Marina Korshakova (Center for Traditional Crafts, Petrozavodsk)
tells about how to prepare wool


Marina Korshakova (Center for Traditional Crafts, Petrozavodsk)
shows knitting on one needle technique


According to the researchers patterned knitting unlike the regular type of knitting had an insignificant role in Karelia compared to weaving and embroidery. Stockings and mittens knitted from the hand-spun sheep wool were the customary attributes of peasant clothing like everywhere else in the North of Russia. They were usually one-color and were meant for everyday use. That’s why those few examples that can be found in museum collections will hardly make any artistic impression today.

Traditions of patterned knitting in Karelia point to the long-term contacts with Russian Pomorye, Kargopol, Novgorod and Finland. Mittens and stockings knitted from black and white non-colored wool were common for Pomorye area. The impact of neighboring Finland can be traced in patterns used in the northern and middle parts of Karelia.

Patterns as well as the colors were quite laconic. The diversity of color was reached by using natural dyers such as roots, flowers, bark and leaves that were boiled in water. Colored rhombs, squares and various zigzags formed the horizontal lines on the white background. Patterned knitwear, apart from the everyday use, had a special role in ceremonial clothing at weddings, funerals and house-warming events. White openwork gloves - such a rare thing in a peasant household - were remarkable for being so refined.

Since ancient times circular knitting on one needle apart from the regular knitting had been also popular in the whole Northwest Russia and Fennoscandia with mittens being the most common knitwear. The same technique was used to make the white burial stockings. Nowadays, circular knitting on one needle is not being practiced. To date, knitting remains perhaps the only craft that hasn’t lost its popularity. Though you can hardly witness the transfer of patterns from one generation to another as the case is for weaving and embroidery. However owing to the efforts of today’s knitters in combining Karelian, Northern Russian and Scandinavian traditions with modern trends in arts and crafts we can easily perceive not only the historically adjusted motives but also the images of reindeer, elks and unusual birds.

© «Karelian Craft», 2008


The website is created in the framework of the Karelian Craft and Design Network project (2007-2008, Euregio Karelia Neighbourhood Programme) and upgraded through the Craft and Design Business Incubator project (2011-2013, Karelia ENPI CBC Programme).