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LOOKING BACK: Treasured Finnish loom soon to be on display

A mid-summer event June 11 will feature this and other keepsakes representative of the culture
Bertha Solderholm worked at her floor loom in the basement of her Webster’s Corners home in 1971. (Maple Ridge Museum & Archives No. #P01801/Special to The News)

by Melissa Rollit/Special to The News

Lots of changes are coming to the Maple Ridge Museum.

And, with updates being made to the permanent gallery, it seemed an opportune time to bring out an oversized treasure from the museum’s offsite storage.

The upcoming temporary addition to the space is a Finnish floor loom that belonged to Bertha Soderholm (nee Maki), one of many Finns who settled in Webster’s Corners.

She arrived in Maple Ridge, along with her family, in 1928. At the time she was only 10 years old. The family lived on a farm up on 264th Street, where they were kept busy raising chickens.

The loom was handmade in the 1940s and well used by Bertha Soderholm, who was a skilled weaver.

Weaving was a common pastime for the Finns, and there was rarely a Finnish home that was not adorned by traditional Finnish rag rugs. These types of rugs used ordinary unwanted materials and turned them into something new.

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As the name suggests, rag rugs are made from rags, old clothes, or any other kind of textiles. These were cut into inch wide strips and then woven to create eye-catching rugs, often with geometric patterns.

Bertha made many of these rugs, giving them away as gifts to add a cheerful pop of colour to the homes of her friends and family.

Two of Bertha’s rugs are currently on display in the museum’s new temporary exhibit, Sisu: Finnish Resilience in Webster’s Corners.

Both were woven on the loom soon to be on display. One is a traditional rag rug made with old textiles, and the other rug was made using upcycled plastic bread bags, illustrating her weaving skills and thrifty ingenuity. This is certainly a skill she learnt from her mother, Johanna Maki, who also used unlikely materials in her weaving.

Displayed next to Bertha’s rugs in the museum is a rug woven by her mother that was made with unravelled chicken feed jute bags – a material she likely had in excess due to the family’s chicken farm.

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The wooden floor loom was donated to the museum in the 1990s.

Due to its size, the loom arrived at the museum deconstructed, ensuring that it fit into the museum’s storage.

However, after all these years and with no instruction manual, it is quite a daunting task to reassemble it. Luckily for museum staff, Bertha’s son, Melvin, still lives in the area and has graciously offered a helping hand.

Available to view until early July, the loom will be assembled just in time for the museum’s upcoming Midsummer event. Happening on Saturday, June 11 – from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – this free event includes tours of our new exhibit, and activities such as making flower crowns, playing the Finnish lawn game Molkky, sampling pulla, and learning some traditional dance moves.

– Melissa Rollit is the curator of the Maple Ridge Museum & Archive


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