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Finnish American Folk School

The Finnish American Folk School (FAFS) was founded in 2017 to promote Finnish folk arts and traditional skills and ensure that they thrive for generations to come. The Folk School is based in the Jutila Center Fiber Studio and the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock, Michigan. Following the announcement of the closure of Finlandia University in March 2023 the board of Finlandia Foundation National (FFN), a non-profit supporting Finnish culture in the United States, acted to assume responsibility for the many cultural assets of the university. The organization is now the caretaker of the Finnish American Heritage Center and its extensive archives and artifacts, the monthly Finnish American Reporter, the Finnish American Folk School, the Art Gallery, War Museum and North Wind Books store.

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We welcome workshop requests or proposals. Scholarships or assistantships are available. Please contact FAFS director Clare Zuraw with all questions, suggestions, or scholarship requests: To register please use the online registration link in each class description. If you have problems with our online registration system, please call 906-370-3722 or email.

If you feel sick or have been exposed to COVID-19 before a class or other event, please stay at home and contact us to arrange a refund. If the FAFS must cancel an event, registrants will be notified, and refunds will be issued. While masks are no longer required at all FAFS events, instructors may require participants to mask during their classes. Thank you for helping us to continue offering programs as safely as possible.

Upcoming Events 2024

Beginning Knitting II

Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Instructor: Clare Zuraw
Class fee: $25
Registration closes April 21 or when sold out
Click here to register

This workshop is for students who took Beginning Knitting I in January or March as well as anyone who already knows basic knit and purl stitches and are ready for review and some new skills. The workshop will briefly review the basics of casting on, casting off, knit stitch, and purl stitch. Then we will focus on troubleshooting, the basics of reading a simple knitting pattern, and resources for learning new skills. Yarn and needles for use during class will be provided for all participants. If you have your own materials you’d like to use, feel free to bring them along. Open to students ages 12 and up. Younger students are welcome if accompanied by a participating adult.

Knitting Lunch Hour

Tuesdays 12pm-1pm
Jutila Fiber Studio
Call 906-370-3722 or email for more information

Do you like to knit? Need feedback on your yarn choices? Want to learn new knitting tips and tricks socially from other knitters while on your lunch break? Join Finnish American Folk School director Clare Zuraw for a weekly knitting circle in our fiber studio. This is not a workshop! We’ll knit together, and Clare will be available for some light feedback during the hour, but there’s no lesson plan. Registration isn’t required – just show up with your knitting, a lunch, and maybe a friend. There’s no fee to participate, though if you find this to be an enriching experience donations the Folk School are always appreciated.

A Well-Dressed Loom

Saturday, May 4, 2024
Instructor: Phyllis Fredendall
Class fee: $50
Registration closes May 1 or when sold out
Click here to register

Plan, prepare and start a weaving project in this four-hour session.  You will wind a narrow warp and successfully dress a four-shaft table loom start to finish. This is a good refresher for lapsed or dormant weavers or an excellent introduction to weaving for beginners preparing for the upcoming ryijy workshop in June with Lisa Wiitala. After the workshop you will be able to weave a set of mug-rugs in open studio sessions on the loom you dressed. This workshop is open to students ages 15 and up. All students should bring a pair of scissors, reading glasses if you need them, and a sharp pencil. Workshop fee includes all other materials. 

Ryijy Weaving Workshop

Monday-Friday, June 17-21, 2024
10am-4pm EDT
(Studio access for loom warping Sat-Sun June 15-16)
Instructor: Lisa Wiitala
Class fee: $250
Materials fee: $50
Registration closes June 8 or when sold out

Learn how to weave a Finnish ryijy rug! With their plush, textured surface made from tufts of yarn, they’re as enjoyable to touch as they are to view. Students will use the traditional loom-woven method to create an approximately 12” square sample of their own design for use as a wall hanging. Topics covered will include design patterns, preparation of materials, color blending, knotting methods, edge treatment and finishing techniques. Students may use their own yarns or choose from a specifically allocated selection available in the studio for an additional fee of $50. Please bring scissors and reading glasses if you use them. 

