Weaving a Cozy Piece of History – A Finnish Folk Shawl from Start to Finish

I have wanted to weave myself a big and warm shawl for ages. During the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century shawls were an important piece in women’s wardrobes. They were thrown over shoulders when going outside, they served as warm blankets when travelling, and babies were wrapped in them. I took a lot of inspiration from historical Finnish shawls but ended up designing my own pattern.

Watch the video of my project here:

Shawls in Finland

The book Saalit by Elsa Silpala and the Wetterhoff foundation is dedicated to Finnish folk shawls from different parts of the country. This school was founded in 1885 by Fredrika Wetterhoff who wanted to teach impoverished girls crafts that would allow them to earn their own income. The example shawls are from the large textile collection that the students of the Wetterhoff School of Crafts collected from their hometowns.

Saalit book.

Shawls were woven both at home and commercially. Different stripes and checks were the most popular patterns. The shawls were usually squares that were folded diagonally. The widths ranged from 130 to 150 cm. As these widths were impossible to weave with narrow looms, the shawls were often woven in two halves that were then sewn together.

Designing my shawl

My yarn was Ohut Pirkkalanka by Taito Pirkanmaa. It is Norwegian wool that has been spun and dyed in Finland. I had already purchased yarn and now I had to design a pattern that would work for it.

The weaving software doesn’t come cheap but the trial version of Bronze allows one to try out designing. The trial version has the saving feature disabled but I could take a screenshot from my finished design and use it to help me to calculate the amount of different colors I needed.

Designing the shawl.

I decided to make my shawl in plain weave just because I wanted it to look rustic and simple. Besides, I had not woven plain weave in decades!

It took me a few days to build the warp and a couple of days to weave the shawl. I then finished the shawl by sewing the two halves together and making a fringe.

The finished shawl

The finished shawl.
My shawl from the front.
My finished shawl from the back.

I’m quite happy with how the shawl turned out. It is far from perfect as I still have trouble getting nice edges but after sewing the halves together, after soaking the shawl in water, and brushing it the seam doesn’t really look that noticeable.

The shawl is rather thick and heavy and it really is warm. It is also pretty square-shaped although I first doubted whether my weaving density would be so accurate as to create a square.

Thank you so much for reading. See you soon!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


  • Jennifer Bennett

    I love your new handwoven shawl Katja! It just glows! Your wonderful film is very timely as I just bought a 60cm wide rigid heddle loom to weave cloth that will have to be woven in sections to get the right width. Seeing your lovely film provided answers to questions I didn’t know I had…so interesting to see how our ancestors worked with their limitations.

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