All photos by Heather Nelson
In Norway, knitting is more than just a hobby, it's a comfort thing, and a part of family and community life. (Click on the picture above to view the full slideshow)

SLIDESHOW: All about knitting at the Nordic Knitting Conference

By Sallie Hancock

Question: Who has four bundles of Finn Sheep Wool, one circular needle size 2, a Magic Loop, and a volume of Ole and Lena jokes?

Answer: A Norwegian Sassy Selbuvotter.

This weekend, Ballard’s Nordic Heritage Museum celebrated its fourth Nordic Knitting Conference.

More than one hundred knitters, spinners, masters and beginners, from Alaska, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Indiana, Utah, Idaho, California, Calgary, Norway and more convened at the Museum on Friday morning, October 5 to learn, share and celebrate the rich and varied traditions of Nordic fiber arts.

Sissel Seierstad, a Magnolia resident and conference attender who is originally from Norway explained why the act of knitting is important in Norway. “Knitting is a comfort thing in Norway. Everyone sits and knits. It is a part of family and community life,” she said.

In fact, until recently, knitting was part of the grade school curriculum for boys and girls. Today, one of the bestselling books in Norway is a one-hundred-year-old volume of Annichen Sibbern Bohn’s instructions on knitting.

The conference’s focus was the Scandinavian mitten. A gift of mittens is considered a gift of the heart, like giving your hand -- it is often to someone one loves.

Mittens are an important part of a young Scandinavian girl’s dowry. Young Nordic women knit gloves for every member of her future husband’s family, and sisters of the brides knit mittens for all guests of the wedding. Each new husband receives as many as four newly knit pairs of gloves. The mittens are displayed on strings hung from the ceiling of the space in which the wedding occurs.

Gloves, from every region of Scandinavia, (which includes Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Estonia and Latvia), is filled with powerful and unique symbolism. There are symbols on the palm of the glove that keep away bad dreams. The bottom of the thumb on the palm of the glove is given the most intimate meaning with symbols of love, often a heart or a rose.

The keynote speaker, Annemor Sundbo, who was recently named by Norway as a National Treasure for her work in salvaging and preserving old knittings, and documenting millions of ancient Nordic sweaters and mittens, noted the irony of her mother’s warning to her as a young child; “If you do not behave, I will sell you to the rag man.”

But Sundbo, who purchased an old sleeping bag factory in her youth and discovered the bags stuffed with ancient Scandinavian knittings, feels passionate about her calling to find the spirit within the rag pile and impart it’s meaning to any artisans, craftsmen and knitters who will listen.

“This is my reward,” she said with ebullience.

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