A view of Bryggen from the fish market in Bergen. Photo: Susanne Pagoldh.
ITS SCENERY IS magnificent and sheep are numerous. In the damp sea air, a knitted sweater keeps you warm. Norway isn't just ski slopes! Its long coastline stretches from the North Sea in the south to the Barents Sea in the north. Dramatically beautiful, it is steep and dangerous in many places. Fishing boats and oil platforms dot its seas.
High fells, deep dales, and fjords have all helped to preserve its local character. There are numerous striking folk costumes. When Norwegian immigrants came to the United States from remote highland villages, their clothes, which sported shiny metal clasps and lively motifs, seemed as exotic as those of the American Indians.
There has been great interest in the old folk costumes: since 1947 a state institution, Bunad og folkedraktradet, has handled questions on copying or adapting folk dress. In certain areas, many old folk costumes are still worn and are sometimes complemented with a knitted garment. One could also say that today's pattern-knitted sweaters are on the way to becoming a new Norwegian folk tradition. Traditional designs pop up in newer styles and in yarn factories' instruction booklets.
Beloved children have many pet names: strikke, binde, knytte, spitte, spide, and spyta are all words which have been used for knitting. But knytte and binde also have other meanings, which is a problem for researchers trying to determine how old knitting is. Anne Kjellberg of the Norwegian Folk Museum found notes about old, worn Faroese knitted stockings (y gamble wdsledenn bundne ferriiske hosser) worth four skillings in a
A Fana cardigan knitted in the round and cut. The yarn is heavier than that used in older examples. Instructions (from Rauma) are on page 98. Photo: Susanne Pagoldh.
deceased man's inventory in the accounts for Bergen County from 1566 to 1567. A stockinette-knitted wool fragment was found in an earth layer in a grave opened in Bergen. The fragment is considered to date from just before the Reformation, about 1500.
The Hanseatic city of Bergen in Hordaland was for a long time one of Scandinavia's foremost cities and a center for importation of luxury goods, such as knitted and embroidered silk sweaters (see the photo on page 11). Simpler, everyday clothing was traded, too. Wool sweaters, sweater sleeves, caps, and stockings came from many places in Europe.
"Dirt Poor" was the appellation given to one knitter in Bergen in 1714. In Stavanger in Roga-land, farther south down the coast, two women were accused of being trolls and thieves in 1634. Notes from the trial assert that one woman was in the service of the other: in exchange for room and board she did chores including knitting stockings for her employer.
The body of this star-patterned wool sweater was knitted in one piece, starting at the bottom, up over the shoulders, and back down again. It has no shoulder seams but was sewn at the sides. The armholes were cut open, as was the neck opening, which is edged with velvet. The gauge is about 35 stitches per 10 cm (4 in). The sweater is from Sunnhorda-land and is now in the Historical Museum in Bergen. Photo: Ann-Mari Olsen/Historical Museum, The University in Bergen.
If one believes the statutes for the Home for Women and Servants in Trondhjem and the Widow's Home in Bergen, people were already knitting by the middle of the seventeenth century. It should be noted that knitting was most closely associated with society's lowest levels: thieves and the poor.
Eventually, a school was established in Bergen where children could learn to knit. Later, it was fashionable for girls to knit, which saved many riksdalers, as otherwise, everyday sweaters had be be bought from England.
The eight-pointed star which shines forth from so many Norwegian sweaters and mittens is found in many cultures and is one of our most common textile motifs. The eight-petaled rose, as it is called in Norway, was found in knitted form even in thirteenth-century Spain. A museum in Burgos has a star-patterned knitted silk pillow cover which may have been knitted by Arabs. The same star design decorated the upper clas;; - • sweaters during the 1600s and appeared later : -peasant women's tight-fitting wool sweater; 7h e star is also common in the Norwegian p-lmre-weaving tradition and on rosetepper. woven r«e: covers from Vestland.
Fjellrosen is the name of several variants : a pattern with eight-pointed stars and iiir:- -boxes. The pattern, which goes back to the was knitted on men's Sunday and church-« ear sweaters in Fjell on the island of Sotra tutstie Bergen. Often, the sweaters were knitted in iark indigo blue and white yarn, with the cat; an: initials knitted at the bottom of a white knttte: welt 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 in) long. The section couldn't be seen when the sweater « a; tucked into trousers. A shirt was worn under th r sweater and a vest over it. Sometimes, a s - eate -sewn of wadmal, or felted fabric, was worn :-er the vest as protection against the North Sea ; winds. Those who had the means had one ; - e a: t -just for Sunday non-church wear, another : nl; : -wearing to church, and a third if necessar : -
was worn under the vest and tucked into the trousers. This sweater was narrow and tight-fit-ting and had slits at the neck and cuffs which could be buttoned like the cuffs on shirt sleeves. Old photographs show that the sweater was worn about 1870.
