lördag 1 augusti 2015

Riga, Latvia - from a knitter's perspective

Mother Latvia, Freedom Monument
We have recently spent a couple of days in Riga. Most of our time was spent in the Old Town, but we also saw some of the other parts of the city. Riga has a lot to offer and I do recommend a visit. Our hotel was situated in the Old Town and that was very convenient since we had walking distance to almost every part of town. I didn't visit Riga to make a complete inventory of "knitting-spots", but since we saw quite a lot of them I thought it worth sharing on my blog. This is a long post! To facilitate for the reader I have made an index:

1. Riga Ethnographic Open Air Museum
2. Sena Klets - The National Costume Centre
3. Tines
4. Hobbywool
5. Riga Central Market
6. Etmo
7. Yarn
8. Books
9. Gift Shops
10. Riga Art Space
11. Art Noveau/Jugend
12. Art Café Sienna
Riga Ethnographic Open Air Museum
1. Riga Ethnographic Open Air Museum
One of the places that we had decided to visit was the Riga Ethnographic Open Air Museum (Latvijas Etnogrāfiskajā brīvdabas muzejā, Brivibas Iela 440). The weather in Sweden has been wet and cold all summer, so when we were pleasantly surprised with a nice and sunny day in Riga, we took bus no 1 from the city centre to the Open Air Museum.
The Open Air Museum is huge, and we saw only part of it during the hours we spent there. It is well worth a visit.
There were surprisingly few visitors and we could enjoy the the houses and the surroundings without crowding. We also visited the Museum's gift-shop. The shop offers lots of handicrafts, mostly knitted (mittens and socks) or woven (bands, belts, blankets and shawls), and of course items of amber.
The Museum's Gift Shop
Woven bands (wool and linen)
Woven band from Vidzeme
Hand knitted socks

2. Sena Klets - The National Costume Centre

Sena Klets - The National Costume Centre / Tautas tērpu centrā SENĀ KLĒTS  is not to be missed when visiting Riga. It is situated on Rātslaukums 1 / Mazā Jauniela. 
Exhibition of Latvian mittens at Sena Klets
I guess that many of you have heard about, or have bought, Maruta Grasmane's book "Latvieša cimdi". Sena Klets have an exhibition showing all the mittens knitted and photographed for the book. It is a visually staggering and very impressive exhibition. Of all the mittens that we saw in Riga I would say that these were the most well knitted ones. Fantastic!!!
Band from Latgale
Sena Klets also sells hand-woven bands belonging to different regional costumes. This one from Latgale was so impressive that I had to buy it. It is so well woven and the patterns and colours are just amazing.
There were also hand-knitted mittens for sale at Sena Klets.
Sena Klets has two entrances. Just outside the entrance from Jaunavu iela there are also some trade stands that sell traditional crafts. You will find mittens, bands, wood-work and other items.
Jaunavu iela

3. Tines

Tines on Riharda Vagnera Iela
Tines is a shop situated on Riharda Vagnera iela 5, which sells Latvian hand-knitted art work. We found this shop by chance since it is almost round the corner from the hotel where we were staying. We had a nice chat with the young woman who worked in the shop. She told us about the "explosion" of interest for the old Latvian ethnographic symbols and knitted items among young Latvians the last years. Everyone wants a scarf or mittens or hats. It has become an important statement to wear these items. 
Mittens on display in Tines shop
I asked if that meant that there was also a growing interest among the young to learn how knit these patterns. She answered that, alas, knitting the old patterns were time consuming and difficult and there was no interest among the young to learn how to do it. She also said that the mittens in the shop were knitted by old women and that she was afraid that in 10-20 years time there would be very hard to find knitters who could carry on the Latvian traditions. I remember hearing the same thing being described when we were in Tallinn and it makes me so sad.
Mittens bought at Tines shop
Many of the mittens in the shop have a sticker on them that says "Lovingly hand-knit by Latvian grandmothers".

