UPDATE 24 DECEMBER: The entire mitten archive is now available on the NATO website here . Be advised, though, the file is immense--almost 2 gigabytes. So make sure you have space on your hard drive. The file is packed in an .rar file. If you need a program to unpack the file, go here and download the first file, WinRAR 3.62 for PCs, or the fifth file, RAR 3.60 for Mac OS X. It's just a trial version, but it does the trick.
Me, I'm just pure dizzy with mittens.
The press release stated,
"To give a warmly welcome to the guests of the meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government in Riga, the organizers are planning to present a pair of unique, handmade Latvian ethnographic mittens to the members of NATO delegations and media representatives.
Around 300 knitters, even men, from all regions of Latvia are busy knitting 4500 pairs of mittens. Each of them will be made with unique traditional Latvian ornaments, originating from four Latvia’s geographical regions - Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme and Zemgale, some of them even being as old as ten centuries.
The knitters admit that the idea of NATO summit organizers has promoted revival of knitting traditions or as they call it “Renaissance of ethnographic ornaments”. Being symbolic to Latvia’s history they will show the guests the richness of Latvia’s culture and diversity of its ethnographic ornaments. Organizers also hope that the memories of our guests from Riga will be encrypted in the mittens."
4,500 pairs of mittens. 9,000 individual mittens!!
Envision this--if you fill a page of typing paper with periods . . . . . , leaving one inch margins all around, you will fit only about 3,500 periods on the page. It would take two and a half pages of periods to add up to 9,000. Now imagine that every one of those periods is a hand knit piece of art, a Latvian mitten.
Since I first read Mamacate's post about this, I have had this photo on my desktop. Has there ever been such a collection of mittens in human history? I believe there cannot have been. This assemblage of textile art must be unique.
Although the mittens were knit for a noble purpose, it is sad that almost as soon as the mittens were assembled they were dispersed to the four corners of the world. I can only hope that some of the recipients appreciated the importance of the gifts they received.
I was pleased to find that the Riga Summit organizers memorialized the collection of mittens with individual photographs of many of them--not all by any mean, but several hundred, perhaps a thousand--in seven galleries, arranged by region and whether the mittens are for men or women. Go here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Go see. Spend some time. Click on the thumbnails to get good closeups of the individual mittens. Each one is a treasure in its own right and worth study. Taken together, they are a treasure trove such as the world has never seen before and will likely never see again.
In the fleeting way of the Web, these photos may be gone tomorrow and the archive gone. These images are too precious to be lost; they deserve to be preserved. I have saved all the images to my computer. I hope others will do the same. I have also written to the Riga Summit press office to ask about the availability of the mitten photos.
Share the webpages and the photos with your knitting and spinning friends. I would like to see the story of these mittens spread across Blogland and beyond. All fiber workers should see these images.
Thank you, Latvia. Thank you Latvian knitters.
(As always, click on the images for enlargements.)