Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Travels around the Baltic: Lithuania and Estonia


I had been advised to visit the Open Air museum near Kaunas situated on the lakeside in Rumšiškės. It was established in 1966. Do check out the web site for information in English.  It has an extensive collection of traditional houses.

The Open Air Museum near Kaunas

booklet about costume for children

The only booklet on sale was a small one for children but it had lovely colour illustrations of different costumes.

Sample page from booklet
Postcard of costumed doll

In the centre of the site is the town with a collection of beautiful buildings.

The village square

The bookshop
Surprisingly there was a second hand bookshop in the village square. This was a real find and the stock was extensive.  I found one old book about band weaving.  It does not have many colour illustrations but lots of black and white pictures of bands.

An old book about band weaving

Sample of inside page

We stayed in Kaunas for a few days. Kaunas became the temporary captital of Lithuania when Vilnius was taken over by Poland. This is a delightful small town with an old center with historical buildings. To my delight there were a few shops which had some bands for sale. You will recognise one of these bands from the Braid Society workshop notes for week three.

two bands in a local tourist shop

The capital Vilnius was a fascinating city to visit.  We used the local bus to travel to town and entered by a beautiful old gateway. On one day on our way home we found that there was a special service for a group of pilgrims at the church above the gateway.

The National Museum was a must-see and I was thrilled that there was a special exhibition of costumes from a theatre production of 1971.  They were beautiful and many had lovely woven belts.

close up of a belt from one costume
The small booklet about the exhibition had photographs and the original costume designers drawings.

The theatre was set up to celebrate Lithuanian history and culture from the 18th to the 20th century. the costumes were stunning.  This is the web site for the ethnic collection in the museum.

I found a couple of craft shops but the only bands I saw for sale were tablet woven.  One shop had a beautiful patterned band in red and white but the pattern did not look like a traditional Lithuanian one. It was advertised as a Baltic region belt.

Tallin, Estonia.

We left Lithuania and travelled through Latvia on our way to Tallin.

Peter the Great's house museum in Tallin

We could walk to the centre from the camp site and this time visited house of Peter the Great which is now a sumptuous museum.  This has been restored with great care and the exhibitions were fascinating.

In the grounds of the park there is the wonderful Kumo Museum of Modern Art.

Museum of Modern Art

This is an iconic building near the song festival grounds.I was most interested in an photographic exhibition which featured Tõnis Vint who helped make the film about the Lielvārde belt from Latvia. My Youtube video on how to weave complex motifs from this belt can be seen on

In Tallin I was disappointed to find that some of the tourist shops I visited on my previous trip no longer sold woven bands.  However, the Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union shop was still there and flourishing. The shop now two additional branches so there was a lot to see. If you visit Tallin, make sure you visit these outlets.

Check out their web site. 

Deciding which bands to buy

One of the new outlets had an excellent collection of books including a lovely book of Lithuanian bands.
Twisting stairs to the basement 

To get to the shop involved clambering up and down steps to the basement.  It was worth the visit.

Wonderful books and textiles

Discussing which books to buy
Beautiful textiles and woven bookmarks for sale. 

In Helsinki on our next stop I saw this poster - unfortunately the performance was later in the year. the band is lovely.

It was a superb trip.

Handwoven belts in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries are an engrossing area to study. There are also other countries which have a handwoven tradition of narrow bands. Belarus and Ukraine also have a weaving tradition.  Here is a beautiful Ukrainian belt I have just bought from Elena who wove it.  it arrived a few days ago and I am still admiring the work that went into producing this lovely belt.

It is a striking design and almost identical to the one I saw in Vilnius but this belt has a beautiful set of tassels to finish.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of the beautiful sites and textiles from these Baltic countries.  It was my first visit to Lithuania and will not be my last. The workshop gives examples of some of the wonderful woven bands from the area.

Do check out my Pinterest site as there are many examples of patterned bands from around the Baltic on the boards.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes November 2017

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful bands, thank you Susan for sharing your journey with us.


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