“A man may work from sun to sun …”

“… but a woman’s work is never done.”  That was one of the first phrases my grandmother learned to say in English.  I always wondered why that phrase (?!).  Nor did I really understand what that meant until I started spending summers with my grandmother.  She lived the second part of that phrase!

During summer visits, I did what might be considered by some as “man’s work” but for the women in our family was just what had to be done.  My chores included (but were not limited to): felling and hauling trees (sometimes close to the house, sometimes on the hills behind the house), mowing the property (took 6 days push mowing 2 or 3 hours each day to cover the whole property), climbing trees (planted by my great-grandfather) to pick fruit, hiking into the hills (here they’d be mountains) to pick blueberries and cranberries, scraping and painting the house, repairing broken stairs, chopping felled trees into firewood, stacking firewood (sometimes against the house, sometimes in the woods between two standing trees), relocating and restacking firewood (bringing from the woods to the house) … you get the idea.

My grandmother wasn’t giving me work orders while feasting on vaffler (waffles). 🙂 She was never still: She had a large flower and vegetable garden, she put up jams, preserves and fruit juices, she did all the laundry (in the basement and then dragging it outside to hang on ropes she would put up for just that purpose), cooking, baking and (later) watching over my daughter doing her own chores (pulling carrots, digging potatoes, etc.). On top of that was her fiber art work, and she was an expert at so many!

In the evenings is where I saw the “women’s work is never done” in action.  First I put the tools away, brush the hay out of my hair, bathe, eat the wonderful meal my grandmother prepared, and (later) get my daughter to bed.  Then, in the quiet of the house, my grandmother and I would sit in companionable near-silence while she tutored me in an array of Norwegian handarbeider (handwork).

One night she was dismayed to learn I had never knit a pair of Selbuvotter (Selbu mittens). (An expert knitter, my grandmother knit and sold a lot of them to tourists through the local husfliden.) So she walked into the kitchen, took the wall calendar down, ripped out a month and handed it to me. On the top half of the page was a picture of a Selbu mitten, and on the back was the chart. For the next week, that was my handarbeid assignment.

I knit them out of a thin 2-ply by Rauma (in charcoal and white), and my grandmother liked them so I gave them to her. I still have the pattern (trans: a picture and accompanying graph), and I have scanned it in to share:  Selbuvotter.

Undoubtedly there are many, many Selbu mitten patterns. Certainly Terri Shea’s  Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition helped bring these wonderful mittens into the knitting limelight!

Have you ever knit a pair?

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About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Knitting, Norwegian Knitting. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to “A man may work from sun to sun …”

  1. Pingback: “A man may work from sun to sun …” | The Sweaty Knitter, Weaver and Devotee of Other Fiber Arts | Knit4Profit

  2. hippiechickamblings says:

    And we are so thankful for the sharing!

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  3. Thank you for your kind words … but please remember you are not stealing ideas from fiber artists … they are shared willingly by people who want others to try them out!

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  4. you are absolutely correct about being intimidating! I have the interest for sure. I have been crocheting blankets since my son was a baby, and he is 22 now. However I never knew how to make anything else until the wonder of the internet and youtube came along. I am truly amazed at how many people are nice enough to make tutorials on “how to!” I have learned how to make several new stitches that I had no idea how to do. I am so grateful to those teacher on the web. I kinda feel quilty in a way. Sometimes I feel as though I have stolen ideas from them even when I put my own spin on my craft???? But how else am I to learn but from someone else’s good work??? Anyway, as far as your grandchildren go…..I’m certain that you have taught them many things, and they will take away more lessons and memories than you could ever imagine! 🙂

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  5. Yes, the 2 needles are sometimes intimidating … but anything unknown is generally intimidating – especially if you see it demonstrated by someone who’s really good at it! All you need is interest AND a good knitting teacher/tutor to guide and encourage you. I hope I leave grandchillden (who call me “mormor” which is Norwegian for “mother’s mother” treasured memories like your Nanny did for you and my momor did for me! Irreplaceable.

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  6. I must say to you a womans work is never done!!! We do it all don’t we? I adore the story about your grandmother, and your mittens are exquisite! What a sweet story. so nice of you to give them to her after all your hard work! I don’t know how to knit, but I really want to learn. I must admit the 2 needle thing scares me a bit. lol Anyway what a sweet story. I miss my Grandmother (Nanny) dearly. They are to be treasured!!

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  7. hippiechickamblings says:

    You could be right, especially about the right teacher…inpatient little snips in my family, Hahaha!

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  8. I think if you found knitting “beyond you,” then it either wasn’t the right time for you or your needed a different teacher. Or both. 🙂

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  9. Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it!

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  10. You can do it!

