Draughts and ethno-styling


Guess what I got yesterday with my Christmas money.  A pair of pulse warmers - and I'm happy as a clam.  Ok, lets call them wrist warmers, for those of you who aren't as pretentious as I.  And before you think to yourself "what a useless piece of 1980s accessorizing", let me rave a little bit...

Wrist warmers, as far as I can gather, have been a traditional part of dressing in the colder climes for EVER.  They are a little-known piece of traditional Latvian dress, and were knitted from fine wool with glass bead decorations.  Latvian wrist-warmers were used for two reasons:  Firstly, as a decorative way to hide those dirty shirt sleeves before the Whirlpool and Omo revolution.  But secondly, and probably more importantly, they were used as an element in dressing warmly.  I suspect they were so important, because they cut off the draughts going up your coat sleeves.  Because for Latvians, y'see, the draught is arch-enemy extraordinaire - draughts cause  all manner of diseases, they can be blamed for anything from pneumonia to toothache to marriage breakdowns.  And that's not just in winter - oh no.  A draught through a room in summer, when your back is all drenched with sweat and you can't sleep, is an unspeakable horror, something that is bound to hospitalize you.  And to think in Oz we called them cross-breezes and designed houses to "catch" them!  So wrist warmers make complete sense for a culture trying to stamp out draughts - these nifty little woolen tubes will take care of breezes in unwanted places, that's for sure.

I have wanted a pair of traditional wrist warmers for ages but was always put off by the fact that most of the ethno-styling women around me were knitting their own - "they're so easy", apparently - but I didn't let the Latvian-women's-self-sufficient-craftiness fool me. I'm not having 10 failed attempts at knitting something so seemingly easy, before giving up in disgust! So this week a friend took pity on me and sold me a pair of wrist warmers whipped up by a lady who learned the art as a part of living tradition - she learned to knit them from an older relation who learned from her grandmother, who learned to make them from.... you get the idea.

I'll admit it - I've taken the easy road and bought myself a warm pulse.  Apart from the small smile of satisfaction I get when I see my beaded wrists peek out from under my coat, I've got to say - they really help with warmth!!!  Who would have thunk it.  The tight, protected glow that is created almost instantly after putting them on is truly amazing.  I actually found that they were the first thing I took off in the shop yesterday, when I felt overheated - because they really do make a difference in body temp.  I am already planning my next pair. 'Cause they come in all colours and patterns y'know - next I want grey, with deep red and green beads, like berries in the forest...

So there.  Is that enough convincing for all you Aussie craftswomen feverishly crocheting granny squares to start knitting wrist warmers?  Aussie winter is only a few months away, y'know!




13 Responses so far.

  1. They are stunning. My mind is already racing. Are the beads knitted in or are they sewn on afterwards? I have knitted hats with beads knitted in. Must be the Latvian in me coming out and I didn't even know it.

  2. Mook says:

    Hey there darl! The beads are knitted in, apparently, threaded onto the wool beforehand. If you have a pattern with different colours its a challenge to graph the pattern and then to put the right number of beads of different colours in sequence, or so I'm told. Also these ones are knitted lengthways if you get what I mean - all in purl stitch, from the direction of the elbow, up the arm to the wrist - the ends sewn together. Good luck, I'd love to see a Z version!!!

  3. Labdien from Oz...I can see how these would work! Love to pop over and see what you are doing in The Motherland...Happy New Year to you, Dzintra

  4. Wow they are amazing with the beads knitted into them. And draughts, or external pathogenic winds as feng shui nonna calls them..... makes you wonder how any of us briswegians survive winter with barely even a coat, let alone all these fandangled knitted bits. Yes, I know it is never sub zero but Betsy is very cold if it is 5degrees outside. melx

  5. I found a knitting pattern for Lithuanian wrist warmers. Very tempted to give it a go!

  6. Journo101 says:

    Perhaps (and I'm just putting this out there) there's a market for "possum-fur pulse protectors"...? ;D

  7. Fifee says:

    Love them darl, I'll have some if you find any more of them - no hurry - snail mail post when you get a chance and I will return the favour with something from Oz. I never did send you those opshop 70s domestica did I. xxx

  8. Mook says:

    So glad youse lot like my new fashion accessory.
    G.I.Vegas: I am super excited about your own version of pulse warmers, stripey - who would have thought!
    Dzintra - Nice to see you here. Glad to keep you informed of stitching in the motherland :)
    Mel - external pathogenic winds - dear lord, makes them sound almost clinically tested and officially identified as being bad for your health. Maybe we could call wrist warmers "external pathogenic wind breakers" and sell them in pharmacies around the world?
    Dear Journo. If you stay in LV any longer you may need to get yourself a pair of these. Oh, and glad you put it out there... 'cause possum fur protectors would be sublime!!!!
    Fifee - will do dearie. But be warned, don't know when, because you can't get them in shops here, y'know. You've got to have contacts.

  9. Alex says:

    These wrist warmers do look good and are practical, but wouldn't fingerless gloves do the same trick?

  10. Fifee says:

    Time to start learning to knit my dear!! I will if you will.....

  11. Thanks for the push, I've been meaning to make a pair for ages, and there was thing in Piecework magazine a little while ago about Lithuanian ones too (they look the same, but I think the design elements would differ). The beads are all strung on before you start (which makes my head hurt), but I don't think they *have* to be beaded, I gather the beads are mostly for fancy, seems like you could do plain ones, or with a small knitted pattern instead. They knit around the equator, on two needles, so you sew the beginning to the end, not the sides together, as it sometimes looks, which gives them a lot of stretch. I think they are more useful if you are specifically targettng wrists; plus, I can't use a mouse with fingerless mitts on.

  12. Oh, and I remember all too well, and with a muffled laugh of horror, how my dear grandmother would rush to slam windows shut all summer, to protect us from the draughts!

  13. Mook says:

    Hey Alex! Fingerless gloves indoors make you look (and feel) like a throwback to the 1980s (plus its hard to do indoorsy things in them). Pulse warmers just make you look fancier than you normally do :)
    Thylacine! G'day! Did you have one of those Latvian grandparents too!!!?

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