Yet another sweater that screams national identity for Norwegians is the Mariusgenser.  This sweater, designed in the 1950s, was named after a then well-known Norwegian skier (slalom) named Marius Eriksen.

Here I am wearing the Mariusgenser my grandmother made for me.  I remember it was dark blue and white.  This picture was taken at the San Francisco Zoo in the early 1960s.  (By the way, it seems I am the only girl on this particular ride!)

I’m not sure the sweater goes particularly well with the flowered pants, but I guess I was never too fashion conscious.

Here at the right – difficult to see with all the smoke – is another Mariusgenser.  This one is modeled by my uncle.  No, we’re not trying to contain a wildfire.  We’re celebrating Sankt Hans aften (trans: St. John’s Eve), which English-speakers would think of as Midsummer’s Eve.

So why the fire?  Curiously, I once saw a Norwegian show (maybe a documentary – I don’t remember exactly) about Sankt Hans aften.  Because the summers are so short in Norway, in the old (pre-Christian) days the Norwegians would light bonfires up as a way to send energy to the sun to help it shine for a good summer growing season.  Once Norway Christianized, this old pagan custom was renamed after a Christian saint, I’m assuming thus legitimizing the continuation of this tradition for the new Christians.  (This sort of thing – renaming pagan celebrations, merging them with Christian themes and renaming them – was very common as countries Christianized.)

So that June 23 we went out to the family’s summer house (on a small island in the fjord), laden with lots of beer, bread and shrimp, and built a big bonfires.  Boaters (in various states of inebriation) stopped by and asked if they could build their fires on the island, and of course we said yes.  In the fjord were towers of wood and anchored old boats, which were also set on fire.  The fjord was dotted with burning bonfires!  It was a great night!

My daughter was about 10 at this particular event and never clearly understood why we didn’t observe Sankt Hans aften in the U.S.  Once she saw a couple of old wooden row boats at the end of a pier, and, jumping up and down in excitement, loudly asked if we could set fire to them.  (We got a few odd looks.)

If you’re interested in knitting your own Mariusgenser, Ralvery has a nice one by the original designer herself, Unn Søiland Dale.  This picture is of Unn Søiland Dale (1926-2002) taken in the 1990s.  (Note:  She is not wearing a Mariusgenser.)  Of you really want to learn more about the sweater and its designer, take a peek at The Marius Sweater: A Norwegian Icon and Lillunn Design of Norway.

I dug through my boxes of old patterns and found one (origin unknown) that was given to me long ago.  It was torn around the edges, so I folded over the edges as neatly as I could and have scanned it in FYI.

So have you now added this sweater to your growing list of “must knit” projects?  🙂


About sweatyknitter

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

9 Responses to Mariusgenser

  1. Thanks for interest!


  2. marjorie says:

    Love your photos and your prose!


  3. Curls & Q says:

    Q – I’ve gotten good at reading the bygdeboka so I’ll just have to learn patterns too! 8-)went to Barb’s today and first thing she asked is if I’d read your blog yet! 😎


  4. i know the feeling. I went to a friend’s house who just bought 10 boxes of various yarns on cone at a garage sale for $2 a box! I was so jealous (not that I needed any more yarn), until she said they were mostly acrylic. (I rarely knit with acrylic. I think the last time was a gorgeous sweater i was commissioned to do – but the person chose an acrylic yarn.)


  5. Thank you … I’m glad you’re enjoying them. When my daughter was young, she used to groan when I gave historical background before answering her quesions! 🙂


  6. Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you both are enjoying my blog. I’ve had a good time going through stacks of old photos – brings back a lot of good memories, as you can imagine. And of course you’re welcome for the pattern. I’ve got more … you’ll be a whiz at reading Norwegian knitting patterns in no time!


  7. handstitch says:

    Sweet saddled jumper. Now, you are just as good (or bad) an enabler as I am 😀 Yep, file saved and another sweater queue added!


  8. jenyjenny says:

    Gorgeous! wonderful post! I always look forward to your beautiful blend of craft and history.


  9. Curls & Q says:

    WONDERFUL! Again, start the book! Loved reading The Marius Sweater link info. I’ve bookmarked it to go back to. Barb and I both make sure we read you! Thanks for sharing the pattern.


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