Hovden Formal Farm Wear - BLOG
My name is Charlotte Engstad, I live in Tromsø, in northern, subarctic Norway. I am very excited that Ingvill asked me to write a guest post for her blog. I am a big fan of her brand, Hovden Formal Farm Wear, and the concept it is built on. And I love my blue linen Hovden shirt!
This is a little scene that is happening to me surprisingly often, for instance at a party or wherever I meet people I don’t yet know and there is small talk going on.
New acquaintance: I am a corporate lawyer, and what are you doing for a living?
Me: I am a hand-weaver.
Me: I weave fabric, mainly for folk costumes, but I also make single items like throws and shawls.
Acquaintance, with relief: Now I understand, sew clothes!
Me: No, I don’t sew a single stitch, I make the fabric.
Me: I take lots of threads, and with the help of a loom, I make fabric. Look down at your trousers.
Acquaintance (skeptical, looks down at his blue jeans): Yes?
Me: Well, I make like the blue fabric, except that I have never woven jeans fabric, but I could. I make other sorts of fabric. But this blue fabric was made on a large mechanical, computer controlled loom, probably in India, China or Bangladesh.
The beginning is square
When fabric comes off the loom, either a handloom or a fully computer controlled one, it is square, or more correctly, it is a large rectangular band, always. In the good (or bad) old days, clothes were not a commodity, but very valuable items, handed down over generations. And so was the fabric. It took many hours to spin yarn on a spinning wheel and earlier, even more time to spin on a hand spindle, then followed by many hours of weaving on a handloom and sewing by hand. Not mentioning the innumerable hours used to raising the sheep or growing and processing linen or cotton fiber.
When making clothes, all of the fabric was used and the cutting patterns were laid out to that purpose. The body was a rectangle, with holes for the neck and the arms. The sleeves were triangles and rhombuses, the hood was a rectangle or a square. Skirts were made up of several rectangles or squares. And in this way, the whole fabric was used. Actually, the Hovden shirts are based exactly on this principle! All the fancy cutting generating leftover fabric came later and then only for the rich. The poor continued to use simple cutting patterns with zero waste for many centuries.
This is an example of a folk costume skirt, based on the above principle. This type of folk costume is called Rondastakk, meaning skirt with stripes. The folk costume tailor, Mona Løkting, used three rectangular heights of fabric for each skirt. The skirt is pleated at the waist, and nothing is cut away and thrown in the bin. (Note from Hovden: More about this Rondastakk project on Stellaria's blog https://atelierstellaria.no/2018/10/tre-helt-nye-rondastakker/?lang=nb )
Photo: Odd Sprakehaug
Quality means longevity
Textiles were a valuable part of inheritance, and when households were split and the inheritance distributed, bed clothes, coats, dresses, skirts, shirts, all kinds of textiles were counted and parted. In this context, quality was of utmost importance.
What is quality? Quality lies in the material and in the process of making, meaning the raw material, the spinning process and the weaving must hold good quality standards.
When working on the Rondastakk project together with Mona Løkting, we started in the museum of Maihaugen in Lillehammer, looking at old dresses. There was a multitude of patterns and colors! The life of a folk costume skirt was on the whole like this: The farmers wife would pick the sheep with the best fiber quality for spinning the thread. She would spin herself and dye, or send to a mill, perhaps also get dyed at the mill. Then she would weave. She knew the perfect quality for this kind of fabric, which was meant to last for many years.
The new skirt was used on Sundays and holidays. When it was well used and began to be exhausted, the owner would replace it with a new one, if they could afford it. The old skirt could be made into children's skirts, or used for work, in the barn, in the fields and in the kitchen and would thus last for many years. Thanks to superior fabric quality.
In contrast, many of the clothes I buy in the supermarket are of cheap and low material quality, they get holes quickly, the fabric is pilling, the buttons fall off, the list is long. I am sure you experience the same problems. When many people don’t know what fabric, fiber types, weaving or fabric quality is, how are they able to choose quality clothing, even if they could afford it?
The life cycle of a fabric
As you probably have suspected, it is very cold in Norway during winter. Norwegians used to sleep with sheep pelts as bed covers, and the pelts had a richly ornamented woven textile called åkle on the skin side. The åkle would last for many years, but when it started to get holes and show severe signs of wear, it would be replaced. The old textile could be used as a horse cover, or padded on one side and used as a floor cover. If it was severely damaged, it would be used on the horse wagon as underlay for goods, in some cases even manure. And in the very end, the remains were used as isolation.
In the photos above and below you see an åkle, stored at Sverresborg museum in Trondheim. It had been a gorgeous textile once upon a time. Now it has big holes, which were mended by an unskilled person with coarse thread. There are red stains on it, is blood or paint? This textile ended as isolation material, after having served multiple purposes for many years. The natural fibers of the åkle, typically wool, linen or cotton are completely biodegradable and end up as earth at the very end of their life cycle.
