A Closeup Look at an Old Norwegian Pattern

While I first learned to knit at age 5 or so, I was never given a pattern to follow. The knitters in my family were Norwegian women either living on farms or only one generation off the farm. Rooting around in their stash, pulling out the nearest set of needles, estimating the size of a nephew, niece, grandchild, etc. … the result was a custom designed and beautifully knit sweater.

Now they did use patterns from time to time. My grandmother, for instance, went through a stage where she knit me a series of the Olympic ski sweaters designed by Dale. Wearing them to school in California winters, I needed no jacket – though generally looked as Pattern_setesdal_frontif I had arrived on skis.

As a child in Norway, she knit me a Setesdal sweater. I still have the pattern! (There’s no date on the pattern, but I know it is at least 50 years old.) The picture to the right is the front; the picture below is the back.

Pattern_setesdal_backThe pattern itself is small. It is one long piece of paper 8 in/21 cm by 23.5 in /59 cm. Folded it is only 6 in/15 cm by 8 in/21 cm.

You might notice the taped portion on the front page of the pattern. For some reason I don’t remember (but I’m sure I thought it was a good reason then) and in an effort to be helpful, I cut out the paragraph of the instructions for “ermene” (the arms). She taped them back in. 🙂

Pattern_setesdalThe picture to the right shows the good schematic drawing of the neck and cuff embroidery patterns (traditionally wool thread on felted wool) as well as the knitting patterns.

Pattern_setesdal_writtenOn the left side of the picture below are the instructions for handknitting; on the right side are the instructions for machine knitting. As you can tell, the instructions are not lengthy nor detailed.

Interestingly, the font used for the machine knitting instructions is much smaller than the font used for the handknitting instructions.

Below are several patterns I picked up in Norway, all of them similarly small.

Patterns_norskI put a dinner fork in the picture to the right so you can better see the size of these patterns.

The long white pattern on the bottom to the right of the man’s ski sweater is the inside of the Setesdal pattern (above), unfolded.

Are you wondering how difficult it is to use these patterns with such scant abbreviations? Not difficult atPattern_norskchart all. To the left is a picture of part of the inside of one of the more modern patterns (“only” 30 years old). Note it is not in the the line-by-line format common today.

I have been in conversation with blogger cbkrug who, like me, is a fan of the reductionist (her term) pattern writing. In my next blog I will both deconstruct patterns written in that style and demonstrate how to write one yourself!


About sweatyknitter

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

24 Responses to A Closeup Look at an Old Norwegian Pattern

  1. Karen Kupka says:

    Thank you for all the information & stories about Norwegian knitting and knitters. I had a great-grandmother from Norway who could knit in the dark while walking around the house. My mother said it was very creepy. My mother didn’t like to knit.


  2. Maybe we both can promote it:-)


  3. Thank you for stopping by and reading – and for your positive comments and encouragement!


  4. You can probably see why, raised in the U.S., substitute teachers always thought I was a foreign exchange student. 🙂


  5. cleo14 says:

    Those are beautiful sweaters!


  6. Thank you for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I’m hoping I can make this pattern format fashionable in the U.S.! 🙂


  7. I LOVE THIS!!!!!!
    Being from Norway myself I grew up knitting these sweaters……many many many:-)
    Thanks for bringing it here and making it easier for knitters to understand!


  8. streepie says:

    have you received the pattern examples? I emailed it to you on Friday…



  9. It was a gorgeous sweater! I STILL remember it. 🙂


  10. Some of the late 19th century-early 20th century English and American patterns make my eyes water!


  11. I believe the “knitting by sight” skill can be learned!


  12. Thank you for reading. I look forward to seeing the Junghans pattern example!


  13. I have a couple of posts a-coming related to this topic. 🙂


  14. Beautiful detail in those jumpers!


  15. jengolightly says:

    Hahaha! Great story! X


  16. Oh I understand! Once out with a girlfriend hiking with our dogs, two good looking age-appropriate men were hiking toward us. Of course we stopped to chat, and after we parted and were safely our if earshot, my friend said, “Wow! Did you notice the a*s on the shorter man?” I replied, “No, but did you notice the cables on the taller man’s sweater?”


  17. jengolightly says:

    I went to the Norwegian Church in London to hear a talk given by one of the Heroes of Telemark. To my shame, I was compelled to sit near a family who were all wearing these sweaters, and despite my honest desire to hear what he had to say, I stared at the sweaters and paid only the scantest attention to the story….


  18. caityrosey says:

    i love reading about old fashioned patterns and how notation has changed. What patience it takes to keep trying different things until you figure it out.


  19. What a great idea for a blog…I’m very interested to see where this will go. Keep up the good work!!!


  20. monsteryarns says:

    I’ve been going through my Mother’s old patterns (Hungarian). I agree that the instructions are incredibly short. Much of the advice/guidance contained in modern patterns is totally missed out e.g. gauge, what cast on/off to use, number of stitches after decrease/increase, type of increase/decrease to use etc. I think that that generation was so relieved to have any pattern to follow that it was a novelty to not have to think as much. However I definitely feel I missed out on the opportunity to ask her to teach me how to knit by “sight” rather than pattern. It’s a real skill and I wish I had it.


  21. streepie says:

    Hi Karen,

    I’m looking forward to the continuation of the series… I have in my pattern stash a quite a few patterns for Islandic sweaters – they are all 2 pages size A5 (i,e. 14.8cm x 21cm (5,8in x 8,2in) for a whole sweater. I’ll dig them out tonight to have closer look – it’s some time since I knitted on of those sweaters. I’ll also send you a few examples of the “reductionist” pattern used by Junghans.



  22. Interesting and I look forward to your next post.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s