Gallery: Traditional Hiiumaa 'boat blankets' get contemporary take

A museum on the island of Hiiumaa hopes to complete a replica traditional 'boat blanket', by the end of summer, ERR's Menu portal reports.

Boat blankets were used by those traveling at sea in order to keep warm on long journeys and while sleeping, and creations in Hiiumaa had a specific design, still in production in the late 19th century and also known traditionally as "Rüi".

Interested members of the public could contribute to the project themselves, sewing the strips of rag to the cloth which would festoon the base blanket. This was all done aboard a modern vessel, the Leiger, a ferry that connects Hiiumaa with the mainland, via the Rohuküla-Heltermaa route.

Kadri Kuusk of Hiiumaa Museum told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kamera" (AK) that the strips of rags, also known in the local dialect as 'dolls' (Nukud), are attached to base fabric (see gallery) and were a traditional Hiiumaa handicraft through to the end of the 19th century.

Kuusk said: "The Vikings already used similar blankets, although they loved wool and used this on long sea voyages. Similar fabrics with rags attached were also used as 'boat blankets', and in general these were used in cold weather."

Such bedding could weigh up to 16kg, while the sick would not sleep under them, simply due to the sheer weight, Kuusk added.

Only two original 'boat blankets' are extant, one, in good condition, at a museum in Finland, the other, in a poorer state, at the Estonian National Museum (ERM).

Of the new version, work-in-progress, Kuusk said: "I'm hoping it will be ready around the end of August – we are looking for people who would be willing to try out sleeping under it outdoors, either on a boat or in a barn, who would then outline to us what it felt like, was it to rough, or itchy – in other words how might a 19th century person feel when they had to sleep under that type of blanket."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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