ruter og lus: retrostrikk frå salhus trikotagefabrikk

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This fall is shaping up to be my busiest ever for new releases, and I’d like to periodically share some of them here on the blog. Today I’m very excited to tell you about a book project I had theopportunity to be a part of, called Ruter og Lus: retrostrikk frå Salhus Tricotagefabrik. I want to let you know up front that it’s a Norwegian book, which means the patterns are pretty inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t live in Scandinavia or understand Norwegian (and it’s written in nynorsk – the less common written standard of Norwegian – which adds another barrier for non-native speakers). Nonetheless, it’s a very cool project, so I hope you enjoy hearing about it all the same.

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Back in July I wrote a blog post about the Norwegian knitting industry museum in Salhus, outside of Bergen. If you haven’t read that post, I recommend checking it out, because it will provide some background for this book project. The museum is located at the old Salhus Trikotasjefabrikk, or knitting factory, and I mentioned in that post that “the museum maintains an archive of different patterned fabrics, with some of the patterns perhaps never actually being put into production.”

The museum decided a couple of years ago that it would be nice to revive that archive of patterned fabrics, and the way they decided to do that would be to take a selection of motifs/fabrics from the archive and hand them over to hand knitting designers, who would then create original designs for modern knitters using these fabrics from the archive. Since Salhus typically produced the kind of sweater known as an islender (or “Icelander” – I wrote a little bit about the origin of that term in my post about the museum), the motifs are all relatively small and repetitive, and would typically be used in an allover pattern on the sweater. This is represented in the name of the finished book: Ruter og lus.

If you’re familiar with Norwegian knitting, you may recognize lus as the first word in the compound lusekofte, and it refers to what we often call a “lice pattern” in English (lus meaning “louse”). Within the context of knitting, lus refers to small repetitive motifs, often a single stitch or pair of stitchs worked in a diagonal. Ruter is slightly more difficult to translate in this context – it essentially refers to squares and patterns with strong perpendicular lines, but it is not in itself the normal word for “square,” either. Plaids, ginghams, and other grids could all be described as “rutete” (an adjectival form). Nonetheless, the most typical islender is made up of repeating motifs of what are essentially squares and lice, and I assume that this is where the book’s title comes from.

But on to the patterns! I feel incredibly grateful to have been asked to take part in this project, and I’m quite proud of my two contributions: a sweater called Opal and a hat and mitt set called Dorthea. I found working on these designs an interesting creative challenge; I was one of the last designers to sign on for the project, and most of the motif options had already been claimed by then. So the two motifs I ended up with weren’t my first choice, but I’m very pleased with what I was able to do with them in the end (which is very satisfying).

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Opal was a challenge to work on at first because I found the original swatch photos pretty uninspiring, to say the least. Salhus thinks this particular motif in the archive is from the 80s, and as far as they know they don’t have any record of it being used for any of the knitwear they created. The motif uses four colors in total, and I decided to try charting up the motif with three colors from the same color family, and one from a different color family altogether. I love the blue version we ended up going with, which makes use of complementary colors, as three blue shades are accompanies by a golden yellow. I also swatched for a version with red/orange tones, making use of the same golden yellow contrast.

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I love the finished sweater (huge thanks to sample knitter Torgun, who actually knit the sample) and I’m so glad the museum chose to go with the blue version, which feels very, very me. We chose to knit this one up in one of my favorite yarns, Tinde from Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk. Because of the bold, graphic nature of the motif, it’s possible to use a variety of shades that are relatively low contrast compared with other stranded colorwork, which makes the palette of Tinde (which is dyed on a natural grey base) really lovely for this.

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The other pattern is a hat and mitt set called Dorthea, and once again I was not wholly enthused by the original swatches in the archive. I decided going fully monochrome might be a way to make this 5-color motif look a little bit less like sprinkles on a birthday cake, so I swatched up a greyscale version first. I didn’t even realize until I’d finished the swatch how much this motif suddenly recalled traditional Setesdal-style patterns. With a black base and five shades of grey, it was also a perfect opportunity to work a corrugated rib as a gradient – I feel like it makes a wonderful finishing touch. We also worked up the hat in an alternate colorway, using five shades of blue and blue-green.

