The Finno-Ugric diagonal patterns are beautiful and can be worked into a cap design. This post has a free pattern for the readers of my blog.
The charm of the diagonal patterns
I learned a lot about the diagonal patterns when researching the history of the Komi knitting. Komi is the large territory of the Russian North. The research resulted in several posts about the history of this knitting tradition. The posts have many examples of patterns and items made with these patterns by the Komi women.
The diagonal patterns can be expanded, contracted and interlocked in all directions. They can grow one from another without loosing their shared internal rhythm. Several patterns locked together create a fabric that look breathtakingly complex, but, in reality, it is easy to knit.
The flow of Finno-Ugric patterns reminds me the lines from the poem:
Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation.
T.S. Eliot, from Burnt Norton
Diagonal patterns and sizing
Enough of poetry. Back to knitting. Here is a bit of nasty news: these beautiful interlocking diagonal patterns do not lend themselves easily to sizing. The stitch count in a pattern repeat should be divisible by 6. It means that you must reduce the item size minimum by 6 stitches – 3 in the beginning of the first pattern repeat and 3 at the end of the last pattern repeat. This is a LOT. Plus, there is a need to deal with a jog.
The design of this cap calls for 180 stitches (6 repeats of a 30-stitch pattern). If you need to change the sizing, you can do it in other ways than reducing/increasing stitch count: – use smaller/bigger needle size – mix thicker and thinner yarns – use thicker yarn for an inner layer (You will understand what I mean by ‘inner layer’ a bit later, when we get to Overview) – make full inner layer instead of a partial one. – replace several bottom rows with ribbing In sum, design your own strategy to modify the size without changing the stitch count.
It took me several tries to get this cap right, so the pictures below are from TWO last versions of Finnougoria I cap.
Size: 59-60cm Gage: 2.5cm x 2.5cm = apx 9 stiches x 11 rows
You can choose your method of construction to adjust the size. I would assume here that you follow my way of making the hat.
The hat is knit bottom-up, without ribbing, but with double-layering on the bottom. I used Judy’s Magic cast on to start a double layer. Cast on 180 stitches on each needle. Put a marker every 30 stitches in both layers. Two layers – the inner and the outer – are knit separately in opposite directions from the cast-on rows. While you knit one layer on shorter circular needles, the other layer rests on longer circular needle or moved onto a string of waste yarn. I used #2 USA needles to knit the outer later, and #1 USA for the inner layer.
After the inner layer is about 17 rows and the outer layer is 18 rows, fold the fabric and transfer all the stitches onto one #2 USA needle. The next row: continue, carefully knitting each inner and outer stitch together.
The crown is formed by reducing stitches in the beginning and end of pattern.
Choice of yarns
I like mixing yarns. For this project I used “fluffy” mixed yarn for the white color and smooth yarn for the red.
Version #1 Red: Claudia Hand Painted Yarns, ADDICTIONS, Fingering Weight, 100% fine merino ~35 g White: two yarns mixed Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight Kid mohair, Lace Weight ~30g
Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight, doubled ~15g
Version #2 (final, as shown on model) Red: Cascade Heritage, Fingering Weight 85% merino 15% mulberry silk, ~25 g White: Rowan Alpaca Classic, DK weight 60% alpaca, 40% cotton ~25g
Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight, doubled ~15g
One of the Facebook group members recommended brand Rauma Finull, because the red yarn of this brand does not bleed.
Circular needles: #2 USA 36in. or 48in. (optional) #2 USA 24in. #1 USA 24in.
Double-pointed needles (if you do not know how to use magic loop): #2
Important note: the pattern is free for the hand-knitters, but it is not for commercial use or mass production.
2 diagrams: the bottom and the crown. The diagram shows 30-stitch pattern repeat. As your recall there are 6 repeats, 30 stitches each. The leftmost 31st stitch on the diagram is the last stitch of the last pattern repeat tofix the jog. The rest of the important comments are right on the diagram.
