Mother’s winning needlework in ‘71

Karen Wickheim in approximately 1915, before she was married and came to Sooke. (Photo contributed by Sooke Region Museum)

Karen Wickheim in approximately 1915, before she was married and came to Sooke. (Photo contributed by Sooke Region Museum)

As our region began to receive immigrants from European and Asian countries who joined with the long-resident First Nations in appreciating this beautiful land, our coastal population became a conglomeration of ethnic backgrounds.

My parents were among those immigrants – though not early arrivals, they came to Sooke from Norway in 1922, amongst a wave of immigrants who left Europe looking for a new world after the “Great War.”

The earliest immigrants, who often found life mates within the region’s First Nations were typically Scots and Brits, along with French Canadian voyageurs, but other nations became part of the influx as well.

Michael and Karen Wickheim settled in Saseenos, living at first in a tent, and gradually hewing a small farm out of the west coast forest.

My mother, Karen, had been raised in northern Norway where her father was a schoolteacher. Besides her lifelong interest in literacy, she developed skills in fine needlework and her nimble fingers continued to produce needlework and knitting for her family until her passing at the age of 97.

The accompanying photo of Karen, who grew up in the Narvik region of northern Norway, was probably taken about 1915, before she was married and came to Canada.

The style of traditional costuming that women wore often took its name from the valley where the family lived.

The style of cutwork embroidery that gained its name from the region known as Hardangerfjord eventually became recognized as Norway’s traditional dress and in this photo she is wearing Hardanger.

With her Sooke family participating in the annual Fall Fair, my mother decided to create a Hardanger national dress to enter in the needlecraft section.

The Sooke Mirror dated September 14, 1971, reads: “Most outstanding entry in needlecraft – a $10.00 cash prize donated by Sooke & North Sooke Women’s Institute – Mrs. K. Wickheim.”

Eventually, this costume was given to her granddaughter Kathy Peers, who was a member, along with her husband Olav, of the Eidsvold Sons of Norway Lodge in Victoria.

The couple has long been part of their Leikarring Dance team, performing for many years.

This costume, fragile now from much wear, is to be a special exhibit at the 2018 Sooke Fall Fair, and then will be placed in its permanent home at the Sooke Region Museum.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.