Saturday, March 18, 2006

Selbu knitting

I have been reading about the history of knitting lately; traditional Norwegian knitting in particular; origins and development, the symbols, the techniques. Annemor Sundbø has written some fascinating books about this topic; my favorite is called "Usynlege trådar i strikkekunsten". I don't know if there's an English translation, but she has written two other books on the same topic, that are available in English. One is called Every day knitting - Treasures from a Rag Pile, and the other deals spesifically with the Setesdal Sweater.

Anyway, reading isn't enough - I have to knit something now. It must be stranded and it must be traditional. I've been contemplating a Setesdal sweater, whether traditional or a modern rendition, but haven't decided yet. Will elaborate on that topic some other day.

For now, I decided to try my hand at Selbu knitting. I think Selbu patterns are the most traditional, authentic Norwegian mitten patterns, and they never interested me at all before. Until I took a closer look. Now I'm hooked.

I bought a booklet called Selbustrikk. It's issued by Rauma in collaboration with the local Selbu crafts guild. It contains patterns for mittens, gloves, socks, stockings, scarves and hats. I also bought two balls of 2-ply yarn called Gammel Serie, which translates into something like "the old line/range" (of yarn that is). The yarn is so thin that when knit up the black pattern on the white background almost looks pencilled. This yarn apparently is only available in black and white. Traditional Norwegian knitting is often done in black and white rather than colours, presumably because they used undyed yarns so they had to use the natural colours of the fleece.

This is the real thing!!

According to the booklet the Selbu mitten tradition originated in 1852, and the first mitten was knitted by a sixteen year old girl. According to Annemor Sundbø the mitten knitting in Selbu developed into a home industry based on local pattern traditions. It employed 2000 knitters in 1930, who produced 200 000 mittens a year. Knitted items were also used for trading. A Selbu bride had to knit for the entire family of future inlaws, and also organise knitting of mittens for all the male guests at the wedding.

The major motif of the Selbu tradition is variations of the eight leaf star (or rose). According to Sundbø the basic shape of the eight leaf star is a doubled cross, which traditionally is Christ monogram, and was used on clothes, among other things, to ward off evil. The eight leaf star is often called a rose, but there are also rose patterns in this tradition, which is what I'm using for my glove. The rose, in addition to being a love symbol, is also a symbol for Christ (which I am ashamed to say I first learned from Dan Brown rather than my cultural heritage).

I'm knitting these gloves for myself, and you can tell by the cuff that they are ladies gloves. According to tradition ladies gloves and mittens have ribbed or lace cuffs, whereas mens mittens have stranded stockinette cuffs.

I recommend Strikkelise's informative post about the Selbu tradition, with great pictures and links.


Heather said...

The mitten looks beautiful, and the tradition sounds really interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing more of this!

Toni said...

Thank you so much for posting pics of these mittens and gloves (yours is looking amazing!). I am so inspired!

Anne said...

They are gorgeous - a beautiful motif - and the link shows some amazing mittens. (Note to self - if you will keep looking at people's blogs, you will keep finding new projects that you _really_ want to do... )

KnitYoga said...

I've so much admired this type of gloves and mittens when I've seen them before. Now I know what they are and the tradition sounds fascinating! Thanks for all the info. I wonder if there's an English translation of this book or another book similar written in English? I'd love to make some mittens or gloves like these!

Heatherly said...

how lovely! my latvian mitten book arrived today. i am obsessed with mittens!

terri said...

Your selbuvanter are gorgeous. Nice work!

Jemajo said...

What a fantastic blog entry!
I'm knitting scarves with the Selbu Cross on them at the moment and knew that there was a significant explanation to the pattern, but that it was so deep in meaning had escaped me.
I'm already trying to find the book.
Your own vanter look beautiful!
Many thanks for a great read!

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