Posted on 26 Feb 2007 by Donna
I am half Lithuanian, so when I saw a book on Lithuanian knitting on the Internet, I wanted to buy it right away. The only problem was that I could only find one place selling the book, and no-one there spoke any English. I kept searching on the web, and finally found a copy on E-bay. There was no “buy now” button, so I placed my bid and crossed my fingers, hoping that no-one would outbid me at the last minute. I was lucky, and two weeks later Lietuvininku Pirstines (Gloves of Lithuania Minor) by Irena Regina Merkiene and Marija Pautieniute-Banioniene was delivered to my front door. There are several books about knitting from the Baltic countries of Latvia and Estonia, but I had never seen a book about Lithuanian knitting before. The book I discovered is filled with charts and photos of gloves and mittens that were made in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as a treasury of stories about the history of knitting in Lithuania and the surrounding areas. (I have since discovered several other books about the Lithuanian National Costume that include information about knitted accessories.) Shortly after purchasing Lietuvininku Pirstines, I was invited to teach a knitting workshop in England at Woolfest, an annual event similar to the Estes Park Wool Market. It turned out that June Hall, the organizer of the event is also Lithuanian and she has invited Lithuanian folk knitters to teach at Woolfest in the past. You can see some photos of the Lithuania knitting and download a podcast about last year’s Woolfest from the BritKnitCast website. June travels frequently to Lithuania to work with knitters and spinners who are establishing a cottage industry to sell hand-knitted Lithuanian accessories. You can read about her work at the Lithuania Link website. June recently sent me a package with four pairs of Lithuanian mittens, and I hope to be able to create a market to sell hand made items from Lithuania in the US.
Although sweaters are made in Lithuania today, they were not part of the traditional clothing worn by women or men. Gloves and mittens, however, have been very important in traditional Lithuanian culture for centuries. In the cold climate of Lithuania, mittens do a much better job at keeping hands and fingers warm, but gloves were used to celebrate the major passages in life. Made with striped ribbing and multiple color patterns on the cuffs, hands, and fingers, the festive designs were given as gifts and blessings to family members and loved ones.