Monday, May 13, 2019

A Knitter's Guide to Filling Your Shopping Cart in Riga

For starters, if you happen to be in Riga for the first weekend in June, any year, you've hit the jackpot! It is the weekend of the annual craft market known as "gadatirgus" that takes place at the Ethnographic Open Air Museum on the outskirts of Riga.

I have been lucky enough to be there twice for the gadatirgus. On my first visit to Latvia in 2001 with Lizbeth Upitis, author of Latvian Mittens, the trip was set to coincide with the first weekend of June. In 2018, the knitting retreat in Kurzeme ended in Riga on Friday June 1, so we were there at just the right time again. Once again in 2019, I will be in Riga for the weekend of gadatirgus and I look forward to roaming the outdoor pathways of the museum, lined with vendors selling hand-knitted mittens, handwoven belts, linen clothing, jewelry, books, food, and more. Some vendors are dressed in traditional national costumes and some of the women wear floral wreaths on their heads. They look gorgeous!

In 2018, we planned a meeting of knitters at 2 pm on Saturday at the gadatirgus and 12 Ravelry members showed up - from Latvia, Estonia, Germany, France, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States. See my prior post about Ravelry here.

Ravelers unite!

Besides the annual craft market, there are plenty of yarn, book, and handicraft shops that you'll want to visit any time of the year. Let me recommend some of my favorites.
  • Senā Klēts is at the top of the list. This is the National Costume Center located at Rātslaukums 1 in the Old Town. You can find mittens, yarn, handwoven fabric for skirts, jewelry, books, and more. The fabulous book, Mittens of Latvia by Maruta Grasmane, was produced by Senā Klēts.
Mittens for sale at Senā Klēts
  • Hobbywool at Mazā Pils iela 6 is famous for their "Knit Like a Latvian" mitten kits and T-shirts. Ieva Ozolina, owner of Hobbywool, has published a book titled Knit Like a Latvian. You'll also find wool yarn at this colorful, yarn-bombed shop.
  • Tīnes at Riharda Vāgnera iela 5 has a wall of mittens as well as other woolen knits and linen clothing. Tīnes offers quite a few colors of their own brand of traditional 8/2 wool mitten yarn.
  • Zvaigzne ABC Bookstore at K Valdemara iela 6 has books and Limbažu wool yarn. Pay attention to the weight of the yarn. They carry both 8/2 mitten wool and a thicker 8/3 wool.
  • Zvaigzne Outlet Bookstore at Valnu iela 19-1C carries some Limbažu yarn and books.
  • I've just learned that Kumodē next to the Galerija Centrs (shopping mall) has closed very recently. However, I've heard that there are other locations of Kumodē, one in Origo (shopping mall) and one on Matisa street. I'll have to explore when I'm back in June.
  • Baltu Rotas at Grēcinieku iela 11 is a family-run jewelry design company specializing in Baltic jewelry incorporating symbols with ancient roots. I love their stuff!
  • Ciku Caku at Audēju iela 6 is a handicraft shop owned by Ieva Dābolina, famous on Pinterest and Ravelry for her giant mitten bag design. Ieva's handmade dolls in national costume are the focus of this shop, but she also carries hand-knit Latvian mittens and other handicrafts made by Latvian craftsmen and women. See my 2016 post about Ieva and Ciku Caku (formerly known as Latvju Lietas) here.
Ieva Dābolina with me and her giant mitten bag
  • Wander the streets of Riga and you will find handicraft vendors at the backside of St Peter's Church as well as at the Open-Air Crafts Market located at Kalku iela 1a.
  • Although Laima chocolate is not technically a handicraft, it is chocolate, and it is made in Latvia. Find Laima chocolate at any grocery store, at one of the Laima chocolate shops in Riga, or visit the Laima Chocolate Museum located 1.25 miles (2 km) from the Old Town.
I'm just about to head back to Estonia and Latvia again and I'm looking forward to the people I will meet, the places I will see, and the handicrafts I will find!


  1. Eager to follow your posts on your travels. Bo

  2. Thanks, Bo! Glad you found Ravelry and me.