Just Visited My 100 Year Old Aunt and Her Bear In Finland!

This post was originally written in Sept 2014.
There is a current update further down this page. 

Hello friends!

It's been a while since I've updated  Amigurumi To Go but it's with good reason because I left Canada and went to Finland! I just returned home on the 17th and I have been fighting a bad case of jet lag. The 10 hour time difference takes a few days to adjust to but I'm happy to say that last night I managed to sleep through for the first time in 3 days, wahoo! I'm feeling more normal today :)

The picture above is my Great Aunt Katri, she is my grandfather's sister and my father's aunt. She is the reason I went to Finland. She asked me to come to see her now because she will be 101 years old in December of this year and she said her time here on earth will end soon.

However, she still lives on her own, taking care of herself and she even gardens still. Her voice is SO strong and she laughs a lot. She is full of good humor! I see now where my father gets it all from. Nobody knows when their time is up and after my visit there I wouldn't be surprised if she lives on for years to come! But I am so thankful and feel so honored that I was able to spend time with her. I love you Aunt Katri!
My daughter Gracie made Katri this drawing.  I took this photo, it was a joyful day!

That bear she is sitting with in the first picture  is the one I made her a couple years ago. At the time I made the bear I never thought that one day I would walk into her home and see it there sitting in her living room. After all Finland is so far from home!

What fun for me to see her hold it in person! I remember the day I tucked it inside a box and sent it off to her. I was so excited and she had no idea it was coming, haha and when it arrived it made her so very happy!

To make the large bear I used a pattern I found online, called Beautiful Nightmare.
I held a foxy yarn and a worsted weight yarn together and made some minor adjustments.

I also crocheted the little pouch to keep the tiny bear inside it. It's made up of  2 separate rounds placed together that I crocheted around to close up, obviously leaving space for the bear.  And a simple chain for the strap.

 I can't totally remember what I did to make the tiny bear. It looks like I shrunk down the large one using thread and a tiny hook so probably used most of the large bear pattern and then winged some parts along to make the feet they way they are, the tummy patch, and so on. It looks like I made paws too.. I believe I would have just sewed them flat then stitched through both sides to create separate digits. Hopefully that all makes sense.

Update March 2020:
My aunt lived on until this year. There is one final video taken of her on her 106th birthday, she's reciting a poem, in Finnish, to a priest who came to her party. If you're on facebook, you can view it here

I feel extremely blessed that I was able to have a relationship with her. I will paste below the post I wrote the day she left us.

Written on January 16th 2020

On December 6th 2019 my Great Aunt Katri turned 106 yrs old. She had a beautiful celebration with her family and friends. Amazingly she was living on her own still.

At the end of December she fell in her home and injured her back. She was taken to the hospital and they gave pain medication and some rehab but the injury kept her from walking. She developed pneumonia and just a few hours ago she passed away.

She was born Dec 6th 1913 and left us on Jan 16 2020.

If you look at my cover photo (talking about my fb cover, I put the picture below)  you will see a tiny Gnome. I put that up at the end of December. I already knew then that my beautiful Aunt was on her final journey.

That is the gnome I needle felted to life in 2015 after my trip to Finland. I named her Aunt Katri.

It was a dream of mine all my life to go to Finland and meet my father's aunts as they were the last living siblings to my Grandfather. I knew it would mean the world to my Dad if I could get there. He talked of them often, it was his dream too.

When I was just a young girl there were 3 of my father's aunts alive in that family, all very old. By the time I got to Finland there was just one of my great aunt's alive and that was dear Aunt Katri.

I'll never forget walking into her house, there she stood waiting to greet me. I couldn't believe how much her face was the same as my Dad's face. I felt immediately at home, a connection, and so much love!

She was so strong, at that time already 100 years old. She made me porridge and wonderful coffee. I sat at her table, the 2 of us eating together, and realized I was living my dream! How grateful I felt that day and it remains one of my favorite memories. She played the organ for me, recited poems, had the best laugh. I was honored to call her my Aunt.

To pass the time on my 13 hour flight back to Canada I thought up stories and characters for my little tree stump I had built.. it sounds a bit crazy but I do build little homes, tree houses for gnomes and mice that I create.

That's when I thought up the gnome Aunt Katri. Then I could have Aunt Katri with me and she would go on many adventures in Canada! I was excited about that and couldn't wait to get started.

