Socks with history

As I told you earlier, my sockapaloooza socks are on their way to the recipient. This was actually my first sockapaloooza without lice :) Thanks to you the decision fell on traditional Norwegian Setesdal socks.


I had great fun making these socks - I've been thinking of making Setesdal socks for years, and now I've given it a try I'll might make a pair for myself some day. I just love this pattern, and since it has so much history I'd like to share it with you. I really can't tell you all about it here - after all the author Annemor Sundbø found enough material for a 159 page book about it - but here comes the short version.

As you might have guessed, the Setesdal sweater comes from Setesdal, a valley in Norway. This used to be a quite isolated place, this is for example the place in Norway where the national costume was used the longest. Around the middle of the 19th century fashion changed, and the men started wearing knitted sweaters. They were always black with a white pattern and "lice", single white stitches on black background. They also had embroidery at the neckline and sometimes at the cuffs. There is a big variation in patterns, but they all follow a set of unwritten rules.

The earliest Setesdal sweaters had a white part at the bottom. This was tucked into the pants and wouldn't normally show. Since black wool was more scarce than white, there was no point in wasting black wool or two colour knitting on this part. It was a big shame to show off the white edging of your sweater.


The variety of borders is huge, and they can be combined in many different ways. Most borders have some kind of religious significance. I've only used a few on the socks. The top border is a symbol of flowing water and purity - the water of life. The next pattern is a variation of the OXO pattern found in many different cultures. It consists of a cross - the Andrew cross (he was crucified, but did not find himself worthy of using the same sort of cross as Jesus) and a circle, here formed by four small crosses, symbolizing eternity. The triangles are of course symbol of the trinity. Many sweaters had some sort of pattern between the white and the black part of the sweater, often stars - the leading star and a symbol of Jesus' resurrection and victory. Finally you have all the small dots - the good eye. Putting this all together you get a powerful piece of clothing!


The Setesdal sweater is still a part of the national costume for men in Setesdal, but they are also worn by almost everyone, from pop stars and royalty to criminals. I think most Norwegians have owned a Setesdal sweater at some point. Many of them breaking all the Setesdal rules, some of them the real thing, with hand embroidery and silver clasps.

If you want to know more, I highly recommend Annemor's book.

And if you feel like making a sweater for yourself, I have a tutorial on how to attach the embroidery here.

I hope my sock pal likes her socks with history ;-)

6 kommentarer

Utrolig flotte sokker!! de var jo nesten ett kunstverk, de kan du godt ramme inn.

So beautiful! I so envy your sock pal for getting these socks. Not only are they exceptionally pretty and so very special in your own design, they also represent some (knitting) history that relates to you and your country. This is sooo cool! I know why I enjoy reading your blog: It's not merely bout the nice pictures and great projects, it's because I feel smarter after reading your posts ;-)Great, great socks!

Thank you for the history! And especially for the tutorial for the embroidery. And the socks are just beautiful.

Helene!!! You are unbelievable!!!

Those socks are works of art!

Those are absolutely gorgeous socks!

Skriv en ny kommentar