History | the sweater from Setesdal | Norway

In a cold country like Norway, warm clothing is essential. This is a refined and old version of a woollen sweater from the district of Setesdal.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
A sweater from Setesdal, Agder, Norway - with a typical local pattern. | Photo: Anne-Lise Reinsfeldt Norsk Folkemuseum - digitaltmuseum NF.1956-0070 - cc by-sa.
A sweater from Setesdal, Agder, Norway - with a typical local pattern. | Photo: Anne-Lise Reinsfeldt - Norsk Folkemuseum cc by-sa.

Wool is the thing

The Norwegians still turn to wool when preparing for the might of the cold winter. The woollen material breathes, and you usually put on layer after layer to keep warm, covering all parts of the body. The layers allow air to settle in between, adding to the insulation effect. Traditionally, people made socks, underwear, caps, scarves, mittens, sweaters, trousers, jackets and more, either from woven fabric or knitted from yarn. Even when wet, woollen clothes will keep you warm and make you feel reasonably comfortable.

A woman-driven activity

Historically, the Norwegian population was small, and groups of people often lived in relatively isolated and scattered communities in the many valleys and fjords. The making of clothes was a woman-driven activity. Before sending their men out into the winter forest to cut timber – or on a fishing expedition on the vast ocean – they made sure that their loved ones had the warmest clothing they could possibly give them.

Local methods and patterns

Over the centuries, the women encouraged each other, and competed in developing new techniques and designs. They used plants and other natural ingredients to colour the fabric. In most parts of Norway, you will find local patterns and ways of putting clothes together. Very much so in the district of Setesdal, in the region of Agder in southern Norway. The depicted sweater is a more refined version of the Setesdalsgenser: the sweater from Setesdal.

On a cold day, males may use this type of garment with their local folk costume – bunad. Often with silver buttons on the sleeves and along the neck. On this particular version, the unusual white section at the bottom may indicate that it was used this way, with the sweater tucked inside the trousers. Below, you will see a few, close-up photos – and finally, an oil painting depicting Aanund Annundson Rike and his more everyday version of the garment. If you search «setesdalsgenser» online, you will find a myriad of more contemporary examples of this beautiful wear.

«Boy from Setesdal» - oil painting by Carl Fredrik Sundt-Hansen from 1904. The model is said to be Aanund Aanundson Rike. | Photo: Stavanger kunstmuseum - digitaltmuseum.no SG.0214 - public domain.
«Boy from Setesdal» – oil painting by Carl Fredrik Sundt-Hansen from 1904. The model is said to be Aanund Aanundson Rike. | Photo: Stavanger kunstmuseum – digitaltmuseum.no SG.0214 – public domain.

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