This year we happened to be in Helsinki during the first year of Ommel Festival, which is a big awesome gigantic sewing festival that takes place right in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
This is Finland’s version of The Great British Sewing Bee, but better.
THAT’S RIGHT, I SAID IT. Why is it better? Because FREE ENTRY!
For those of you who follow me on Instagram (@sewing_expat), you’ll already know that we’re moving to Helsinki in early 2019. After going to this year’s event, I am hoping to be involved as a volunteer in 2019 (as the token American?). This year, I was only able to go on the first day for a few hours, yet it was a such a rewarding and fun experience!
Ommel Festival is the brainchild of Jenni of Nuppu Print Company.
When I joined the sewing bloggers meetup with Hanne, Auri, and Katja on the first day of the festival, Jenni gave us a quick rundown of the festival’s incarnation and why she wanted to start it. The idea was to have a sewing festival with free entry so sewists could come and take courses, listen to lectures, and best of all – buy some fabric and sewing patterns. Nuppu was one of the vendors at the festival and they have some of the most gorgeous prints (and cards and stationary and and…).
One of the coolest ideas brought to life was that you could camp out at the festival as part of the sewing retreat (or you can just camp out if you wanted cheap accommodation). That’s right, bring a sleeping mat, some overnight gear and you can spend all day sewing, go to bed and get up and sew some more:
“A sewing retreat is a brilliant way to get to know new sewing friends and spend time with like-minded people. To attend the retreat, you need to bring your own machines, fabrics and other equipment. We provide participants with sewing and cutting tables and an ironing station, as well as coffee and tea.”
HEAVEN, YOU GUYS. Er. Mah. Gerd. It reminds me of when my husband goes to board game conventions that have this exact kind of setup. I’m a light sleeper, so I personally couldn’t do it, but come next year if my husband lets me duck out for 3 days straight I will likely consider staying in the nearest hotel – haha!
I met the gals from Named Clothing and THEY WERE SO NICE. I bought their Kielo Wrap Dress pattern and the Ruri Sweatpants pattern. I still need to go visit their shop in Helsinki next time I’m in town.
I also tested out a Juki coverstitch machine, and I’m pretty sure that it will be THE coverstitch that I buy. It was smooth like butter, you guys. Like buttah.
There were sewing-related lectures such as:
“…history of the textile industry and fashion, the ecological aspects of sewing, design and also on being an entrepreneur in the industry…”
I love me a good lecture. I assume these lectures were in Finnish since I didn’t go to any of them, but I imagine as it branches to an international demographic there will be some available in English.
There was all manner of workshops available, whether you wanted to start with the basics or work with coverstitch and overlocker machines. Jenni took us on a brief tour of the festival itself and I saw the rooms full of classes, tables with sewing machines and people working away at their projects. I was just sad I didn’t have my own machine there with me!
Speaking of workshops and classes, they were mostly in Finnish but I heard a little rumor that there may be some international teachers coming. Continue to check Ommel.fi and Ommel’s Facebook Page for updates about the 2019 event.
My Experience as an English-Speaker at Ommel Festival
I guess it goes without saying at this point that I had a wonderful time. My lack of Finnish-language skills made no difference and didn’t negatively impact my experience at all. I made some new friends through a fulfilling hobby that brings me joy, and this festival just enhances the experience. I’ve had a rough last few years where we live since I felt a bit like I’d lost my own identity (postpartum depression and not being able to work outside the home can do that).
At Ommel, I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. I was so cheery, I even remembered to take a selfie with my buddy Katja!
But I Don’t Speak Finnish…
I want to also mention for anyone who doesn’t speak Finnish considering attending next year’s Ommel Festival to please do not worry about a language barrier. Seriously. All Finnish people under like 70 years old speak English. Like, good English. Their English is probably better than mine and I’m a smart fancy lady.
And no reasonable person expects you to attempt any Finnish. It just gets weird and complicated with all the grammatical rules. So take it from me, I don’t speak any useful Finnish (though my husband has taught me loads of swear words) but I had a fantastic time.
Please go and enjoy Finland. Let me know what you think of pulla. Check out the Kansallismuseo – the National Museum of Finland – and remember to go in June so you can go to Ommel!
Curious about anything else? Let me know!