the club leader. She’s also a handcraft apprentice at Taitokortteli, a center for artisan and amateur crafters, where the club meets. And Helander is the novice designer behind the Pitsi Möbius, a beautiful cowl-wrap pattern.
“’Pitsi’ means ‘lace’ in Finnish,” Helander says, and her design gives you the openness of lace without needing to follow a chart. Made by alternating rounds of garter stitch with rounds that have extra yarn wraps to create “dropped” stitches, this kind of open work is popular in Finland, she says. The dropped stitches also make it a quick knit.
“The Pitsi Möbius was part of my study” at Taitokortteli, Helander explains. She created the pattern and used it to teach new techniques to knitting club members as part of her own three-year apprenticeship program.
What is Taitokortteli exactly? Think of Norway’s Husfliden stores and the traditional crafts association that operates them, and you’re on the right track.
The Finnish Crafts Organization runs a network of craft centers around the country to promote traditional culture, lifelong learning, and “taito,” or the “skill” to make things by hand. The craft center at Joensuu is located in historic 19th-century homes that surround a courtyard. Locals and visitors take courses there—felting, rug weaving, smithing. But Taitokortteli also has shops and concerts, making it a tourist stop in the Karelia region of southeastern Finland. Helander is just a few months away from being one of Taitokortteli’s certified craft advisors and instructors.
If you haven’t knit with this fiber before, Alpakka is surprising. It looks like it might feel wooly, but it’s actually silky to the touch. A DK weight made of 100 percent alpaca, it also has lots of loft. It made the Pitsi Möbius feather-light, soft, and unexpectedly good at keeping out a chill, given the lacey fabric.
In Finland, Helander says knitting has taken off again in recent years with new interest from people in their 20s. That’s partly on the strength of new Finnish designers, including some of her favorites: Veera Välimäki, Suvi Simola, and Mari Muinonen. But she thinks it’s also due to the ways knitters can now use technology to pursue their craft and find new inspiration.
Helander found a great resource online for anyone who wants to try her Pitsi Möbius or see what Möbius knitting is about: a video of the Möbius cast-on method demonstrated by renowned teacher Cat Bordhi. The “Möbius strip,” named for early 19th-century mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius, is a circular band with no inside surface or outside surface. Because the ends are joined with a 180-degree twist, the band has just one surface and one edge.
Intrigued? Round up some supersoft Alpakka and Helander’s great design, and roll that Cat Bordhi video!