Latvian Braid (Make Mittens in Spring and Summer)
I’m quite sure that no other culture has handknitted mittens so deeply embedded into its community as does Latvia.
We have two different books on this captivating subject and, besides the obvious similarities, they are distinctly different from - and augment - each other.
Maruta Grasmane’s Mittens of Latvia is the newer of the two, in a handsome hardcover edition. There are 178 different designs - representing five mitten-producing districts. Each mitten’s chart is on the lefthand page, with a photo of the finished mitten on the righthand page (you can see a sample of this on our website). You receive a wealth of motifs, plus some historical information, but there are no instructions or techniques other than the charts. For those - please see the title listed below.
Latvian Mittens by master-knitter Lizbeth Upitis, was the very first book of its kind; originally published by Dos Tejedoras in 1981. The author - as an adult - actually learned to speak, read, and write Latvian and the book is presented in both English and Latvian. It was (and is) a seminal work.
Besides the stunning mittens - from four specific Latvian districts - Lizbeth’s technical specifications are invaluable: precise drawings and verbal instructions cover every construction detail to enable you to produce these authentic woollen works of art.
One of the most intricate and complex-looking techniques is Latvian Braid. If you have not yet tried it, please watch the accompanying video (above). I’m sure you will find it much simplier than you imagine.
And wait until you read the first two chapters about both the plight of Latvia under five decades of Soviet domination—and the spellbinding details of the country’s traditional marriage rites. Girls began to prepare for their wedding day around the age of 6, in order to have between 100 and 200 pairs of mittens stashed in their dowry chests. And the knitting-songs... some are amusing; some complaining; some very touching:
“I was knitting for my loved one
Colored mittens bright and warm.
Fine designs put all around them.
In the middle—my own heart.”
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