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We used Rauma Finull for this pattern, which feels like the perfect yarn for this with its massive palette of colors.

One of the things I love about this book is that the editors made it a priority to use Norwegian wool yarns for the patterns. While they didn’t exclusively include yarns made from Norwegian wool, they’ve still featured Norwegian wool pretty heavily, and it makes me so happy to see a Norwegian pattern book prioritizing that. The beginning of the book also features some information about the history of the mill/factory, so all in all the book feels like a really natural part of the recent revival of traditional Norwegian patterns and Norwegian wool in the Norwegian knitting community.

If you’re curious about what the rest of the book looks like, you can check out the other patterns on Ravelry here. The photos were shot at the museum, which I love, and while the collection of patterns as a whole does have a retro vibe (as the subtitle implies), I also think the designs feel very fresh and modern.

the norwegian knitting industry museum

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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(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!).

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

norwegian wool: selbu spinneri

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The Norwegian Wool series returns with another of Norway’s microspinneries, the fantastic Selbu Spinneri. One of two micro mills in Norway, it’s a small operation that’s only been spinning since 2011 (I believe there are just the two, the other being Telespinn, but if you know of any others please do let me know!). If the name sounds familiar to you, the Selbu is the same one you find in Selbuvotter, or Selbu mittens, the name for the iconic black and white Norwegian mittens (you may be familiar with Terri Shea’s book, or the more recent the gorgeous and massive book by Anne Bårdsgård still only available in Norewgian as far as I know). Selbu is located near the city of Trondheim, in the middle of Norway’s north-south span. The yarn made by Selbu Spinneri is special and Norwegian specific, with a focus on rare and endangered breeds. I made my first purchase from Selbu Spinneri earlier this year, back in the winter, and I opted to try three different yarns made from three different sheep breeds, pictured above. All three are very different – different weights, different textures that handle differently, and different colors – but they’re all undyed yarns. This package was definitely a treat to open.

The creamy off-white skein with a thick and thin texture is their 2-ply yarn made from wool from the gammel norsk sau, the Old Norwegian sheep, also called villsau (“wild sheep”) by some, though it is a domestic breed. It’s rustic and lofty, with some darker hairs mixed in with the cream, and it was the first skein I cracked into. It’s a primitive heritage breed, with an outer fleece and a finer inner coat, like other northern European heritage breeds, and this yarn is spun from both layers, making it both robust and soft. It seemed to be about an aran weight to me, and I worked it up into a Simple Hat by Hannah Fettig. A very, very cozy Simple Hat. The finished fabric gives you a good sense of the varying thickness of this yarn, but you also get a sense of the halo it has after it was blocked. The Simple Hat is such a fantastic blank canvas pattern to get a feel for any yarn, thanks to the fact that it’s written for a huge range of yarn weights.
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The light grey yarn in the middle is a 2-ply yarn made from spælsau wool. It looks to be about a sport weight to me, and like all spælsau yarns it’s pretty dense and wiry. It’s smoother with more of a sheen than the other two yarns I purchased, and I have a pretty good sense of how this yarn will work up since I’ve worked with spælsau yarns before.

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I’m not sure I’ll knit with this one, actually – I think it would make a sturdy crochet fabric and I’m tempted to try using it for a small crochet basket or something like that. It’d also be great and durable for weaving, but as I’m not much of a weaver, crochet seems most likely.

The final skein, the lovely heathered dark grey one, is spun with wool from a breed I have yet to work with, the trøndersau, or Troender sheep.

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The region where Selbu is located is called Trøndelag, making this breed its eponymous sheep (trønder + sau). The trøndersau is extremely rare, with a very small number of animals existing. I’m really looking forward to trying this yarn, too – it’s a 3-ply, both rounder and a little bit more uniform than the other two yarns, and I’d guess it’s a DK or worsted weight. I love natural grey yarns and this is a beautiful one. It’s more textured than the other two yarns, with less gloss and more of a matte look. I expect good depth and stitch definition, so I might use it for something cabled.

