A Knitter's Weekend
A Knitter’s Weekend: Riga
We’re pleased to welcome knitter and scholar Paul Haesemeyer. A Montanan when we first encountered him, Paul currently is reporting from Riga, Latvia, where he is a Fulbright scholar w0rking on a collection of knitwear. Latvia is high on our knitting tourism bucket list, so it’s a thrill to tag along with Paul on a Knitter’s Weekend in Riga.
—Ann and Kay
A year ago, I was writing for my life when I decided to apply for a Fulbright to help me write my first knitting book about Latvian knitting. At Vogue Knitting Live 2023, I received an email from the Latvian embassy to schedule an interview, and I practiced in the VKL lobby. In August 2023, I flew to Rīga, Latvia and I’ll be here until June 2024 interviewing Latvians, listening to their stories, and transforming them into knitwear. Yes, knitting is taught in grade school here; I’ve met many traumatized by the experience.
If you’re planning a visit to Riga, here’s what two days here could look like.
Day 1: Vecrīga
Vecrīga is where our journey begins. Filled with charming buildings, cobblestone roads, and plenty of cafes, Vecrīga has modern and historic amenities. Start your day with pastry and coffee at Cruffins. If you can’t make it, that’s okay! You’ll stumble upon another cafe. And you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Once you’re caffeinated, head down the street to St. Peter’s Church for a tour. This UNESCO Heritage Site will take you above the streets of Rīga for a marvelous view of Vecrīga and beyond. And if you’re lucky, you might see some vendors selling their knitwear on the street. Knitwear is everywhere!
I recommend stopping at Ezītis Miglā for lunch. Their outdoor seating is perfect for cider and food, with plenty of natural light for knitting! After lunch, pop on over to the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. It provides an excellent audio guide (in English) detailing the history of Latvian design.
When you’re done, head on over to the House of the Black Heads, a castle that was rebuilt after being destroyed in World War II. Around the corner, you’ll find Senā Klēts, the center for Latvian folk costume. It is a knitter’s dream! It’s filled with traditional and modern knitwear, excellent knitting history books, and yarn to make your own Latvian mittens. UNESCO recognizes Latvian mittens too. Maybe you’ll use your newly found history of design to inform your knitting choices.
Next stop: Hobbywool. Owner Ieva Ozolina compiled Latvian mitten designs into How to Knit Like a Latvian. Ogle fingering-weight wool to design your own pair, or buy a kit with all the colors needed to make the mitten that caught your eye on the way in.
After contemplating serious yarn decisions, walk next door to Parunāsim Kafe’teeka; it literally translates to “The Most Romantic Café in Rīga.” I have spent many a day knitting while sipping coffee (or wine) accompanied by a slice of coconut cake. It’s romantic in an old-fashioned way; you could easily see Hemingway writing (or drinking) in this cozy spot. They also serve traditional Latvian cold beet soup. It’s bright pink and it’s delicious. Parunāsim is popular with international tourists too; feel free to make new friends whilst knitting the afternoon away.
By the time you’ve started your mittens, and finished your last glass of wine, make your way to Ala Pagrabs for beer, live music, and traditional Latvian food. Located underground, you might find your adventuring party whilst enjoying a kilogram of pork loin with sauerkraut.
Day 2: Rīga Center
Today, you’re on your way to Rīga Center. Coffee is a must, and Muffins & More has coffee, freshly baked muffins (including gluten-free), tea, and a wonderful spot to sit. Latvians and tourists alike love Muffins & More for their nonchalant attitude. Their outdoor seating is great on warm days.
You’ll have passed Old St. Gertrude’s Church along the way to Muffins. I recommend popping in for a quick look. And if you happen to meet a painter wearing traditional Latvian Folk Shoes on the street, tell him Paul from Montana sent you.
To improve your understanding of modern Latvian history, walk the short distance to the Corner House. The Corner House was the former base for the KGB during Soviet Occupation. I recommend the English guided tour.
It’s now lunchtime, and to process your feelings, a meal at Andalūzijas Suns is all you need. They have excellent lunch specials for less than 10 euros. Daylight fills the space at lunch. Perfect for a bit of afternoon knitting with a cup of coffee (or gin cocktail if you’re up for it). Afterwards, walk around Bergas Bazaar. Art Galleries and other shops provide inspiration for whatever project might be next.
Down the street, stop by Humana Vintage! I have amassed a collection of handmade sweaters found there. At the beginning of every month, they bring in a new collection. And if you happen to be there at the end of the month, you can find clothes starting at 6 euros, and then discounting to 3 euros by the end of the week. This blue sweater pictured above came home with me.
Then hop on a tram to visit Grieta at Grieta Knits. Her knitting shop exudes coziness. Do reach out to her beforehand–shopping is by appointment only and is located in her home’s she-shed. Swatches from former students decorate the walls. From 7-9 p.m., knitters of all stages and places find a place at the table.