Let me know how your cap turns out. While posting the pictures of this cap in FB groups, I found out something interesting about the items with red-and-white with diagonal patterns from the fellow knitters. It looks like at the turn of the 20th century the sweaters, cardigans and caps in this style were very popular in Finland and the neighboring Russian territory on the shores of the White Sea called Pomorye. Pomorye was a melting pot, because it has the important old Russian sea port of Arkhangelsk. The Pomors – that what the inhabitants of the area were called – were a mix of the Komi, Hanty, Mansy, Finns, Russians and other ethic groups. But this is the story for the later post.
The dark 1990s after the collapse of the USSR were over. The 21st century brought the renewed interest to the traditional arts in the Republic of Komi. The last article in the series is about the modern knitwear artists exploring the rich opportunities of their Komi heritage.
The attitudes of the Komis towards their ancient heritage radically changed in the early 2000s. Now the Komi language is a mandatory discipline in schools. The newspapers, magazines, websites are published in Komi.
There is tremendous interest and support for the traditional folk art, including color knitting. The Center for Education In Folk Arts in Syktyvkar is a lively place where the adults and children are receiving quality instruction in the native arts and crafts.
The Komi women from all walks of life sign up for knitting master classes in impressive numbers. It has become popular among the young to wear legwarmers knit with traditional geometric Komi patterns. The textile artists specializing in traditional Komi knitting are becoming celebrities of sorts.
Three artists featured here have different directions, but one thing in common: they learned the traditional Komi knitting with diagonal geometric patterns from their peasant grandmothers and returned to it in mature years.
Zinaida Mayorova: a retiree turns into a well-known artist
Ms. Mayorova was born in 1953. Her family is from Sysola region of Komi. As a child she noticed a pair of beautiful mittens made by her grandmother in the early years of the 20th century. They were stored in the family heirloom chest. She paid no mind to the old-fashioned mittens then. Many knitters of her generation knitted in a homogenized style borrowed from the Western and Eastern Europe.
After retiring in the early 2000s, Ms. Mayorova had plenty of time on her hands and the idea for a project struck her. She remembered the grandma’s mittens and embarked on serious study of the knitting traditions of her native Sysola. Her research was a truly scientific undertaking: at her own expense she traveled hundreds of miles to study the old knitted objects in to Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg.
The underlying theme of Ms. Mayorova’s work is the preservation of the tradition, however, she enlarged the palette of colors and projects beyond the traditional.
Currently she teaches the master classes, conducts presentations on traditions of Sysola knitting and occasionally does commissioned work.
Watch the segment for FinnougoroVidenie. You might not understand the language, but it shows Ms. Mayorova’s work. You can also see the 100-year-old mittens knitted by her grandmother. Ms. Mayorova explains that in the old days the mittens did not have ribbing because there were worn with complimentary wrist warmers.
Galina Ogorodnikova: the dynasty of folk artists
Galina Ogorodnikova inherited her talent as a textile artist from her grandmother, a peasant woman from Pechora region. When Galina was about 10, she coveted a pair of store-bought mittens. Her grandmother Maria told her that she was quite capable to make the mittens herself. And this is what she did.
Ms. Ogorodnikova’s family moved to Pechora in 1963. She worked as a cook in the rural daycare center. The skills inherited from the grandma Maria came handy: she made clothes for her children. They were not only practical objects made out of necessity, they were products of artistic imagination.
Ms. Ogorodnikova’s career as a folk artist started with macrame. She turned to the traditional Komi color knitting in the mid 1990s when she had already won multiple competition awards for her works in other techniques.
Her designs integrate the traditional Komi knitting patterns, folk costume and the modern knitwear trends. It takes the artist between 1 to 3 years to develop and to execute the larger projects.
Galina Ogorodnikova was awarded the title of The Master of Russian Folk Arts (it is a very approximate equivalent of Living National Treasure in Japan.).
Aside from being a talented textile artist, Ms. Ogorodnikova has a special knack for teaching others, especially children. She taught her daughter Oksana (a well-known folk artist) and her granddaughter Yaroslava. Currently she is a faculty member at The Center for Education In Folk Arts in Syktyvkar .
