Thursday, 3 May 2012

Book review: Norwegian Mittens & Gloves

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Norwegian Mittens & Gloves. Over 25 Classic Designs for Warm Fingers and Stylish Hands
by Annemor Sundbø
Trafalgar Square Books 2011 (English Translation)
ISBN: 978-1-57076-495-0



I bought this book because of my interest in knitting gloves and mittens in general, and because of my more recent enthusiasm for traditional Norwegian mittens in particular. The book was first published in 2010, and the English translation came out in 2011. I became aware of it when the author, Annemor Sundbø, was profiled in the Winter 2011 issue of Interweave Knits.

There is a splendid back story to the material in the book. Unlike others, this author didn't tour textile museums for her source material. No, back in the 1980s she actually bought a factory together with 16 tons of sacks of woollen waste! The factory was the last shoddy mill in Norway, a place that recycled wool from rags, which included discarded hand knitted garments. Realising that the items were a treasure trove of traditional knitted motifs, figures and symbols, Annemor Sundbø decided to keep a record of them, and also began researching into the background to the patterns.

For this book, a number of original mittens and gloves from the sacks at the shoddy mill have been reworked into pattern instructions. Most of the recreations look remarkably like the inspirational source, albeit using yarn available today. Endearingly, some are rather better than the originals, which show signs of being everyday items - not perfect, but entirely functional and attractive nevertheless.

The book is made up mainly of instructions for the recreated mittens and gloves. These are sandwiched between the introductory chapters and a concluding section suggesting how a mitten chart can be adapted to make other garments. There are two further features that make the book attractive even to those who may never follow one of the patterns. First, the chapter on Basic Techniques (written by Terri Shea) near the beginning of the book, and second a valuable table of standard measurements for mitten and glove construction.

The patterns include 22 for mittens and 8 for gloves (my count: it says "over 25" on the cover). There are 10 for women/medium adult/adult, 6 for women and men, 5 for men, 7 for children and 2 for small children. Finished measurements are not given, but gauge, stitch count around the hand and rows for the length of the hand are provided to give an idea of size. The instructions include charts for the colour work, and the patterns include full instructions (they are not recipes that assume you've knitted mittens many times before). Animal designs and more abstract patterns are both present.

My favourite pattern is probably "Mittens with a red thread", which combine the flower motif that I love with a lovely brown/natural/splash-of-red colour scheme. Added to that, there's the knowledge that the original mittens were never finished: the red thread in that pair was the one holding the thumb stitches. I also like "Lilies: Woman's Mittens" -a pair of grey and white mittens with a lily pattern. There's another pair I liked until I read that the pattern included a spider - but I think only those in the know would realise this!

Each pair of gloves or mittens is clearly photographed, in colour, showing both back of hand and palm, off the hand. There are no modelled or fashion-type shots. Also included are small colour photos of the original items.

All the patterns in the book call for Ask Hifa 2 by Hillesvåg, which is 100% Norwegian 2-ply wool with 315 m /100 g.

So, this is one for fans of traditional Norwegian designs and those who love to knit mittens; it will also be enjoyed by those who like to read about knitting history and the meaning of symbols.



Disclosure: I purchased this book

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