Monday, December 23, 2013

Creative Estonian Knitting with Merike Saarniit

One of my most life changing summers, was spent in Estonia, outside of Tartu. It was back before I could knit, but I did bring home beautiful Estonian socks and some small bits of the language.

Through Ravelry I met a knitter who was Estonian. I was so excited. One year I signed up for an estonian knitting class. It was only AFTER the class ended that I realized the teacher was the same person I had been conversing with all that time!

Merike has quickly become one of my most treasured friends in not only the knitting industry but in real life.

I have had the pleasure of taking her classes at numerous events. Merike's way of forming nupps (in her Nupps, Berries and Bobbles class) changed my lace knitting! The last class I took with her produced some amazing fingerless mitts for my daughter by just playing with different stitch patterns.

For years I have whined and begged Merike for more stitches. I was so excited to open my email and discover Merike finally has completed Creative Estonian Knitting: Textured Stitches to Swatch and Explore with Piecework. 

Maybe you know Mericke from her many magazine articles and patterns. Her classes sell out so often and it is a testimony to her teaching ability that many of these students become repeat students. If you have not been able to take a class with Merike, you will love this video. Not only does it capture the techniques and the stitches, but it captures Merike's passion.

In the video you will learn

Not many can find or afford a copy of Claire Hallik's SILMUSKUDUMINE, the estonian stitch library, let alone understand it. But with Merike, you have some one who can pull out fascinating stitches and decipher them so that we can understand them. Some of the stitches give an appearance of being WAY more complicated than they actually are.

You will learn some amazing techniques that will help you think creatively and move your knitting "out of the box". Rather than just making swatches, Merike will give you ideas on what to do with them, socks, hats, scarves....endless possibilities.

I love it when Merike says "Nupp is a 4 letter word." So many knitters have a love hate relationship with nupps. Merike will teach you in this video "flat" nupps, "wrapped" nupps and "knotted"  nupps. They are not as scary (or fiendish as Merike calls them) as they seem. If you have been struggling with your nupps, this alone will be well worth the purchase of the video.

Besides the video, you also receive a pdf file of the stitches in the sampler so you can take it with you. Any question on how to make the stitches, you can watch each on in the video.
I am so looking forward to seeing more of these videos from Merike. (Can those crazy colourwork techniques be next?!)

Questions with Merike:

From the publisher:
PieceWork Presents:
Creative Estonian Knitting: Textured Stitches to Swatch and Explore with Merike Saarniit

Merike Saarniit treasures the richness and creativity of her Estonian textile heritage. 
Reading the complex knitting patterns in her Estonian stitch dictionaries, Merike fell in love with the innovative designs and endless variations.
Learn to knit these beautiful patterns and expand your knitting horizons in this video workshop!

In addition to the traditional stitches, you'll discover how Merike's innovative cast-on and selvedge treatments transform a swatch into a useful start for a hat, cuff, or even a sweater. With Merike's guidance, you will knit:
Stretchy decorative elongated stitches
Surprising stitch manipulations
Several kinds of nupps
Elegant horizontal and traveling patterns
And more!
Plus! Follow along with Merike in this video and make your own Estonian stitch sampler using the free pattern included with this workshop!

Here are some of the questions I had for Merike: 

What can you tell me about the project in the video?
This video was originally meant to follow the written instructions that come with it, in order to create the swatch to be used for a hat or head warmer (or cowl). However, the editors felt it would be better to present the stitches in groups of related stitches for easier reference. Either way, the hardest part for me was to limit the number of stitches (and their variations) to present.

Who taught you to knit? Did it come naturally?
I can't even remember knitting my first stitches. Actually knitting projects were part of my Estonian Girl Guide troop meetings - along with other needlecrafts. Our leader, Linda Leibak, was truly a knitting maestro and she had us knitting round lace doilies, two-color knit/purl corn cob skillet handle hotpads, and other quite complex items for Mothers' Day gifts. She never presented anything as difficult but simply as something all Estonian girls could do. And, we did.

In the video you talk about how creativity and problem solving were displayed in an Estonian bride's handiwork. How has the innovation of Estonian knitting carried over into your own life?
Creative problem solving is best done when one is not afraid of thinking outside the box. That is a skill that needs to be practiced and I can't think of a more pleasant exercise than exploring the architecture of stitch patterns to see what variations I can develop.

Instead of just swatching you encourage the stitch samplers to be used as a base for another project. I believe you did this for start of the sweater you are wearing in the video. What is the strangest way you have seen a sampler/swatch used?
My favorite one was made by Marlene Miller (one of my students) in a Fiendishly Difficult Stitches class I taught in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 2010. Marlene turned her swatch into a stunning Barbie doll dress. Really. Photo :

You have a wonderful gift for teaching, where can we see a list your upcoming classes?
I have been limiting my workshops this past year and next year due to time constraints but I can usually be found teaching at most Stitches events.

Not only do you teach knitting classes but you also teach spinning. Do you prefer wheels or spindles? What is your favourite fiber to spin?
Thanks for asking! Watch for my spinning video coming from Interweave soon. Please.
No favorites here - both wheels and spindles. However, I do prefer the high whorl spindle wholeheartedly. My favorite fiber? I answer that with any WELL prepared fiber. Dane and I did have a sheep farm for 15years so I do love my wool since it is so versatile.

The country of Estonia is famous for its "singing revolution". Did you also inherit a love for music?
Oh yes indeed. Choral music, of course. I have sung (alto) in a number of choirs. Here again, my Estonian upbringing involved a LOT of singing.

 Thank you so much, Merike for taking the time out of the holiday season to chat with me! :)

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