Granddaughter Yaroslava Malinova is also an artist and a teacher in her own right. Her first pair of mittens she made at the age of 5 under her grandmother’s direction.
Svetlana Turova: a founder of the socially responsible enterprise
Svetlana Turova is in her 40s. She belongs to the generation that came into age during the wild and dark 1990s. Like Ms. Mayorova and Ms. Ogorodnikova, Svetlana learned knitting from her Komi grandmother. She become a skillful knitter by age of 15 and, while in school, knitted for extra income.
In 2007 Svetlana Turova came up with an idea of a socially responsible enterprise that produces machine-knit items with traditional Komi patterns.
She worked as an upper-level manager in the distribution company when she sensed that the company was likely to fold during the next financial crisis in Russia. She started to think of what to do next. Svetlana hand-knitted several toys that her grandmother taught her to make long time ago, took several vacation days and traveled to the Moscow exhibition of folk art. Her toys won a prize. Svetlana understood that she was onto something with her knitting.
As a woman with a solid business and legal background (Svetlana has a degree in law), she understood three things from the very start:
Her knitting studio must be a legal business to qualify for grants, loans and tax breaks. (Many entrepreneurs in Russia prefer to operate in a “gray zone” due to byzantine tax code and scant legal protection.)
There is a revival of ethnic pride among the Komi people. Her studio might become a trend-setter among the young to wear the clothing with the traditional Komi patterns.
Hand-knitting is not the way to make living. It is too expensive for the young people. It is hard to produce on larger scale.
The road was not easy for Svetlana Turova. Her first studio, started in 2008, failed. Her husband was supportive but a bit skeptical. The well-wishers advised her to produce underwear instead of sweaters. But Svetlana persevered. She had a mission: “I want the world to know that Komi stands for beautiful. Komi is cool.”
With a patchwork financing from grants for socially responsible enterprises, public fundraising, interest-free loans and the help from the local authorities, Svetlana Turova reopened her studio Югыд арт (Yugyd Art with better knitting machines. She traveled to Finland to learn from the 200-year-old Saami family business.
In 2016-2018 Svetlana Turova and her husband, who joined her in her enterprise, moved to the village. They build the complex with a studio space and living quarters to accommodate a new branch of their business – knitting tourism. The knitters from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Germany and other places have already booked the first available time slots. (If you are interested in spending a few days in beautiful Russian North, click on logo above.)
Aside from running the business, Svetlana still teaches classes for hand-knitters dedicated to the art of traditional Komi knitting.
The most of the material came from hours of trawling the Russian-language sites for bits and pieces of information. I tried my best to attribute the photos that I borrowed for this post. My apologies for the incorrect attributions. In case if you decide to google the artists presented in this blog, here are the spellings of their names in Cyrillic:
The redwork textile patterns of the Finno-Ugric people is a great source for designing knitwear patterns. This is the third post about the Komi knitting and its history.
Besides being skilled knitters, the Komi women were also imaginative weavers. The patterns on their towels, table cloths, belts and shirts are of the same diagonal geometric shapes as seen in their knitted objects, but the compositions are more sophisticated.
First: the postscript to Komi Knitting II
I had the most interesting exchange on Facebook with Johanna P. from Finland.
She posted several pictures with sweaters. I’m taking a liberty to republish the photos with Johanna’s descriptions. The items are excellent illustrations of the Finno-Ugric textile tradition, but they are not the products of the traditional Komi knitting.
… now back to topic – the Komi textiles
I found several diagrams in the ethnographic book. The patterns are copied from the original textiles and belts of the Perm region of the Komi Republic.
The diagonal patterns of the Komi are very predictable and easy to combine into large-scale intricate borders and all-over patterns. Charlene Schurch’s book Mostly Mittens: Traditional Knitting Patterns from Russia’s Komi People (see my previous post) explains the principle of the Komi patterns. For my vest featured above, I combined a couple of border patterns from for the socks and the pattern with a stylized female figure called Bereginya (Mother Protector) found on 19th-century towel pattern from Perm region of the Komi Respublic.
