Karoliina Arvilommi has been working with textiles and colour for about 30 years. She actually started in her early teens making clothes for friends and earning pocket money to buy her very own sewing machine. She is a member of the Finnish Association of Designers (ORNAMO) and a founder member of OKRA Oy, an Arts and Crafts company/gallery now located on Senate Square in the centre of Helsinki .

She started her professional life as a “taidekutoja” (art weaver) working for other independent designers and Suomen Käsityön Ystävät (Friends of Finnish Handicraft) in and around Helsinki, Finland. Her work covered a whole range of weaving techniques from home furnishings and upholstery fabrics to carpets.

At Suomen Käsityön Ystävät she came to specialise in weaving “Ryijy” rugs. (Pronounced “Rue-you”) A traditional Scandinavian knotted weaving technique, based on the same principles as “Oriental” knotted rugs. One of the Ryijy rugs she made is the “Fairy-tale Ryijy”, designed by Eliel Saarinen and made by his wife Loja in the early 1900’s. This large fitted Ryijy covers a corner settle and floor, and can be seen at Hvitträsk House, the Saarinen museum in Kirkkonummi, near Helsinki, Finland. Working from the original carpet, Karoliina made up a new pattern, and with a colleague, wove it in one piece on a two person handloom.

Link to a picture of the rug…Hvitträsk

For the past 20 years Karoliina has been a full-time, independent felt maker and artist. Her first design using felt is the ryijy and felt hat “I started out as an independent weaver in 1985 and after 5 or 6 years I “discovered” felt. Felting allowed me the freedom of form and colour that I was searching for in my hats.” The hat was first exhibited at “Suomi Muotoilee” in 1993 and is now part of the public collection of the Design Museum, Helsinki and The Craft Museum of Finland, Jyväskylä. She has concentrated more and more on felting as “Felt is such a flexible medium to work with, created by “feel” rather than calculation.”

Each of her works is treated as a unique and individual piece, the emphasis being on handwork, taking time and care to ensure it meets her own high standards. “Quality is an important aspect I have always strived for and like all things in feltmaking is achieved by touch and intuition, not by formula and computation.”

For the most part Karoliina has focused on wall hangings. The process of felting is really quite physical, demanding strength and stamina. Large works are impossible to achieve single-handed and now she has developed some “mechanical assistance” that will enable her to make large works up to three metres wide. It also means she can now produce the thick, hard, felt rugs that she has aspired to, and still retain the subtleties of form and colour of her wall felts.

Karoliina is dedicated to the quality of her work and has developed her own methods and technique of felting. Increasingly she has become involved in the processing of her wool to guarantee consistency of materials, including types of wool, self dyeing with natural products and carding without the addition of synthetic lubricants.

Karoliina has designed and produced a number of fashion accessories; her felted bags she now only makes by commission and the hats are limited in number. She also produces brooches, pendants and earrings, using a combination of recycled fabrics and felt, and various products for the home such as tea-cosies and cushions.

Wetting out a round felt