It is believed that the Fana sweater became a cardigan with a front opening and buttons about 1900. Sometimes, the buttons were old coins inherited from the time of Christian IV (1588-1648). The yarn, a fine two-ply in natural black or brown and white, was knitted in the round on fine double-pointed 1.5 mm (US 000) needles. Normally, the hip-length sweaters had drop shoulders that looked broad and slid down on the arms so that the sleeves could be knitted shorter. The front opening was cut and edged with woven bands. A favorite band had red hearts on a white background. The neck opening was squared and lined with cotton cloth.
The style and cut, especially that of the neckline, of Fana cardigans have changed in modern times, beginning at the time of Norway's independence (1905). The Fana sweater has certainly been popular for skiwear. Children's sweaters were often knitted in red and white or blue and white. When the Germans occupied Norway during the Second World War, the sweater became a national symbol for solidarity in the areas around Bergen.
Men's sweaters from Valle in Setesdal (a long valley in southern Norway) have also found a secure place in the folk costume tradition. In Sweden, the sweaters are better known as Norwegian lusekofta—lice-patterned cardigans. The white-dotted sweaters have been known since the 1840s, and many old ones have been preserved with folk costumes in Setesdal.
The sweaters had white patterns on a black background, white lower edges, and drop shoulders. The neck openings and sleeves were edged with black embroidered fabric and decorative buttons. The neck opening was fastened with a clasp of tin or silver. Older sweaters often had every day. After being worn, the church sweater was aired out in the sun so it would be ready for the next Sunday.
Fana, which is just south of Bergen, gave its name to Fana sweaters (Fanatr0jen), one of the most popular knitted garments in Norway (see page 43). The sweater, or cardigan, was originally part of the traditional man's costume in Fana and evolved from an everyday undersweater which
To save black yarn, the lower edges of Setesdal sweaters were knitted with white. The ribbed welt was invisible when tucked into trousers. Merete Liitken, who knitted the sweater in the picture, used the white welt as decoration. The sweater also has very simple embroidery around the neck opening as was traditional but features modern ribbed cuffs on the sleeves. This sweater is a good example of how an old garment can be adapted for modern tastes. Instructions: page 85. A slipover sweater from the 1950s has been cut open as a cardigan. The front edges have been strengthened with decorative bands, and the cuffs are buttoned and embroidered. Photo: Susanne Pagoldh.
(left) A krotas&kka from Bygland in Setesdal. Both men's and women's stockings were knitted with white yarn. Women's stockings were dyed black afterward. This stocking was knitted by Olav Aamlid from an older model that is now in the Norwegian Folk Museum collection. Photo: Norwegian Folk Museum.
.<><x>oo«i side seams and sleeve gussets, details carried over from fabric shirts. Threads for embroidery were factory-made four-ply wool yarns that were soft and loosely spun. Red was the most common color, but green, blue, yellow, lilac, rose, brown, and white were also used. Older sweaters had very simple embellishments while newer ones are more colorful and gaudy.
Traditionally, the men wore the sweaters tucked into black wadmal trousers with suspenders. Like carpenter's pants, these trousers reached high up on the chest and had goatskin pieces to reinforce the seat. A short vest with heavy silver jewelry was worn on top. Krotasokkar, white wool stockings with compli-
(left) Kross og kringle (cross and circle, or X's and O's) is a pattern often found on Setesdal lusekoftor.
A luskufte from Valle in Setesdal, knitted in hand-spun wool yarn, edged with black cloth and embroidered with wool yarn. The sweater is in the Norwegian Folk Museum, Oslo. Photo: Norwegian Folk Museum.
<far left) Body and cuff patterns drawn from a wool sweater from Sunnhordaland. Color photo, page 45.
(left) This triangular shawl, which is almost boomerang shaped, has ends that are just over 1.5 meters long (l5/s yd) so that they cross the chest, go around the body and then back to the front to be tied in a knot at the waist. The Norwegian Folk Museum has a similar black wool shawl from Dale in Sunnefjord dated from the end of the nineteenth century. It has a lace border at the lower edge, and the rest of it is knitted in garter stitch. Instructions for the shawl pictured here come from Norwegian Handicrafts and are on page 108. Photo: Susanne Pagoldh.
cated twisted patterns, were worn on the feet. Women also wore these stockings, but theirs were black.
