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  • the norwegian knitting industry museum

    Norway's been on my mind lately and I realized I have a whole heap of photos I never got around to sharing from the Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum (aka the Norsk Trikotasjemuseum) that I took when I had the chance to visit the museum with my friend Jena nearly two years ago (!). The museum is located just outside of Bergen and I shared it on my list of places to visit in my Bergen piece for Mason Dixon Knitting, so I thought some of you might enjoy seeing it in a little bit more detail.

    Before it was a museum, the Salhus Tricotasjefabrikk was a textile mill and factory – one that not only spun wool into yarn, but also created machine-knit fabrics in house and turned those into ready-to-wear pieces like sweaters, activewear, and underwear. It's a rare factory where all three of those processes would take place under the same roof, but I think it makes the museum especially interesting to visit. It was active from 1859 to 1989, and later on became a museum.  

    It's located in Salhus, about 15 km north of Bergen on the Salhus Fjord. It's tucked right into the bottom of a hill at the water's edge, on a creek that flows down to the fjord (and which was the original power source for the museum, as for most old mills and factories in Norway). The houses peppering the steep hillside and the small marina outside make it a particularly picturesque location.

    The entrance to the museum leads you into the large cafe space with a wall of windows facing the fjord. This is where visitors can sit down with a cup of coffee or juice and some baked treats or sandwiches, but it's also where many of the museum's regular knitting events are held (such as knit cafes or author's talks). It's a welcoming space and the view of the water is beautiful. 

    Guided tours of the factory are given in Norwegian and English and visitors are shown a short film before the tour begins. You're taken through each section of the factory, so you get to see where each stage of the process from wool to garment took place: carding, spinning, winding, knitting, and sewing. Today, the machinery is used to knit scarves, socks, and sweaters that can be purchased in the gift shop.

    When it comes to the sweaters that the museum produced, Salhus specialized in a type of garment known as an islender. This means "Icelander" in Norwegian, and Annemor Sundbø refers to them as "Iceland sweaters" in her book Everyday Knitting. She asserts that despite the name, this type of sweater may have originated in the Faroe Islands:

    "In 1798, Jørgen Landt described Faroese sweaters with small figures, fine well made sweaters for the local inhabitants, and coarser garments for sale and export. Toward the end of the 1880's, Faroese export of knitwear increased, and these garments were often made of imported Icelandic wool, which the Faroese bartered for other commodities. This may be the explanation for the term 'Iceland sweaters', but then again similar sweaters were also produced in Jutland in Denmark and Halland in Sweden . . . There were several small patterns which were widely used in Faroese knitting."

    – from Everyday Knitting by Annemor Sundbø (2001)

    Sundbø goes on to discuss machine-knitted islender, which were "very popular work clothes." She mentions Devold, one of the producers of what may be the prototypical Norwegian islender, with its small repetitive motifs in black on natural white:

    Devold still produces this style of islender today. While I think this is what most people picture when they hear the term, some people use it more broadly to refer to similar sweaters which use different motifs, but to the a similar effect (other people might categorize these sweaters as sponsetrøyer instead, but to go down that road is to get into the nitty-gritty details of Norwegian knitwear nomenclature, so I'll leave it there). Many of the Salhus fabrics were variations on the typical islender, such as the examples below:

    (Images via Museumssenteret i Hordaland, downloaded from digitaltmuseum.no)

    Both of the above examples come from Salhus Trikotasjefabrikk – the top example is a swatch for the fabric and collar of a more classic black and white islender, though the motifs are slightly different than the version produced by Devold. The one on the bottom is a different pattern and also makes use of different colors, but it's still very typical of the sweaters that Salhus produced. The museum maintains an archive of different patterned fabrics, with some of the patterns perhaps never actually being put into production (but more on that at a later date!).

    I found the whole guided tour really interesting – our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and engaging, and it was fun to see such a wide variety of textile-specific machinery being demonstrated. I think I was also a little surprised at how light and bright so much of the factory felt, but of course when it was first built, the workers would have had to rely on natural light and the many windows (and even skylights!) allowed for that. (Bonus: for those of you who can understand Norwegian, you should check out the podcast episode that Kristin and Ingvild of Strikketerapi filmed in the museum with an audience at last year's Bergen Strikkefestival - it's quite cool to see them in that setting!)

    The museum shop sells a variety of interesting stuff, including ready-to-wear knitted garments and accessories, as I mentioned previously. My own souvenir, though, was some of the museum's yarn, Museumstvinn. While they no longer do full-scale yarn production, the museum does have a selection of yarns that are plied on their machinery (the individual plies are spun up the road at Hillesvåg before they're sent down to Salhus). I was particularly drawn to the interesting marled yarns spun from plies of slightly different shades, like the blue one above. 

