Stitch & Bitch in Taivalkoski

Stitch & Bitch in Taivalkoski

In Finland's oldest shop we met amazing locals, ate homemade cake, looked at a thousand different bits & bobs and joined a local knitting club around the big table at Jalavan kauppa. This adventure was slow, local and personal, creating a real connection with a place and its villagers. 

 Welcome to the oldest shop in Finland! 

Welcome to the oldest shop in Finland! 

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This post was made possible with help from the Slow Adventure in the Northern Territories (SAINT) project. Read more about our fantastic new sponsor here!  Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are our own.

Taivalkoski municipality and town

Taivalkoski is a municipality and a town in the north of Finland. It's surrounded by the ever present pine forest and the town of Taivalkoski feels very remote and quiet. The only disturbing sound comes from local cars. Everyone drives and that makes sense when you get to know the long distances in the North of Finland. Everything is at least a 20 minute drive away. Our 10 min walk to the train (back home) does not seem so inconvenient now. Like everybody else, we traveled to Taivalkoski by car. Starting in the neighboring municipality of Kuusamo, we aimed for lunch at the cozy shop Jalavan kauppa in the town of Taivalkoski.

Both the buildings in the town of Taivalkoski, and the shop itself, are very traditional and old. It's quite unique in the north of Finland, as most of the buildings were burned during the second world war. The reason for this is that the Nazis used the old store as a headquarters and when the war ended they left the place unburned. 

 Taivalkoski town

Taivalkoski town

Jalavan kauppa -  The oldest shop in Finland

The shop is ran by the 5th generation of the travelling Karelian merchant (Stephan Jakowleff and his first wife Hedvig) who founded the shop in 1883. Half museum and shop, half cafe; the place has a traditional feel. It's warm and welcoming - like getting a hug from the past.

It is open all year round and entry is free in the opening hours.
Opening hours:  Tuesday-Saturday: 9.00 – 17.00 Sunday: 11.00 – 15.00

Since the early days of trade with rubles, marks and animal hides, Jalava has been a busy shop and a gathering place for local villagers and visitors from all over the world! Today Mikko and his wife Laura work as the managers of the store, proudly maintaining a piece of living history in the middle of the Finnish forest. 

Welcomed by the locals 

As we explored the assortment of things for sale, and drank tea and coffee, we spotted that a knitting club was building up nearby. Thea asked one of them about local patterns and was promptly invited to join them! She brought her knitting in from the car and took a seat. As the group grew, we moved to the main room for a bigger table.
The scene came alive as the sounds and stories from the group of ladies escalated - it seemed part of the building's long standing atmosphere. The oldest and keenest lady had bright, alive eyes and laughed at the slightest gesture. Everyone felt her energy as her fingers rattled the needles.

Tip from a local lady: "Don't bring a very complicated project. Its too hard chatting away and reading patterns at the same time. I actually finished the heel on my sock at home before I left, that way it's only easy knitting when I'm here!" 

The ladies shared ideas and gave feedback - all working on their own projects. A young pregnant lady had her own knitting blog, and her and Thea discussed blogging, knitting and slow adventure at some length. It turned out that the younger lady used to work for an outdoor clothing and equipment company called Savotta, and she showed Mark some of their instagram pictures.

Mark really liked the look of some of their ruck sacks, and she mentioned that she used to sew for them. Never to miss an opportunity, the owner pipped up - "I have one of those in the back if you'd like a look".

Within minutes Mark was the proud owner of a new Finnish made Savotta Backpack, bought in a traditional Finnish shop.

Stitch and Bitch in Finland

Combining a hobby like knitting with a local experience was really rewarding. We met new friends and were inspired (Thea is now villahakablogi's biggest fan) by the energy of the knitting ladies. If you are a knitter (or just a chatter, with a few needles and som yarn) this amazing knitting club meets on Fridays at two o clock at the old shop (check with the Jalavan kauppa Facebook page) and they were excited by the idea that more knitting travelers would bump into their little club. If you are not a knitter this place is still worth a visit as the old shop is a time capsule back in time and a great place for homemade cake and delicious coffee and rucksacks. Their website is: http://jalavankauppa.fi/en/home/

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We'd like to thank SAINT, the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, and the European Union for their support in making this post happen!
The SAINT project: www.saintproject.eu