Sunday, September 26, 2010

Estonian Lace

I bought a book and fell in love, Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush.

I'm not sure why this heritage of lace appeals to me more than other types of lace. I just love the way the stitches curve this way and that to form the wavy lily of the valley fronds. Perhaps because it's a more regular pattern rather than something that keeps changing patterns as in fancy Shetland lace shawls, but still provides some serious technical attention span requirements during its creation. (Great for someone highly distractible like me).

Lace shawls are like spinning wheels; I am caught between the attraction to something novel and new; and something old and traditional with time-tested appeal. I love Anne's genius and beautiful shawl designs, and yet I crave being near something with direct history. I love the look (but have never tried) the look of newer spinning wheels like the Bee, but I'm also fascinated with a great wheel. But then I guess, I can appreciate both the old and the new for what they offer. And yes, when it comes to lace shawls, most new designs are based on old patterns; but there's nothing like knowing you're coming fairly close to something that a hard working impoverished woman knit for some needlepointing rich lady a century ago. (Oops, no offense meant if you needlepoint; I used to and wish I had the time and the vision to continue with it).

So my first almost FO from Nancy's book is Triangular Summer Shawl. I'm not done with the lace edge (sewn on) yet. It's my handspun, incredibly enough. By accident I found a nice wool roving at Wild Fibre in Savannah that goes with my default spinning technique quite nicely. This is my second shawl from handspun, the first is a little well, uh, chunky...

This is a newer designed pattern according to Nancy, published in 1983 in Triinu magazine. Triinu was a women's magazine, founded to bridge Estonian culture for women who had managed to emigrate out of the country.

Why is it that I take 40 shots-in-bathroom-mirror-which-knitters-do with my dominant right hand, they all s___, then switch to my left and I get a decent one in the first 5?? Is it a right brain thing? A left brain thing? I ain't bothering to look that one up...

I am simultaneously reading Purge by Sofi Okansen, translated by the writer of this lovely blog. It's the story of two women, and reflects the extraordinarily difficult history of Estonia:

In the last 100 years, Estonia won it's independence from the Russian Empire in 1920, only to be reinvaded by the Soviet Union during World War II, then the Third Reich, then (was there any doubt??) back to the Soviet Union in 1944. Estonia regained it's independence in 1991, after a blood free revolution, very unusual for one small country trying to crawl out from under Soviet dominance, along with other Baltic and Slavic nations.

Purge's story shifts time frames, but the primary reference time is 1991, post independence, when there were still shufflings going about with Soviet influence and culture, including of course women's material culture, pervading in the story. For example, on page 96 ... "The women in the village held on to their Singers, and anyone who did get a new machine got a treadle model, because what if something happened and there was no electricity?"

Well, guess what old thing is in the corner of my bedroom?? (Missing some veneer on the front).

Yep, that's it... my Great Grandmother's treadle Singer. Ain't she a beauty?

If you want a very inspirational documentary film version of Estonia's latest fight for freedom, check out the film, The Singing Revolution. You'll be singing along with the Estonian National Anthem by the end. And they knit on through all of this. An English feminine pleural for they would be nice here. Wonder if they have it in Estonian?


  1. Thanks for the this thorough post, and the lovely knits. I've admired this book, too.

  2. SOooo beautiful!! I love the Estonian lace . . . and now I know a little of the history. Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a lovely post.Your shawl is wonderful. I wish I could express my admiration for your way of combining history, crafting and sympathy.