The most iconic handmade craft from the Baltics could possibly be wool mittens. Hand knit in the centuries-old tradition, the mittens feature folk symbols and traditional colors, which vary from region to region and between the three countries.
|From left to right: Estonian (source here), Latvian (source here), Lithuanian (source here)|
It is customary to see miniature pairs of these mittens on Latvian Christmas trees, such as the ones Laima showed us last year on Day 14 of 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas. Being as I don’t know how to knit and the boys can’t be trusted with knitting needles, we set out to capture the essence of these colorful ornaments in a simpler form.
We did an online image search for Latvian mittens and chose some of our favorites to print out. It was fun searching for familiar symbols within the mittens, as the boys are familiar with those of their middle names – Jumis and Ūsiņš – and I have a particular affinity for the ones with auseklīši.
After cutting out the various mittens (which proved to be rather tedious and lost the boys' interest in short order), we glued them onto black cardstock. This allows for differences in size between the various cutouts, and for a piece of string, raffia or jute to be tucked in between the layers to connect pairs.
If you prefer a more authentic “pair” then remember to print out 4 of each design. We stuck to two, and had more colorful, mismatched combinations.
After letting them dry we hung them in the boys’ Christmas tree. They will serve as miniature decorations until we get some presents wrapped, at which point they will become Baltic-inspired gift tags. Depending on what size you print them, they could also make a lovely holiday card; since you’re not making them double sided, cards only require two copies of each mitten.
Online searches also yield black-and-white images such as this one. An additional step would be to color your own mittens, incorporating your own color scheme or favorite hues into the project. You could use these to decorate not only your Christmas tree and wreath, but to adorn gift bags, cards, cookie tins – anything that needs a little color and a Baltic touch!
For some not-Baltic Mitten fun, visit Jan Brett's website for coloring activities such as "put the animals in the mitten" and "tell your own mitten story with animals" - fun activities to accompany storytime!