SPRING 2020 INSPIRATION
– one of Sweden’s World Heritage Sites
DRIVE THROUGH HÄLSINGLAND and you’ll see these majestic farmhouses everywhere. There are almost 1,000 farmhouses dotted around the landscape. Seven are them are designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The public can visit about 40 of them and most have been in the same family for hundreds of years. We were sure these beautiful buildings would make a great backdrop for our spring collection.
Our visit to Ol-Anders, Löka, Hans Ers in Alfta and the World Heritage Site Jon-Lars in Långhed lasted five days. We were welcomed by proud, knowledgeable and enthusiastic hosts, who are direct descendants of the original owners and were delighted to show us around their magnificent and well-preserved farmsteads.
Our thanks go to Elisabeth at Gästrike-Hälsinge Local Heritage Federation, Håkan at Jon-Lars, Ulla at Hansers, Mona the costume maker, Gudrun at Ol-Anders, Gun-Marie at Löka and Helena at Alfta Gästgiveri hotel for your invaluable help!
MONA ROSENQVIST, costume maker
During our visit to the Hans Ers farm, we met Mona Rosenqvist who is one of the few folk costume makers in the world. Mona is wearing an Alfta costume and tells us there are hundreds of different folk costumes in Hälsingland alone. Each parish has its own style of costume. Mona is fully booked with orders for new costumes, Swedish and Norwegian folk costumes and from around the world. A folk costume isn’t something you simply throw together. It requires a wealth of knowledge about history, textiles and needlecraft.
Löka in GUNDBO
Löka farm sits on a hill and used to be a family farm that dates back to the early 17th century. Today, it houses a fine collection of textiles belonging to the Alfta Heritage Society. We photographed the richly-hued, red timber walls in different lights.
Ornate FRONT PORCH
– a status symbol
A lavishly ornate entrance reflected the status of the family and quality of the farm. When a family member married, musicians would stand outside the beautiful porch playing their instruments to welcome the guests.
The farmers were the dominant social class in Hälsingland for many years. They owned the land they farmed and held power over the village. The farms were passed from one generation to the next and many families can trace their ancestry back to the 16th century. The farm owners manifested their position by building huge houses with beautifully decorated interiors, often painted by artisans from Dalarna, and elaborate woodwork trim.
Flax from Hälsingland
The tradition of growing flax in Hälsingland can be traced back to the third century. During the 17th to 19th centuries, the production of linen from flax added huge wealth to the coffers. The linen and damask tablecloths from Hälsingland became widely popular and were even exported to châteaux in France. The work of pulling, retting, hackling and spinning the flax was extremely strenuous. In the 19th century, it became more profitable to extract timber from the forests, and cotton began to rival linen.
OL-ANDERS in Alfta
There is an old farmstead in the province of Hälsingland in central Sweden. It is called Ol-Anders, probably after the farmer, Olof Andersson who was born in 1640. Originally it stood next to the church but was destroyed, along with others, by the great fire of 1793. It was rebuilt on a hill and serves today as a visitors’ centre. Its interior is richly decorated with wall paintings. The Emigrant Museum tells the story of those who emigrated from Alfta to Bishop Hill in Illinois.
RICHLY DECORATED farmhouse
Jon-Lars is the largest of the farms in Hälsingland. Håkan, who showed us around, lives on the farm and is related to the brothers who rebuilt it after a fire in 1850. Each brother chose his own style to decorate his half of the house. Exclusive 19th century French wallpapers and breathtaking turquoise-blue paintings adorn its walls. Artisans were hired to build and decorate the house with intricate woodworking and great artistry.
The earliest record of the Hans Ers farm and family dates to 1560. Renovation work in the 1900s unearthed a large and fascinating collection of painted hangings made of woven linen. The oldest of these exciting finds, of which there are 80 square metres, dates all the way back to 1565! On our visit to Hans Ers, we met Ulla Hansers who is a direct descendant. She and her husband Per-Gunnar live on the farm and regularly show visitors around all the well-preserved buildings and recount their fantastic history.
Ulla, thank you for your kind hospitality!