04 November, 2007

(Knitting) Down memory lane

When we were Russia (the USSR) in the mid-80s, we went to Helsinki, Finland several times.

We spent most of our time in Helsinki shopping at Stockmann's -- for everything from food to snowsuits to dishes. It was wonderful -- we just took our items to the counter, told the clerk to send them to the "export" division, and our purchases were put on the train and sent down to Moscow.

Our kids were little, and we stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel where the hotel maids put lots of chocolates on their pillows at night! Stockmann's was such an integral part of the expat/diplomatic life in Moscow that children often thought that "Stockmann's" was the capital of Finland.

We never had the chance to do much sightseeing in Helsinki iteself, but I once managed to get downtown to a store that had wools for weaving and knitting. I had noticed that everywhere everyone seemed to be knitting mittens! That started my love for mittens, and I bought some lovely Finnish fingering weight knitting wool - Pirkkalanka fingerweight.

During the same period, we had a lovely December train trip to Tallin, Estonia, where I saw even more beautiful mittens. And then Lipbeth Upitis's book, Latvian mittens was published, and I was hooked forever.

The Pirkkalanka that I still have left after 20+ years is fine: it looks good, smells nice, and is ready to go! I have just found a shop in Helsinki on line that still carries the wool, so I'm hoping to order a color card to see what colors I "might" need.

Lizbeth Upitis started quite an interest in stranded and geometric patterns with her Latvian mittens: others, like Nancy Bush ,have published patterns in Piecework and Interweave Knits magazines. There just isn't enough time though to make all the lovely ones!

There are also bi-lingual Finnish knitting blogs where one can see examples of Finnish patterns, the "newly" popular Selbu patterns with a book about them, and of course, there are blogs with Norwegian mitten patterns.