A Love Letter to Lithuania

Hand in hand
Hand in hand

I have been working on a world tour of sock patterns. An ebook or something to honor places that I love. The only design I've fully finished is Šiauliai (pronounced "show-lay"), which is my tribute to Lithuania. I planned to publish these the patterns all together, but with all the goings on in the region, I couldn't wait to express my love for this oft-overlooked corner of Europe.

Like a first love, the small Baltic country has secured a place in my heart.

Lithuania was the first country I ever visited when I signed up for a study abroad program. I was 19 years old and had only traveled more than 3 hours from Nebraska through reading the 1991 edition of the World Book Encyclopedias. My cluelessness knew no limits.

I was very into World War II in elementary and high school. I thought I knew the stories - Anne Frank, Number the Stars, atom bombs and birth defects. I had studied the plight of man, and it had ended in 1944 thanks to America, except for children starving in Africa and the rainforest being cut down but Bono was going to take care of that.

Yep. Clueless.

I can pinpoint the moment when my youthful ignorance shattered. We'd just gone up the famous television tower. I had caviar in a rotating restaurant and was able to see Belarus. It was an incredibly exotic experience for a Nebraska farm girl.

At the bottom of the tower, our guide, a woman of about 30, pointed to the memorial at the base of the tower and told us about how she had stood there in the dead of winter and stared down Soviet tanks. How her friends had been hurt. How 14 people had died. How people took shifts for days to stand there and in front of parliament to keep them out of Soviet hands. How everyone standing there knew it could cost not only their lives but that of their families. And yet. There they were, the first of Soviet Republic to break free.

And this had happened just half my life ago to this woman who was not much older than me, not in black and white in my grandparent's youth. My brain short circuited from the cognitive dissidence.

Šiauliai Socks

Pronounced show-lay

So, the socks -

They are knit toe-up with a yo-yo heel with a cable going up the outside of each foot. You can download it for free now, but once I do plan to make this a paid pattern to go in a ebook set. At that point, it will be paid.

They borrow their name from the village near the Hill of Crosses. To me, this hill encapsulates the stubborn bravery and indelible spirit of the Lithuanian people. Crosses were placed here to remember those who had died or gone missing during the Soviet era, much to the annoyance of the Soviet officials who tried to bulldoze it at least three times, only to see the crosses pop back up.

Three stripes up the back of the sock for each time the hill was rebuilt, and a cable of linked hands to honor those who, in standing for independence, risked becoming represented by one of those crosses.
Three stripes up the back of the sock for each time the hill was rebuilt, and a cable of linked hands to honor those who, in standing for independence, risked becoming represented by one of those crosses.

They feature a cable meant to represent the Baltic Way, a 2 million plus human chain stretching nearly 400 miles across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Also, since this is a fairly dour post, Lithuania also has wonderful sausages, pastries, mittens and embroidery (for realz, yo), and my absolute favorite depiction of Jesus, overwhelmed and worn down by the woes of the world. Man, I hope I make it back there.