So where was I? Oh yes...jet-lagged, dazzled and blown away at Sena Klets, less than 24 hours after our plane touched down in Riga. We must have talked to Ziedite Muze for over a half hour. Aside from being a project manager at SK and a fountain of information on mittens and Latvian costume, she's got a deep background in ethnic textiles and we found ourselves jumping from topic to topic. (She lived in Japan at one time!) It was hard to pull ourselves away but poor M had been sitting out in the square for over an hour and a half ("We're just running in for a few minutes to check out the place!" ~ how often he's heard that line!) so we picked up our mittens, added that gorgeous red pair from the box and their excellent mitten book (more later) and checked out.
As the days went by, it became abundantly clear what an important cultural symbol Latvian mittens are. They are ubiquitous.
We found them among knitted goods at grandmothers' craft tables at a park festival celebrating the Latgale region of Latvia.
Here I am browsing one of many mitten stands at the craft area of Riga's anniversary celebration.
Hobbywool is a Riga yarn and craft shop which sells lots of hand-knitted mittens. They are probably most well known for their popular "Knit Like a Latvian" mitten kits, which are a great introduction to many who would like to try their hand at making their own pair.
Small selections of mittens can be found for sale everywhere ~ in gift shops in the city, in Jurmala (the beach town), at the airport. After seeing the mittens at Sena Klets, few compared, though the ones marked Tines, 'lovingly hand-knit by latvians grandmothers' were consistent in quality and more regular in size. I fell for several pairs of these. It wasn't until I got home from my trip that I realized that Tines has a shop in Old Town.
So, of course, I had to book a flight and go right back! Well, not exactly. I've left a few of you hanging here about why I returned to Riga so quickly ~ six weeks later, as a matter of fact. M & I had such a great time on our trip that when we got back and blah-blah-blah-ed about it, Molly decided she couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit and introduce Teddy to his Aunt & Uncle. He was at the perfect age for such a long trip ~ still nursing and not crawling yet ~ but her husband couldn't step away from work on such short notice so I volunteered to go along as nanny. And thus my return ticket was booked before my suitcases were unpacked from our August trip.
Doesn't every child need shots like this in his baby book?
It was a very different visit from the first. We stayed in Riga for the whole time. Mostly visiting, short outings during the days, game playing at night. Someone stayed at home with Teddy several times so we, in different configurations, could enjoy some special events ~ Madame Butterfly at the Riga National Opera (my first!) and hockey games between the Riga Dynamos & Russia. Heather and Molly ventured out one afternoon to try a Latvian sauna experience which Heather has described in this post on her travel blog. Needless to say, they came home laughing, birch branches in hand.
After hearing so much about it, Teddy was dying to see Sena Klets. It's in the neighborhood, how could anyone possibly walk by without a quick pop in?
Teddy and Ziedite hit it off immediately. As you can see, there's quite a bit more to Sena Klets than mittens.
Care to see those stocking a little closer?
I was a little disappointed (though my wallet wasn't) that despite the beautiful selection, there were few mittens that fit me on this autumn visit to Sena Klets. (Lucky I didn't hold back in August!) I mentioned it and was told, a little sadly, "We need more knitters". (Which reminded me of a conversation I had with a rug dealer in Istanbul in January who confided that many of their beautiful vintage rugs are actually found in the US at estate sales as young people in Turkey aren't interested in rug weaving as they used to be.)
No shortage of inspiration on display, though!
But we still had to find the elusive Tines shop. After some wandering around Old Town checking landmarks and every turn & alleyway, we took a right at, yup, a knitwear cart, and laughed that we had been so close so many times without a clue to its existence. And that's for next time.
**I initially thought I could cover this in one post, but I do want to give each place its due. Some of you have asked questions about yarn, patterns, Latvian designs, prices and more and I plan to answer these as I go along. You know, between decorating the house, Christmas shopping, gift stitching, and post office trips. I'll try to get back within a couple of days.