Colorful knitting of theKomi is little known beyond Russia, very much unlike Fair Isle knitting. But it is spectacular. It allows endless creative variations. This is the second post about the Komi knitting and its history.
Brief overview of the colorful knitting of the Komi people of the Russian North. I will write about the Komi textile art and the history of the Komi people in later posts.
The Komi are one of the numerous Russia’s ethnic minorities. Their language belongs to the Finno-Ugric group. The better-known languages in this group are Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian. There are total 24 Finno-Ugric languages, mostly spoken in the Northern regions of Europe and Asia. About 300,000 Komi people are currently living within Russian borders, in The Komi Republic. Theirs is the land of forests, severely cold winters and short, bright summers, when a surprise frost in July is not a rarity.
100 years ago the most of the Komi people lived in small villages. The modern Komi prefer the life other than the poverty and hardship of the countryside.
Komi colorwork knitting
The Komi women traditionally knitted only knee-high socks and mittens. Infrequently – gloves. By word “traditionally” I mean at the turn of the 20th century.
The patterns were always diagonal and geometric. Symmetric and asymmetric. Stars and flowers were rarely used.
In spite of its visual intricacy, the patterns are easy to knit without constantly consulting a chart. 2 rows of color changes every 1,3,5 stitches. Every third row – color changes every 3 stitches. Like a Mandelbrot set, a Komi pattern can expand into something complex over 24 rows or more, or to form something simple over a border of 5 or 7 rows.
Very little was published about the art of Komi knitting in the USSR or in Russia. The most authoritative work is a doctoral thesis by ethnographer Galina Klimova, based on her research in the Komi villages in the 1968-1978.
Klimova’s thesis was published as a book The Ornamental Knitting of The Komi People in Russian. It is a mind-numbing reading, but the sins of dry language, historic omissions and all other sins that Ms. Klimova committed on this Earth must be forgiven to her for her careful and detailed illustrations. She saved the vanishing heritage of the people for the 21st century: today the traditional knitting is popular again and the modern Komi women are learning it by the illustrations in her book.
Below are several color plates from Ms. Klimova’s book. The mittens are obvious. The rectangular shapes are top parts of the socks.
Luckily for the English-speaking audience, Charlene Schurch wrote Mostly Mittens: Traditional Knitting Patterns from Russia’s Komi People (1998). The designs and the choice of wool in the book closely follow the Komi tradition. The designer’s only liberty was the inclusion of her lovely hat designs. (Remember, the Komi women knitted only mittens and socks.)
Below are the plates with traditional sock patterns. In my next post I will give a brief overview of the Komi weaving. It uses the same diagonal patterns, but of more intricate design.
I stumbled into little known knitting tradition of the Komi people after making my first tunic from Alice Starmore’s Fishermen’s Sweaters and designing my own vest.The diagonal patterns of the Komi socks and mittens mesmerized me.
In the previous post I featured the vest of my own design inspired by the Komi knitting.
Alice Starmore wrote in the introduction to her pattern that she could not find any fishermen’s sweaters from the Baltic regions except the one Estonian sweater in the Finnish museum. She based the pattern on that sweater executed in a yarn of lovely gray shades. Starmore’s book was published in 1993. This was the decade when very little was known about the knitting traditions of the former USSR.
After I finished the Baltic sweater, I knew that knitting according to someone’s instructions is not my forte. I love to design my own things.
For my next project, I googled Russian redwork embroidery. There were plenty of images on internet. Beautiful and suitable for knitting.
The modified weaving pattern from a towel end was just right for the vest. The vest has a few interesting technical features. I will write about them in detail in another post.
I abandoned the rule of using same type of yarn in stranded color work. A mix of fluffy Katia Alpaca-Silk (doubled) and a gradient set called Katia Ombre (sports weight). It is a pity that Katia Alpaca-Silk is discontinued, but to my knowledge, there is compatible yarn under label Drops.
The combination of thicker, fluffier yarn and thinner, smoother yarn allowed me to use larger needles ( #7 US). The vest turned out to be of right thickness and went reasonably fast.
