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From Luxury to Everyday use

It is a common assumption that Norwegians have knitted since the Viking Age, but the technique was rot known in Norway in the 1600s..

  • Print from a water color by J.F.L. Dreyer.. Ca. 1800. Norsk Folkemuseum
  • Knitting was known in Europe from the 1200s
  • In the 18th century knitting technique was spreading in Norway, probably to begin with in towns and later in rural areas.
  • In the course of the 1800s, knitting spread to all layers of society all over Norway.

Imported Luxury

  • Detail of silk camisole from the 1600s. Norsk Folkemuseum

The oldest pieces of knitting in Norway were most probably imported, and are from the end of the 1400s and the beginning of the 1500s. Many records show that knitted clothes were used in Norway at this time: stockings, mittens and silkcamisoles.

Theoldest pieces of knitted clothing preserved in Norway are knitted silk “nightshirts” (camisoles). Similar pieces are known in many European countries. Theywere only used by the most well to do in society. They are not for night use,but day use. They later became a part of the daily clothing for people both inurban and rural areas. Along with knitted stockings, the camisoles were thelargest group of knitted wares imported to Norway in the 1600s.

Urban Knitting

  • Woman knitting. ca. 1800.

Many beautiful knitting utensils are preserved from the 1700s. They were costly, and were often used as gifts. This indicates that knitting as a technique has been relatively well known among higher social circles at that time.

The increased access to cotton made knitting possible in new areas of use. Cottonyarn made other items and other patterns possible, knitted on very thin needles:bags and purses with multicolored glass beads, caps, shawls, bedspreads andvarious lace accessories.

While upper class women in the 1600 and 1700s knitted for leisure, there were many inother social groups who earned a living by knitting. In the course of the 19th century, urban knitting was greatly inspired by international fashion trends, while rural knitting evolved in to local knitting traditions.

Rural Knitting

  • Kviteseid in Telemark, 1878 Christian Munthe / Norsk Folkemuseum

Knitted wool sweaters were some of the most decorative rural clothes used in the 1800s.They are knitted in thin wool yarn and are dierent from the exclusive silk camisoles.

In rura areas the women’s sweaters were most often in one color with a damask pattern, while men’s sweaters were knitted in two or more colors, with the lower part inone color. Some men’s sweaters were given names from local areas, like the «Fanakofte» or the «Setesdalskofte».

Towardsthe end of the 1800s town people started hiking in the mountains and goingskiing. Sports clothes were inspired by rural patterns.