Until the 1880s, men on Kihnu island regularly wore woven knee-length tunics (umbkuub or vammus in Estonian). Men started wearing knitted jumpers in the second half of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the archaic tunic remained in use for decades to come as part of the winter attire for hunting seals. It is thought the name of the jumper – troi – is a derivative of the Swedish word tröja (knitted jumper). The first Kihnu men’s jumpers were knitted in a single natural sheep shade – black, grey, or white. However, the plain jumpers were still knitted using stranding because it gives a tighter and warmer fabric. The bottom edging, cuffs, and neckband had 4 cm long 2×1 corrugated ribbing worked using two strands of the same yarn. The men’s jumpers have been knitted in small all-over colourwork patterns in blue and white since the end of the 19th century. The blue yarn was dyed with indigo. A bit of red, preferably dyed with Northern bedstraw, was often added to the neckband, cuffs, and bottom edging.

Kihnun villapaita

The bedstraw red was believed to have magic properties against illnesses and evil forces. Men wore their jumpers on daily basis as well as on special occasions. In the 1920s, it became a fad among the young men to despise traditional items. The colourwork jumpers fell out of favour and were either dyed black or unravelled. The yarn was repurposed for women’s stockings, mittens, and gloves. Young men were also reluctant to wear colourwork mittens and gloves. Thus, they wore mittens that were entirely black or had floral motifs. Fortunately, this attitude subsided in the 1930s when the island was frequented by ethnographers who praised the uniqueness of Kihnu island culture. Knitting men’s jumpers was the first order of crafting for the women after the autumn harvest. The jumpers were tightly knitted in the round using 12–15 fine double-pointed needles. Sometimes, two or three knitters worked on the same troi simultaneously. The body was knitted straight up to the shoulders without any shaping, the armholes were cut later and the sleeves knitted from the top down. The neck opening was straight, often with a
button closure on the shoulder. As children have proportionally larger heads, their jumpers were sometimes made with an open neck to make it easier to pull the troi on. At the end of the 20th century, when the traditional jumper became fashionable again, it was made more comfortable for the wearer: the contemporary troi is knitted with a round neck opening for the head to fit through better.

Text and photos by Elly Karjam
Eesti Rahvakunsti ja Käsitöö Liit for Nordic Craft Week 2022

Published to Nordic Craft Week 2022 by https://folkart.ee/.