Being a small operation with only a handful of employees, Selbu Spinneri’s online shop is definitely aimed at a domesetic market, and their invoicing and shipping methods don’t really lend themselves to international shipping, so I don’t think you can get these yarns outside of Norway UPDATE: I’ve been in touch with Selbu Spinneri and they are happy to accommodate international orders – simply get in touch with them at post@selbuspinneri.no if you’re interested and they’ll help you figure it out. I do know, however, that hand-dyer Laila of Værbitt Garn uses some yarns from Selbu Spinneri as her bases, so you can always get in touch with her or check her Etsy shop to see if you can find any of Selbu Spinneri’s rare breed yarns (in Laila’s gorgeous colors!).

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Previous posts in this series can be found here:

inspiration: oleana

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I came across the spring 2017 collection for Oleana on social media this week, and not only did the springy pastels that feature heavily in the collection jump out at me, but I also realized that many of my readers and followers outside of Norway may be unfamiliar with Oleana. It seemed like a great opportunity for an inspiration post! That led to me digging into pieces from some of their older collections, too, which is where the first few photos in the post are from (the newest spring pieces are down below).

To me, Oleana is best known for their striking fine-gauge knitwear. They’re celebrating 25 years in business this year, having been founded in 1992 at a time when the textile industry in most wealthy, developed nations was struggling to stay alive. From the beginning, their mission has been to show that high-cost economies can still produce clothing and they can do so responsibly. Oleana is worth talking about for that reason alone – fortunately, the knitwear also happens to be beautiful. Oleana’s designer is named Solveig Hisdal, and she also happens to be the company’s in-house photographer. I love her use of color and gradient to play with and break up repetitive motifs – and the combination of fine gauge and machine knitting allows for more freedom than traditional Norwegian colorwork.

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Oleana’s pieces are produced in their factory near Bergen – located on a fjord in Ytre Arna. The factory is open to the public as an Économusée (much like the Hillesvåg mill), which means you can actually visit and get a glimpse of the production as it happens (I haven’t been, but I would love to go!). One thing that I can’t say about Oleana is that as far as I know, they don’t use domestic wool (most of their wool garments are made from merino/silk blends), but their emphasis on fair and responsible domestic production is hugely important in our modern textile industry, and I’m happy to elevate them for that.

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I think Solveig’s design work really carries her signature. In some ways, I can see through lines with some of the work of the Rowan designers, particularly when it comes to the florals, but Solveig’s pieces have a bit more saturation and flair, with a distinctive modern Scandinavian feeling. It’s a step away from subtle sweeping moors and in the direction of Marimekko, if you will, while very much being its own beautiful thing.

The spring pieces really caught my eye because of the colors used – I’ve been very drawn to bright, saturated spring and summer hues lately, even though it’s still so very wintry outside. The return of the sun has led to a little bit of a winter outside/summer inside vibe (avocado toast with lime and cilantro, anyone?) so I enjoyed poking through the spring 2017 catalogue.

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You can view the spring 2017 catalogue here, or check out the autumn 2016 catalogue here (which the first two pieces pictured at the top of this post are from). Are those spring pastels speaking to you too right now? Particularly you east coasters in North America who just got hit with a snowstorm…

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About half of Oleana’s products are sold abroad (all over Europe, the US, Canada, even Australia and Japan), so you can check out their store locator to see if there’s a stockist anywhere near you. And if you live in Minnesota, Norway House in Minneapolis has an Oleana exhibition up through March 26th. You can read more about that here.

FO: sandneskofte

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I’ve been meaning to get around to this post for a long time, but I had to let go of my vision for a grand snow-related photoshoot to make it happen (in the midst of my master’s thesis, that’s really not realistic, even if I think this cardigan deserves a grand photoshoot). So I finally got some shots – just at home, by the window in my apartment – of my finished Sandneskofte. This was my last FO of 2016, finished just in time for Christmas, and I’ve been wearing it very regularly ever since then.

I’ve mentioned it on this blog a few times – here, for example – but if you weren’t following along in Instagram, I thought I’d share a few details. This pattern is from the Norwegian book 42 norske kofter (blogged here) and my version is heavily modified. First of all, it calls for fingering weight yarn but I substituted with a heavier yarn – Kate Davies’s absolutely gorgeous Scottish wool, Buachaille, in the shades Islay and Haar. This is a fantatsic wooly wool, and I am so excited to make more things using this yarn in the future – serious kudos to Kate for spearheading the production of such a beautiful domestic British wool yarn (sourced in Scotland, spun and dyed in Yorkshire).

