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Sunday, September 02, 2012

A Story With a Lot of Holes

Haapsalu is synonymous with lace knitting, and the delicate, intricate shawls that share their name with the town were in full display on the second day of the White Lady Days Festival. There were vendors and demonstration booths highlighting not just knitting, but bobbin lace, crochet, some forms of weaving, and embroidery. The festivities began with a choreographed tribute to the shawl and to the master knitters of the town who make them. The centerpiece of the event was a knitting competition, where knitters were given a complicated pattern (with plenty of nupps, of course), needles, yarn, blocking sticks, and just two hours to see how far they could get. No, yours truly did not throw her hat into the ring. I was thrilled to see many young knitters taking the challenge and, ultimately, doing quite well.

Nancy Bush was one of the judges for the event, as were many of the master knitters. Siiri Reimann, one of the authors of the stunning Haapsalu Shawl and Haapsalu Scarf books was a significant presence, too. My favorite photographic subject was Linda Elgas, Grande Dame of Haapsalu knitting. This woman's face was amazing, and those hands...hands that have knit thousands and thousands of nupps.

Siiri Reimann (left) and Linda Elgas

It seemed like this event was largely attended by Estonians and maybe some people from Scandinavian countries, and perhaps a few other eastern European countries. Based on listening for English and then accents, I am guessing there were just a handful of Americans there, Nancy Bush, Nancy Marchant (who is an American living in the Netherlands), and I may have comprised the majority. I certainly knew Nancy Bush on sight, and I had heard of Nancy Marchant, so I just marched myself up and introduced myself. While Nancy B. had lots of official tasks, Nancy M. and I were able to sit around and observe the knitting, share yarn business insights, and become acquainted. I really enjoyed her, and hope to catch up again while she is here in Chicago for Vogue Knitting Live. While we didn't get to speak much, I have gotten a very nice email from Nancy Bush, too, and it would be lovely to spend a few moments sharing impressions of the day with her, as well.

Many of the Haapsalu Shawl Masters

Lace Samples Blocked from the Competition. Knitters were given two hours to complete their swatches.

I has several moments of "I cannot believe I am here, in this place, this place I am clearly meant to be." I felt comfortable, at peace, and connected in a way that was visceral. It is the same kind of inner peace I get at a Springsteen show (different circumstances, same internal reactions) or when I am at on of Cat Bordhi's annual retreats in Friday Harbor. I do not pretend expertise in lace knitting that extends farther than, yes, I have knit some, but my fascination with it the meanings behind the patterns, and the ways that these patterns can be extrapolated into current fashion (just wait till I get to Kristina Viirpalu in Tallinn) get me excited.

I picked up several new books, piling on the pounds knowing my carry on situation was getting trickier bu the moment. One book, dedicated to just the motifs of Muhu Island is so inspirational. I could spend years just focusing on it. (In the end, I had 20 or 30 pounds of books alone! Yipes!) I got a bit of yarn, though the yarn used to make the shawls comes from outside Estonia. I also got a few trinkets, juniper wood items, and hand dyed Estonian yarns that are more rustic.

Pottery that I would have loved to bring home, but alas, no room.
Haapsalu really did take a big chunk of my heart those two days, and I would very much like to return someday.


dianne said...

I am amazed at those swatches! 2 hours?!?! Wow!

KK said...

I remember this day so well, one of my great moments :)