This class is open to adult students who can independently warp a floor loom before the class begins. If you have not warped a loom before, or need a refresher, consider taking our Well Dressed Loom workshop on Saturday May 4. The looms used during the ryijy workshop will be made available to registered students on the weekend before the workshop so that you may wind your warp and dress your loom. All students should be ready to begin weaving on Monday morning. Please contact us with questions about preparing for this workshop.

The ryijy goes back centuries. First used as sleeping covers by Vikings and sailors, the earliest were made from plain, undyed wool. Later, they entered homes as bed covers and rugs, often woven to commemorate weddings. As wool became more widely available, they grew in popularity. By the 1900s, rigid design patterns were replaced by more abstract designs as well as a greater variety of yarns, turning them into textile art most often used as wall hangings today.

With a BA in biological sciences and an MA in secondary education, Lisa Wiitala taught high school science for many years before taking up weaving. As a fourth generation Finnish American, she was inspired to learn after acquiring her grandmother’s old floor loom. In keeping with her family history, her initial focus was rag rugs, later making the shift to ryijy. She has demonstrated for events including Heikinpäivä, FinnFest USA, and the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Scandinavia Day, and has studied advanced ryijy design and weaving in Finland.

Midsummer Jouhikko Gathering
June 20-23, 2024

The Finnish American Folk School in Hancock, Michigan is the place to be this summer if you’re interested in the jouhikko, the Finnish bowed lyre. Want to learn more? Join us for  3 ½ days of jouhikko playing workshops, bow making, an instrument tune-up clinic, and even a performance opportunity. These sessions are open to students ages 16 and up. Jouhikko playing is open to beginner through intermediate students. No experience is necessary to participate in the bow making workshop. You don’t need to have your own instrument, there will be a small number of instruments available for rent during the event. Questions? Email

We invite you to register for all events or select only those that most interest you. All events will take place in Hancock, Michigan, with specific locations to be communicated following registration. Be sure to check out our schedule for the week, with other midsummer events throughout the week and weekend. These include a ryijy weaving workshop, gallery opening, a Midsummer dance featuring Whitewater, and more. These events are made possible in part by support from the American Scandinavian Foundation.

Jouhikko Tune-Up Clinic / Workshop Placement / Opening Meet & Greet
Thursday, June 204-6pm
Cost: included in the registration fee for bow making & jouhikko playing workshops

Do you have a jouhikko that needs sprucing up to sound its best? Or maybe you’d like some tips on replacing your strings. Instrument maker Alice Margerum will offer advice, and demonstrate making synthetic strings, as well as checking the pegs and bridges on instruments brought by students. If you have lost your bridge, new bridges will be available for $5 each and Alice will help you fit it to your instrument. Registered players who don’t have an instrument of their own are welcome to join us to observe.

While Alice assists students with their instruments, playing instructor Clare Zuraw will briefly meet each student registered in the jouhikko playing workshops to determine whether they should be in playing group A or B based on their experience with jouhikko. This is also a great opportunity to meet and chat with other jouhikko fans in a relaxed setting.

Traditional Jouhikko Bow Making Workshop
Two sessions:
Friday, June 21, 12-4pm
Sunday, June 23, 12-4pm

Instructor: Alice Margerum
Cost: $80 (includes materials)

In the summer of 2022, Alice worked with the Finnish master luthier, Rauno Nieminen to make a jouhikko and traditional bow. The kind of bow we will be making is based on a talharpa bow that is now in the Scenkonstmuseet collection (Performing Arts Museum) in Sweden. These will be made from bent saplings. This does not require much strength and no woodworking experience is needed. All materials will be provided. During the first session we will choose, prepare and bend the sticks. During the second session we will adjust them and string them with horsehair. At the end of the two sessions, each student should have a usable traditional bow that they made themselves. 

Jouhikko Playing Group A
Two sessions:
Friday, June 21, 9-11am
Saturday, June 22, 1-3pm

Instructor: Clare Zuraw
Cost: $50
Instrument rental (limited supply): $10 for the duration of the Gathering (June 20-23) with a security deposit of $300 that will be refunded upon the safe return of the instrument and bow. Must be reserved in advance, will be allocated in the order requests are received. CLICK HERE TO REQUEST AN INSTRUMENT RENTAL

Jouhikko Playing Group A will start instruction at the very beginning, focusing on how to hold the instrument and bow, how to tune the strings, and how to play basic rhythms and the beginning of a simple melody. No musical experience is necessary. For those who already own an instrument, we will be playing as a group in E-A-D tuning and your instrument must be tuned in the same way if you wish to actively participate and get the most out of the workshop.

