How to knit your own Norwegian sweaters

Written by kristen o'hara
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How to knit your own Norwegian sweaters
Norwegian sweaters traditionally feature geometric patterns. (snowflake ski sweater image by robert mobley from

Norwegian sweaters are well-known for their warmth and their intricate detail. The sweaters originated in Norway, where fishermen and hunters required warm garments to keep them through the long, freezing winters. Norwegian knitters developed thick, intricate cables that added to the warmth already provided by the well-insulated Norwegian wool fibres. Their designs also often featured vivid geometric designs using two contrasting colours. Knitters today use the many of same traditional pattern techniques to create modern versions of these detailed sweaters.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pattern
  • Circular needles
  • Wool yarn

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  1. 1

    Find an expert knitter who knows how to knit Norwegian sweaters, or refer to a book of instructions such as Therese Chynoweth's "Norwegian Sweater Techniques for Today's Knitters." Beginners often have difficulty with the intricate details and unfamiliar techniques of Norwegian sweaters. A knitter will be more likely to succeed with Norwegian knits if she has an expert or resource available.

  2. 2

    Find a good knitting pattern at a local yarn store, or check out a book with several sweater pattern options. Along with detailed instructions for some of the trickiest Norwegian techniques, Therese Chynoweth's book includes numerous sweater patterns. Mette Handberg's book, "Norwegian Patterns for Knitting," also includes patterns for Norwegian sweaters, hats, vests and mittens. Additionally, Lise Kolstad's book "Sweaters" offers "Contemporary Designs in the Norwegian Tradition."

  3. 3

    Study the techniques. Norwegian sweaters are well known for their intricate details and challenging techniques. For example, the sweaters are typically knit as a tube and cut into a cardigan. This technique, which requires special stitches called steeks, is often unfamiliar to American knitters. If an expert knitter is available, watch her perform new techniques, specific to the pattern, before attempting them. Otherwise, read over the techniques in books, such as Chenowyth's, or watch a video of a knitter performing these techniques. "Let's Knit Together" on YouTube is an example of a knitting demonstration video.

  4. 4

    Determine the gauge, located on the pattern in the form of stitches and rows per 25 mm (1 inch), and choose needles appropriate to the suggested gauge. Since Norwegian sweaters are typically knit in the round, the pattern will most likely call for circular needles. Start out with the size suggested.

  5. 5

    Look for quality wool yarns in the specified gauge. Authentic Norwegian sweaters are knit with wool yarns in neutral colours with white or red contrasts. The knitter alternates between the colours. Unused yarn is carried behind the work in a strand, to be picked up at the next section of that colour. To learn more about working with two colours of yarn, find a reference book such as "The Knitting Answer Book" by Margaret Radcliffe.

  6. 6

    Using the suggested needle size and yarn gauge, knit a small swatch in the stitching suggested in the pattern. Try knitting the number of stitches and rows suggested for a 100 by 100 mm (4 by 4 inch) swatch. If the swatch is too big, use smaller needles. If it is too small, use bigger needles.

  7. 7

    Begin knitting the sweater, seeking help when needed. Local yarn stores often offer emergency help for knitters who have trouble in the middle of a project, so be sure to check with those experts, as needed.

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