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Like all traditional Norwegian kofter, this cardigan is knit in the round and then steeked to create the front opening and the armholes. The Buachaille did beautifully with the steeking (and no surprise there). For those who are interested in more construction details: the body and the arms are worked separately from the bottom up, and the sleeves are sewn into the armholes after the opening is made. The pattern is for a crew neck cardigan, but I opted for a V-neck, so I began decreases after reaching a certain point on the body. Stitches were bound off for the back neck, the front openings and the armholes were reinforced before being cut open (I used the crochet method, although a sewing machine is the typical tool used in Norway), and then the shoulders were seamed before the sleeves were sewn in. The stitches for the vertical button bands were put on hold after the bottom ribbing was finished, then when the rest of the cardigan was done, the stitches on hold were put back on the needles and the button bands were knit back and forth separate from the body before being sewn on. There was a lot of finishing work for this piece – right down to the eight buttons I sewed on the front.

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I originally intended to finish the steeked edges on the inside of the fabric with some decorative ribbon, but I never go around to it (for one thing, I never came up with a clever way to deal with the angle where the straight body bends to form the V-neck) and the unfinished edges have put up absolutely zero fuss, so I will most likely leave them as-is. In the photo above you can see the light grey yarn I used to work the crochet reinforcement where I’m folding it away from the fabric, but it normally sits flush (as it does in the bottom of the photo). The cut edges of the fabric haven’t budged, and I probably wear this cardigan a couple of times a week. I can heartily endorse using Buachaille for steeked projects!

Even though I would consider myself a fairly accomplished knitter, this project still managed to check several boxes on the list of firsts. This was my first allover stranded colorwork garment, my first time steeking a cardigan opening (I had steeked armholes, but never the front of a cardigan), and my first time knitting a vertical button band (and I was very grateful for Karen Templer’s “How to seam a button band” post). Even though colorwork is my usual wheelhouse, it goes to show there’s always room for building new skills.

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There are a few more photos of the details as well as several in-progress photos over on my Raverly project page, if you’re interested. This cardigan isn’t perfect, and there are things I would change if I were to knit it again, but I love this thing. The double thickness of the stranded fabric knit at a tight gauge means it’s quite warm and it’s been super useful all through the Norwegian winter, and I look forward to wearing it for years to come.

ETA: I should mention that Kate Davies will be at Edinburgh Yarn Festival this coming weekend, just in case you’re lucky enough to be going and you want to check out the yarn in person for yourself!

bladet garn

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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!

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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:

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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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42 norske kofter

Today I’m thinking about kofter. This ubiquitous Norwegian word can feel difficult to properly translate, as it can describe several different pieces of clothing. Today I’m writing about it in the sense of “knitted cardigans” – you may have heard the word in connection with the famous lusekofte, or “lice jacket,” from Setesdal. Kofte is the singular form, while kofter is the plural.

Kofter are beloved here in Norway, and one glance at the knitting shelf of any bookstore will show it: titles like Kofteboken, Kofteboken 2, and Koftefest peer out at you. Last November another hit the shelves, called 42 norske kofter: fra Lindesnes til NordkappI saw it everywhere I went, and I finally picked up a copy for myself.

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This book was a project from Sandnes Garn, reworking many of their classic kofte patterns published in the mid-20th century by modernizing the fit, changing the sample yarn, or playing with the colors (while I don’t have any of these old patterns in their original form, I do have a handful that were published by Husfliden and they’re great fun). It also reflects the fact that patterns were often affiliated with specific regions in Norway, hence the subtitle “from Lindesnes to Nordkapp” (Lindesnes is at the southern tip of Norway while Nordkapp is the northermost point on the mainland). I’ve had some time to sit down with it this week and overall, I think it’s pretty fantastic.

