Today I am going to concentrate on a piece of clothing that might be surprising, mittens. Knitting has become a strong piece of the craft history of the northern peoples, in Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, and even among the Komi of North Russia. In many of these places, it is common to see people dressed up in the traditional costume with a pair of knitted mittens tucked into their sash or belt.Among the slavs one does not see this, typically mittens are sewn of sheepskin or heavy woven wool, and are considered completely utilitarian.
A good friend of mine, Aelita, who is from Latvia, tells me that women, especially young women, were expected to make many pairs of mittens [or gloves, the same word is used in Latvian, Cimdi, but usually mittens], and give them as gifts on special occasions to fathers, uncles, brothers, friends, and of course, those in whom they had a romantic interest. They in turn were expected to let them be seen. Thus the skill of knitting fine patterns was valued and shown off by displaying them even when not actually being worn. Thus, of course, they also formed an important item in a girl's trousseau. Here are some Nica mittens being displayed on a hope chest.
Aija Jansone et al, 'Ieteikumi Latviesu Tautas Terpu Valkatajiem', Riga, 2002
T. Razina, 'Folk Art in the Soviet Union', Leningrad, 1990