denmark knitting

above left: Christiania, the infamous squat in Copenhagen that became permanent housing for the counter culture, who even designed a special bicycle that is produced there; upper right: nattrøjer designed by Ruth Sørensen using Kauni effect yarn; the Textilforum in Herning is a museum inhabiting a former knitwear factory, where old equipment continues to demonstrate the processes, the museum shop stocks Bente Geil and Ruth Sørensen kits.

For expert knitters in Denmark there are various paths-- some design patterns that are sold as kits with yarn, such as Bente Geil's imaginative sleevlings and other designs, or Helga Issager see:, or separately as patterns sold on line which is Ruth Sørensen's current mode in addition to teaching workshops. Knits frequently embellish prêt à porter presentations during Copenhagen Fashion Week. Two powerful women, Gudrun og Gudrun in the Faroe Islands transform historical myths into chic modern knitwear.

The Faroe Islands produce particular motifs, one consisting of rows of squares, that Sørensen has revamped. Various designs identify specific regions in Denmark. If one's great-grandmother lived in the province of Zealand, she used the stranding technique, distinguishing her garment from a jersey knit in Jutland that relied on textured stitches. Regional variations developed into micro styles associated with each parish or village by mid-nineteenth century. These patterns also distinguished hand knits from those industrially produced with which cottage industry was competing. As the the twentieth century evolved, nattrøjer, a knit nightshirt morphed into cardigans. Patterns of varying knit and purl stitches typify this garment, which was relegated to folk costume until the current resurgence of innovative knitting in Denmark transformed this unique garment. 

Highly political, Danes' sweaters even express socio/political sentiments. While demonstrating against nuclear energy in the 1970's, Danish protesters wore hand knit sweaters reading “Atomic Power? No Thanks.” However, not every sweater conveys a message other than warmth. Although fishermen rely on wool sweaters in inclement weather, all Danes live in sweaters, mittens and hats virtually year round. Everyone conserves heat in the winter by wearing heavy cardigans, socks, and felt slippers at home. 

Alternating with the amazingly long days of summer in Denmark, are the abbreviated days of winter, drenched with rain and winds off the North Sea. It’s little wonder that the Vikings used a Neolithic technique, nålebinding, to create wool or fiber clothing and accessories, working frenetically to knit before another winter descended with its swirling snow, wet fogs, and leaden skies. 

Nålebinding, or single needle knitting, is a looping technique similar to knitting with two needles, but executed with an eyed needle. Wrapping the fiber around one’s thumb or needle allows the knitter to control tension, producing a mesh of interlocking loops. Garments are built up in spirals, similar to knitting with circular needles although difficult and tedious, but thicker and warmer. So difficult to produce, in Finland it was said that a man wearing knit mittens (rather than from nålbinding) had a wife who was inept.  Nålbinding continued to be used until the  innovation of working with two needles pervaded Denmark in the 16th century, although Danish fishermen were still making socks with this technique in the twentieth century. 

enough! suffice it to say, hand knitters abound in Denmark, and a new generation is having an impact on fashion. ecomodista will continue the denmark post soon, actually sooner that the sparse posting this summer.