Saturday, 16 May 2015

Travels around the Baltic: Latvian woven bands.

Woven Bands from Latvia

A friendship bracelet in fine cotton and wool.

This lovely woven band is a friendship bracelet.  The pattern is of two joined hearts and a diamond which is particularly appropriate for a friendship bracelet.

It is woven in very fine cotton - perhaps sewing cotton and the pattern threads are wool. I was so pleased that the label gave the name of the weaver.  It is 1.1cm in width.  There are seven pattern threads.

Here is another bands by the same weaver. It is also  1.1 cm in width. This  band has a similar structure to the Latvian bands and the Sami bands where there are groups of pattern threads lifted up together.
Latvian band for a friendship bracelet

Latvian Weavers.

There are many talented weavers in Latvia.  I bought a Leilvardes belt from Inara and Ziedonis Abolini whose company is SIA Audeju Darbnica   See their web page by clicking HERE

Do take a look at their wonderful web page which shows some of the beautiful traditional Latvian belts that they weave.  I am very proud to own one of their creations.

I have become fascinated by the Leilvardes belt and have researched its origin.  When I return to Latvia, I want to see the collection in the National Museum.


I bought a lovely hand woven bookmark in Riga.

Front of bookmark

Reverse side of bookmark

This is a lovely reminder of a pleasant stay.

At home, I decided to try to weave a complex Latvian pattern as a bookmark.  There are 33 pattern threads in red wool.  The background threads are white linen.

Front of bookmark I wove.
Reverse side of bookmark.

Book Search.

There is an out of print book about Latvian woven belts.  I would love to have a copy but I have searched everywhere and it does not seem to be available. 
Out of print but I would love a copy.

Latviešu Jostas (in English Latvian Sashes, Belts and Bands) by Aleksandra Dzērvītis and Lilija Treimanis in Latvian and English (English text by Vila Abele Wurstner). Published in 1982

It is such a pity that it has not been republished. Lithuania and Estonia all have beautiful books about their band weaving heritage but there is nothing in print about Latvian band weaving suitable for weavers.

However, in Latvia band patterns are everywhere.  Here is a wrapper for some delicious bread that we bought.

bread wrapper
This pattern has 23 pattern threads.  I will have to try it sometime.

Susan J Foulkes May 2015

Friday, 1 May 2015

Travels around the Baltic: Latvia


Riga is a large city and we only had three days in which to explore its sights.  The city is well known for its Art Nouveau architecture which is very different from that seen in other European cities. One of the major architects was Mikhail Eisenstein, who was the father of the famous Russian film director, Sergei Eisenstein.

Art Nouveau architecture with a difference!

We had booked tickets for the opera in advance and had a wonderful evening.  The Opera House overlooks a lovely park which was particularly pretty at this time of year.
The Opera House
Unfortunately the main museum in the city was closed for renovation after a fire, so I could not see their wonderful collection of woven bands.  The Tourist Office was very helpful and gave us directions to a lovely craft shop which had many examples.  However, there did not seem to be as many craft shops as there were in Tallin in Estonia.

The other disappointment was the lack of books.  I had hoped that there would be information about woven bands but nothing has been published in Latvia about this craft for many years.  I bought one book which was more in the nature of a coffee table book.  Lots of small overlapping pictures but very little of substance unless you are interested in embroidery.  I did find a few sheets of band patterns.  I am unsure where they are from, but there are copies on the internet.

Woven bands for sale.

However, the bands for sale were lovely and I bought a couple.  The band on the right is a Leilvardes belt. My article about this woven masterpiece will be published in the October 2015 edition of Strands, the Journal for the Braid Society

We took the local bus out to the Ethnographic Open Air Museum of Latvia.  (Go to info EN for an English translation)

Open air museum with women in local costume.

There were a number of crafts on display.  The weaver was hard at work in her cottage.

Weaver at work
Another area had a number of stalls.  One of them sold traditional straw items.  These were beautifully made and we bought quite a few examples.

straw items for sale
One of the most interesting displays was near the entrance of the museum.  There was an exhibition of items from The Russian North from the Russian Museum of Ethnography. I had visited this museum in St Petersburg earlier in the year and it is one of the best Ethnographic museums I have seen.
 This delightful exhibition hall had a fascinating array of Russian costumes and other items.  There were many traditional textiles and woven bands.  This exhibition was particularly well organised and informative.

Exhibition of Russian textiles and artefacts. 

Traditional Russian textiles

The shop in the museum also had a number of woven bands for sale along with other craft items. 

The tempting display at the shop in the Open Air Museum
Riga is a city which deserves more time to explore than we had at our disposal.  Fortunately, there are good connections by air from the UK so a return visit once the museum is reopened is a must!.

Susan J Foulkes May 2015