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Aside from the patterns, there’s a lovely bit of introductory text at the beginning about kofter and their place in Norwegian history and society (seen in the photo above, with the heading “Kofter, yarn, and production”). It celebrates the resurgence of popularity these cardigans have experienced, and provides a nice quick historical overview as well as some information about the yarn production (specifically the production of Sandnes Garn, as they published the book). I love it when this type of information is included in pattern books, as it gets knitters thinking more about the production and sourcing of the materials they purchase at the yarn store, which can only be a good thing. Within the introduction, this quote stuck out (translation is mine):

“Even though kofter are a Norwegian national treasure, the history of the kofte is actually quite international.”

I appreciate the acknowledgment that what’s considered traditional to a place can often have far-flung roots. The authors write about the fact that the generally accepted origin for the word kofte is the Persian word kaftan, and they also note that the motifs and patterns used in these knitted cardigans sometimes came from or were inspired by people and traditions from abroad.

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The patterns themselves are great, too. The forty-two patterns are effectively for 27 different cardigans, some of which are written up for both men and women, others of which are written up with two different constructions (one option for a drop shoulder cardigan and another for one with a round yoke). You get a glimpse of the original pattern photos and styling, which I think is fantastic too.

Eventually I’d like to knit at least one of the cardigans in this book, though I have a lot of knitting on my plate to finish before I can do that. Fortunately that means I have plenty of time to ruminate on my favorites and decide which would make the best addition to my wardrobe. (You can see photos of all the different cardigans on the Sandnes Garn page for the book.)

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The technical aspects are also fun to look at. Since this is a book full of cardigans worked up in stranded colorwork, you may have guessed that steeks are involved, and you’d be right. In the Norwegian tradition, though, two lines of reinforcing stitches are sewn by machine before cutting. In the case of a cardigan, it makes quite a lot of sense – machine stitches are excellent reinforcement for a button band that’s going to see a lot of handling, and it’s less bulky than a crocheted reinforcement.

Other technical information points to the self-reliance of Norwegian knitters. Having seen several patterns from the mid-20th century, I can say it’s no wonder that the Norwegian word for a knitting pattern (as in “set of instructions to knit something”) is oppskrift, the word for “recipe.” The patterns in this book definitely contain more information than their original forms must have done, but still, only stitch gauge is given, not row gauge, and yarn quantities are listed in grams, not yardage or meterage (leaving the knitter to do some quick arithmetic if they plan to substitute yarns at all). I haven’t actually worked from Norwegian patterns yet, so I find it interesting to compare these details with what I’m used to from the US.

All in all I’m very excited about this addition to my knitting library!

a vintage norwegian yoke

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Perhaps the posts about vintage yokes from Kate or Ella finally got to me, or perhaps it was just the siren song of the bright, bright teal, but I found myself impulse-buying this beautiful Norwegian yoke last weekend when I spotted it on the sidewalk rack of a local vintage shop.

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While the fit is a bit… let’s say dated, and the sleeves are short (they’re always short on me if I haven’t made it myself), I really don’t mind since the yoke is so striking and it’ll be warm in the winter nonetheless. It’s knit by hand, bearing the label “Maurtua,” which was actually a handicrafts shop in Oslo that catered almost exclusively to tourists (which is probably how it made its way from Norway to Seattle). The address, Fridtjof Nansens Plass 9, is located in the semicircular plaza surrounding Oslo’s city hall, and that storefront is actually still a souvenir shop today (though the current shop goes by the far more generic name of “Norway Shop”).

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At any rate, I got curious about the pattern, which bears a notable resemblance to Unn Søiland Dale’s famous “Eskimo” sweater. Those of you who have read Kate Davie’s Yokes will recognize it from the chapter, “Greenlanders and Norwegians.” If you don’t have the book, Kate talks a bit about the sweater about halfway through this blog post.

