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From Practicality to Pleasure

Knitting interest and knowledge have varied in the 1900s. There have been great variations both in what was knitted and how it was done. Old patterns have been used hand in hand with innovations inspired by tradition and international fashion.

Knitting for Everybody

  • Knitting Girl
    She just learned to knit, 2004 Birte Sandvik / Norsk Folkemuseum

Up until the end of the 1800s, knitting patterns were spread through personal contacts, by copying knitted clothes or by knitted samples. Drawn knitting patterns and pattern books were not in use. Den Norske Husflidsforening was established in 1891, and the shop Husfliden in Kristiania (Oslo) sold hand knitted clothes from all over the country. It hired designers, made pattern leaflets and taught courses. But sales did not really increase until the 1920s. Many books attempted to get women to start knitting again. Annichen Sibbern Bøhn worked for Husfliden in Oslo, and travelled around the country collecting old knitting patterns. She published the book Norske Strikkemønstre in 1929. The book was a great success. Thanks to her, knitting became popular again in the 1930s.

Knitting goes Haute Couture

  • Mannequins on Geilo Johan Brun Dagbladet / Norsk Folkemuseum

From the 1930s, Norwegian knitting was inspired by international trends. Especially French designers like Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet, along with Italian Elsa Schiaparelli made knitting high fashion in Europe. Knitting patterns for the fashionable jumperwere published in many versions, also in Norwegian ladies’ magazines and pattern leaflets. Many of these patterns were for clothing that rarely had been knitted earlier, from formal gowns to bathing suits. This led to a democratization of fashion, enabling women to knit fashionable clothes themselves both simply and cheaply.

From Marius to Skappel

  • The Skappel Sweater on the front page of Det Nye.

There was more knitting in the 1950s than ever before. Clothes were cheaper homemade than store bought, and children learnt to knit both at home and at school. Production of yarn and patterns increased in volume. Sweaters knitted in multicolored patterns, such as Marius, became more popular than ever.

Mass production increased in the 1960s and 70s, making clothes cheaper. It also became more expensive to knit your own clothes than buying them ready made. Despite this change, knitting was still taught in schools. Traditional patterns were still popular. Many popular sweaters and patterns were introduced, not least by the designers Ellinor Flor and Per Spook.By the 1990s, knitting was no longer mandatory in Norwegian schools. Yarn had become more expensive, and knowledge of knitting was decreasing among young people. There was no revival of interest before 2012, when the TV celebrity Dorthe Skappel made a very simple sweater her daughters later were photographed in. Suddenly everybody wanted to knit this sweater, yarn shops were emptied, and many young people learnt to knit via YouTube