My interest in knitting
has been kept alive over the years by the
almost infinite variety of color, pattern,
and texture that is found in collections
of knitters and museums around the world.
Although I love the smooth, quiet repetition
of knitting a rectangular scarf in garter
stitch using a luxurious yarn, it is the
endless diversity of technique and style
that keeps me interested in knitting as
more than a way to keep my hands busy while
dangerous business, Frodo, going out your
door. You step onto the road, and if you
don’t keep your feet, there’s
no knowing where you might be swept off
--from The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
(Wristers) “Where’s your
I’m asked this question all the time.
I’m never sure how to answer.
The problem is, my
most of my favorite yarn shops aren’t
local for me.
These days, Mezgimo
Knitting Zone, shown at left), at Pylimo gatve
38 in Vilnius, Lithuania, is one of my favorite
I first heard about
this shop from on Ravelry from Sonata, the
shop owner. She’d read
some posts I’d written about visiting
Vilnius, and she invited me to visit her shop
next time I was in town.
I’ve been visiting Vilnius every summer
for the past four years. (Alas, I won’t
be making a hop across the pond in 2011.) I’d
been to other yarn shops in the city before,
and found shelves filled with yarns imported
from Italy, Turkey, and Russia, with a smattering
of local linen threads and yarns. Some of the
shops in Vilnius have the old Soviet-style
atmosphere, where many, if not all, of the
products are behind glass counters, and stern-looking
women sit in the corner or follow you around
while you browse. Although I own several knitting
books written in the Lithuanian language, I
was surprised I didn’t find these in
any of the yarn shops I visited. I did find
a large selection of Russian knitting patterns
for sale, but not the local flavor I was hoping
I knew immediately that Mezgimo
different. The shop is well lit, and well stocked
with popular yarns, and an entire wall houses
an international library of knitting books.
The products are all out in the open where
you can look at and touch everything, with
plenty of samples so you can see how the yarns
knit up. Local knitters gather here every week
for a knitting club meeting (with chocolates!).
I was thrilled to discover that Irena Juškienė,
the author of Riesines,
a book about Lithuanian beaded wrist warmers,
would be teaching a workshop at Mezgimo
Zona while I was in Vilnius last fall.
designed by Sonata Eidikiene at Mezgimo
Wrist warmers are the
perfect fall accessory. They fit in your
purse or back pocket, and you can slip them
on whenever it gets too chilly for short
sleeves, but you don’t have
a cardigan or jacket with you. They provide
just the right amount of warmth when the air
conditioning is still on in the office even
though the weather has started to cool down
outside. Wristers are also perfect gift-knitting
projects. You can whip up a pair in a weekend,
and the beads turn a simple, small knitting
project into a decadent present.
It’s amazing how a small piece of fabric
wrapped around your wrists can keep your whole
body warm. These little wonders are sometimes
called “pulse warmers” because
they warm your blood as it passes through your
wrists, raising the temperature of your entire
The class began as
Irena told us a bit about the history of
wrist warmers as part of the national costume
in Lithuania, where the climate is cold and
even summers can be chilly. Both men and
women wore wrist warmers year round, indoors
and outdoors, because they add warmth without
encumbering the hands. Unlike mittens and
gloves, wristers don’t hinder you
from doing your work, something we can appreciate
today as well, especially those of us with
A knitter would make
everyday wristers out of scraps of yarn,
using any technique that struck her fancy.
They were very often made with strips, using
so many scraps of colors that they remind
me of the “hit and miss” color
schemes that Amish and Shaker knitters used
when knitting and crocheting rugs in North
For holiday wear, something fancier was called
for. The wristers worn for special occasions
were usually knit in garter stitch and embellished
with glass beads. These wristers had more regular
patterns and were made with much more care
than their workaday cousins.
Lithuanian Wrist Warmers
In the workshop we learned that wristers can
be made with a single color of yarn or stripes,
with contrasting beads all of one color. White
beads were the most popular in Lithuania, and
have been used on black, blue, red, and striped
wrist warmers. Sometimes several different
colors of beads are used in one design, making
for a tedious process because the beads are
strung onto the yarn before the knitting is
started, and they must be counted and strung
in the order they are presented on the chart.
After we covered the
background material, we got out our yarn
and needles, and the shop provided the other
materials. We all had purchased wool yarn,
similar to fingering or sock-weight yarns
in the US. Some of us used Latvian yarn that
is made of three strands of two-ply yarn
that are wound together in one ball; others
chose a softer merino yarn.
Knit on 1.25 to
1.5mm needles (size 0000 or 000 US), the stitches
are tiny and tight, holding the beads in place
and creating a firm fabric that won’t
lose its shape when stretched to pull over
the hand and onto the wrist. The yarn is fine
enough to allow size 9 seed beads to slide
on easily, although requiring needles with
a very small eye and a special trick for getting
the beads strung onto the yarn.
