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Dear knitters,

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. 

About The Author

Paul Haesemeyer is a multigenerational, up-and-coming knitwear designer who has been featured in Radåm Magazine and Vogue Knitting.


  • Thank you Paul for this wonderful tour! It sounds like good eats are bountiful and history and knitting intertwine around Riga.

    • What an absolutely beautiful missive! you’ve taken us on a journey with you as you explored the area. You’ve inspired me to encourage other knitters in our Thursday Threads group to try stranded knitting.

    • Thank you! I appreciate it

  • I love the you are getting a Fulbright for researching Latvian Knitting. And I look forward to your in process book. You also made me want to go to Latvia. Thank you for a very interesting article…

    • Thank you! I’m posting on Insta quite a bit, @paul.haze30 if you’d like to follow along!

  • Please don’t miss a trip to the opera in Riga while you are there. Definitely worth it. I was in Latvia in 2019 and bought a kit to make Latvian mittens and the book Knit Like a Latvian. You have inspired me to finally tackle the project. So thank you.

  • Thank you Paul for taking us along on a fantastic tour of this wonderful city! It sounds like a lovely area!!

  • I was in Riga years ago as part of my work life before I reinvented myself as a knitter. Can’t believe all I missed! Maybe I’m due for a return visit…

  • This is wonderful!

  • Ļoti žēl, ka tev nav ceļā gadījušies divpusējie cimdi, kas ir Latvijas lepnums. Es neesmu nekur citur pasaulē tādu adījuma tehniku neesmu redzējusi. Raksta cimdam gan no ārpuses, gan iekšpusē. Varbūt tādus cimdus vari redzēt ASV Latviešu biedrībā…

    • All Latvian ethnographic textile techniques, including double knitting, are taught at the Latvian Artisans Association in Canada bi-monthly meetings at the Latvian Cultural Centre in Toronto, Canada. Come and join us!

  • Paul, The photographs are beautiful, and I am looking forward to your book. Congratulations to you for securing a Fulbright, and so gratified to see the recognition of the fiber arts.

  • Congratulations Paul, looking forward to your stories. One of my grandfathers grew up on the Latvian border (and left long ago).

    The blue sweater is fabulous by the way!

  • Well, Latvia is now on my travel list! Wonderful article. Thank you

  • My grandfather and his brothers left Riga for Baltimore in 1919 and never looked back. The rest of the family was killed in the Holocaust. That’s Riga to me.

  • Latvia has been on my bucket list for ages. Why doesn’t MDK have a guided tour/trip for us all to go? How fun would that be???

    • Let’s do it!!!

  • That soup takes me back to my childhood.

    I’ve always had wanderlust and Latvia has been toward to top of my list for a while. It just got bumped up.

  • Thank you for the tour!

  • Wonderful and inspirational! Thank you for dreamy photos!

  • Thanks for the wonderful tour! I hope we hear more from you. All the best with the book.

  • I hope that we hear more from Paul! What an engaging travel writer! Keep up the writing, travels and knitting!

  • Thank you for your wonderful tour! It makes me want to put this place on my bucket list. Congratulations on your Fulbright, what a beautiful place to spend your time researching and knitting. I would be in heaven. That sweater you picked up is gorgeous. Keep us updated on your progress.

  • I was a Fulbright scholar in a summer/study program in Brazil the summer of 1984. I wasn’t a knitter then, but I did take some classes then in Portuguese arraiolo rugmaking. I enjoyed your article and look forward to learning more about Latvian knitting. I have since taken classes in Portuguese knitting.

  • My son taught English in Senegal on a Fulbright Scholarship. Though I love him dearly, your adventure sounds way more fun

  • Fantastic story. Congratulations on the Fulbright. Sounds like Latvian knitting is in my future. I will be looking for Paul’s designs.
    Would love to join a trip to Latvia

  • Loved this article. What a treat to see a young man knitter. How I want to visit Latvia now!!

  • Thank you, Paul! I had the opportunity to go on a knitting trip to Riga in 2022. The Fingerless Latvian mittens I made will always hold a special memory for me. Good luck with your knitting book ~

  • Wonderful pictures! I was in Riga in the late 1990s for a conference–it was just waking up then from the Cold War but still charming. I didn’t encounter anything about its knitting heritage, though. Does everyone but me know about Latvian mittens? And is that bright pink soup the same as Lithuanian borscht? Thanks for sharing your travels!

