This is a book review of Selbu Mittens: Discover the Rich History of a Norwegian Knitting Tradition with Over 500 Charts and 35 Classic Patterns.
What You Need to Know About This Historic Knitting Book:
Author: Anne Bardsgard
Publisher: Trafalgar Square Books
ISBN 13: 978-1570769474
ISBN 10: 1570769478
This book is available in hardcover format, without dust jacket.
Number of Pages: This book has a whopping 296!!!! pages — it is massive!
The Focus of This Book:
The book’s name, Selbu Mittens, succinctly summarizes its focus and purpose; the book really is all about Selbu mittens. BUT, if you want to get nit-picky, you could argue that maybe the book should have been named ”Selbu Mittens and Gloves”, because there is some space in the book devoted to gloves, too.
Selbu is a municipality in the country of Norway. This region is world famous for a knitting motif known as the “Selbu Rose”, and is also noteworthy for its knitted textiles – in particular, for its mittens.
This book is a fascinating volume that is part knitting pattern book, part knitting stitch dictionary, part knitting technique book, part history book and (very small) part introductory Norwegian language textbook. These elements intertwine to tell the story of Selbu’s mittens – and, in the process, the history of Selbu’s people and culture are also revealed.
Knitting Projects Included in This Book:
This book includes 35 knitting patterns for making mittens. There are patterns sized for men, women, babies and children.
Even if you don’t care much about knitting mittens, specifically, this book is likely to be useful to you if you enjoy designing other types of stranded colorwork knitting projects. In addition to the mitten knitting patterns, the book includes an extensive library of more than 500 charts for knitting two-color designs using the stranded color knitting technique. Although the 35 patterns for finished items are only for mittens, this stitch dictionary component of the book could be useful for designing any sort of knitted item you might like to have.
Among the charted designs, you’ll find just about every possible variation you could ever hope to have of the Selbu rose and the Nordic star. There are also numerous other types of designs. There are bunches of border patterns and panels that would be suitable for using around the cuffs of mittens, and in countless other ways, too, if you are inclined to design your own knitting projects.
Some of the motif patterns include “coffee beans”; dancers and goblins; animals such as rabbits, deer and dogs; birds; “spiders” (these are not literally spiders, but rather, abstracted sort-of-vaguely-spider-like motifs); hearts; hearts used together in combination to form roses; goat and ram’s horn roses; and many others. There are charted alphabets and numbers you can use for adding sentiments and dates to your mittens or other projects. There are also some patterns that defy easy categorization.
The Best Things About This Book
There are bunches of “best things” about this book. For starters, I love a good rescue story – don’t you?
And Selbu Mittens definitely delivers a good rescue story. This book came about because its primary author noticed that the complexity and diversity of Selbu mitten designs seemed to be disappearing. When she was a child in the 1970s, there was an impressive variety of different mitten pattern designs available. As an adult, she noticed, in particular, that mittens like the ones that had been knitted by her own godmother didn’t seem to be available any longer – and that, in general, much of the diversity in available mitten patterns seemed to be dwindling.
She realized that a whole bunch of important cultural history was on the verge of being lost – and she took action to ensure that it would be preserved forever.
And this book is the media in which it has been preserved. In this book, you’ll find a valuable archive of historic patterns. These patterns and photographs encompass virtually all the known characteristics of mitten knitting patterns in the Selbu region.
To make it happen, the editorial team had to notify people from all around Selbu, and even from other parts of Norway, of the project and its significance and request that people lend their older mittens to be photographed and reproduced.
A team of talented knitters worked to ensure that each pattern was lovingly re-knit. It was about 500 pairs of mittens in all that they knitted for this project.
Imagine the staggering amount of work that went into making Selbu Mittens.
Really, this book’s asking price is a small amount to pay for the insane amount of collected knowledge and effort it represents.
This book gives you a prime example of amazing things that can happen when people unite around a common goal. It took massive amounts of teamwork and cooperation to make this author’s vision a reality. There was incentive to carry out her vision because the vision itself was culturally important to all the book’s contributors, from the bank that provided funding for the mitten knitters to the museum curators who opened their organizations’ archives to the individual Norwegians who surrendered their mittens to be photographed and reproduced.
This book is practically guaranteed to teach you things you didn’t already know. For example – did you know that there was a point in Selbu history when people were actually using mittens as currency?
That’s fascinating, don’t you think?!
A brief glossary in the beginning of the book introduces you to some of the most important knitting-related terms in the local language spoken in Selbu. For knitters who plan to take a vacation in Norway at some point, this could prove to be invaluable, since knitting terms aren’t usually included in traveler’s language phrasebooks. But, even if you’re just an “armchair traveler”, this information is likely to be helpful to you in the future if you enjoy looking at Norwegian knitters’ blogs, websites and Instagram accounts.
Things to Be Aware of Before You Buy This Book
Overall, I think this is an amazing book. But, it does have one obvious downside that I noticed – which is the really small print, particularly in sections that have material quoted from other sources formatted in blockquotes.
In the publisher’s defense, this book would have had to be a multi-volume encyclopedia if they hadn’t made the choice to go small on the typeface. As it is, the book has a whopping 296 pages. Seriously! 296 pages!!! It’s huge!
And, that thing with the type, well, maybe it’s just me. My eyes aren’t that great, and my glasses are out of date. If you have perfect eyesight, maybe this will be a non-issue for you. But do be aware, if you usually opt to read large-print books, that reading this book may be a challenge for you. If that’s the case, you can do what I’ve been doing and just grab a magnifier to read with.
I think this book is an absolute masterpiece. If you have even the merest hint of an interest in knitting mittens, this is a wonderful book to have available. If you’re a knitting pattern designer, or you want to be a knitting pattern designer, this book is likely to be an excellent investment for you – because it contains information on how to construct a mitten. It also gives you an abundance of different charts you could choose for creating the patterns on your mittens.
I think this book would also be a good investment for aspiring fashion designers who plan to include knitted mittens or gloves in their collections.
And beyond the technical side of mitten knitting, this book contains a lot of interesting historical information. If you’re Norwegian or Norwegian-American, this book will give you important insights into your country’s history.
Where to Buy This Book:
- Click here to shop for this book at Amazon.
- Click here to shop for this book at the publisher’s website.
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Posted By: Amy Solovay
About Your Book Reviewer: Amy Solovay is a real, opinionated person who is educated about knitting, yarn and textiles. She learned to knit as a teenager, and she holds a degree in textile design. Amy spent about a decade working in the textile industry designing knitted fabrics, prints and wovens. She now focuses some of her creative energy on designing knitting and crochet patterns for hand crafters; she also collects (and frequently reviews) other designers’ crochet and knitting patterns. Trafalgar Square Books is currently her favorite publisher of knitting pattern books.
This page was last updated on 8-5-2023.