It has been said that an enterprising woman, Gyro Rygnestad, was the first to sell a Setesdal sweater to someone outside the area. In 1938, she told Anna Grostol, a Norwegian needlework teacher who traveled around and collected information on handicrafts, that she sold the first woman's sweater in 1934 to a wholesaler in Kris-tiansand. The year after that, she knit a sweater without any embroidery—a man's Setesdal sweater in a sports model. At first, the people in Valle thought that it looked cheap, but the sweater sold well and the fashion caught on. It wasn't too long before the sweaters were machine knitted and some were cut open for cardigans. Most were knitted in black and white, but they could be made in other colors if the customer wanted. Many of these sweaters ended up in the United States.
Anew fashion wave hit during the 1960s, and the cardigans were edged with embroidery al: the whole front and buttoned with shiny :1 asa The sweaters became acceptable forma", wear an a could be worn instead of a jacket.
Today's lusekoftor which are made for salr arr knitted in heavier yarns than those for the -:r .-ter or her own family. Some unbelievably «ell-knitted sweaters are still made, and even ::y -will take up their needles when they want e: — e-thing exceptional.
In 1953, the designer Unn Soiland Dale the old patterns from Setesdal, particularly k -:; og kringle (cross and circle, or X's and O'i a; the starting point for a sweater that became ane :: Norwegian knitting's biggest sellers: the Mar. as gansey. The word genser, or in Swedish gensz~i comes from English and means a wool sweater Gens comes from Guernsey, an island in the English Channel where marine blue fishermen;
The instructions for this Setesdal-patterned sweater are from Rauma. A red cap complements this outfit which has all the colors of the Norwegian flag. Instructions for the sweater are on page 93; those for the hat are on page 114. Photo: Susanne Pagoldh.
sweaters have been knitted for quite a long time. The first Marius ganseys featured the Norwegian flag colors: a blue bottom with patterns in red and white over the chest and shoulders.
The ethnologist Gerd Aarsland Rosander has researched the history behind the sweater and how it came to have the name Marius. At the beginning of the 1950s, two slalom skiers, the brothers Stein and Marius Eriksen, were popular idols, like today's Ingemar Stenmark and Björn Borg in Sweden. They exemplified Norwegian-
The instructions for this Setesdal-patterned sweater are from Rauma. A red cap complements this outfit which has all the colors of the Norwegian flag. Instructions for the sweater are on page 93; those for the hat are on page 114. Photo: Susanne Pagoldh.
(far left) This man's cap from Nordhor-daland has an embroidered lower edge, an abrupt but pleasing finish.
The origin of the embroidered mitten at the right is uncertain, but similar ones from Voss in Hordaland have been preserved. Note the ribbing under the embroidery on the cuff. It is in the Historical Museum in Bergen. Photo: Ann-Mari Olsen / Historical Museum, The University in Bergen.
Sjonaleistar are associated with festivals and weddings. Only very experienced knitters could make these half socks of wool with two-end knitting. The tassel at the toe was used when the sock was hung to dry. The sock from Hardanger is now in the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo. Photo: Norwegian Folk Museum.
These half mittens from Hoi in Buske-rud have very old patterns on the thumb and front. They are in the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo. Photo: Norwegian Folk Museum.
ness and youth. Because Stein participated in the 1952 Olympics and no one wanted to risk his amateur status, the sweater was named after Marius, who was also a slalom star. A yarn manufacturer published the knitting instructions with a portrait of Marius Eriksen on the front.
In only the past five years, more than 100,000 copies of the knitting instructions for Marius ganseys have been printed and sold, according to Gerd Rosander. Instructions for the Fana sweater have sold equally well during that period. But when one thinks of how many instructions are borrowed and sweaters copied from those already knitted, the figures are much higher and competitive with machine-made models. It just goes to show that knitting is an important economic activity in Norway.
"Warning. Red caps. The wearing of red caps has lately become so prevalent that they are now considered a type of protest. Wearing of these caps is forbidden beginning on Thursday, 26 February 1942. From that day forward, the caps will be confiscated from whoever is wearing one " This was a public announcement from the police in Trondhjem. Wearing a red cap was considered a political statement against the Germans. It was such a strong symbol that elves' red caps on Christmas cards were censored that winter.
Caps as a political symbol were nothing new—pointed caps had been a symbol of protest long before and during the French Revolution in 1789. In Norway, the red cap has a very long tradition. People preferred to buy them ready-made, and in certain areas, homemade caps were thought to be unusual. In 1782, the Enighed Factory started up in Stor-Elvdal. Their ma-chine-made caps became highly sought after. Miners working in the Roros, Norway, copper mines were enchanted with them because they had to be bought in Norway and thus symbolized a business trip. At home in Sweden, the caps were a sign that the wearer had traveled far away.