Jouhikko Playing Group B
Two sessions:
June 21, 6-8pm
Saturday, June 22, 9-11am
Instructor: Clare Zuraw
Cost: $50
Instrument rental (limited supply): $10 for the duration of the Gathering (June 20-23) with a security deposit of $300 that will be refunded upon the safe return of the instrument and bow. Must be reserved in advance, will be allocated in the order requests are received. CLICK HERE TO REQUEST AN INSTRUMENT RENTAL

Jouhikko Playing Group B will focus on students who already have some experience playing the instrument and are ready for the next steps. The content will be developed to meet the specific needs of students in attendance but will include both bowing and melody instruction. For those who already own an instrument, we will be playing as a group in E-A-D tuning and your instrument must be tuned in the same way if you wish to actively participate and get the most out of the workshop.

Closing Jam
Sunday, June 23 – 5pm
Join instructors, students, and maybe even a few special guests to gather one last time to socialize and play some tunes as a group. This event is open to all registered players.

Alice Margerum has been handcrafting carefully-researched reconstructions of musical instruments for more than 20 years. In 2010, she received a PhD in Historical Musicology from London Metropolitan University. Although she primarily makes medieval stringed instruments, most notably harps, Dr. Margerum has recently been doing research into Nordic and Baltic-region bowed lyres and Finnish brass-strung kanteles. In 2016, as a practical part of this research (and thanks to a grant from Finlandia Foundation National), Dr. Margerum went to the Ilomantsin kanteleleiri & soitinrakennuskurssi (the Ilomantsi kantele camp and instrument building course) to learn the essentials of making and playing the traditional Finnish bowed lyre, the jouhikko. Subsequently, she gave a course in jouhikko making at the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College and a jouhikko-building weekend at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock, MI. In the summer of 2023 (thanks to a grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation), Dr. Margerum worked with Dr. Rauno Nieminen, the world expert in bowed-lyre making with more than 45 years of experience and examined several 19th-century bowed lyres and brass-strung kanteles in museums. Dr. Margerum looks forward to building instruments informed by this recent research.

Clare Zuraw is a musician and educator based in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula and current director of the Finnish American Folk School. Beginning in 2016, with support from the Finlandia Foundation National, Clare began formally studying the jouhikko, a traditional bowed horsehair lyre with roots in the Karelian region of eastern Finland. As a 2019 recipient of the American Scandinavian Foundation Folk Arts and Cultural Traditions artist fellowship, Clare traveled to Finland to study jouhikko playing with masters Ilkka Heinonen, Rauno Nieminen, Päivi Hirvonen, Tytti Mëtsa, Outi Pulkkinen, and Lassi Logrén. She continues to study the instrument online with Lassi Logrén today. Clare has performed and taught jouhikko at Finnish American venues in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Michigan, and online.

Midsummer Dance with Whitewater

Saturday, June 22, 2024 – 6-8:30pm ET

Dean and Bette Premo, Carrie and Susan Dlutkowski, and Dave Harmon will come together as the band White Water for a special performance at the Midsummer/Juhannus Dance at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock, Michigan.

Dean and Bette Premo formed the band White Water in 1984. Music brought them together when they were in college and has been an important part of their life together ever since. Their welcoming style invites every audience member to richly experience folk and traditional music. For nearly 15 years virtuoso fiddler/dancer Carrie Dlutkowski has been a musical force with White Water. Carrie’s mother Susan (piano) and father Dave Harmon (bass and bones) are also frequent White Water collaborators. This quintet delights in playing traditional Finnish dance tunes. On occasion, they will teach and play a called folk dance.

Bette and Dean are long-time activists for performing arts in the Upper Peninsula. Founders and hosts of the long running Second Sunday Folk Dance series, their latest musical endeavor is the Northwoods Music Collaborative (a not-for-profit organization that sponsors Beethoven and Banjos and other music productions in public venues and schools in the U.P.).