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  • hello, june

    In my last post I mentioned that I was going to Oslo for the weekend, and that turned out to be a very good idea - after a weekend of summer-like temps and sunshine in Oslo, it was snowing in Tromsø when I arrived home late Monday night. "Velkommen til vinteren," said my cab driver as I got into a taxi a the airport (that's "welcome to winter"). It's been above freezing, so the snow didn't really stick around, but the higher altitudes on the island turned white again for a little while. I posted a video of the snow on Instagram from the university campus, which was reposted by the CNN account this morning (it's a bit surreal to see that something you filmed on your iPhone has over 100,000 views).

    In any case, Tromsø is still distinctly un-summery and I'm even feeling a little bit under the weather today, so I thought it would be nice to revisit some of the photos I took over the weekend (which was absolutely jam-packed with buddies and lots of time spent outdoors in the beautiful weather). Katie, who started the Oslo Strikkefestival, was telling me that May is her favorite month in Oslo, and it's easy to see why. The whole city feels like it's in full bloom, and the new green leaves feel positively lush. 

    These photos were taken in Slottsparken (or Palace Park), the public park that surrounds the royal palace, but we visited several parks over the course of the weekend, including Frognerparken (always a favorite) as well as one I knew of but had never been to, Ekebergparken, which sits up on a hill east of central Oslo and features some truly beautiful views over the city and the Oslofjord (and it's also a sculpture park). Even though I've spent a summer in Oslo before, I didn't arrive until mid-June, so I never realized how many lilacs there were all across the city! The smell as you stroll around is simply divine. Up north the lilacs bloom much later - and spring/summer up here is even later this year than normal.

    I'm so incredibly grateful to have had such a beautiful weekend, and I'm feeling pretty spoiled by it all. Oslo truly is one of my favorite cities.

    I've also continued to have lighter-weight spring and summer knitting projects on the brain, and I've made headway with my two laceweight projects. I made some progress on my Loess wrap (aka my "sommarøya wrap") while in Oslo, and I've been focused on my Garland pullover since I got home. I finished the main body, so you can finally see the garment starting to take shape, and I've started the first sleeve. This welthase yak lace is such a pleasure to work with.

    The slightly desaturated pink of the yarn goes quite nicely with all the photos of blossoms, don't you think? Now, if only we had some blossoms of our own in Tromsø...

  • norsk folkemuseum, part 2: indoors

    I've been back from Norway for nearly two weeks and I'm finally settling in again and beginning to get back into a work flow. It's so easy to forget how much of a buffer is sometimes needed between long travel and diving back into work. In any case, today I'm writing about the other half of the Norwegian Folkemuseum in Oslo: the indoor exhibits!

    There are a host of different permanent exhibitions inside the main museum buildings (you can view the list here), my favorite of which were the exhibits on folk dress and folk art, and of course, the knitting history exhibit.

    The gallery was dark, so as to protect the items on display, which means it wasn't the best place to try and take photos of things (as is usually the case). I grabbed a few, though. In particular, I was pretty smitten with this chair:

    Between the carving, the painting, and the woven seat cushion, it's a crazy and beautiful amalgamation of several different folk arts.

    There was a wonderful description of the Husflidsbevegelsen, the home crafts movement that is the origin of the modern husflidslag:

    "Due to the great changes that occurred in rural society during the second half of the 1800s, long-standing traditions in crafts gradually began to vanish. In order to halt this trend, and to combat unemployment and poverty, the home crafts movement arose in the 1860s. Starting in the 1880s, museums of applied art became involved in this movement, primarily in order to ensure high artistic quality, but also as a result of the national romantic spirit of the times. In 1891, three home crafts associations in Kristiania (later renamed Oslo) merged to form the Norwegian Association for Home Arts and Crafts [Den Norske Husflidsforening]. This association opened shops in the city, and established a contact network with producers all over the country. The home crafts movement flourished, and similar associations were established in many towns, and eventually throughout the country."

    The husflid movement is still going strong today, with organizations all over the country (you can find their website, in Norwegian only, at husflid.no). The closest equivalent I can think of in the U.S. would be the guild system, but it's not an exact equivalent. A husflidslag from a specific area of Norway will be interested in protecting the regional crafts and styles historically specific to that area, for example, and they cover far more than just knitting. Many of the regional organizations have shops you can visit, and the national Norges Husflidslag has a shop on the bottom floor of the historic GlasMagasinet department store in the middle of downtown Oslo. The yarn selection is great, for the record!

    But back to the museum: the Knitting History section was small, but they managed to cover a lot. I could've simply stared at the items on display:

    That's an original copy of Annichen Sibbern Bøhn's landmark Norske Strikkemønstre (Norwegian Knitting Designs, 1929) to the left. Annichen spent 1927 traveling around Norway collecting different designs and patterns, taking photographs of samples, and writing charts for the different designs. It's a wonderful source of inspiration for anyone interested in Norwegian knitting and while the book was out of print for years, it's been republished thanks to Terri Shea (author of Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition). You can take a peek here, and if you're interested in learning more about Annichen, you can check out the PDF of an article Terri wrote for Piecework Magazine here (PDF link).

