Two Hundred Years of Lace
Last weekend the knitting needles were clicking in Haapsalu. Each August, for the last five years, the Estonian seaside town of Haapsalu has celebrated Pitsipäev, Lace Day. It’s a charming festival that celebrates the town’s lace knitting heritage. The knitting of delicate lace shawls and scarves has been a significant aspect of life in Haapsalu for about 200 years.
In the early part of the nineteenth century, healing mud baths and a beautiful locale launched Haapsalu as a prime destination for summer travel. Capitalizing on the swell of tourists each season, enterprising knitters would gather on the promenade with their baskets of feathery fine shawls and sell their work to affluent visitors from Scandinavia, Russia, and Germany.
Lace knitting is very much alive and well in Haapsalu today. The Lace Centre, officially opened in 2014, is both museum and shop, honoring the town’s lacemaking history through exhibits, workshops, and sales of exquisite needlework.
One Day of Lace
And on one day every August, the knitters from across Estonia and beyond gather in special recognition of the lacemaking tradition. They participate in a lace knitting competition—which lasts several hours!—demonstrations of techniques, lectures, traditional dances, and general showing off of some pretty amazing knitted masterpieces. And of course you can buy the work of local, master knitters in the marketplace alongside a variety of tools for the trade.
I don’t know that I could actually knit lace, keeping track of where my stitches had gone–and hadn’t–with a crowd of onlookers. But I would love to wear one of those lace hats, and the dancing, well that, too!
Head on over to the Haapsalu Käsitööselts’ (Haapsalu Handicraft Society) website for more fabulous photos of the 2016 Lace Day and enjoy this unique celebration of traditional textiles.
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