When the chill sets in and the snow blankets the world outside, I want to draw into myself, burrow down deep and not come up until the spring thaw. I don’t really like being outside in the winter, but when I do go out, I like to wear my jaunty upcycled hat and a pair of not-quite-matching mittens that have both been fashioned by using old wool sweaters. I am fascinated by the seemingly complex knitting patterns found on Fair Isle, Peruvian and Nordic knits. I can barely follow a recipe so I can’t imagine being so precise to make these amazingly intricate details in knitwear! Even if you live in a region that never sees snow, I hope that you can appreciate the detail that these patterns embody.
For something that is so utilitarian and necessary – like sweaters and mittens – it can be really beautiful as well as functional. Something you wouldn’t get tired of wearing day in and day out. So I went in search of information on the rich history of this knitwear tradition, and I found out that the patterns themselves can even mean something special.
Annemor Sundbo is perhaps the most celebrated of Norwegian knitters. She bought an old knitting mill in Norway and inherited 16 tons (!) of worn knitted wool rags that were in one gigantic pile waiting to be shred into raw material for ‘shoddy’ (shredding scrap wool was then used to fill mattresses and pillows and things as well as being re-woven into wool for clothing – the ultimate recycling!). What she realized is that there were generations of knitting patterns found in layers in this humongous pile. She set about to sort them out into about 3000 different garments. She soon realized that she had a cultural treasure on her hands and saved as many as she could. You can see some of the items (like those above) that she salvaged on her Flickr page.
A easily recognizable garment in Nordic countries is the setesdal sweater (above). This is one of the world’s most knitted and varied motifs. The ‘lusekofta’ – or ‘lice’ – pattern on the body of the sweaters is iconic. They often featured a braided detail and pewter buttons. Today they are still created and used in traditional dress. I imagine that these would keep you quite toasty on those long winter nights!
Marit Emstad is known as the ‘mother of selbustrikk’ as she is credited with the first use of the traditional stylized rose or snowflake pattern (‘selburose’) that is common in Nordic knitwear. The story begins in 1852 when Marit was just 16 years old. She lived and worked on a farm that was very remote, looking after the animals. In her spare time, she knitted. Being creative, she experimented with the stitches. While looking after the animals in the forest, she brought the usual white home-spun yarn and also a contrasting yarn from a black sheep. When she started sharing her knitted wares, she created a cultural revolution that had home knitters trying to outdo each other with the patterns. The ‘selbuvotter’ or mitten from Selbu is traditional and iconic.
I used this image above of the mittens that I found on the NordicMuseum.org website because I loved the variety of patterns and the strong color palette – mainly black and white punctuated by bright red and gold. In searching for the beads for this month, I discovered that some of the silver plated beads have a similar ‘selburose’ pattern. Adding to that the black and red and white makes for a striking mix.
Here are the beads I chose, l to r, all found at Michaels:
99220 – Bead Gallery© hematite 3x8mm rondelle
97767 – Bead Gallery© black matte glass 4mm round
99135 – Bead Gallery© jet cathedral silver luster glass
80160 – Bead Gallery© red opaque 8mm round glass
93734 – Bead Gallery© crackle AB 12mm round glass
93245 – Bead Gallery© matte crystal quartz crackle 10mm round
99513 – Bead Gallery© antique silver plated16mm embossed diamond
80341 – Bead Gallery© antique silver plated filigree mix beads
The original color for these patterns was black and white, and it is traditional to have the red color. But when I spotted the diamonds and the filigree mix beads that seemed to have the same patterns that leapt right off the picture, I knew I had found the perfect beads! Of course, there are a lot of ways you could go…alternately, I found a funky mix of patterned beads in black and white as well as some that looked like icicles in an AB quartz dagger. So many ways you could interpret this! Let’s see what you do!
I am delighted to welcome my Pretty Palettes partner for December. Her name is Ashley Bunting, and she is an accomplished designer, book author, and the brand ambassador for Xuron© tools. Please go and check her out!
Name – Miss Ashley Kate Bunting
Website/blog – www.MissAshleyKate.com
I am excited to share this month’s Pretty Palettes with Miss Ashley, who is such a delight (I just met her at a recent taping of Beads, Baubles & Jewels). I know that she will put her own spin on this iconic knitwear pattern!
If you would like to play along with us, we would love to see what you create! Grab your beads and find a cozy spot to craft your heart out! See you on December 30th for the reveal!
I have an idea! (There’s maybe a 40% chance it will work.)