Knitty: little purls of wisdom
Yarn Pop - Top Shelf Totes



My interest in knitting has been kept alive over the years by the almost infinite variety of color, pattern, and texture that is found in collections of knitters and museums around the world. Although I love the smooth, quiet repetition of knitting a rectangular scarf in garter stitch using a luxurious yarn, it is the endless diversity of technique and style that keeps me interested in knitting as more than a way to keep my hands busy while watching TV.

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
--from The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Designing A Norwegian Ski Sweater
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When you think of Norwegian knitting do you think of ski sweaters and mittens with snowflake designs on them? If you do, you're not alone. Several of today's popular knitting designs originated in Norway in the 19th century and became well known around the world when Dale of Norway began creating spectacular sweaters for the Norwegian Winter Olympics teams in 1956.

Want to knit it? Dale has made the pattern available.

Today the company sells both sweaters and knitting yarns and patterns in both traditional and contemporary styles, and also supplies sweaters to the U.S. Olympic ski team.

The handknit sweaters that we all love today weren't always popular in Norway, however. When rural knitters first started making them, people from the towns and cities looked down on these garments as peasant clothes. Farmers didn't care much about fashion, and since wool was readily available in rural areas, it was put to use to keep bodies warm in cold winter weather, regardless of what the city-slickers thought. Soon enough, however, the designs spread in popularity until they eventually became symbols of Norway known throughout the world.

The Norwegian sweaters we think of today -- with snowflake motifs and lice patterning -- originated in the Setesdal region of Norway. The lice pattern, with single stitches of a contrasting color worked over a solid background, is much easier and faster to knit than complicated color patterns, but it still adds extra warmth to a garment. You can see why it would have been popular on sweaters knitted by rural women who worked from dawn to dusk on housework and helping out on the farm, and still needed time to make clothes for their families. The oldest Setesdal sweaters were made as undershirts, and only later did people start wearing their warm woolies on the outside. Once sweaters changed from underwear to outerwear, more embellishments were added and the black-and-white designs were decorated with brightly colored embroidery at the neckline and cuffs.

In my book, Ethnic Knitting Discovery: The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and The Andes, I explored the origins and techniques used in these classic Norwegian sweaters, and including recipes and charts for designing your own ethnic-inspired sweaters using knitting techniques from around the world. I actually used the calculations in the chapter on Norway to design this sweater, but for the final pattern, I updated some of the techniques to make finishing easier:

Traditional Norwegian sweaters are made with a plain tube for the body, worked in the round, and no special technique is used to shape openings for the armholes or neck. Knitters would simply knit the body tube to the length they want, then cut slits to make armholes and cut a scoop shape out of the front of the body to make a neck opening. Cutting your knitting, or "steeking," can be scary enough when we have special stitches placed in the locations to indicate where to cut, so I've added these for the armhole openings, and I have also used added steek stitches combined with decreases to shape the neck opening.

The sleeves in a traditional Norwegian sweater are often knit from the cuff up to the armhole, then sewn in place. Because many of today's knitters, especially those who choose to knit in the round, prefer not to sew seams, I picked up stitches at the armholes and worked the sleeves down to the cuffs, reducing the finishing in this garment to a minimum.

To learn more, see:

Zen Yarn Garden

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beauty shot

by Donna Druchunas


These earliest sweaters were knitted in the round, on multiple double-pointed needles, producing seamless garments that were custom made to fit the wearer. Sweaters made with multiple colors, such as Norwegian pullovers, were usually knit as plain tubes and cut open to create neck and armhole openings, while others made with single-color texture patterns, such as British fishermen's ganseys, were shaped as they were knitted.

