The most important reason for my trip to these European countries was to visit Helsinki. I was there to get a sense of the city because it is where Eero is from and of course to meet his family who live there. Helsinki is a beautiful city and often reminded me of Halifax, Nova Scotia at times. Like Halifax, Helsinki's harbour played an important part in shaping the city and still has a major role today. It did take a while getting used to the quiet streets compared to the busy rush of London. Plus, we were there during the summer solstice and the extremely long days were a new and strange experience for me. We spent many days in Helsinki, in between our trips to Stockholm and Estonia. 

When I sat down to put this post together I quickly realized I didn't have many photos of Helsinki itself. I spent my time soaking in the colours of the city and more time eating cake, though I'm definitely not complaining about either! For me, it's often hard to find something sweet to enjoy with a cup of tea when I have to worry about eating gluten-free. However, Roasberg, a cafe in Helsinki, had an amazing choice of gluten-free and vegan cakes. So naturally I had to visit a few times and sample their selection! The taste experiences in Helsinki were all special and incredibly delicious. 

Another one of my favourite experiences from my trip to Finland would be visiting 'kesämökki' which translates into 'summer cottage'. Many people vacate the city during the summer to enjoy the serenity of the calm lakes and vast forests in Finland making it an essential part of the Finnish lifestyle. This summer cottage was situated outside the city, after a four hour drive we arrvied near the Russian border.  I felt incredibly lucky to have been invited to such a special and peaceful place. Here we took advantage of the forest trails and I was introduced to my first Finnish sauna experience. 

During my days in Helsinki I didn't spend much time in yarn shops at all, I swear! I was pretty pleased with my purchases from Makeri 14 in Stockholm and the craft shops in Estonia. However, during our last bus ride into the city centre for our final lunch before flying back to London, something caught my attention as we drove by. It must have been the bright skeins of Hedgehog Fibres in the window. I think any knitter would be able to spot them miles away. We got off at the stop just past the shop when I turned to Eero and said, "Ummm, I think we just drove by a yarn shop. Do we have time? Do you mind?". We didn't have much time to spare but I'm very glad he indulged me in this last request in Helsinki. I stepped into Snurre, an inviting and colourful yarn shop. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to spend but I'm so glad to have made the quick visit. Perhaps I'll be able to return soon! 

I managed to find room in my already overstuffed suitcase for three skeins of Tuku Wool. Tuku is 100% Finnish wool. The owner of the shop told me that Finnish yarn is hard to come by since it's a country not known for their fibre production. Tuku Wool is grown, milled and dyed in Finland. I settled on the natural cream. Often with souvenir yarn I have no idea what it will later be but I thought it would be lovely to get back into natural dyes. Hopefully when I can find the time, these skeins will have some colour added to them! 


My knowledge of Muhu was very limited before traveling to this small island. All of my information about Muhu and its culture came solely from the various Estonian knitting books Loop stocks. During down time in the shop, I've flipped through the pages and gazed over the photos of some of the most colourful and intricate patterns I've seen of traditional knitwear. So, when Eero and I talked about the possibility of traveling to Estonia, I asked about the chances of visiting Muhu. I really have him to thank for indulging my curiosity and putting this trip together and also to his family friends for lending us their summer cottage, conveniently located on Muhu!

We stayed in their restored Estonian farmhouse, the perfect place to settle in for the weekend and explore Muhu and Saaremaa. Unfortunately for us, the weather was the only thing not co-operating and it rained the whole weekend. We even lost power a few times due to the strong winds from a storm brewing over the Baltic Sea. One morning, when we thought we had regained power, we traveled to the Muhu Muuseum only to find they were without power too. We stayed to explore the dark homes and farmhouses which are a part of their open air museum. 

Since there was no power this meant their exhibition of Muhu's national textiles and costumes was completely in the dark. However, I'm still happy to have had a quick glimpse of these examples I had gotten to know through books such as Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island and Estonian Knitting. I feel very fortunate to have visited this quiet and understated place because I know many knitting enthusiasts would not have the opportunity to visit this remote island. 

The next few photos were taken at Lõngapood Kuressaare, a small craft supply shop I stumbled across on the main street in Kuressaare. A pleasant find was the DIY embroidery outlines to get you started on your own piece inspired by traditional Estonian floral motifs. I brought home a handful of colours and few outlines to try myself when I can find the time. 

