Folk singing groups began performing in Soviet Lithuania in 1968, but it is probably not a coincidence that knitters and weavers started to reproduce traditional costumes for performances in 1986, just two years after Mikhail Gorbachev came into power and one year after Glasnost and Perestroika were initiated. Even with the increased amount of freedom, singing was used as a form of nonviolent protest against the Soviet regime, only allowed because it ostensibly had nothing to do with politics. Folk singing groups kept young people occupied. “They aren’t doing anything dangerous,” the thinking went. “What harm could there be in singing?”
Ironically, the peaceful revolution that eventually led to Lithuania’s renewed independence in 1991 is now known as “the singing revolution.”
Today, national song and dance troupes—as well as many textile artists and researchers— continue to spin, weave, sew, and knit to create the garments and accessories of the Lithuanian national costume. Not only made and worn by performers, beaded wrist warmers are among most popular knitted items in Vilnius.
Walking through the streets, you spy them for sale by women selling their wares on street corners, at booths in the tourist market, and in upscale folk- art galleries.