Last night I plowed through a stack of knitting and weaving patterns and came across the pattern my grandmother used in the early 1960s to make me a lusekofte (literally translated “louse jacket”). I have pictures of me around 5 years old standing in the snow proudly showing off my new pullover sweater. Click here to see a PDF of the cover of the pattern by Sandes: NySetesdal.
This is one of the “traditional” Norwegian sweater patterns and originated in Setesdalen (the Sete Valley) of Norway. At any event I attend in the U.S. that has even a remotely Norwegian theme, I see these sweaters (as pullovers and cardigans), though I think they are worn mostly by tourists and descendants of Norwegian immigrants. It has been my experience that the people wearing them do not speak or understand Norwegian, which is probably why they think lus means light (lys). It does not; a lus is a louse. (The confusion might come from the plural of lus which is lyser.) The white “dots” knit into the sweater are supposed to resemble lice. I’d much prefer wearing a sweater that did not have “louse” in its name – wouldn’t you?!
When we moved to the U.S., my grandmother regularly sent us sweaters she knit using traditional Norwegian patterns. In retrospect, every day I wore them I must have looked as though I were going skiing. As it didn’t snow where we lived, this puzzled several of our neighbors – that is until they met my mother and heard her heavy Norwegian accent.