22 Sep 2010

FALL COLORS: Lithuanian National Costume

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or, what is different and unique about Lithuanian knitting?

This post is late, and so is my post about socks and stockings! But I’ve been in Geneva knitting and spinning and writing and exploring flea markets and working on things for my day job, and best of all, hanging with friends. So I’m not apologizing. But here’s the first part of what I have to say about the Lithuanian National Costume.

Whenever I mention “Lithuanian knitting,” someone asks me,

What makes the knitting in Lithuania unique?

Is it special stitches that are used, like the nupps in Estonian lace?

Do the knitters hold the yarn and needles in an unusual way, like they way they tension the yarn around their necks in Peru?

Do they make a type of garment or use an interesting construction that’s not used anywhere else, like Albanian double socks or Bosnian sock toes?

Is there some special signature that can immediately identify knitting from Lithuania?

As always with questions about Lithuania, no answer is a simple “yes” or “no.” Yes, there are some unusual stitches, techniques, and garment constructions used in Lithuania. But no, they are not utterly unique to that country.

The main thing that identifies traditional Lithuanian knitting is that the items made by knitters in the past have become part of what is recognized today as the National Costume of Lithuania. (Even that is an oversimplification, since the “national” costume differs by region!)

So what, exactly, is a national costume? And what parts of the costume in Lithuania are knitted?

In the article National Costumes on the Samogitian Cultural Association website, Antanas TamoŇ°aitis wrote that Lithuanian National Costume refers to “The traditional apparel made in the home and most frequently seen in Lithuania in the middle of the 19th century‚Ķ now worn only as representative dress by women on major national holidays and by members of folk dance ensembles and choruses.”

And we will explore that definition, as well as the ways that knitting fit into this type of wardrobe, in my next post. In October I’ll write about some of the techniques and stitches that seem to be unique to, or at least very popular in, Lithuanian traditional knitting.

Now, I have to go pack. I’m going to Rome for a few days and I am officially on vacation until next week!

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