I noticed something during my searches, which turned a pattern selection into an amateur science project: many diagonal geometric textile patterns posted online were captioned as Perm region of Russia. Perm is a city in the Republic of Komi, a federal territory within Russia. The native population there was not Russian.
A little more research yielded an intriguing story of the ancient textile tradition which is little known to the world: Komi stranded color work knitting and Komi weaving.
What became clear from my amateur research that the attractive diagonal geometric patterns in hand-knitting that we think of as Estonian or Latvian or Russian might have been borrowed from the Komi people, who live to the west of the Urals Mountains. The Estonians, the Finns and the Komis are of the same Finno-Ugric ethnic group and they live on neighboring territories. The Komis adopted the technique of knitting earlier than their cousins. It came from their Asian neighbors.
The search for Komi knitting books brought only one result, but a lot of other fascinating materials. The history of the Komi and their knitting is a testimony how much the fate and heritage of a small ethnic group depends on twists and turns of the history. It is the story well worth telling.
In the next several posts, I will write about the light and dark periods of the Komi knitting.
Just in time for the winter! I made another vest for myself. This time I tried two ideas: smooth transitions of colors and patterns and to do away with traditional steeking and ribbing. Colorwork patterns from the traditional Komi textiles.
I love the diagonal patterns of the Komi textiles. They are easy to combine together: one pattern flows into another creating visually intricate fabric. Also, gradient and contrasting colors add liveliness. My vest looks complicated, but with a few design tricks it is not complicated at all. I jotted down here a few ideas for you, my fellow knitting artists, to use in your projects.
I do not buy “sweater quantities”. The experiments with yarns of different weights and textures procured somewhere as odd lots at bargain prices are far more interesting. It is also a good thing for Mother Earth. For this vest I used light gray Katia merino/silk (doubled), a set of Katia Ombre (blues), sock-weight red wool with a lost label from Savers, leftovers of recycled angora yarn (oranges and yellows) and good old Cascade 220 for the hem borders.
Because I combined thicker and softer yarn with thinner and firmer yarns, I was able to use larger needles (#7). Such combination did not make my vest bulky or shapeless.
if you decide to repeat the experiment with mixing yarns, Katia merino/silk (now discontinued) can be replaced by the yarn produced under the label Drops. Drops offers more interesting range of colors.
As to Katial Ombre, it can be replaced by any other label that produces gradient yarns in Sports or sock weight.
The goal was to design a true single-piece garment without ribbing and withoutsteeking (steeking is not suitable for soft yarns. The delicate yarns do not “stick” well like famouse Shetland wool. The cut edges will droop miserably).
The vest is knit on round needles bottom up. From the arm holes it is continued in flat knitting up to the shoulder seams.
The true design challenge was to get rid of ribbing round arm holes and neckline. Here is my solution: at the tip of the neckline and round the armholes I created 6 stitches out of 3. Those 6 stitches are knit in reversible style: knitting with gray yarn, purling with periwinkle yarn. The reduction of the stitches under the arm and around the neckline was with the 4th stitch from the edge, if you are looking at the right side of the fabric. That stitch was always of the same color: it creates a nice line round the openings. When the vest was complete, I ran a string through the tube formed by reversible knitting to prevent excessive stretching.
Another small, but important technical trick: I inserted a short row near the shoulder seam to accommodate shoulder slope.
Here is how the edges of the vest look from the wrong side:
Pithy “how-to” instructions
I publish here only the technical drawing and the color chart of the vest. Note that I’m of a very generous size, so adjust the stitch and row counts according to your size.
If you decide to use the color chart below, remember the important task of centering the repeats of Bereginya pattern ( a stylized female figure ) along the hem. Bereginya means Mother-Protector in old Slavic languages. Alice Starmore wrote the best instructions on centering and adjusting the border patterns in her books Fair Isle Knitting and Charts for Color Knitting. I recommend highly these two books if you are into stranded-color knitting. By the way: the diagonal patterns of the Komi textiles are great for decreasing or increasing to fit a desirable size.
Thank you for reading. I hope, you got a creative idea or two!