    Moving to the right from Annichen's book, there's a stocking from Selbu, a mohair brush, and a collection of straight and circular needles in different sizes. And that painted needle case on the end! 

    There was also a large selection of sweaters on display. Lurking up on the wall, in the top right-hand corner of the photo, there's a Skappelgenser, the super simple sweater that took Norway by storm in 2012 (I've knit one myself). Many Norwegians who weren't knitters learned to knit to make themselves a Skappelgenser. 

    There was also a case full of sweaters designed by Unn Søiland Dale, who designed many sweaters for the Sandnes factory. Her most famous and most recognizeable design (especially as it's seeing a resurgence right now), is the iconic blue, red, and white Marius sweater. Many of her sweater designs became Norwegian icons and are still recognizeable today, like the Marius sweater. Check out this lady's style:

    There was also a beautiful temporary exhibition on when I visited, featuring photography by Italian photographer Luca Berti. Luca cycles around Norway taking photos of people and the countryside, and the results are gorgeous. The photos were shot recently, but most are shot on film and many with large format cameras, so they feel quite nostalgic. That exhibition is up through September.

    My souvenir from the museum gift shop was splurging on a book:

    Ren Ull, or Pure Wool, by Tone Skårdal Tobiassen and Ingun Grimstad Klepp. It is exactly as it sounds: a book all about Norwegian wool. It's a history, an account of wool in the lives of everyday Norwegians, and it tells the story of wool from sheep to product. Here's an English translation of the description from the book jacket:

    Wool is part of the Norwegian soul, a warming gold that is spun, knitted, woven, and transformed into wonderful products like our national costumes, sweaters and undergarments, upholstery and rugs. Everyone knows that the South Pole was reached because of Amundsen’s wool undergarments, and everyone knows that wool is tantamount to a happy childhood. With winter sport idols Vegard Ulvang and Kari Traa (who added a dose of sex appeal), wool  undergarments have undergone a renaissance.

    In PURE WOOL we follow the path from sheep to product. Here you’ll find the story of quality, Norwegian industry, nostalgia and tradition, and modern design. Here also we discount several myths – for modern wool neither scratches nor shrinks. The starting point is Norwegian sheep, but in a globalized world, the wool takes some detours that few know or think about. So let yourself be surprised and seduced into a world that affects us all. [Translation mine.]

    It was released in conjunction with The Campaign for Wool's Wool Week in 2013, Norway being one of several other countries that has taken up the campaign since it was started in the UK in 2010. I'm so pleased to know that the importance of wool is being given real recognition in a country like Norway where it has historically been so important. I'm not terribly far into the book yet (I'm a much slower reader in Norwegian than in English) but it's chock full of color photos past and present, and the topics covered are certainly wide. I'm really enjoying it, and I'd definitely recommend it to any Norwegian speakers (as far as I know, there is no English translation). It is nice to be reading it as I prep for the Nordic Knitting Conference, and I have a feeling a lot of the subject matter may come up in my classes.

    All in all, the Folkemuseum on Bydøy is absolutely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Oslo. Give yourself at least a whole day - it's the largest museum of cultural history in Norway, after all - and try to go when the weather's decent so you can enjoy the open-air museum. It's also a great spot to hit if you're doing research on many aspects of Norwegian culture, and you can read about the collections and archives of the museum here.

  • norsk folkemuseum, part 1: the open-air museum

    I've been wanting to get to the Norsk Folkemuseum on Bygdøy all summer, and last week I finally made it! The official English name is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, but for the sake of simplicity, I'm simply going to refer to it as the Folkemuseum. One of the perks of attending the International Summer School at UiO is that students get free entry to several museums around Oslo with their ISS student cards, and the Folkemuseum is among them (lucky me!).

    I'll be writing about the Folkemuseum in two posts, because it's a vast and multidimensional museum, one I could easily spend several days at. In a way, it's several museums in one: there are many indoor exhibits, permanent and temporary, dealing with the life of Norwegian people over time in a variety of different areas, but there's also a large open-air museum outdoors. The indoor exhibits were quite good, but I must admit the open-air section of the museum was my favorite. I'll be writing about that first.

    The museum was officially founded in 1894 and established at Bygdøy in 1898. All of the buildings that belong to the open-air museum are actual historical buildings that were moved from their original locations to the museum over the last 100+ years, which is pretty remarkable. They're laid out according to their location of origin, so there are many sections corresponding to geographic regions, such as Telemark, Setesdal, Hallingdal, and so on:

    (image courtesy of the Norsk Folkemuseum)

    The first two buildings that the museum acquired were a bur and a loft, both from Telemark. The bur is a storehouse, and in this case it was the larder on the farm. The loft was the guesthouse, where guests to the farm would be lodged and entertained. A majority of the buildings in the open-air museum are from old farmsteads, and storehouses, lofts, and farmhouses from different parts of the country, from several different points in history. I found myself thinking often of Kristin Lavransdatter, the classic trio of novels by Sigrid Undset that depicts the life of a woman in 14th century Norway. None of the buildings in the museum are quite as old as that, but the first farmhouse I stepped into was from the second half of the 1600s, and farmsteads hadn't changed all that much by then: the buildings were largely the same, the crops were largely the same, the wife/mother of the farm was still the keeper of the keys to the storehouse, etc. It's quite an experience to be transported back in time simply by stepping into a building (through a very low doorway, I might add). In any case, here are the loft and bur from Telemark, which date from the mid-1700s:

    I adore the intricate wood carving and sod roofs. Both are typical of Norwegian buildings from the countryside, and the spectacular woodworking skills of the Norwegians were also put to use on one of my favorite types of buildings: the stave church. The Folkemuseum has a stave church of its own, from Gol:

    Built of sturdy pine, the Gol stave church dates from around 1200. The stave churches first appeared in the latter years of the Viking era, after King Olaf Tryggvason converted Norway to Christianity. At that point the Norwegian churches were Catholic, and the Norwegians simply took the concepts of the layout of a Catholic church (nave, circular apse, columns, vaulted ceilings, etc.) and used traditional construction techniques to apply them. This meant churches were built entirely of wood, with tarred exteriors (to weatherproof the building) and often an exterior set of walls for extra protection, which created a sort of hallway around the church hall itself. One of my favorite details is that for a church the size of the Gol stave church, the vaulted ceiling inside was effectively an upside-down longship - master shipbuilders that they were, it's no surprise the Vikings borrowed that technique for their churches. The churches had to be tarred every three years to keep up with the weatherproofing, which was quite an undertaking. Everyone helped out with the task.

    The Gol stave church was moved from its original location in Hallingdal to Oslo around 1885. King Oscar II had a private open-air museum on Bygdøy at that point (oh, royalty); King Oscar's Collection merged with the Folkemuseum in 1907. To this day, Oscar's section of the open-air museum is known as Kong Oscar IIs Samling, or King Oscar the Second's Collection. The gold leaf you can see halfway up the church front commemorates the relocation and restoration of the church. Unsurprisingly, there are only a handful of stave churches left in Norway, but if you're curious about them, you can read more here. I am very fortunate to have been in more than one - I visited the Borgund stave church in 2012, and to give you an idea of the intricate carving around the entrance (symbolic, of course, as the gate through which one steps into God's house) as well as a peek of the interior, here's a photo from Borgund (the entrance and interior of Gol was very similar):

    And the top of the portal of the Gol church:

    Keeping up with the theme of beautifully carved wood, this was a door on a storehouse in the Setesdal section of the museum:

    I found it especially noteworthy because the carvings on either side of the main door greatly resemble stockinette! It was also in the Setesdal section of the museum that I got a close-up photo of the edge of a sod roof:

    While I think many of us find sod roofs incredibly charming, as it so happens, the grass on the roof is really just a by-product of this method of roof-building. The cheapest way to build a weather-proof roof in a wet, windy, and snowy land was to use readily available materials. Birch is abundant in Scandinavia as well as strong and resistant to water and soil, and so people would strip the bark from the trees and lay on top of the wooden roof boards in layers (around 8 layers or so, on average). To hold the birch "shingles" in place and keep them from falling off or blowing away, they're weighted down. Sod was an obvious choice for this job, as it was (obviously) readily available and an insulator to boot. So next came a layer of sod, topside down (the bottom layer of grass helped with drainage and insulation), and then another layer, topside up. Once you put soil on your rooftop, the grass just grows! I love how you can see the ends of the birch bark pieces curling over at the edge of the roof.

    In addition to the countryside areas, there's a little Gamlebyen (old town) as well, to give museum-goers an idea of what life in a Norwegian city would be like at different points in history. 

    I was running out of time by the time I got to Gamlebyen, but I did have a chance to pop into the weaver's shop and pick up some yarn. I chose a beautiful hank of Telespinn yarn, in a 2-ply variety called Symre (named after a flower that commonly grows in Telemark, where the yarn is sourced and spun). I couldn't pass it up: as you can see, it's gorgeous yarn, but I was also immediately drawn in by the company's goals and values. Based in Telemark, they're interested in learning about and preserving both the history and cultural landscape of their area, as well as the relationship between livestock farming and natural landscape (as regards their mohair goats, in particular). Symre is a mohair-lambswool blend, and it feels both hardy and luxurious at the same time. I wanted to buy all of it. You can learn more about Telespinn, their goats, and their mini-mill on their website here (link goes to the English version).

    One of the other great things about the open-air museum is that many of the buildings have guides working inside, typically in costume and often partaking in a daily task typical of the building and time period they're representing. I saw some tablet weaving of decorative belts, a folk dance demonstration, and I spent a few minutes in a very hot kitchen building chatting with some ladies making lefse in the most traditional way: on an iron tray over an open hearth (hence the heat). Then I got to eat some (it was delicious).

    I've been quite wordy, so I'll leave you with just a few more photos. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, though, and I'd love to hear if any of you have been to the Folkemuseum! Or if you've been to similar museums in other places, I'd love to hear about that too and I'd welcome your recommendations! I'm flying back to the states tomorrow, so I won't be posting about the second half of the museum until later this week. I'm looking forward to getting home and regular posting should resume shortly thereafter.