  • Learning, knitting, eating. Perfect!

  • I spent a few days in Riga about 20 years ago. Of course I purchased some mittens and scarves and yarn. They’re “put away for safe keeping.” Why??? Going to hunt them out right now.

  • It looks like you are doing well Paul. I hope that you will be back in town here after you are done there so you can share about your experiences there. I am sure this article is just the tip of the iceberg! I like the sweater you are wearing in the picture. Have safe travels when you come back!

    • I will be! Not sure when yet, but we’ll grab Martinis again

  • Wow. I look forward to reading more of your journey.

  • This was such a wonderful post!!! Thank you so much Paul!!! And THANK YOU MDK for finding such wonderful content for fiber enthusiasts!!

  • Great article! Can’t wait to visit.

  • What an enviable Fulbright you’ve landed! And a super-interesting project. I’m in early stages of planning a trip which will be my second visit to Riga, and I’m wondering if you have the name of the church in Old Town correct — is there a St. Patrick’s in Latvia? One of my sons is a Patrick so that would be a nice connection, but I haven’t found it on the map. The other museum I’d recommend everyone visit is the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

    • Whoops! My bad
      It should be St. Peter’s, not St. Patrick’s. Lots of churches here

  • Ballet centre for Kirov Ballet company. Berishnekov studied here.

  • What a wonderful guide to the city! In the 80s I had a friend who’s family was from Riga – it’s nice to see more about the city.

  • It looks like Latvia is a knitter’s dream, and also great for coffee/food/beverages! That first cobblestoned street picture is so inviting.

    How did you choose Latvian knitting as your desired topic? What about Latvian knitting especially spoke to you?

    I’m enjoying your Instagram updates!

    • Thank you! I appreciate it! I chose Latvia because my first magazine publication was Radåm, a Latvian magazine. So a sweater brought me here

      • Knitting makes the world go round, or makes you go around the world!

  • Fabulous article Paul.Makes me want to do my two favourite things, knitting and travel, even more. Will follow you on Insta for more inspiation. Loving the jumper by the way.

  • That was a fun tour! Thanks!

  • Very interesting. I’d like to visit this town, but will send my grandkids who travel all over Europe all the time.

  • Looking forward to your book! And jointers in congratulating you on the Fulbright. I may be making a trip to Daugavpils for work and will find a way to stop in Riga for at least a day.

  • I’ve wanted to go to Latvia for 20 Years! Missed 2 chances, but now that I have an itinerary to follow–easy peasy! Thank You, and good luck on your fellowship.

  • Hi Paul, I so enjoyed your tour of Latvia and now I want to visit there, too! Don’t you love the cosy shops and cafes? I might never leave! In my years of travels I have loved visiting the local knitting shops and have found the people running them just grand! Enjoy your time there, I look forward to more reports from you!

  • Thank you, Paul, but now I want to visit Latvia, and I had vowed never to brave that flight to Europe again!

  • What a gift your tour is! Thank you for sharing all the delicious food and KNITTING experiences, and congratulations on getting your Fulbright! When I look at that photo of all the mittens together, I want to get on a plane immediately and bring home every one! Since that’s not possible, I will enjoy reading your lovely words.

  • Thank you for the fantastic new place to add to my Bucket Knitting List. I have always admired those amazing mittens.

  • Welcome, Paul 🙂 So glad to see you here! I REALLY enjoyed reading your article! You might recall you helped me with the cast on for my son-in-law’s Norwegian sweater which was giving me fits! I’m working on the sleeves now. Maybe I’ll finish it this winter 🙂

  • Thanks for this informative article! I will be visiting Riga in October and will make sure to use your recommendations while I am there!

  • enjoyed my armchair tour. Thanks.

  • I want to go!

  • Thanks for the stroll down memory lane! I was fortunate to have visited Latvia in June 2001 with Lizbeth Upitis and truly enjoyed it!

  • This sounds like one fun trip! Everything sounds wonderful. Thank you for the post.

  • Haesemeyer — Did you attend a Waldorf School?
    Where are you from? Enjoyed your piece.

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