The rule of stranded color knitting is to use finer, same weight yarn (sports or baby). But there was nobody to tell me this, so I bought a lot of medium weight yarn like Cascade 220. Now the goal is to knit myself out of this accidental stash. I experimented a bit. I hope, the results will be of benefit to you, too.
Warning: the swatches from the experiments looked hopeless first. The fabric was lumpy, with holes. The swatches must be blocked before one can see whether the idea has any merit.
To combine medium-weight, stiffer yarn with thinner, softer yarn. Like Cascade 220 (rated for #7-8 US needles) and Cascade Heritage merino/silk (rated for #1-3 US needles) using needle size that is an average of 2 recommended sizes.
Right swatch above, on #6 US needles: the fabric came out reasonably thin but stiff. Great for hats, jackets (worn without a coat over it) or coats. In sum, where an item must retain shape. Left swatch above, on #7 US needs: the fabric came out thinner, as if it was knit with Cascade 220 alone. And it was much softer than Cascade 220 alone. Suitable for hats, heavier sweaters and coats.
The pattern should have more foreground color, i.e. more than 70% of stitches should be with thicker yarn.
In flat knitting: 2 edge stitches should be in foreground color to produce an even selvage.
Knitting is reasonably fast, because of the large needle size.
It is best to catch the floats every 3 stitches.
Use softer, fluffier yarn for background.
The swatch below holds a real promise. I used fluffier, softer medium-weight yarn for the background. The label is lost, but I would say it is alpaca or alpaca blend. The experiment on #7 US needles yielded the swatch of perfect thinness, density and drape to make any object. Fluffy fibers of the background yarn nicely covered holes after blocking.
To mix even lighter, fluffier background yarn and stiffer foreground yarn that hold shape well. Background: Katia Alpaca/Silk, rated for #4 US needles, 2 strands plied together. It has the softest hand. Knitting in a single strand is perfect for scarfs and shawls. Unfortunately, Katia Alpaca/Silk is discontinued, but there is an adequate substitute under label Drops. Foreground: merino sports weight from Katia Ombre set. Verdict:
The idea is a keeper! The best swatch in a batch: soft, but it will hold shape well
The background fluffy yarn creates an attractive halo over the pattern
The proportion of background to foreground yarn in a pattern can raised to 50-50.
The pattern is derived from the folk textile pattern of the Komi people. Another post will be about the Komi knitting and the techniques used in this project later.
Have many remnants of fine yarns? Here is the master recipe for the eye-catching scarf. it includes the concept of color change from the American weaver Richard Landis (see photos from the exhibit in Cooper-Hewitt Museum of design in References below) and Fibonacci numbers.
The inspiration behind the scarf was a wall hanging I saw in Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City.
Nature’s design secret
Mother Nature programmed us from birth to find plants, especially flowers,
beautiful. At the core of plant’s growth, arrangement of its petals and seeds
is Fibonacci series.
Fibonacci numbers stack like this: starting with 2, the next number is the
sum of the previous two:
Fibonacci numbers have direct connection to Golden Angle and Golden Rule, two important design principles that the humans have been borrowing from Nature since the time immemorial. Some references about the natural patterns are in the section Literature below. Enough of science. Now let’s get to knitting.
The pattern is simple – columns of rectangles.
It is the rectangle sizes, their spacing and color changes that give rhythm
to this profusion of bright colors.
Each rectangle is the height of Fibonacci number – 5,8,13 rows.
Within each rectangle two complimentary colors (2+3), (3+5), (5+8) rows.
5 rows of background color separate the rows of rectangles. The width of
rectangles is 3 stitches, separated by 3 stitches of background color.
The height of each row is picked rather randomly, but there are a few rules
which do the trick.
Change only one color in any row. The next change of color – background or
foreground – should be minimum 2 rows after.
Each two-tone rectangle is surrounded by “friendly” colors, i.e. background
color, the colors of preceding and following rectangles should be in crisp
Vertically, as you knit, the color that ends the previous two-tone rectangle should begin the next rectangle of the same two tones. (aqua-blue, hunter-jade, blue-aqua, jade-hunter). This principle I stole from weaver Richard Landis.
