linens from Klässbol

Manhattan tea towel in natural

Bjork and Manhattan in white and natural

Flätan napkin

The village of Klässbol in Sweden is in the district of Värmland, north of Lake Vänern, 370 Kilometres west of Stockholm and just 40 Kilometres from the border with Norway, in an area of lakes and forests with small red-painted houses set in gardens and trees. 

Hjalmar Johannsen was born in Klässbol in 1884 and began work at the local wool factory at the age of nine. As a young man he moved to Borås, to the south, near Gothenburg, to study at the weaving school there, but returned to Klassbol in 1918 to work as a weaving supervisor at a local wool factory. To supplement his income from the clearly failing woolen mill, he started weaving linen sheets and towels in his kitchen, from linen supplied by local farms. In 1921 he bought his first mechanical loom and in 1924 the business expanded into a nearby cottage. His family managed to continue the company after his death in 1928, at the young age of 44, and Klässbol, the company named after the village, is still owned and run by his descendants.

The linens produced at Klässbol are of the very highest quality. Since 1988 all Norwegian embassies have used Klässbol linens and in 1991, for the 90th Anniversary Dinner for the Nobel awards, Ingrid Dessau designed new linen for the Academy. Klässbol linens are also used by the Swedish Royal family and in 1993, to mark the 20th anniversary of the ascension of Carl XVI Gustaf, the Swedish parliament presented their king with 9 specially woven Klässbol tableclothes each 3 Metres long and with 200 napkins. Few of us, except perhaps one of the Oxbridge colleges or the City Guilds, would need table linen in that quantity but crisp, well-ironed napkins can make a meal at the table seem even more special.

As with Marimekko in Finland, Klässbol is proud of the team of designers who have worked for the company and it is interesting to read the pen portraits that are posted on the company web site where the designers explain a little about their work with linen. 

If you are on holiday in Sweden, it is possible to visit the Linen Weaving Mill at Damastvägen 5, in Klässbol.

printed linens from Marimekko

Korona by Jenni Tuominen - 100% linen displayed in the window at Nord

Marimekko are renowned for their printed cottons but every year, with each new collection, they produce a number of fabrics in pure linen or in a cotton/linen blend. 

Marimekko have occasionally, designed outfits in linen including the Paali dress by Marja Suna in 1994 and there was even a man’s suit, the PT 7 by Pekka Talvensaari that came out in 1986. 

The designs for their linen fabrics tend to be in softer, in more muted colours, and are often inspired by nature, particularly foliage. Heinä, a simple repeat design of grasses by Maija and Kristina Isola is a classic that is still in the collection. Korona by Jenni Tuominen, in contrast, is a soft geometric design in almost ice-cream colours that evokes smaller but as closely-packed designs of the late 1950s.

Heina by Maija and Kristina Isola

This Spring Marimekko introduced Kivitarha, a debut design by Teija Puranen, and Tunturipöllö, both new designs in 100% linen and for this Autumn Harmaja and Kuuskajaskari - one of the designs in the new Sääpäiväkirja Collection.

Tunturipöllö - Marimekko fabrics are identified on the selvedge with the name of the designer - here Sawako Ura - and the date of the design

new for the Autumn from Marimekko ...

For this Autumn, the new range of fabrics and tablewares from Marimekko is called the Sääpäiväkirja or Weather Diary Collection and was inspired by “observing seasonal weather patterns as well as by the exuberant glow of colours in autumnal gardens.”

Tableware, in the familiar Oiva range, has been included in the new season Sääpäiväkirja designs, with plates, mugs and cups in amazing watery blues or strong autumnal yellows and the pitcher has a band of design in sharp, deep greens and blacks with an image of “windblown trees, rustling reeds, glowing golden grasses, storm-soaked rocks, and misty archipelago mornings.”

New fabrics include Jussaro, 100% cotton with a design inspired by rolling storm clouds, and Kuuskajaskari, 100% linen with an amazing continuous pattern, that runs along the length of the fabric rather than across the width, with an impression of grasslands under a heavy sky.

My descriptions may sound like a bad travel advert but the pieces themselves are stunning and once again Marimekko has come up with something very new - a short break from their hallmark designs with strong abstract or geometric patterns - and, as always, by taking the patterns across a range of fabrics and tableware, they make it possible for you to give a table setting or a room a complete and co-ordinated make over with a very striking effect.

H Skjalm P

Close to Le Klint, on the east side of the square dominated by the church of St Nicholas, at 9 Nikolaj Plads is H Skjalm P. This amazing shop will be 60 years old at the end of this year and is still run by the widow of the founder Hagbarth Skjalm Petersen.

The shop has a narrow frontage to the square and just inside the door there are steps up to the raised ground floor and steps down to the basement. The lower level is like an Aladdin's Cave of kitchen equipment with racks and drawers and shelves full of anything and everything you might need for cooking and a lot of things you had no idea you needed until you saw them here, or rather, you want them even if you are not quite sure what they are for. 

The upper floor has displays of linens and fabrics in an almost unbelievable range of colours. They have a remarkably good and very sophisticated web site but even that cannot replicate or do justice to actually visiting the shop. Last time I was there “just looking” I came away with 6 tea towels I didn’t know I needed and four drawer knobs that I’m sure I’ll find a use for sometime.