4. Hobbywool

Hobbywool  on Maza Pils iela 6  was the only shop in Riga that I had heard about before visiting. It is a shop that has a more "modern" feel, and I didn't find it that interesting. But that is just my opinion, and I still think that if you visit Riga you should see it. They have all the "kits" for "Knit like a Latvian" and they also sell yarn. They also had mittens for sale, but most of them were machine-knitted.
Latvian yarn at Hobbywool

5. Riga Central Market

Riga Central Market
Riga Central Market / Rīgas Centrāltirgus is found at  Centrāltirgus iela 1. 
I had heard that there were some stalls worth visiting at the Central market in Riga - there would be mittens! The Central Market opened in the 1930's and was then the largest marketplace in Europe. It has over 3000 trade stands and is visited by 80-100 thousand people a day.  It is housed in giant pavilions from WWI, that were used for housing Zeppelins - very impressive.  Inside there are lots of meat, fish, vegetables and so on. Outside there is a mix of trade stands and I guess you could buy almost anything here. We found a few stands that sold knitted mittens, hats and leg-warmers, all of them machine knitted and not of a particularly good quality - but the patterns are nice to look at. 
The Central Market - Stand
We found one stand that sold yarn, 100 % wool. The lady in the stall said that it was Latvian wool, but did not know where it was spun. She was very averse, and there was no doubt that she did not like to have two men showing an interest in the yarn at her stand. She finally, and very reluctantly, allowed me to buy two skeins in natural greys. I guess that it was an equally uncomfortably experience for both parts in that transaction. A pity.

Riga Central Market is well worth a visit - but not for the knitting.

6. Etmo

Etmo on Arsenala iela 7, is a shop that sells crafted items (linen, wool and ceramics) with modern design based on Latvian traditions. It is a very small shop and when we visited they had woven shawls and place-mats and some knitted items among other things. We bought some woven linen place-mats.  A very small shop but the quality of the things that we saw was good. I include this in my post since it is close to Hobbywool.
7. Yarn

I guess this is what you all have been waiting for: Where do you buy yarn in Riga? To be frank, I had not intended to buy any yarn in Riga. We were flying Economy Class and were restricted to hand-luggage only. So, of course I bought yarn!

Tines, on Riharda Vagnera iela 5. They sell their own brand of Latvian yarn, 100 % wool. Made to be used for knitting Latvian mittens and other traditional items. They ship world-wide. www.tines.lv/en/

Sena Klets on Rātslaukums 1, sells Latvian yarn for knitting Latvian mittens. No web-shop.  www.senaklets.lv 

Hobbywool  on Maza Pils iela 6 sells yarn. Mostly Rowan and Latvian yarns. http://www.hobbywool.com/en/intro

Riga Central Market on Centrāltirgus iela 1. You can find the occasional stands that sell wool. Perhaps they are more common during the winterseason?

8. Books

We knew nothing about bookshops in Riga so we have probably missed most of them. We didn't actively search for them. This is what we happened to learn during out stay:

Sena Klets on Rātslaukums 1, sell a few books on knitting and band weaving.

Valters un Rapa, Aspazijas bulvāris 24. Bookshop with a small craft section. They have the most recent books on knitting and other Latvian crafts.

Janis Roze, Galerija Centrs. Bookshop with a small craft section. They have the most recent books on knitting and other Latvian crafts.

Zvaigznes Gramatnica, Valnu Iela , Book outlet store. We found almost the same books here as in the other book stores. Well worth a visit.

9. Gift shops

There is an abundance of souvenir and gift shops in Riga. All targeting tourists. Here is what we learned:
Stay away from them!