    There's a large open space used for rotating exhibitions (and it was the location of the marketplace at last year's Bergen Strikkefestival, which the museum hosts and which I hope to attend someday). It's beautifully bright and airy, and when I visited in 2016 they had an embroidery exhibit going on. I have such a soft spot for so much of the Norwegian embroidery – I've held myself back from collecting old cross-stitched cushions (like the ones below) and decorative klokkestreng wall hangings, but it feels like it's only a matter of time before a few find their way into my home.

    In case it isn't obvious, if you find yourself in Bergen I definitely think the Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum is worth a visit! Jena and I drove to the museum, but it's possible to get to the museum using the public transit as well (see the bus instructions on the museum's page here). It takes about 1.5-2 hours to tour the museum, but be sure to build in some extra time not only for getting to and from the museum, but also for browsing the shop and hanging out in the cafe (with a bit of knitting, of course). The guided tours happen at scheduled times, so you should check the schedule before you plan your trip to make sure you won't miss the last tour of the day. 

    --

    P.S.: A small postscript about the name, because those of you with knowledge of French probably picked up on the loanword in the factory's original name: Salhus Trikotasjefabrikk. The 'sj' combination forms sound we spell with 'sh' in English, so this is the modern Norwegianized version of French tricotage (it was actually spelled the French way at the time of the factory's founding). Norwegian uses the Scandinavian word for hand knitting: 'to knit' is å strikke and 'knitted garments' are strikkede plagg. So why the French loanword here? In my experience, I've seen trikotasje associated with knitting on an industrial scale (i.e. commercial machine knitting), while strikk is associated with knitting by hand. Since the Salhus factory created machine knit fabrics, we see that reflected in the name.

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  • more lofoten goodness

    There were several other Lofoten-related things that came to mind as I was putting together the Lofoten Wool post, but I didn't want the post to get too long and I really wanted the yarn and its relationship with the landscape to be the focus. So I decided to save these little bits for a new post - and I hope you enjoy these too.

    First up, there are a few Lofoten-related segments from a TV show called Norge Rundt that I thought some of you might enjoy seeing. I'm pretty sure you should be able to stream these outside Norway, because I have memories of watching Norge Rundt from time to time when I still lived in Seattle. The show's name means "Around Norway" and the format is made up of relatively short segments from some place or another, meeting a diverse array of people who do all kinds of things - and you usually jump around the country a bunch within a single episode. The show is still on today, but I'm particularly fond of the older episodes found in the show's archives, and the clips I have to share today are both of that variety. The audio is in Norwegian only, but the visual experience alone is worth it, so don't let that dissuade you if you don't speak Norwegian:

    Clip 1: In my last post I mentioned the fishing huts where fishermen would lodge, called rorbuer, and how they mainly cater to tourists now. This clip from 1978, entitled "rorbuferie" (fishing hut holiday) covers that very topic, along with some stunning footage of Lofoten in the summertime. You'll have to click through to the NRK website to watch it.

    Clip 2: This is a pretty endearing segment from 1979, which starts off with a voiceover about how the number of fishermen and of fishing boats in Kabelvåg is steadily decreasing, just like many other towns in Lofoten - "mange begynner etterhvert å glemme hvordan Lofotlivet i gamle dager var," he tells us, or "many are beginning to gradually forget what Lofoten life was like in 'the olden days'." So the kids and teachers of the local school decided to host a big event about what life used to be like in Lofoten. Their stage performance features a hanmade backdrop, adorably goofy singing, and lots of fantastic knitwear - all of which prompted my husband to ask "Wait, are we watching a Belle & Sebastian video?" when the girl in the yellow sou'wester showed up on the screen. (Fun side note: Belle & Sebastian have totally been to northern Norway, actually). But I love a community coming together to take a look back and remember what life was like in the not-so-distant past - with young people stepping up to take care of their traditions. Again, click through to watch the clip on the NRK website.

    Given the dates of both of these clips, it's worth pointing out that just like in Shetland, the 1970s was a decade that transformed sea-based industry in Norway after the discovery of oil on the continental shelf. I feel like both of these clips point to that changing landscape. (It also brought to mind the exhibition Ella Gordon put together for the Shetland Museum back in 2014 about Shetland knitting during the oil boom.)

    Artwork was another theme that came up when I was thinking about Lofoten. Some of my favorite Norwegian artwork features scenes of northern Norway, and I thought I'd share a few pieces that to me, really manage to capture the place.

    Winter Morning in Svolvær by Gunnar Berg, 1887. Berg grew up in Svolvær, which is also where the landscape photos in the last post were from. Berg really captures the light, and the brilliance of the white snow against a blue winter sky. The misty clouds and the masterful reflection in the water are so atmospheric.

    From Reine in Lofoten by Otto Sinding in 1883 (courtesy Digitalt Museum). Sinding's paintings of Lofoten manage to capture the feeling of the size and scale of the mountains in a way that photos can't seem to do. I love the low winter light in this one, and the way the reflected sky is a steel grey. These are all the things I love to notice in my changing surroundings as the light changes at different times of year.

