Most mornings, Hannele Köngäs starts her day with a walk in the woods, finding calm and creative inspiration from the natural landscape of the seaside city of Turku, Finland. Hannele says a need to protect the beautiful and fragile Finnish ecosystem guides every step of her process as a weaver, starting with the fiber she chooses for her hand-woven textiles; she primarily works with wool from endangered Kainuu Gray sheep, a breed indigenous to Finland. Promoting preservation of the breed, and sustainable, environmentally friendly craft is central to her praxis.
Originally from a small village in Lapland, Hannele grew up around textile production; her mother was a weaver and leather tanner. After graduating high school, Hannele moved to the south of Finland where she pursued studies in weaving and ethnology. She has worked with museums and archaeologists to reconstruct Iron Age and medieval textiles, and has taught weaving, natural dyeing, felting, spinning, textile history, and ethnology at Åbo Hemslöjdslärarinstitut and Turku University of Applied Sciences.
Hannele’s textiles are influenced by her Lapland roots, her interest in the past, and the weaving techniques and technologies she has learned over her lifetime. The unique texture of her scarves and seafarers’ blankets is inspired by an old fragment of wool fabric she discovered as a student. Their twill-like wavy weave is created using over-twisted yarn. After procuring and preparing her wool, Hannele sends it to a Finnish mill to spin the historically-inspired strands. Working on a pedal loom, she weaves her products first, then dyes them using rain water and natural dyes made from madder, weld, tansy, nettle, and other plants, some of which she buys from local dye sellers, some of which she cultivates herself. The resulting wool scarves and blankets are soft and organic in texture and color, perfect for keeping cozy on a chilly Nordic night.