I´ve decided my old Selbu Mittens from this post, to be ones for the archive. They were in desperate need of mending, but in addition the inevitable felting process had gone too far, and the pair had simply become too small.
This is of course quite sad, considering the amount of time I spent knitting them, but also quite awarding considering the amount of time I spent wearing them! When a pair of 100% Norwegian wool Selbu mittens are worn out after 10 yrs, it simply states their popularity.
So I had to knit myself a new pair, and was given the opportunity to try out a new pattern. The search was on, and let´s just admit it; «Selbu» is a world known consept, and the amount of patterns for traditional Selbu Mittens are overwhelming (google selbu mittens, -or in Norwegian: selbuvotter, and you´ll see). Thick or thin, colorful or natural, synthetic or wool, «based on» or true to the original. But what is the original? I´m not judging here, merely stating my personal view upon the matter; «Selbu Mittens» has to be made of 100% wool, and the pattern has to be based on one or several of the patterns traditionally used in Selbu. Originally Selbu Mittens were knittet in thin homespun wool, a lot thinner than you´d find in the yarn store today, and consecuently knitted on very thin needles. My fingers are sore after knitting on needles 2,5 mm (US 1,5). I once inherited knitting needles which didn´t fit in my pin gauge measure -thing, they were thinner than 2mm (US 0), probably 1,5 mm. I tried them, and it´s like knitting with sewing needles! Traditionally ladies mittens had ribbing like in my mittens, while mens mittens had cuffs.
These mittens are knitted in very thin wool, and are mens mittens. Suggested needles 2mm (US 0). I`d like to knit these at one point, and I think I´ve found the perfect yarn for it: Design Club´s DUO. A Danish brand lambswool, 540 meters to 100 grams.
The first Selbu Mittens are believed to be knitted in about 1850 by an 11-yr old girl called Marit Emstad, the «mother of Selbu-knitting». She´s supposedly the first to use two contrast colored threads and creating a stranded pattern. The technique spread rapidly, and in the beginning of the 19th century mittens and socks were knitted for sale by the locals due to an increasing demand from the growing «outdoors» fitness trend in and around the capitol (Oslo). In my opinion the three best known original Norwegian knitting patterns is: Selbu, Setesdal and Fana.
What´s interresting is that all three pattern techniques developed in the mid 18th century. 1850 seems to be a clue here. Why did Norwegians radically change their knitting from one-colored frocks and socks to two-color (stranded) knitted items within one generation? Where did the inspiration come from, and why did it become so popular? I´ll do some more research and write another post about this later.
In my search of a new pattern for selbu mittens I came across the Northman mittens. I´m up for new ideas and the idea of a lined Selbu mitt was more than I could resist.
The pattern is great! The idea is great! But I´ll never use them…I think. Why? -they´re just too thick! It´s the sort of mittens you use when you sit still, …or walk slowly. When I´m outside in the winter I hardly ever sit still, and I never walk slowly. But most importantly I need layering. Let´s imagine a day of cross country skiing.
You may start by crossing a frozen lake, it´s a bit windy but not too freezing. Your body is not yet warm, and a lot of the body´s heat loss is through the hands. I need layer A + B. Having crossed the lake you start walking uphill, aiming the mountain top in the distance and two layers of mittens are too warm. Layer A are off. After the first break your hands are cold, and layers A+B are on again. When you finally reach the windy mountain top, layers A+B+C are needed. Repeat instructions backwards when descending.
Well, I ended up knitting myself a new pair of the same Selbu mittens as before. Not in 100% Norwegian wool this time, but in 100% merino. Not the same, not even near the same. So what´s the difference? Merino probably won´t felt as much, but they won´t be as warm. I guess we´ll see in 10 yrs time how useful they have been.