Posts Tagged ‘The Hanka Homestead’

Logistics for the Hanka Homestead Tour

July 11, 2021

I’ve had some questions about carpooling and lodging relevant to the special Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum Tour on Saturday, August 21. This evocative historic site is the setting for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge.

The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum is located in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Here’s a map.

Lodging is limited in the vicinity, so if you’re searching online for accommodations, you might need to cast a wider net than usual. The event doesn’t start until the afternoon, so you’ll have some time to travel that morning.

If you’re interested in attending and would like to share the driving with someone, let me know where you live and I’ll do what I can to help facilitate connections. For starters, a friend in the Madison, WI area is hoping to find a companion for the trip. Contact me if you can help.

For more information about this free program, visit my event registration page. It’s going to be an awesome afternoon!

Hanka Homestead Tour – Save The Date!

April 8, 2021

Would you like to explore the historic site featured in my 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge? I’m delighted to announce a special event for readers!

I invite you to join me on Saturday, August 21, 2021, at the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum in Pelkie, Michigan.

You’ll enjoy a view of the site from Chloe’s perspective. I look forward to showing you where the action took place, and chatting about how the story developed.

Plotting murder and mayhem on one of my research trips.

My special guest will be Alan Pape, who launched the monumental group effort to restore and preserve the abandoned Hanka buildings in the early 1980s. Alan served as restoration chief at Old World Wisconsin from 1971-1983, and has a special affinity for—and knowledge of—Finnish log structures. Hearing from Alan will be a rare treat!

Alan at work on one of the Hanka buildings, c. 1983.

And, experienced Hanka Homestead guides will be leading tours, telling stories about Finnish immigrants’ heritage and experiences, and showing you some special artifacts.

Oscar, one of the knowledgeable volunteers.

This event will be free. (Donations to the Homestead will be greatly appreciated.)

I’ll have more details later, but I wanted to give you a chance to plan ahead. The site is in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, with limited accommodations in the vicinity.

(Covid note: I’m proceeding with the expectation that conditions will be much better in August, but of course will keep an eye on the situation.)

Come see for yourself why I found the Hanka Homestead so inspiring!

Finnish Rag Rugs

March 11, 2021

Most Chloe Ellefson mysteries celebrate a folk art relevant for the featured ethnic group. When I chose to focus on Finnish immigrants in the 11th book, The Weaver’s Revenge, I wanted to spotlight the tradition of weaving rag rugs.

Practical weavers collected worn clothing, cut the fabric into strips, sewed the strips together, and used them as weft. Although this craft was widely practiced by people of different origins, scholars note that Finns have been most successful at maintaining the tradition.

Some “hit and miss” rag rugs reveal a largely random approach, with irregular pinstripes.

(The National Museum of Finland)

Historically, most American rugs were created this way. However, the skills Finnish weavers brought to the New World included color and design. The two examples below show controlled stripes and gorgeous palettes.

(The National Museum of Finland)
(The National Museum of Finland)

Many traditional weavers went further by creating more complicated designs, such as twill, rosepath, and tabby.

Rag rugs for sale in Puutori in Turku, Finland, 1955. (Finnish Heritage Agency)

The photo below provides a closer look at a spectacular rug.

(The National Museum of Finland)

In Chloe’s time—the 1980s—some scholars considered rag rugs too commonplace to warrant study. When I learned that, Chloe’s boss Ralph Petty popped to mind. In The Weaver’s Revenge, when Chloe wants to research both patterns and the social implications of Finnish American rag rug weaving in the Upper Midwest, Petty is not impressed:

“I told you not to waste time on that ridiculous proposal, did I not?”

“You did,” Chloe allowed, “but I still want to help the Rankinen interpreters by learning more about–”

“What’s there to learn? Rags were made into rugs. End of story.”

There was, of course, much more to the story. Finnish American immigrants wove rugs that were practical and beautiful. Weaving helped women cope—sometimes financially, sometimes emotionally. The practice was and remains an important aspect of cultural identity.

Loom at The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum

Most old rugs received hard use, so few have survived. The tradition, however, endures. Here are two recent prize-winning examples from Finnish country in northern Wisconsin.

And if you visit a site devoted Finnish heritage, it’s easy to imagine how much cheer these works of art brought to log homes.

Rug on display at Little Finland, Hurley, WI.

You can gain much more insight into the Finnish rug weaving tradition by reading the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge. Coming soon!

Why the Hanka Homestead?

February 25, 2021

Whenever I write a new Chloe Ellefson Mystery, I have the fun of choosing a new historic site or museum to feature in the book. The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum in Michigran’s Upper Peninsula provides the setting for the forthcoming 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge.

Click the image above for my video introduction to the site.

Readers are often curious about how I choose settings. It’s a complicated process, so let me share some of the reasons that this site reached the top of the list.

First, a potential setting must appeal to me on a personal level. Between researching and writing a book, I spend a lot of time—physically and mentally—in this space. My first visit to the homestead convinced me that I’d be happy immersing myself in this place and story. (And I knew Chloe would feel the same way.)

No matter how much I love a particular site, I can’t use it as a setting unless it has enough “geography” to support a murder mystery plot. I need room and opportunities to get characters into trouble. The Hanka property is remote, with no phone service. It includes ten buildings, including a couple of specific structures that hadn’t been featured in any earlier books. Perfect!

The Hankas were Finnish immigrants, so choosing this site allowed me to celebrate a new-to-the-series ethnic group. I was excited about the opportunity to shine a little lamplight on Finnish stories, heritage, and folk traditions.

Birchbark shoes on a woven rag rug.

At best, a Chloe Ellefson mystery represents a collaboration with site staff and local experts. I always talk with site hosts before committing to a book project. (If anyone expressed concern, I’d move on. It hasn’t happened yet.) The volunteers involved with the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum, and representatives from Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center, were enthusiastic about the idea. They’ve been extraordinarily helpful through the research and writing phase.

Some the energetic people who provided a warm welcome during my first visit to the homestead.
A private tour on a misty day. Evocative!

And, it was nice to spotlight a wonderful site that is run entirely by a small group of volunteers. Such people make the museum world go around!

As the series has progressed over the past decade, I’ve planned ahead, thinking a lot about where main characters Chloe and Roelke are in their emotional journey. I like to choose settings that permit the book’s plotlines to reflect challenges Chloe and Roelke are facing at that moment. In The Weaver’s Revenge, they’re trying to figure out exactly what their marriage will look like. I won’t share any spoilers here, but that broad issue is mirrored in a number of elements from the Hanka/Finnish story used in the novel.

The earliest museum brochure, about 1985, designed by Alan Pape.

Finally, I had an added bonus. The man who originally started the Hanka Homestead restoration/museum project, Alan Pape, was a former colleague who served as restoration chief at Old World Wisconsin from 1971-1983. He was generous with his memories, knowledge, photos, and other records from the 1980s when the restoration got underway. My mystery plot is fictional, of course, but Alan’s assistance made it possible for me to root it firmly in real events.

That’s me at the homestead with Alan, on the right, and Professor Emeritus William H. Tishler, another vernacular architecture expert. I spent a fun weekend with these two, cruising the backroads looking at old Finnish buildings and listening to their stories.

I hope you enjoy exploring the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum as much as I have!

The Weaver’s Revenge will be published this spring by Three Towers Press. I’ll let you know when it’s available!