The cost of fast fashion
Most of us can afford cheap and fast fashion. Clothes and textiles in general are now so inexpensive for most people living in the west, that we are able to buy without thinking. We can buy new ones, if it gets worn out after ten times of wearing, or throw away the item even before it is worn out in order to get the most fashionable items for next season. Yes, we can afford it money-wise, but the planet cannot. Fast fashion is not sustainable at all, it comes at a huge cost: abundant use of pesticides and insecticides in plant monoculture, pollution through chemicals in production and dyeing, water-shortage, and slave-like production conditions. Just as fast food is not healthy for the body, fast fashion is not healthy for the planet.
I hope we can see more ethical high-quality fashion in the next years, clothes that really last for years, and that age with style. Like the Hovden shirts and aprons.
Photos by Charlotte Engstad
Note from Hovden:
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The more I look at old photos of workers, the more I realize how important aprons were. This fall we made an apron in hemp/organic cotton. Now we are introducing two leather aprons. All three aprons are designed and made in Portland, Oregon.
The leather aprons are inspired by people in the past who made things with their hands. A leather apron was part of their workwear. It kept them safe and it made their clothes last longer.
These aprons are also inspired by today's craftsmen and craftswomen. Cobblers, welders, florists and other makers. The aprons are made to last and will become more beautiful with age and use. They will tell the story of the maker.
From Hol Bydgearkiv 1930-40: www.digitaltmuseum.com
I have had the honor of working with and getting to know Jill Torberson, a Portland welder. We met at Scan Fair in December and realized we have a lot in common, including really liking each others businesses. Jill creates beautiful metal art and functional metal pieces. She is now working in a Hovden wool busserull shirt. She was a good sport and modeled the leather apron for me. She was the one who suggested that Hovden should make a functional leather apron for workers. I'm glad she did! Check out Jill's work here.
Check out the leather aprons here.
The busserull workshirt, which Hovden has been making for 3 years, was a man’s shirt (although today it is gender neutral). We decided it was time to recreate the women's work attire. But...what was the women's work attire? The apron, of course! Looking at photos of women in their work environment – with kids, on the farm, with animals, cooking, cleaning – it was obvious that the apron was on from dusk ‘til dawn. It helped protect the few dresses they owned. It was easier to wash an apron or two, than the shirts and dresses that they were wearing.
The inspiration for this apron came from all the women who have worked hard and cared for their families - always.
Photo curtesy www.digitaltmuseum.no
We are excited to honor the women who worked so hard in a bygone era, by recreating their work attire – the apron.
After a lot of searching we found a fabric we loved and was perfect for the job. Sturdy canvas from hemp/organic cotton with indigo stripes: durable, sustainable and beautiful.
This apron isn’t your basic one piece covering, but rather it invokes the timeless appeal of the carefully pieced together covering from days long ago, while presenting a clean, beautiful finish.
The aprons are sewn, one at a time, with lots of love in Portland, Oregon.
We hope you will love and treasure it as much as we do. Check out the apron in our shop here.
To fully appreciate the versatility of the old aprons, enjoy this poem.
Apron poem by Tina Trivett
The strings were tied, it was freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.
She may have used it to hold some wildflowers that she'd found.
Or to hide a crying child's face when a stranger came around.
Imagine all the little tears that were wiped with just that cloth.
Or it became a potholder to serve some chicken broth.
She probably carried kindling to stoke the kitchen fire.
To hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
When canning all her vegetables, it was used to wipe her brow.
You never know, she might have used it to shoo flies from the cow.
She might have carried eggs in from the chicken coop outside.
Whatever chore she used it for, she did them all with pride.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I'm sure the apron that she chose, was her Sunday best.
The second artist participating in the Hovden Art Project is Kristin Derby. She resides in Buffalo, NY, and has strong ties to Norway, as her mother is from Oslo. Kristin is a talented graphic designer. She studied Communications Design, minoring in Textiles at Syracuse University.
Kristin was tasked with making a Scandinavian inspired bandana design. She created a beautiful modern expression of the traditional Norwegian rose painting. The bandanas turned out really nice.
Kristin says: "I have a deep appreciation for many areas of fiber arts, and one of my favorite museums and leading contributors to my ideas has been the Norsk Folkemuseum, in Oslo, which contains historical buildings and crafts from the past few centuries. It is an amazing step back in time that surprisingly holds many designs and colors relevant to contemporary movements. For this collaboration, I drew my inspiration from traditional Rosmaling, which is a beautiful method of painting flowers and abstract designs on wooden items."
Where did you come across Hovden Formal Farm Wear?