Another souvenir I brought back was this knitting book, Parimusluksus: Luxury in Tradition by Estonian designer and author, Heli Väärtnõu-Järv. I admire how she's combined century old techniques and Estonian folk art as inspiration for modern day garments. I also love the addition of her paintings throughout the book. When I begin the designing process for a new piece I often start with a drawing of what I hope to create. Some of these drawings can be found in my book Take Heart. However, I would love to add a fine art element to some future designs. 


After our first afternoon in Tallinn, Eero and I left the city and drove through the Estonian countryside towards the coast. We spent the weekend on Muhu Island which I'll mention more in my next post. Saaremaa is the biggest island off of Estonia and is connected to Muhu by a causeway.

Before leaving on this trip, a colleague of mine had mentioned that visiting Estonia would be like stepping inside a fairytale. I was happy to see that Saaremaa did not disappoint. We visited the main city, Kuressaare, a handful of times to explore the local craft shops, restaurants and of course, this castle complete with moat! How much more fairytale-esque could this place be? This is Kuressaare Castle, originally built in the 14th century and  is the best surviving example of a medieval fortification amongst the Baltic countries.

We enjoyed an amazing meal at Kuressaare Kuursaal one afternoon, located just across the moat from the castle. Their Ku-Kuu Kitchen emphasizes local produce from Saarremaa and Muhu. The salad, soup and fish all had locally sources ingredients and the pike I enjoyed was caught that morning. Everything was delicious and to savour this all within view of the castle was definitely a special treat. Another memorable meal from Kuressaare was at Kohvik Retro. Located on the main street, this restaurant was also really proud of their local produce and everything on their menu was made in house. This time I was too eager to dive in before taking any photos but would highly recommend it to those in the area. 

Another favourite site we visited was the Kaali Crater Field. This natural site is composed of nine different meteorite craters from one asteroid breaking up as it entered Earth's atmosphere. The exact time of impact is unknown but scientists believe it to have happened between 1530 - 1450 BCE. These photos are from the biggest crater which formed a near perfect circular pond. I've always been curious about space exploration and our mysterious universe so I was incredibly excited to visit this place. This crater is tucked away amongst quiet farmland, just behind a local school and playground. I felt it was really special to be able to walk around an amazing example of how forces outside our power shape and effect our natural landscape. Since returning home it's been enlightening to read about the mythology and spiritual significance behind this sacred place. Throughout Estonian folklore, this places was known as "where the sun went to rest". 


Tallinn Old Town

My two years in London have finally drawn to a close. My visa expired yesterday so I flew back to Halifax last week. I'm glad to be home for the summer to spend time with family and friends. There is a lot of knitting to be done and new designs to be created over the next few weeks so I think this summer will fly by. I'm still reminiscing about my time traveling through Europe only a few weeks ago. I'm hoping to head back to England or Europe eventually so those adventures are definitely not over yet. In the meantime, I'm already planning a few adventures to have right here in the Maritimes.

These shots are from two afternoons exploring Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. We spent a weekend between Muhu and Saaremaa. Both are islands just off Estonia in the Baltic Sea. I promise to post more about these islands soon. We took our time when we arrived in Tallinn to explore the Old Town. I fell in love with the medieval-esque doors and windows in the area. Many of them are brightly painted with intricate designs and against faded, cracked and peeling pastel walls. 

I couldn't pass through Old Town without picking up a few souvenirs for myself. I settled on these mittens which have been hand embroidered. I also picked out a few colours of yarn and wool embroidery threads. The Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union was the perfect place to find amazing examples of traditional craft. I would love to find the time to embroider more. After this trip I definitely feel inspired to do so since I saw many amazing examples. I'm hoping to combine it with my knitting more frequently. I also loved the small boutiques which featured modern craft by local Estonian artisans. I bought a few gifts from Oma Asi for friends. Of course I was so excited to give them away I forgot to photograph them. 

On our way back through Tallinn we had the afternoon again before catching the ferry to Helsinki. We stopped for lunch at Vegan Restoran V in the heart of Old Town. I had the beetroot ravioli with cashew cheese and for a main, the spicy peanut butter tofu with vegetable quinoa and tomato coconut sauce. Both dishes tasted like vegan heaven. I was thrilled with the variety of beetroot dishes I saw on various menus during our stay in Estonia since it is one of my favourite root vegetables.