To tie the colors together: repeat rectangles of a particular spectrum more
often. I chose to repeat rectangles in range of dark green-apple
green-chartreuse-yellow every other row. Mother Nature told us that
green-yellow shades get along with many bright colors.
Materials, tools & technique
There are 22 colors in this scarf. It is 3 meters (9 ft) long. The yarns were various luxury remnants: alpaca, wool-silk blend, thin kid mohair, angora. Anything you have for #1-3 US needles. It will all even out at the end! For background colors I chose smooth yarns of subtler shade. Kid mohair and angora gave a wonderful ‘haze’ to rectangles.
Technique: stranded color work, knitted flat. But the fabric resists any blocking and curls into a tube. So it to go with a flow: knit it as a tube.| Needle size: #4 US
If I had to do it again…
… I would have knitted this scarf in a round, like a tube. It did not matter how many times I blocked it: it rolled back into a tube. No point to fight with physics.
That’s about it… Play with colorful yarns and Fibonacci numbers!
Now it is time to create your own pattern…
Here are a few examples of using Fibonacci numbers in pattern design. You can go from simple stripes to rectangles with as few as two colors.
The brief history of the Komi and their knitting craft as it formed through 19th centuryand early 20th century, with remarkable old ethnographic photos.
When I read more about the Komi people, I understood that their history and the evolution of their knitting art are closely connected. This post is about the knitting tradition of the old days, i.e. before the 1920s Left: the exhibit from the National Museum of Komi.
Yes, your trained eye of a knitter has already spotted the magnificent socks. Read on. There will be more interesting photos.
The oldest knitting tradition in Northern Europe
The Komi people live in the Autonomous Komi Republic in the North of Russia, west of the Urals mountains. The Urals are the division between Europe and Asia. The ethnic minority is about 300,000 people now.
In the early 2000s the archaeologists discovered the burial site on the territory of Perm Region of Komi. It is dated between 930-980. The female remains had a fragment of knitted fabric on her leg. This is the earliest known sample of knitting on the territory of Eastern Europe. It lead the scientists to the conclusion*:
The earliest European patterns of knitting come from the Finno-Ugric burials. The Finno-Ugrians, in particular, who inhabited the territory of the Perm region, could easily borrow the knitting skill from the Arabs, with whom they has strong economic ties. And most likely it was from the Finno-Ugrians and not from the Western Europe that the Russians adopted the skill.
The Komis: 100-150 years ago
Historically there have been two closely related Komi groups: the Zyrians (the actual Komis) and the Permyaks . The former group is more numerous, lived to the North and the latter lived to the South of the Komi region. The Zyrians never knew the serfdom (slavery imposed by the Russians), but the Permyaks were serfs of the Stroganov family from Russia until the 1860s. Perhaps, the history determined the attitude of each group. The Zyrians were more energetic and entrepreneurial and, consequently, much better off. Many of them were literate. The Permyaks had less initiative and were poorer.
The Komis spoke the language of the Finno-Ugric family, a cousin to the Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian and 19 other languages. It had nothing to do with the Russian, the dominant language of the Russian Empire. It is worth to note that the Komis were the third of the Finno-Ugric tribes that acquired their own written language. It was created in the 14th century by the Russian Christian missionaries, who came to convert the Komis. From the 14th century on, the Russians population started to settle in the Komi lands – missionaries, traders, outcasts of the mainstream Russian Orthodox Christianity. Perhaps, it was through the settlers that the Russian women learned knitting from the Komis.
The Komis lived in clusters of small villages. Hunting, fishing, logging, herding deer and crafts were the predominant sources of income. The Komis adopted agriculture very late by historical standards: the soil is poor and the growing season is too short. The wheat did not fare well in these Northern lands, but the Komis planted rye, flax and root vegetables to supplement the gifts of the taiga (mushrooms, berries, game) and rivers (fish).