    And for something completely different, I love this piece by Reidar Aulie. This is Lofoten, tall rock formations, from some time after 1922 (courtesy Digitalt Museum). The first thing this piece brings to mind for me is some of J.R.R. Tolkien's artwork, and given that they were very nearly contemporaries (Aulie was 12 years younger than Tolkien) that's not entirely surprising. It's just pen on paper, but it's beautiful. The Tolkien pieces this one brings to mind are Caerthilian Cove & Lion Rock and Cove near the Lizard, both scenes from Cornwall which can be seen on this page, as well as in the book J.R.R Tolkien, Artist & Illustrator, which is where I was introduced to them.

    And last but not least, I wanted to mention a book I've just finished reading, which was a Christmas gift from my friend Anna: The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen. She gave me a copy in the original Norwegian (De usynlige), and she described it along the lines of being a sort of quintessential northern Norwegian novel. It follows the story of a girl who grows up on a small island, home to her family and her family only. They have a small farm, and her father goes to Lofoten to fish every winter. The content from page to page is very everyday sorts of stuff for much of the book, which makes it an excellent novel for someone interested in what life might have been like on a small Norwegian island in the gamle dager, the old days. It's available in English as The Unseen (linked above), and I'm incredibly excited that the English translation just made the longlist for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

    Thanks for indulging a little bit of Lofoten exploration on the blog today.

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  • bladet garn

    I received a magazine in the mail a couple of weeks ago and I've been wanting to sit down and write about it ever since. It's Bladet Garn, a brand new independent Norwegian knitting mag, and the first issue is absolutely gorgeous. The creators, Solveig Engevold Gaustad (aka Surrehue) and Unni Cathrine Eiken (aka Malsen og Mor), have obviously found a niche that had yet to be filled in the Norwegian market, as they launched the magazine after a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Notably, Unni is a fellow linguist, so we probably have her to thank for the fact that the magazine's logo is rendered in IPA, the international phonetic alphabet. "Garn" is the Norwegian word for "yarn," and due to Norway's diverse collection of regional dialects, the pronuncation of this word can vary from place to place. The pronunciation represented in the logo ([gɔːn]) is how you might expect to hear "garn" said in the Hedmark region of Norway, but the editors note several other pronunciations you might hear in their intro to this issue, and they invite readers to share their own pronunciation on Instagram with the hashtag #jegsiergarn (meaning "I say yarn"). So... a Norwegian-language knitting mag that also happens to be embracing sociolinguistics? It's probably no shocker that I'm a shoe-in for this one. I did record my own pronunciation, and if you didn't already see it on Instagram, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post. But for now, back to the knitting!

    I've been looking forward to this project since I first heard about it, but the moment I really got excited was when they revealed the cover in the days before publication - not only is it gorgous, but it features a shawl designed by Nina of Ninapetrina, my nearest local yarn dyer! It's called Glør and it's knit up in her gorgeous yarn too, of course. The rest of the issue doesn't disappoint, either. There are 14 patterns in total, a mix of garments and accessories for both adults and children. You can view all the patterns on Ravelry here. There's also a nice mix of articles which I'm still working my way through (I've mentioned before that I'm a very slow reader in Norwegian) on a range of topcis, including an essay on knitting from Bjørg Myhre Ims, a designer profile on Elisabeth Steenks, and a segment called "one to follow" profiling a knitter on Instagram (in this issue, @pollywantsanothercracker). It's great reading for someone like me who's still learning my way around the Norwegian knitting community. There's also a tutorial for making your own small weaving loom out of a frame, and an overview of some of the awesome knitting books recently published in Norway. In other words, they've packed a lot of good stuff in here. Here are just a few of my favorite patterns, aside from Nina's on the cover above:

    Clockwise from top left, these are the løvlibolerojakke jente (the girls' version) by Strikkelisa (Elisabeth Steenks), a beautiful cabled vest called Flettevest by Cecilie Oddenes, the adult version of the løvlibolerojakke by Strikkelisa, and some gorgeous mittens knit using two-color twined knitting, called Tvebandvotter, by Lene Tøsti. The twined mittens also have an accompanying article which I'm looking forward to reading.

    Unfortunately for those of you who don't speak Norwegian, this is only a Norwegian-language magazine. But maybe some of you out there who've spent time studying the language or who are interested in deciphering Norwegian knitting patterns might be interested? And for those of you who are in Scandinavia or speak a Scandinavian language, I hope you're as excited as I am to see where this magazine is headed. You can pick up your own copy (or a three-issue subscription) on the Bladet Garn website right here.

    Lastly, as promised, here's my contribution to the #jegsiergarn tag on Instagram. This one's for all of you who have ever wanted to see me awkwardly speak Norwegian on camera. Enjoy!

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