10. Riga Art Space

Riga Art Space on Kungu iela 3 showed the exhibition ”Latvian Soul Patterns” / ”Latviskās dvēseles raksti”. 
There seems to be a great interest in the old Latvian signs and ornaments in Latvia at the moment. These old signs have come to represent something very important for the Latvians and today you can see the signs exposed almost everywhere: Clothing, not only on mittens, hats and scarves but also on wristbands, necklaces and other jewellery; on books about almost any Latvian subject; on purses, bags from shops, wrapping paper, notice book etc; in shop windows, painted on the glass or as part of the display. It goes on and on. If you start looking you will see that they are virtually everywhere.
So, we were lucky to see this exhibition. Unfortunately there was no exhibition book or other information to buy or bring with you from the exhibition. There was not only clothing and costumes featured here. There was also music, folk songs and traditional dancing. There is a revived interest for old Latvian traditions. During the times Latvia was occupied by Soviet and Nazi-Germany (1940-1991), it was of course difficult to uphold Latvian traditions.
The exhibition ends August 23rd 2015. For more information visit: http://www.liveriga.com/en/7668-exhibition-latvian-soul-patterns.

11. Art Noveau/Jugend

Riga has a great heritage when it comes to Art Noveau/Jugend designed buildings. Streets to look for are Alberta, Elizabetes, Antonijas, Strelnieku and Vilandes.

12. Art Café Sienna

Art Café Sienna on Strēlnieku iela 3
There are many nice small cafés and coffee shops in Riga. I had no intention to write about any of them until we by chance visited Art Café Sienna on Strēlnieku iela 3. We were early when visiting the Riga Art Nouveau Museum (Janis Rozentāls and Rūdolfs Blaumanis Museum) Rīgas Jūgendstila muzejs and had 50 minutes to spend before being allowed to enter. We decided to take a walk, and just opposite the Museum we saw this café and walked in expecting nothing out of the ordinary. We were in for a nice surprise. It is a fantastic place. 
Art Café Sienna on Strēlnieku iela 3
It is hard to describe. Visit their web page via this link www.sienna.lv press "Sakt" and you will get a 360 degree view of the café, and you will understand that we were surprised. Their assortment of fine teas, coffee, cognac and champagne is quite expensive, but irresistible. We settled for coffee since it was in the morning. But if I were to go anywhere to get an afternoon coffee or tea with a glass of cognac or champagne to go with it (Nota bene: this is not my usual way of spending my afternoons, but if ...), it would most definitely be at this place. 
Art Café Sienna on Strēlnieku iela 3
Riga was a very nice experience. I do recommend that you make a visit.

Read about visits to:
Tallinn, Estonia (2013)
Vilnius, Lithuania (2016)

10 kommentarer:

  1. Imponerende, for en kulturskatt. Dere rakk mye på kort tid.
    Dilemma: så mange fine bånd- inspirerende eller skulle man bare gi opp?

    1. Definitvt inspirerande tycker jag. Aldrig ge upp! :-)

  2. Hello! It is nice to read about your experiences in Riga, as I made nearly the same experiences when I travelled there this year and last year.

    Have a look at my blog, Wockensolle,


    you will find a lot of information about Riga, Estonia and Lithuania, and especially for Riga I created a "knitter's map" at


    you will find a translation button at the website, too, as it is in german

    Riga is phantastic!

  3. Hello Olle Peter and Lars, thanks for the wonderful review. I was in Riga in 2014 and 2015 and loved it too. The surroundings are great too. The awful woman on the stand in the market is not mad at knitting men, she just hates tourists or maybe even everyone. She chased me away from her stand too. ;-)
    Greetings! Carla

    1. Hello Carla! How nice to hear from you! I do hope all is well. Yes, Riga is fantastic. Thank you for sharing your experience regarding the woman at the market-stand. It is kind of comforting learning that it wasn't a question of gender. Best wishes from me and OP.

  4. Could you tell us how to tell the difference between machine knitted and hand knitted socks? I'd be curios. Not to say I wouldn't buy machine knitted but would like to know I'm getting what I'm paying for :)

  5. Hi, sorry you had to wait so long for this answer.

    1. The easiest way is to ask. I do that, and I have not experienced that the sellers are not honest about this.
    2. You could look at the heels. Machine knitted heels often differ from the hand-knitted ones.
    3. The machine knitted socks that we bought seem to be knitted flat and then sewn together, they all have a prominent seem all the way from the cuff down to the toe.
    4. Hand knitted items are more expensive.

  6. Thanks! It's good to know a few things to look out for.