This sweater features traditional circular knitting with modern neck shaping, still worked with steeks, and sleeves picked up from the armholes and knit to the cuff, to eliminate sewing seams.

spacer model: Vanessa Durand Zitzmann
spacer photos: Rohn Strong
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XS[S, M, L, 1X, 2X, 3X]
shown in size M with 5 inches of ease

Chest: 33.25[37, 40.5, 44.25, 48, 51.75, 55.5] inches
Length: 22[22.5, 23, 24, 24.5, 25.5, 26] inches



Rowan Pure Wool DK [100% pure wool, 137 yd/125 m per 50g ball]
spacer [MC] 003 Anthracite (grey), 11[12, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17] balls
spacer [CC1] 030 Damson (purple), 4[4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6] balls
spacer [CC2] 013 Enamel (natural), 2[2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3] balls
spacer [CC3] 006 Pier (blue-green), 2[2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3] balls

Recommended needle size
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]
spacer 24-, 32-, or 40-inch US 3 (3.25mm) circular needle; needle should be slightly shorter than finished body circumference
spacer 16-inch US #3 (3.25mm) circular needle
spacer 1 set US #3 (3.25mm) double-point needles
Note: If you knit tightly during stranded colorwork, you may want to use a larger needle (such as a US #4 (3.5mm) for the Body and Sleeve Charts.

spacer sewing needle and matching thread
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26 sts and 34 rnds = 4" in St st over Body Charts and Sleeve Chart, St st, and Lice Stitch


[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

2x2 Rib:
Rnd 1: *K2 in MC, p2 in CC designated by pattern; rep from * around.

Steek Patterns:
During Body Charts:
Rnd 1: *K1 in MC, k1 in CC used in current rnd of body chart; rep from * to last st, k1 in MC.
Rep this rnd for pattern.

During Lice Stitch:
Rnds 1-2, 4-8, 11-12: Knit in MC.
Rnds 3, 9: *K1 in MC, k1 in CC2; rep from * to last st, k1 in MC.
Rep these 12 rnds for patt.

The charts for this pattern are very large. Each fits on a letter-sized page.
Click below and print each resulting page.

body charts | sleeve and lice pattern charts



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Using long circular needle and MC, CO 216[240, 264, 288, 312, 336, 360] sts and join to work in the round, being careful not to twist. Place a marker to indicate the beginning of the rnd and a second marker after first 108[120, 132, 144, 156, 168, 180] sts to mark halfway point.

Work in 2x2 rib, working colors as follows:

  • 4 rnds in MC and CC1
  • 2 rnds in MC and CC2
  • 4 rnds in MC and CC3
  • 2 rnds in MC and CC2
  • 4 rnds in MC and CC1.

With MC, knit 2 rnds.

Work Lice Chart, working 12-st repeat 18[20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30] times across each rnd, until piece measures 11[11.5, 11.5, 12, 12, 12.5, 13] inches from cast-on edge, or approx 2 inches shorter than desired length to armhole.

Knit in MC only for 4 rnds (.5 inches).

Work Rnds 1-14 of Body Chart 1, working 24-st repeat 9[10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15] times across each rnd. Piece measures approx. 13[13.5, 13.5, 14, 14, 14.5, 15] inches from cast-on edge.

Begin armhole steeks:
Note: Keep chart pattern correct when binding off and casting on for steeks, noting that Body Chart 2 will start on st 2 of chart to match up with Body Chart 1.

Next rnd: *Patt to 1 st before next marker, remove marker, BO 2 sts (removing marker); rep from * once more. 106[118, 130, 142, 154, 166, 178] sts rem in each half.

Next rnd: *Patt to bound off sts, pm, CO 7 sts, pm; rep from * once more.

Patt rnd: *Work Body Chart 1 in patt to m, sl m, work Steek Pattern to m, sl m; rep from * once more.

Work even in patt as est in this rnd until Rnd 34 of Body Chart 1 has been completed, then work Rnds 1- 28[28, 32, 35, 39, 39, 39] of Body Chart 2. Armhole measures approx. 5.75[5.75, 6, 6.5, 7, 7, 7] inches.

Begin neck steek and shaping:
Note: Read ahead. Pattern changes at the same time as armhole and neck decreases are worked.

