I seem to be on a kick for exploring different ethic knitting traditions lately, and the latest subject is Latvian knitting.
The first book, Knit Like a Latvian (which I always want to sing to the tune of “Walk Like an Egyptian”) has been around for a couple of years and is all about the hands. The patterns are all for mittens, fingerless mitts, and wrist-warmers. There are 50 designs included, ranging from monochromatic to very colorful, and from traditional to modern. The mittens themselves are all the same pattern, essentially. The designs are presented as a fresh take on traditional Latvian mittens, and indeed the book is not too heavy on the history. There is a very brief discussion of the importance of mittens in Latvian culture in days of yore, and a nice chart with symbols from Latvian mythology that appear here and there in the knitting patterns. Then it’s on the hand-gear! The designs are very attractive and nicely presented. At the end of the book you will find an overview of different knitting techniques used for the mittens. Techniques detailed here include some unique ones, such as knitting fringe onto the cuffs and Latvian braid. The techniques are well illustrated with clear drawings.
The patterns in Knit Like a Latvian…Socks likewise seems to be modern takes on traditional patterns. This books has a much broader range of designs. Items range from ankle socks to knee socks to leg warmers to ankle warmers. No matter how much effort you like to put into foot and leg wear, you will find something that suits. Primary techniques for the socks are lace and colorwork, sometimes in the same sock. An interesting thing you see a lot in this book is socks with completely plain feet and wildly elaborate legs, such as the example on the cover. The socks are mostly top down, but they should be easily converted to toe-up if that is your preference.
Both books are very well illustrated with great pictures of the projects and clear stitch diagrams throughout. Both feature beautiful, interesting projects to knit. If you are interested in a deep history on Latvian knitting, these are likely not the books you are looking for. But if you are interested in well-written, pretty patterns with a Latvian flair, then these books may well be for you!