Aunt Katri enjoyed these stories and photos a lot. And she was made famous though my facebook page, Where The Gnomes Live. So many people around the world got to know my real Aunt Katri and they loved her too!

On her birthdays she would get hundreds of good wishes from all over the world. I would post the tiny gnome and always say who she was and why I made her.

I am forever grateful for my Aunt. She was an amazing, beautiful, strong lady. I will never forget the memories I was able to make with her. I will continue on with my stories and Aunt Katri will be with us forever.

Some facts about the Gnome Home,

The original home, pictured with my Dad below, started off as a small wooden dollhouse I was given in 2012. In 2014 I transformed it into a small tree stump for my little Gnomes to live in. And then in 2016 it began to grow! It kept growing into the large house you see below.

 I've since torn it down and started over again. I have reasons for that, and one of them being,  I was sentimentally attached to the tiny wooden house I started off with.

I had built around it with cardboard, foil, masking tape, paper towels and lots of glue.

This is a process for fake bark that I've been sharing with the world since 2013. You can see the the before and after pictures on fb here.

Some people are sad when they hear it's gone but I'm currently rebuilding it bigger and better than before and with better views into the inside.

In my craft room is actually a forest that I'm working on. It's large with a number of homes like you see below.

A constant work in progress, it'll be another year or 2 before it's done. If you're interested in this miniature world, follow my other facebook page , or my  instagram. Then there's my other blog  too www.SharonOjala.com

Below is an old video tour of my original Gnome Home that was still a work in progress at that time. 
I hope you enjoy!

Just think before you view, the tiny Gnome Katri, the very large home my little tree stump became, the countless fantasy stories I've told over the years, the new forest I'm building, was from being inspired by that one visit with my Aunt in 2014. I'm so grateful.

I love you Aunt Katri!

Thanks for stopping by, lots of love to you all!


  1. I love seeing your great aunt and hearing about how happy and strong she is. Surely all that positivity helps keep her young and healthy. Still, glad you got to spend some special time with her. What an honor.

    1. it was an honor..
      the timing was perfect for both my families here in Canada and there in Finland. It was meant to be and I was there at the right time. I'll never forget it!
      It's just awesome :)

  2. Thank you. For sharing your beautiful Auntie with all of your students or fans. What a beautiful woman, I mean that. I can see how the gene has been passed onto you. She doesn't even look 60 and from the sound of it she is mentally a young woman. I didn't realize you lived in Canada too. I live in Ontario in a lovely community near Midland ON. I am 80 but not as fortunate as your Auntie. I can still use my hands to knit and crochet. I can also do crewel embroidery, plus ordinary embroidery. I am very content but I do miss being able to use my sewing room which my husband had built for me. I miss doing my fabric art and sewing for the family but I feel lucky to have my wonderful son as my caregiver. My other son lives in Barrie but comes up on week ends to visit and help around the house. At the moment I just crochet Amigurumi, I can hardly wait to get going on it everyday. Thank you so much for everything you do. You are an angel.

    1. Hi Dorothy!

      Thank you so much for the kind words, I appreciate it very much.

      Yes, I was born in Kapuskasing Ontario and then moved here to BC when I was 4 yrs old and have remained here ever since.
      It was amazing to visit my roots in Finland and see all the family history there. My aunt is the last remaining closest relation I have so I am blessed to have been able to spend time with her.
      I do have bunches of cousins ranging from very old to very young there. Most of the young ones speak English now since Finland teaches all students English as a 2nd language starting in primary. I was amazed by that! And many of the radio stations play English music, lol It was nice to hear as I traveled about.

      Crewel embroidery is beautiful. Hats off to you for doing that. I want to try it sometime in the future. I seen some instructional videos on youtube so maybe that will be my next venture in crafting. I want to make my daughter some keepsakes for when she's older.

      I'm so happy to hear that you still enjoy knit, crochet and embroidery. I think having at least one thing we can look forward to doing and making with our own hands is so important for our health and happiness and you still do a variety of things so this is very good. Keep up the good work!

      Thank you for the lovely message, I enjoyed it very much.
      Talk soon!

      Sharon xo

  3. Ha tenido que ser un viaje muy emocionante . Seguro que siempre tendrĂ¡s un maravilloso recuerdo.


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