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  11. hippiechickamblings says:

    This was so nostalgic for me…many common denominators we share…I never learned to knit…it is beyond me, but Oh, how lovely for you and how talented you must be! I was always drawn to the old ways, and to the hand-crafted abilities of women who rule their little domains.

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  12. I’m glad you liked it. Yes, I have very fond memories of my grandmother; she was very good to me. A new knitter – how exciting! As you can probably tell from your blogging experience, there are lots of not-so-new-knitters who are always more than happy to help should you need it!

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  13. Darcel says:

    That was a really sweet story. Sounds like you have very fond memories of your grandmother. I’m a new knitter, and am finding there’s so much to learn and do. Having fun with it though! Thanks for coming by my blog earlier in the week.

    http://www.themahoganyway.wordpress.com

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  14. Sometimes you can get a nice effect by instead of using two colors in straight stitch, use purl and knit stitches. So, for instance, knit all the black and purl all the red.

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  15. kjwinston says:

    Hmmm. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of color work, but I have friends and reader who are!

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  16. Are you going to try ’em?!

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  17. And because of her, I became a GREAT stacker of firewood! 🙂 Seriously though, I agree with you … the combo of strong and loving can’t be beat!

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  18. As you’re a fiber artist now, however, you get to make that link to your own family. One of my current projects is a crocheted hat for my granddaughter. She talks about her hat every day. Given her excitement about the hat, I will start another sweater for her and see if I can’t get her interested in learning how to knit!

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  19. I’m in California too … I’ve knit several pair of the fingerless mitts which work well for me (and, by now, all my friends!).

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  20. kjwinston says:

    Reblogged this on Craftini: My Daily Cocktail of Yarn, Beads and Paper and commented:
    Hey, just stumbled on this great knitting and handwork blog. I really liked this post – reminded me of my own grandmother . . . .

    Like

  21. fiberdazed says:

    What lovely mittens, and such a great story. I haven’t knit mittens, mainly because living in California, we don’t have that many days that get that cold.

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  22. kjwinston says:

    This is a lovely post. I am always so jealous of people whose grandmothers and mothers had things to hand down to them from a culture. Mine did not. I do believe my grandmother taught me to knit, but I absolutely do not remember it, and so wish I did. I loved her very much and miss her and it would be nice to feel as connected to her in my knitting as you do to your grandmother.

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  23. domesticnews says:

    These mittens are lovely. I’ve never made a pair and this could be my enticement. My mother tried to learn to knit as a teen, made two left mittens and gave up, no one to encourage her. I am so pleased that we can do that for each other!

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  24. Sosae says:

    What a lovely post! I so thoroughly enjoyed the glimpse into your childhood. And of course, nothing can compare to a strong and loving grandmother. Sometimes, it seems, the demands they make of us help to shape us into stronger people.

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  25. Bindhurani says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I remember, my moms work never done.The mittens are really wonderful. Love them

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  26. I still have them. They were a little large but I fulled them in the sink down to perfection, which also means they wear like iron! I don’t even know how old they are, at least 10 years I’m guessing.

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  27. They are definitely eye catching! The pair I knit for me never fit quite right – they kept slipping off so clearly my gauge was off or something. I gave them to the husband of a friend of mine who LOVED them.

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  28. I’m glad you like the word! Today was a nice day but it POURED here yesterday.

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  29. Curls & Q says:

    I love hearing about your grandmother! She’s so much like mine. Except, mine didn’t knit, she did other handiwork. The mittens are wonderful. I do love the Selbuvotter book! Thank you so much for sharing. Speaking of which…. it was “spitting” all over us on the drive home tonight!

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  30. Beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever knit a pair of those…my mil would love a pair!

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  31. I am honored that you’re enjoying my blog enough to share with your followers! Thank you!

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  32. jenyjenny says:

    Do you mind that I added your blog to my http://wednesdayknitting.wordpress.com blogroll? I have a small audience for my knitting blog but oh, how they will love to read your posts…

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  33. I love the books I call the “folk” series! I haven’t knit Selbu mittens for a long time but my favorite will always be the pair I knit for my grandmother using the graph from a calendar! Did you keep your mittens or gift them?

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  34. I have! I knit them from the pattern in Folk Mittens.
    http://www.ravelry.com/projects/pdxknitterati/selbu-mittens
    I loved your post; beautiful!

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  35. Hey, I just checked out your Selbu mittens … no false humility, please 🙂 – they look GREAT!!

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  36. Thank you. I lost my grandmother 15 years ago, and I still miss her.

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  37. How fabulous! Earlier this year, I knit my first pair (certainly not as pretty as the ones pictured here) and fell in love! I can’t wait to knit another pair. http://pearls-toronto.com/category/color-work/

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  38. jenyjenny says:

    This is so wonderful.

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