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Unn Søiland Dale’s “Eskimo” published by Sandnes

In any case, here’s what I’ve managed to dig up looking for information about my own vintage yoke. It’s almost a perfect match with one of the Husfliden pattens, number 419:

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(The image on the left is from Raumagarn, the older one on the right was found via this Pinterest user)

A quick Google image search for “Martua Husflid” shows that Maurtua definitely made use of Husfliden 419, different iterations of which can be spotted on the image search page. While it’s possible a pullover version of the pattern existed too, my best guess is that the knitter who made this sweater decided to make use of artistic license and modify the pattern. I must say I’m in favor of the design choices – the design looks great as a pullover rather than a cardigan, and the use of two different teal-blues gives the yoke a lovely depth that Norwegian knitting doesn’t always achieve with its typically limited color palette (the same goes for the combination of light grey in addition to the main off-white color). The red is a sort of rusty brick red, less saturated than a candy apple red would be, which helps balance the yoke and keep the bright design from being too overwhelming. There are some chart differences as well, where the knitter appears to have embellished or modified existing motifs. The stripes at the ends of the ribbing at neck, cuffs, and hem are a nice touch. I love too how the stranded motif at the sleeve cuff echoes the motifs in the yoke without actually replicating them.

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I’m quite pleased with my new pullover – I love digging into the history and trying to track down the origins of a piece of knitting. Do you have any vintage favorites or hand-me-downs that bring you inspiration?

P.S. A very hearty thank you to all of your kind words about my Norway/grad school news. I am so excited to make this leap and your support and encouragement means the world to me. I’ve had a lot of people express hopes that I’ll be writing about my adventure, and I’m absolutely planning to do that! Something to look forward to.

norwegian sweater coloring sheets

Here’s a little holiday freebie for any of you who have kids, work with kids, or just like coloring inside the lines. My sister-in-law works with kids and I had a chance to help her plan a day of Scandinavian-themed crafts. We put a bunch of traditional stuff into the mix, but I found myself mind wandering into more creative territory… and I wound up quicky drawing up a couple of coloring sheets based on traditional Norwegian sweater patterns. They’re not terribly polished, but I figured I’d offer them up as downloads for any of my readers who might want to share these with kids they know.

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I’ve simplified the motifs somewhat to make coloring easier, but I also wanted to stay faithful to the actual design, so these sweaters would still be recognizable. As such, the Marius sheet and the Fana sheet are probably best for kids with some real dexterity (though by all means, I’d be delighted if your two year-old went to town with some crayons and made a beautiful, colorful mess out of either of them – truly!). If the files open up in your browser, try right-clicking and selecting “save.” You can also right click on the link itself.

Download the Marius Sweater coloring sheet (pdf)
The Marius sweater, or mariusgenser, is pretty iconic. In fact, it’s arguably the most famous sweater in Norway. It’s that blue and white sweater with a bit of red up by the collar (blue, white, and red being the colors of the Norwegian flag). It was initially made famous by Marius Eriksen, a well-known skier, figher pilot, and actor.

Download the Fana Cardigan coloring sheet (pdf)
The Fana cardigan, or fanakofte, is also incredibly recognizeable to Norwegians. Like many traditional Norwegian patterns, the Fana cardigan was a regional design and took its name from a place. It is named for Fana, near Bergen. The combination of the stripes (with the dots, or “lice pattern”) with the star or flower motifs and the checkerboard is incredibly traditional.

Download the Make Your Own coloring sheet (pdf)
The third sheet is a blank sweater template. I’m the kind of knitter who believes that anyone is capable of designing a sweater, if they set their mind to it. You may have to learn some skills along the way, but everyone has that creative potential. I love to encourage that kind of creative confidence in children, and so I made a blank sweater coloring sheet so that kids (or adults!) could draw up any design they could imagine. Stripes, patterns, symbols, words, cats, dogs, snowmen, candy… the possibilites are endless. Even a solid colored sweater would look nice.

These aren’t perfect, and they’re a little quick and sloppy, but I hope you enjoy them all the same. It may be a little quiet around here over the next few weeks as I’m traveling for the holidays, but I’m going to do my best to line up some posts!

WIP wednesday

I’m still totally underwater trying to get everything ready in time for the Paper Tiger F/W 2013 launch (the official release date is 10/29, but I’ll have a sneak peek around the 22nd!), so this post’s short and sweet, but I thought I’d share a photo from yesterday, a WIP. Yesterday was my first day back at Norwegian class at the Scandinavian Language Institute, and I grabbed the photo below with the norsk flag shield in it. I was finishing up one of the F/W samples later that afternoon when I noticed the red/white/blue (or rød/hvit/blå, if you prefer) theme happening.

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The second and final shoot for the F/W collection is happening on Sunday, so I’ll be back with new posts next week!