In Norway, it is said that "caps follow the owner to the grave." Men slept with a cap on the head but were otherwise stark naked. Caps : an: -off only in church on Sundays. Caps could ads-: :-r worn under hats. In Hordaland, in the arid::- -ago outside Bergen, the men wore dark blue zaps with colorful patterns, usually of stars. The rap s lower edges were embroidered with checks in re: yellow, and white. All of the cap's colors were use: in the tassel. In Rogaland, similar caps ^ere knitted; they were very long and heavily patterned, and edged with pile.
"Men wear caps and women wear shawls " Shawls could be knitted or crocheted and - erT triangular with long points or bands The er. as were wrapped in a cross over the chest. bar -r er i around the back, then around to the front again giving the old shawls and their wearers a pre:: silhouette. The widest section hung over :r -shoulders like angel wings, and the tied b an ds
made the wearer look slim. Large shawls were also warm enough for sleeping in under a skin rug.
Wool sweaters with patterns that resemble a circular knitted collar over the shoulders are very popular presents to take home from a trip to Norway. These colorful sweaters light up many souvenir shops in airports and large hotels. The strong colors are as closely associated with Norway as the natural sheep colors are with Iceland. It is difficult to say how this came to be—in the Faroe Islands they are called Greenland patterns.
During the period between the two world wars, sweaters were knitted in the round in Norway. Gerd Rosander remembers from her childhood in the 1930s and 1940s that many knitters worked the patterned yoke in the round, but with the difference that decreases were made in four particular places. The result was a sweater with distinctive raglan shaping. The Greenland beaded collars (see page 35) could have been the source for the new way of knitting with the decreases evenly spaced over a round (see page 40). But circular needles are certainly older than that. We can trace them at least back to the fashion magazine Dagmar from 1881.
Lice, stars, and reindeer also decorate the offerings in the gift shops. The hangtags promise that they are handknitted in 100 percent Norwegian wool, but the odd statement "Made in Sri Lanka" often follows. The Norwegian yarn company Dale has hired knitters in Sri Lanka to meet the huge demand for Norwegian garments.
The famous Norwegian moose and reindeer designs originated in Selbu knitting. The familiar star patterns or sjenn-rosa and other figurative designs are named after natural objects or the area where they were first made.
Selbu lies in S0r-Tr0ndelag at the same latitude as Jamtland. Businesses still cross the bor ders as they did in earlier times, and perhaps the knitting patterns were spread in this way. Even on the Swedish side, one finds graphic black-and-white or brown-and-white patterns.
Previously, Selbu had been best known for its millstones. When millstone sales ceased at the turn of the century, knitting came into prominence. After the First World War, knitting was so strong that it gained real economic importance. A
The Selbu-patterned sweater can also be cut open for a cardigan and edged with bands in the traditional way. Instructions from Rauma are on page 94. Photo: Susanne Pagoldh.
The reindeer (far right) is part of a Rauma pattern.
The stocking to the left is dated 1870 and is in the Norwegian Folk Museum. The one to the right is knitted following instructions from Rauma on page 117. Photo: Norwegian Folk Museum, Susanne Pagoldh.
handicraft center was started in the 193'Ie The center procured yarn, standardized patterns an i bought and sold garments. Another responsibilir was to control and preserve the well-known 5 e .: _ quality. Garments were graded into van: us classes, and quality was guaranteed.
Usually, it was the women who knitted. : n: during times of crisis and job shortages, the needles even clicked in the hands of men and boys. Although the work has never been well paid, it was the means of survival for many families.
According to family tradition, it was Man: Emstad (born in 1841) who knitted the first t air of Selbu mittens sometime during the 1S: I s 7h e mittens are said to have had black stare : n white background. Pattern knitting spread in th e village, and it wasn't long before the girls in 5 e.: . knitted patterns with all sorts of figures and flourishes. Marit continued knitting through: _: her life. She adapted patterns from other crar.e such as weaving or woodcarving. She ais.: invented new patterns from recognizable forms m nature and her home.
Another energetic woman was Beret Aun-r (born in 1856). When she was young and ne married, she went with her children and hue ; an i to America, where he had found work in air.: factory. As a way of funding a school fcr the children, Beret gathered the women in the area and taught them how to knit mittens. She then
went around the neighborhood selling them. After the school was built, they knitted for a church. Eventually, Beret moved back to Selbu and started up a new women's union—a bridge was needed, and they built it!
