Selbu Mittens by Anne Bårdsgård

Book review


Selbu mittens: It’s difficult to call yourself a Norwegian American if you haven’t owned a pair of Selbuvotter, Selbu mittens. The pattern, originating in Selbu, in the county of Sør-Trøndelag, has spread in popularity over the many years since it was developed in the 1800s. Emigrants from Selbu to the United States brought their knitting traditions with them and were able to help put food on the table because of their knitted products.

This book is a cornucopia of interesting stories, many luscious photographs, precise instructions, and charts. The author, Anne Bårdsgård, has done a thorough job of collecting and cataloging patterns from the area, from face-to-face interviews with expert knitters to deep analysis of mitten troves kept carefully by museums. Swept up in all the hard knitting information are anecdotes from and about the knitters, stories passed down with the mittens themselves, and photographs from old journals. There’s even a story of a Selbu-mitten-knitting serial killer!

I am a knitter—a Norwegian-American knitter—and yes, I own a pair of Selbuvotter. After reading the first few pages of this Selbuvotter bible, I of course rummaged through my winter mitten and glove drawer to find my own pair, purchased during my first trip to Norway in the cold winter of 1974. These, I found, were perfect for cross-country skiing. As I swooshed along the trails near Nordseter on my way to Neverfjell for a day-long trip, I found my downhill skiing gloves were too warm for comfort. My Selbuvotter, however, allowed my hands to cool down during the exertions on the trail, and over the years, they have been my first choice on the ski trails here at home.

This is a lovely book, suitable for your coffee table for anyone to browse and appreciate. As a knitter, I was glad to see the charted patterns provided by Bårdsgård and the bits of history behind each motif. There are many pages of the beautiful “roses” seen on many Selbuvotter, as well as other motifs such as dancers, animals, the ancient Greek Key design, even whimsical designs named “coffee beans,” “spiders,” and “woodlice.” Traditional or avant-garde, there is a place for every knitter here in Selbuvotter-land.

Full start-to-finish charted patterns are supplied, as well as separately charted motifs for those advanced knitters who desire to create their own pattern. This book is a definitive reference book that every knitter interested in the art of Nordic knitting should have.

Selbu Mittens by Anne Bårdsgård
Trafalgar Square Books, North Pomfret, Vermont
Published in Norwegian in 2016 by Museumsforlaget, Trondheim, Norway
Translation in 2019 published by Trafalgar Square Books
ISBN: 978-1-57076-947-4
Library of Congress Control Number: 2019946787

Beth Kollé has been a knitter since childhood, producing many Setesdalkofter over the years and most recently focusing on Russian and Estonian lace knitting. She lives with her tolerant husband in Seattle.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 13, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Beth Kollé

Beth Kollé is a harper specializing in Nordic music. She lives in Seattle and is involved in the vibrant Scandinavian community.