Cont to work Body Chart 2 through Rnd 39, then change to working Lice Stitch over body sts; AT THE SAME TIME, shape neck as follows:

Next rnd: Work 41[47, 53, 59, 65, 71, 77] sts in patt as est. With MC, BO next 24 sts, weaving in CC as you go (or cut CC and rejoin at other side of neck), work in patt to end of rnd.
Next rnd: Patt to bound off neck sts, pm, CO 7 sts, pm, patt to end of rnd.

Dec rnd: Patt to 6 sts before first steek marker, with MC (k2tog twice, k2), sl m, work Steek Pattern, sl m, with MC (k2, ssk twice), patt to end.
Repeat Dec rnd every 2[2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1] rnds 2[4, 4, 4, 6, 6, 8] times more. 35[37, 43, 49, 51, 57, 59] sts rem on each side of front.

Work even in patt until armholes measures 9[9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11] inches.
BO all sts.

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Note: Sleeves are designed to fall approx. 2.5 inches past the wrist. For a shorter sleeve, you may want to eliminate the work even rnds after picking up sts. Refer to schematic for measurements in full.

Locate the center steek stitch at each armhole. Using a small reinforcing stitch, machine stitch two rows of stitches along each side of this stitch. Carefully cut open in the column between the machine stitching.

Sew shoulder seams.

With MC and shorter circular needle, beginning at underarm, pick up and knit 120 [120, 124, 130, 136, 144, 144] sts around armhole and join to work in the rnd. Pm for beg of rnd.

Note: Read ahead! Pattern changes at the same time as sleeve decreases are worked. Change to DPNs when/if needed.

Patt rnd: Beg with st 1[1, 23, 20, 17, 1, 1] of chart, work Sleeve Chart to end of rnd, ending with st 24[24, 2, 5, 8, 24, 24].

Cont in patt as set through Rnd 31 of Sleeve Chart, then change to Lice Stitch for remainder of sleeve to cuff.

AT THE SAME TIME, work even for 3[4, 5, 0, 14, 3, 7] rnds, then dec each end of every 5[5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4] rnds 32[32, 32, 24, 38, 40, 31] times, then every 0[0, 0, 4, 0, 0, 3] rnds 0[0, 0, 11, 0, 0, 9] times, working dec rnd as foll:

Dec rnd: Patt 1, k2tog, patt to last 3 sts, ssk, patt 1.

56[56, 60, 60, 60, 64, 64] sts rem.

Work in 2x2 rib, working colors as follows: 4 rnds in MC and CC1, 2 rnds in MC and CC2, 4 rnds in MC and CC3, 2 rnds in MC and CC2, 4 rnds in MC and CC1.
BO in rib using MC.

Repeat for other sleeve.

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Cut and reinforce steek for neck as for armholes.

With RS facing, MC, and shorter circular needle, pick up and knit 36[44, 44, 44, 52, 52, 60] across back neck sts, pick up and knit 16[18, 18, 20, 20, 20, 22] sts down left neck, pick up and knit 24 sts across front neck, then 16[18, 18, 20, 20, 20, 22] sts up right neck. Join to work in the rnd and pm for beg of rnd. 92[104, 104, 108, 116, 116, 128] sts.

Work in 2x2 rib with MC and CC1 for 1 inch.
ng rnd:
Purl 1 rnd with MC.

Knit every rnd for 1.25 inches.

Bind off.

Fold the neck band at the purl ridge and sew it down to the inside of the sweater through the bind off edge, covering the steeked stitches as you do so and being careful that your stitches don not show on the right side of the sweater.

Weave in all ends. Wash and block to measurements.

habit-portraitBlank Donna Druchunas escaped a corporate cubicle to honor her passions for knitting, world travel, research, and writing. She teaches in the United States and Europe, offers online sock-knitting classes at, and holds retreats at her studio in Vermont. Her newest project, Stories In Stitches is a pattern line featuring stories about knitters and their lives, traditions, history, and travel, all tied together with gorgeous knitting patterns and projects.

Visit Donna's website at