I intended to take a lot of photos in the
class, but I got caught up in the learning
experience, trying to understand the instructions
in Lithuanian, and chatting a bit with the
other students. Before I knew it, Irena was
telling us about finishing techniques, and
the class was winding up.
I hope my story makes you want to try this
You’ll need fingering or sock yarn,
size 8 or 10 seed beads, a beading needle and
sewing thread. If you’re using size 10
seed beads, you’ll also need quick-drying
Stringing the Beads
Thread the needle with a 6-8 inch long piece
If you are using larger (size 8) beads,
tie the ends of the thread together. Fold
the knitting yarn through the loop in the
sewing thread and over itself.
If you are using
smaller (size 10) beads, they will probably
not fit over the knot or the double strand
of yarn. In this case, tear the end of
your yarn with your
hands to make a tapered end. Then glue the
yarn onto a single strand of the sewing thread
and wait for the glue to dry.
Thread a bead onto the needle and push it
onto the thread and then onto the yarn.
Repeat as many times as necessary for the
number of beads you want to use. After a little
practice you can string more than one bead
at a time. You can just scoop the needle into
the bowl of beads and several will hop onto
the needle at once, or you can individually
beads onto the needle and thread, and slide
six or eight at a time onto your yarn.
Normally, Lithuanian knitters
will string all of the beads needed for the
one wrister onto the yarn at once. However,
if your yarn is soft or fragile, especially
if it's an unplied singles yarn, strand only
four or five inches of beads at a time. You
can easily cut the yarn, string on more beads,
and rejoin the yarn to continue knitting as
If you string all of the beads onto the yarn
at once, put 100 beads on first. Then keeping
those separate from the beads you add next,
string on another set of beads the same length
as the first 100. This keeps you from having
to count so much. String on as many sets as
100 beads as you need for your charted pattern.
Before you begin knitting, gently push each
set of 100 beads up onto the yarn, so you have
one or two yards of yarn, or more, between
each set of beads, and all but the last 100
are pushed 10 or 20 yards up onto the yarn.
Push the last 100 beads up about one yard
onto the yarn, and spread them out over the
yarn so you can pull a few down close to your
knitting as you begin each charted row.
Knitting with Beads
There are many different ways to knit with
beads. We will go over the way that is used
in Lithuania when knitting garter-stitch wrist
warmers from charted patterns.
Only the wrong side rows
are shown on the charts.
Knit a right side row with
no beads, then work the charted row as follows:
Slip 1 for a slip-stitch edge, if desired.
Do not count this stitch.
Begin following the WS row on the left
edge of the chart. Knit the plain stitches
(white on the chart) normally. When you come
to a black square on the chart, slip a bead
up to the needles and knit the next stitch,
pulling it tight to hold the bead in place.
This counts as one bead stitch.
The bead sits between two stitches on the
needles and will naturally go to the back
of the work, which is why we knit in the
beads on the WS rows.
Learn More Riesines (Wrist
Warmers) by Irena Jurskiene (Lithuanian)
ビーズニッティング (Beads Knitting) by Kotomi Hayashi
Beads add a fabulous touch! Knowing just the basics of
knitting, you can easily create colorful designs with beads.
Using only garter stitch and learning how to read and work
from beading charts, you can make beautiful jeweled wrist
warmer cuffs that are inspired by those popular in Lithuania.
Circumference: 7 inches Length: 5 1/2 inches
Sheep Nature Spun Fingering [100% wool; 310yd/283m per
50g skein]; color: #N62 Amethyst; 1 skein
Recommended needle size [always use a needle
size that gives you the gauge
listed below -- every knitter's
gauge is unique]
000 US (1.5mm) knitting needles
500 size 8 or 10 glass seed beads
Quick-drying craft glue (if using size 10 seed beads)
steel crochet hook (optional, for beaded
36 sts/68 rows = 4" in garter stitch
PATTERN NOTES [Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]
Note:You may prefer to begin with a provisional
cast-on and finish with three-needle bind off or even grafting,
but this is not the traditional method in Lithuania.
The chart for this pattern is very large and fits on a letter-sized page.
Click here and print
the resulting page.
CO 50 sts.
Set-up Row [RS]: K all sts.
Row 1 [WS]: Sl 1, k following chart row,
reading from left to right, placing beads as indicated; k
to end of row.
Row 2: Sl1, k all sts (without placing
Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until work is long enough to fit around
wrist, ending with a WS row. If possible, end after completing
a full repeat of the charted pattern.
BO all sts knitwise; do not break yarn.
FINISHING Beaded Picots (optional)
Using crochet hook, work from right to left across side edge of piece as
Work 1 single crochet. *Skip 2 or 3 garter st ridges. Slide 6-9 beads up
to the join, then work a single crochet in the 3rd or 4th garter st ridge.
Pull the loop very large and draw the whole ball of yarn through it as
if you're fastening off. Repeat from * across the edge of the piece. Work
1 single crochet in last garter st ridge. Fasten off.
Sew CO and BO edges of piece together.
Weave in ends.