England, Lithuania, and Knitting

Originally posted 3/10/2010

Are you tired of these topics yet? I hope not, because I will probably be writing about them all year, with a few diversions into other parts of Europe, the joys and pains of friendship and love, the writing process, and odds and ends that latch onto my brain and won’t let go if I don’t give them space on the page somewhere.

But today I will stick to three of my most pressing obsessions: England, Lithuania, and Knitting.

The best things, they say, come in small packages. For me that’s definitely been true lately. I’ve received two packages of knitting treasures in the mail. And you can guess from whence they came.

From Lithuania I received a packet with a skein of hand-spun wool yarn and a pair of hand-knit beaded wrist warmers, or riešinės. Both were made by Aldona Suneviciene, who runs a lovely shop on etsy.com.

England, Lithuania, and Knitting 1

Riešinės have been popular in Lithuania for a long time, at least since the mid-19th century. They’ve had a recent surge in popularity due to the publication of a book of patterns by designer Irena Juškienės. A quick google search for images shows up pages and pages of lovely photos.

Juškienės’s book focuses on the garter-stitch beaded style of wrist warmer, but may other knitting techniques were used to create these little accessories in the past, including lace, colorwork, cables, and simple knitted ribbing, as well as crochet. Today, felting is incredibly popular in Lithuania, and there are many designers creating gorgeous felted riešinės.

If you want to make a pair of riešinės, I’ll be re-starting my Lithuanian Wrist Warmers Twitter-Knit-a-Long this week! You don’t need to be a member of Twitter to follow along. I’ll post a direct link when I restart the KAL which was put on hold because of the Knitting Olympics.

I didn’t receive a package from England, but a package that came to me from Portland, Oregon contained a collection of Victorian knitting books that had been owned by Dorothy Reade. (Two of the books are German, the rest are English.)

England, Lithuania, and Knitting 2

Dorothy Reade, who is the subject of my upcoming book, Successful Lace Knitting, was charting Victorian knitting patterns in the 1950s and 60s. Today, with the publication of Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby, the new editions of the Weldon’s Practical Needlework books by Interweave Press, and popular workshops on reading and knitting from Victorian patterns, it seems like everyone is interested in this esoteric topic. But in the middle of the twentieth century, Dorothy Reade was perhaps the only designer interested in updating these beautiful, but cryptic, patters for contemporary American knitters.

I would like to give my sincere thanks to Dorothy Reade’s daughter, Donna Nixon, for her amazing generosity in sharing her time, information, and photos with me for my upcoming book, and for trusting these vintage books into my care.

That’s it for today. I have a list of things to blog about, but if you want to hear from me more frequently, follow me on Twitter or facebook.

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