A wedding in Selbu involved a great deal of work. A girl who was to marry needed plenty of time to knit. First and foremost, a beautiful pair of stockings had to be knitted for the groom. The groom's father, brothers, and in-laws also expected pattern-knitted stockings. The bride gave cloth to the groom's mother, sisters, and sisters-in-law. One way to obtain the cloth was to exchange knitting for it at the shop. All of the male wedding guests expected to take home mittens, but the bride didn't have to knit all of them—the women guests helped.
A few days before the wedding, the women guests would show up with mittens for the bride. The mittens were hung up in a particular order in the bride's loft. For large weddings, there could be a hundred or so pairs of mittens. It was the bride's duty to see that each pair of the mittens went to the right man. A woman who had knitted a pair of mittens got to take them home again with her husband. It was exciting for the young and unmarried women to see who got their mittens.
Nowadays, it is usually older women in Selbu who knit for sale. The yarn used is thicker than that used formerly for presents. Clear colors like red or blue on a white background are preferred for mittens. The patterns have become so widespread and well known that now almost all two-color patterns in Norway are referred to as Selbu, no matter where the pattern originated.
Embroidered mittens, half mittens, and gauntlets were all clerical apparel. Half mittens freed the fingers for turning pages in the psalm book. They also kept the palms warm in the cold, unheated churches. Half mittens were also practical for women who knitted while they walked. Both men and women wore pulsvantar (wrist warmers), some of which were elegantly knitted with threaded beads (see also page 34). They were warm and also decorously hid worn-out or dirty sleeves.
Otherwise, most people wore coarse socks or work mittens. These were usually made with undyed yarn because they wore out so soon. Several pairs might be needed for one season. Work mittens could also be made in two-end knitting for extra strength.
To make socks stronger, goat hair was blended with wool. Black wool and white goat hair made a salt-and-pepper yarn. Occasionally, the socks were knitted with an open heel, that is, a hole instead of a heel. This was done so that
Patterns drawn from a Lapland mitten from Kautokeino. The wool mittens, which are in the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo, are knitted in dark violet, sky blue, green, red, and white.
Nelly Must knitted this wool man's mitten in a pattern from the Varanger district in Finn-mark. The mitten is in the Sor-Varanger Museum in Kirkenes. Instructions, page 113. Photo: Susanne Pagoldh.
they could be drawn on over shoes or other socks like an extra shoe as protection against the snow. The stocking feet could also be reinforced by a wadmal sole. In Nordmore, these large, heavy, ribbed socks are called ragga. In Oppland, cow hair was blended in the yarn for outer stockings or utap&hoser that had long legs and were held on the feet with straps. Talabber were a shorter style of these stockings.
Blending in hair from animals or humans is a well-known method for strengthening yarn. Hair can be blended in during spinning or held together with the wool yarn while knitting. In that way, more hair can be added at the points where strength is most needed. Human hair was often mixed with wool for mittens and stockings to be worn by sailors and mine workers.
Fishermen wore mittens with two thumbs. In certain districts, these were called sj0votter or hvalfangervotter. The thumb that wasn't being used was stuffed into the mitten so that it wouldn't be in the way. The mittens were knitted extra large and then well fulled in warm soapy water or, on the More coast, in fish broth. Gallbladders from codfish were stuffed inside mittens when they were washed. The mittens were then pressed hard so that the gallbladders burst and their contents—natural cleansers—permeated the wool.
The Laplanders' homelands stretch from R0ros in the south, north and eastward to Kolahalv Island in the Soviet Union. Their languages and clothing vary from area to area, particularly between the coast and inland, but all are related.
Traditionally the Laplanders wore fur mittens in the winter. Both mittens and shoes were stuffed with warm, soft hay. After the nomadic Laplanders encountered trading shops and knitting, they replaced the hay inside their fur mittens with knitted mittens. In time, many Laplanders settled in one place and raised sheep.
In Kautokeino in Finnmark, in northern Lapland, mittens (faccak, in Lapp) have been knitted since the end of the nineteenth century Tie ~ tens are patterned in red, blue, and greer. : r. -white background. No pair is exactly like ar.: tier-In the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo. there ere several pairs that have patterns over the entire outer side but only halfway up on the palm sioe The mittens have two-end knitting pattern; : -the lower edge, and some also have tassels
In S0r-Varanger in Finnmark, on the border with the Soviet Union, white wool miner.; are knitted with red, blue, and white patterns ¿r._r : the upper wrist. The patterns are adapted tr: r. woven bands and the familiar eight-pointei star Nelly Must in -Jarfjord has collected and tn—Itter down the old patterns. The results of her : have now been collected in the Sor-Varanger M seum in Kirkenes.
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