To celebrate 100 years of Estonian independence, we’re delving into the unique and varied knitting culture of Estonia. Knitting is a complex part of Estonian history, a folk tradition that is still popular to this day. Knitting is so renowned in Estonia that it’s even a custom to knit mittens for guests at a wedding.

Indeed, so vast is the knitting culture, it would be unsurprising to find that an Estonian knitter has made a giant Estonian flag for the occasion. 100 years of independence is a huge moment for any country, and Valtrik Pihl knew only one way to celebrate the moment and spent three years knitting the blue, black and white banner.

estonian flag valtrik pihl
Valtrik Pihl’s gigantic knitted Estonian flag.

A vast amount of knitter’s around the world are inspired by Estonian traditions and perhaps have knitted a vast array of mittens, socks, and sweaters inspired by the country.  Such is the inspiration, Estonia is a major destination for knitters, particularly on specific holiday packages such as a knitting cruise.

Traditional skills are passed down from generation to generation, usually from mother to daughter. Knitters have their favourite designs, ones which long ago carried a meaning beyond its design.

traditional estonian mitts
by Marilyn Murphy

The traditional glove and mitten are still knit using natural white with black, brown, or dark blue. The cuffs typically have a band of red and white – the belief that it protects the wearer from evil. The geometric patterns are knitted of two motifs, known as lapps, with the main motif knitted at the back of the hand and the side motifs between the two main motifs.

However, each region of Estonia have different styles and patterns that diverge them from each other, creating a high localised knitting culture. This particularly intensifies on the Estonian islands, where the knitwear remains authentic. Some of these garments really stand-out, such as the Muhu pink from Muhu island or the vivid stripes from Kihnu island.

muhu island knitting
by Kate Davies

Because of the sea, a lot of cultural exchange took place between the islands and neighbouring countries, and even as far as the Faroe islands. This is a result of the seamen who brought knitwear on their voyages, as well as knitting onboard themselves. This might explain why similar, but yet intricately different patterns, are found across the islands of the Baltic and North Sea.

The impact of Estonian knitting isn’t just within Northern Europe, but today has gone global. It’s a highly popular amongst knitters, and its unique regional patterns bring tourism around the country. Now that Estonia is celebrating 100 years of independence, there’s not a better time to start your own Estonian knitting adventure!

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Has it been almost 100 years since you last knitted? Celebrate with our Estonian friends and start knitting today by checking out all our HiyaHiya knitting needles and crochet hooks by clicking here.