"I found Hovden by chance through the Norwegian American newspaper and immediately appreciated how the company had reintroduced such a staple clothing from Scandinavia to the rest of the world in a sustainable, ethical, and fashionable way. I am so proud I was asked to partner on this new collaboration and hope that you will enjoy a little more of "updated" Scandinavian design." Kristin
We at Hovden are in love with the bandana design! It fits so well! Thank you Kristin for your beautiful art work Kristin!
Click here to see the bandanas in the shop.
Click here to see Kristins website.
Kristin at Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo.
'Interurban Roots' the 2016 Fall/Winter Collection Lookbook
For us, every look book we create tells a story, our story. We’re just as connected to the history of our apparel as we are to the people who wear our garments today.
The wonderful models in this new look book are Erik Brakstad and Rachel Bondor Winer, who have been linked to us since we made our first busserull.
Erik is the owner of the old busserull shirt that we drafted the pattern from! I know him from the Norwegian-American community here in Portland, his dad was Norwegian. In January 2014 I texted Eric and asked if I could borrow his busserull shirt and the rest is our history! He currently owns a few busserull shirts including the original historical piece. He wears his new Hovden busserull shirts to Scandinavian events, but also when he meets with clients and needs to dress up his working contractor garb a bit. He is not a fan of wearing a shirt and a tie, so the busserull shirt is a perfect substitute.
Rachel was one of our first Kickstarter backers in June 2014. She loves everything Scandinavian and became a part of the the Hovden 'inner circle of fans/helpers' in the very beginning. She has been helping us talk about and sell Hovden items at festivals and we even have playdates with our kids. Did I mention that as well as being our model, this smart and gorgeous woman has 3 kids??!! Super-women for sure! Rachel also has solid style, so we are honored to be represented in her closet with a few of our shirts...and now a dress!
Thank you Rachel and Eric for bringing our vision to life with your stellar modeling skills! .
We shot on location at the Nordia House in SW Portland. After 20 years of planning and fundraising, the Scandinavian inspired building was finished last summer and now offers a home for all things Nordic. It’s a great place to visit while in Portland and even has a Swedish restaurant, Broder, and they also host a lot of great concerts. Thank you Nordia House for letting us use the space for our photoshoot.
Thank you to:
Stine with Steena Photography, the amazing photographer, who is Norwegian and has also been following and supporting Hovden since day one!
Benjamin Holtrop and Rena Hartman for amazing styling and art direction!
With all of your help, it all came together beautifully.
We are proud to announce the Hovden Art Project, where artists create one or more pieces of art that encompasses Hovden and the busserull shirts past and/or present. Who else loves this idea?
The first artist is Susan Hannen, who has been a Hovden fan and follower since the first year Hovden was in business. She found Hovden on Pinterest. She is located in Buffalo, NY and her medium is collage.
I saw some of the historic collages that Susan had made, and fell in love. There are so many layers of history and story telling in her art. It was a perfect match for Hovden and I love what she created! It represents exactly what Hovden is trying to do. It is bridging the gap between the present and the past in a beautiful way.
"I really wanted it to reflect the simple elegance, historical significance, and utility of the shirts." Susan Hannen
About Susan Hannen
"I became interested in making collages when I taught poetry as a teaching artist in a long-term residency at the Native American Magnet School in Buffalo, New York. When working with the students I saw the power that making images brought to the writing experience, how making collages to illustrate their poems created a new excitement and enthusiasm for the written word.
After that, though I'd never thought of myself as a visual artist, I began to collect vintage images from books and scour estate sales for old photograph albums. I'd spend hours just shifting images around until something clicked and they fell into place like puzzle pieces.
For me, making collages is a meditative activity, one in which I can lose myself completely. It feels very much like play - like when you become so deeply engaged in something that time and place simply fall away."
Follow Susan on Instagram @susan_hannen
I have printed this art as postcards, so if you would like me to send you a post card, send your address to email@example.com
A farm wedding calls for farm shirts, right?! The Massey-Flinn wedding looks stunning! Hovden is proud to have 'been there' on such an important day in the life of this beautiful couple. Congratulation! And thank you for sharing these special photos.
Thank you to the Massey-Flinn family and photographer Nayoung Wilson for letting Hovden post the photos!
The highlight of the year! Hovden shirts on the runway!! Alley33 was such a fun fashion show to be part of. Hovden was one of 19 Portland apparel brands represented. Check out the Hovden looks her:
Thank you Alley33 and Beth Olson for awesome photos! And thank you to these beautiful models who ROCKED the Hovden shirts!
Read more →
Read the latest Hovden Newsletter: HOVDEN SHIRTIS IN A NEW LIGHT. And don't forget to sign up for the Hovden newsletter. I send one about once a month.
Here is a preview from the Newsletter. Yes!! New shirts in the SHOP!!