As far as knitting goes, the ornate Komi mittens and socks were in high demand in the 19th and early 20th century. The knitting was entirely women’s domain and provided a nice side income for families. The 1899 survey of craft occupations in Russia shown that among all crafts where women were employed, knitting was one of the best paid.
The Komi knitting technique was in a round on 5 double-pointed needles (spokes) . They practiced mostly stranded color work with addition of some ribbing.
The material was local sheep wool, with dog and cow wool added sometimes (the old photos show that the Komi cows were small and as hairy as dogs). Some quantities of camel and fine goat wool were exported into the region from other places. The linen thread, locally produced, was also a common material for knitting and weaving.
In the 19th-early 20th century the Komis used mostly natural dyes. Here is the list of colors compiled by ethnographer Galina Klimova: red, dark red, blue, violet, periwinkle, green, dark raspberry, yellow, black. In the early 20th century the Komis started using aniline dyes for wool and linen. Ms. Klimova wistfully wrote that by mid-20th century the Komis largely lost the secrets of natural dyes.
The story of the Komi diagonal geometric motifs
In the Medieval times each Komi family used a simple composition of diagonal lines to mark its belongings – boats, pots, baskets. Why diagonal lines? Making a horizontal or a vertical cut on an object might split its wood or birch bark. The mark was called pas. The sons derived their pases from their father’s by adding another diagonal line, circle or dot. Some craftsman with an artistic eye eventually noticed that several pases of his family repeated in a row make a pleasing ornament for a clay pot or a basket.
Over the centuries, pases almost completely lost their meaning as a family mark and became local decorative motifs. The weavers and knitters went further: they grew simple diagonal patterns into sophisticated compositions.**
Meaning of shapes
Like in all other cultures, the stylized geometric shapes have meaning. The same applies to the Komi patterns.
The Komis’ real fashionistas: men!
The traditional Komi costume was very much like Russian costume, with the exception of knitted knee-high socks and mittens. Men’s socks were really distinct. I looked through dozens and dozens of the early ethnic photographs from different regions of Russia and nowhere I found this uniquely Komi fashion: men in ornate socks. The fancier multi-color socks were for special days, 2-color socks were for daily use.
The women’s socks, alas, were nothing much to marvel at: very modest in color and with fewer patterns.
Much like in Irish aran knitting, the combination of patterns signaled which region, village and family the knitted socks or mittens belonged.
Knitting: women’s show of craftsmanship
The Komi girls became skillful knitters and weavers by the age of 14-15. At this point, any girl’s goal was to create the evidence of her skills for her bridal ceremony: a dozen or so pairs of mittens to give to her future relatives, top parts of socks for her future husband (a foot part was finished after the wedding). The girls also wove textile pieces: towels with intricate borders, table cloths, belts. The bride’s work was displayed for the wedding guests to see and to evaluate her craftsmanship.
Why you might not know about Komi knitting
The short answer: the tragic twists of the Russian history.
Ms. Klimova in her The Ornamental Textiles of The Komi People ***(1978) drops cryptic references:
The elderly people tell that before, about 50 years ago, almost every woman knitted in local ornamental style, but then the times came when the women forgot all about it…
… in the 1930s-1940s the Komi stranded color knitting was almost abandoned…
Of course, in the 1970s USSR it was impossible for Ms. Klimova to write what she really knew about the fate of the the Komis and their knitting tradition in the 20th century. Nowdays it is not a secret. I will write continue the story in my next post.
*Krysalova, N.B., Origin of knitting in Eastern Europe (On the first finding of a fragment of a knitted product in the Urals), Journal of Historical Archeology & Anthropological Sciences, Vol 2 Issue 1 – 2017
***The simplified summary of the theory by ethnographer Lyubov’ Gribova in the 1970s. Her works are published mostly in Russian: Грибова Л.С., Геометрический орнамент в народном искусстве коми, Декоративно-прикладное искусство народов коми, 1980
** *This book is a doctoral thesis published as a book only in Russian. It remains the most authoritative reference on subject of the traditional Komi knitting: Галина Климова, Текстильный орнамент Коми, второе издание, Кудымар, Коми-Пермяцкое книжное издательство, 1995