Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More Interwoven Latvian Connections

At age 85, Erna Jansons published her first book.  It is a beautiful and colorful book about Latvian Mitten Designs.  It is now nine years later and, of course, she has another book in the works.

I first met Erna in 2006, shortly after her book was printed.  I went to her home to buy a couple of copies of her book; one for me and one for my teaching buddy, Sandy.  In 2013, Erna moved into the senior-living complex that my parents lived in.  When I found this out, I started to visit her in her apartment.  Erna is a very talented artist.  She makes unique use of Latvian motifs and colors in her paintings, weavings, tapestries, drawings, and knitted mittens.

Mary and Erna in the Dining Room at Christmastime
A different, but related, Latvian connection began in 2013.  I received a Ravelry message (see my blog about Ravelry here) from Rachel, a knitter in Minnesota who is of Latvian descent.  She also writes a blog at:

Well, Rachel and I have written back and forth for a couple of years now.  However, just recently she contacted me and asked if I knew Erna Jansons.  Rachel had requested Erna's book Latviešu Cimdu Raksti or Latvian Mitten Designs from the Library of Congress and after viewing the book at her local library (Library of Congress books apparently cannot be removed from the local library), she Googled the book and ran across a prior blog post of mine here and surmised my connection with Erna.  It seemed like the best course of action would be a visit to Milwaukee by Rachel to meet with Erna and me.  Well, this meeting sounded like too much fun for my friend, Sandy, to miss, so I invited her as well.  Sandy and Rachel had also previously connected through Ravelry.  So we began to plan a knitters' weekend in Milwaukee.  We added one more knitter to the mix when Rachel invited her aunt, Zinta, to join her for the road trip.

This is where things begin to get even more interesting.  Zinta is a retired Lutheran minister so I suggested that we might want to go to the Milwaukee Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Holy Trinity Church on the Sunday of their visit.  I emailed our friend, the pastor, Archbishop Lauma Zušēvica, to see if she would be in town and preaching that Sunday.  Yes, indeed she would be.  I heard back from Pastor Lauma again shortly after that and she offered an opportunity for Pastor Zinta to preach.  Zinta agreed to preach, and we all went to the Latvian service which was presided over, in Latvian, by Archbishop Lauma.  Pastor Lauma was just consecrated in April 2015, as the Archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (Latvijas Evanģēliski Luteriskā Baznīca Ārpus Latvijas), meaning everywhere outside of Latvia.

Archbishop Lauma at her Consecration as Archbishop

Besides our meetings with Erna (one on Saturday and one on Sunday), I also set up a visit with a Latvian weaving friend, Vita Kakulis.  She invited us to her home where we could see her studio space, her weavings, and her huge library of Latvian design books.

Rachel, Vita, and Zinta
Vita showed us a video from the Folk Costume Exhibit that took place at the XIII Latvian Song & Dance Festival in Milwaukee in 2012, served us a lovely luncheon which included pīrāgs and traditional Latvian open-faced sandwiches, and gave a copy of the fabulous, but out-of-print, Cimdu Jettiņa book to Rachel.  The day was a gift for all of us.

UPDATE on 10/29/2016:  Erna Jansons' book Latviešu Cimdu Raksti or Latvian Mitten Designs is now available for purchase - details for ordering are on my website here or you can find the book on Etsy here.


  1. So many wonderful connections, Mary. Who knew how much your life was going to open up through your friendship with Irma, all those years ago. Lovely story.

    1. Thanks! Starting with Irma, Latvian knitting really has provided me with a lot of wonderful connections! I cherish them all.

  2. Nice blog, Mar! Brings back good memories!

    1. Thanks Sandy! Our connection with Irma really has led us down an interesting path! Thanks for being my knitting buddy along the way!