Põhjamaade kudumissümpoosion 2018 „Balti eri“ Viljandis / Nordic Knitting Symposium 2018: Baltic Special in Viljandi
The department of Estonian Native Crafts of the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy hosted the 19th Nordic Knitting Symposium in Viljandi between the 24th of June and the 1st of July. This was the second time the symposium has taken place in Estonia. The gathering hosted a total of 104 participants from 12 different countries, as well as 19 knitting instructors and lecturers. The sub-title ‘Baltic Special’ means that the focus of the symposium was on the traditional knitting of the Baltics and neighbouring regions of Russia, and the instructors and lecturers all came from these countries. There was a tightly-packed programme of workshops, lectures, field trips, exhibitions, a crafts fair and other activities over the six days of the symposium, that had taken a year in planning.
Knitting workshops were held on four of the days of the symposium. Two three-hour and two six-hour sessions were planned for each participant. These had to be chosen by participants during their pre-registration in January on the symposium’s website www.sisu.ut.ee/knitting2018. There was a range of workshops which chiefly featured topics directly or indirectly related to traditional Estonian knitting. There were also workshops on topics proposed by the two Latvian, one Lithuanian and two Russian knitting instructors.
Four evenings also featured presentations on the history of traditional knitting, the knitted item collections of several museums, and the current revival of heritage knitting. Subjects related to Estonia were covered on two of the evenings. Anu Pink from Saara Publishing House presented a detailed account of archaeological Estonian knitted items from the perspective of a native crafts specialist. Siiri Reimann talked about the hundred-year history of the Haapsalu shawl and how the tradition of knitting Haapsalu shawls is still successfully kept alive. Riina Tomberg gave an overview of the historical knitted items of Estonian Swedes – Pakri, Noarootsi, Vormsi and Ruhnu Coastal Swedes – based on the collections of Estonian and some foreign museums. Kristi Jõeste analysed the factors that have breathed new life into traditional Estonian knitting.
The Latvian lecture night on the 27th of June featured researcher Irita Žeiere from the Latvian National History Museum who talked about archaeological finds of knitted items from the 15th to 18th centuries. A total of 50 items have been found in Latvia, which is more than have been found in Estonia. Irita Heinola, curator of textile exhibitions at the same museum, provided participants with an in-depth photographic overview of ethnographic Latvian mittens, stockings and socks found in the museum’s collections.
At the Russian lecture night on the 28th of June, Dr. Lyudmila Korolkova gave an overview of the Russian Ethnographical Museum’s collection of FinnoUgric knitting and Olga Konkova presented the ambitious project of the Villaväki Finno-Ugric society from the Leningrad Oblast seeking to revive the knitting of the traditional patterns of the region, drawing upon the collections of various museums. The photographer and knitting enthusiast Albina Lebedeva discussed the present situation of Western Russian knitting: the folk tradition is not in a good state at present, but it could be improved by well-planned promotional and pedagogical activities.
On the one day with no workshops, the participants were taken to the Estonian National Museum, where they were able to visit four exhibitions: the permanent exhibition on Estonia, as well as ‘Echo of the Urals’, ‘Regarded as a Norm, Perennially Worn’, and ‘Landscapes of My Fatherland’. The latter exhibition featured the tapestries of Anu Raud. Several exhibitions of knitted items were also displayed in Viljandi in connection to the symposium.
Friday’s programme gave the participants the opportunity to have some fun, as after the morning workshops, they were taken to the Heimtali Museum near Viljandi. Knitters from Tõstamaa and Kihnu demonstrated traditional knitted items and knitting, the participants paid a visit to Anu Raud at her farm and viewed unfinished tapestries in her workshop. Anu Raud also gave the participants an in-depth tour of the Heimtali Museum’s textiles collection. Later in the evening, the legendary open-air knitting competition ‘Walk and Knit’ took place for the seventh time. A total of 15 teams (each featuring 4 people) took part. First place went to the Finnish team, second to the joint Norwegian-Finnish team, and third to the joint team of Latvian and Lithuanian teachers.
On the 30th of June, the last day of the symposium, tours of the Vilma lecture building of Viljandi Culture Academy and the small wool factory located inside the building took place. In the evening, the symposium concluded with a small exhibition and a gala dinner with thank-you announcements. The location of the next year’s symposium was also announced: the 20th anniversary of the event will be celebrated in Denmark, home of the Gavstrik federation, the founders of the symposium.