Do you enjoy knitting, or reading about, historic patterns? Would you enjoy owning a knitting stitch dictionary that includes charts for knitting 200 stitch patterns and motifs that were all painstakingly preserved from historic Scandinavian sweaters — sweaters that are (mostly) now being held in the archives of Danish museums?
In most cases, the original historic sweaters are not actually on display for viewing by the general public. And, even if they were, you’d have to go to Denmark to see them — which means that the majority of the world’s knitters wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so.
But even if you’re at complete liberty to go museum-hopping in Denmark, imagine the insane amount of time and effort it would take you to actually track down all these sweaters, analyze all these designs and then chart them out. When I think about that, my mind totally starts to boggle.
So the more I think about it, the more excited I get about this new knitting book called Traditional Danish Sweaters: 200 Stars and Other Classic Motifs From Historic Sweaters by Vivian Høxbro. For knitters who value historic patterns, Vivian’s book is an amazing gift. She has done an insane amount of work to make this material available. And, considering that her work was originally published in the Danish language, it’s even more remarkable that this book is now available as an English language translation from Trafalgar Square Books. Vivian plus the editorial team behind her at Trafalgar have worked together to put a wealth of museum-quality knitting design elements at your disposal — for knitting in any of your own projects, or for knitting up-to-date, contemporary versions of the original museum pieces.
Author: Vivian Høxbro
Publisher: Trafalgar Square Books
Copyright Date: I am reviewing the English language translation of the book, which has a copyright date of 2019.
ISBN 13: 978-1570769245
ISBN 10: 1570769249
Book Format: This book is available as a hardcover edition without dust jacket.
Number of Pages: 256 pages
Topics Covered in This Book:
- Danish Night Sweaters: What they look like; their history; yarn and needles used for making them; dyeing them; their regional distinctions and characteristics
- Knitted Handwork: Knitting history; different Danish words for knitting; Danish handwork in the 19th century; Hanne’s knitting song; three knitting methods
- Special Knitting Techniques: Cast-ons; Braid rows; Traveling stitches; Horizontal stitches; Overlapping edges; Three-Needle bind-off
- Pattern Motifs: Stars; Horizontal panels; Vertical traveling stitch and star motifs; Vertical panels; Main patterns; Edge patterns
- Garment Instructions (See below for more details)
- Knit Your Own Night Sweater: Tips and a schematic you can use for designing your own Danish night sweater using the information compiled in this book
- Knitting Terms and Symbols: Knitting help; Yarn information; A glossary of Danish clothing terms; A glossary of knitting vocabulary; Abbreviations and terms; Symbols
Recommended Knitting Skill Level: The easiest designs in this book are simple knit and purl stitches that are totally accessible to beginners. There are multiple stitch patterns plus one stole pattern and one sweater pattern that are excellent options for beginning knitters. The other designs in the book are rated as intermediate-level knitting patterns. Overall, I think this book is a good value for knitters of every skill level.
Knitting Projects Included in This Book:
Stole Knitting Pattern for Beginners
This stole is easy enough for total beginners to knit. The design is composed of traveling stitches and star patterns surrounded by a bias-knit band.
Hillerød Sweater Knitting Pattern
This loose, casual sweater is knit in a solid color. Knit and purl textured stitches give the design visual interest. There are several lovely textures used together in a harmonious way, which makes the design look interesting and complex — but despite that, it isn’t at all hard to knit. This is a beginner-level sweater knitting pattern with a finished bust measurement of 42 1/2 inches (108 cm).
This design incorporates traveling stitches and star patterns. Vivian notes that this is a particularly special and distinctive sweater design which is not like the others. The design was directly inspired by a historic sweater that has been preserved for a lengthy duration in a museum’s archives. This is an intermediate level sweater knitting pattern with a finished bust measurement of 35 1/2 inches.
This pattern gives you an option that’s quite different from the traditional, historic Danish night sweater — because it is multicolored. In comparison, the typical Danish night sweater was knitted in one solid color.
This loose-fitting design sort of reminds me of a poncho with arms. It measures 57 1/4 inches in circumference / 146 cm.
Frenderup Sweater Knitting Pattern
This lovely knitted sweater is an almost exact replica of a vintage sweater from Frenderup. It is an intermediate-level pattern with a finished circumference of 40 1/4 inches (102 cm).
Annie’s Sweater Knitting Pattern
This pattern is a fascinating and unique example of a sweater that was designed using the do-it-yourself design instructions given in this book. Annie Hansen designed this contemporary version of the Danish night sweater, and she shares the pattern for it with you here. Her pattern results in a finished sweater that is 37 3/4 inches / 96 cm in circumference. This is an intermediate-level knitting pattern.
Fantasy Sweater Knitting Pattern
This uniquely textured sweater is decorated with colorful accents of chain stitch embroidery. The finished sweater measures 41 inches / 104 cm in circumference. This is an intermediate-level knitting pattern.
AAstrup Sweater Knitting Pattern
The finished sweater measures 41 3/4 inches in circumference / 106 cm. This is an intermediate-level knitting pattern.
This lovely sweater has 3/4-length sleeves and is embellished with a colorful silk ribbon, as is typical of many Danish night sweaters who had affluent owners. The sweater itself is knitted with one yarn color. The finished design measures 41 3/4 inches / 106 cm in circumference. This is an intermediate-level knitting pattern.
Short-Sleeve Top Knitting Pattern
This pretty top incorporates a star pattern and travelling stitches configured into a diamond-shaped grid. A horizontal panel makes up the lower edge of the design. The finished circumference is 41 3/4 inches / 106 cm. This is an intermediate-level knitting pattern.
Kirsten’s Sweater Knitting Pattern
This sweater incorporates multiple design elements including patterned edges, horizontal panels and a main allover pattern featuring star motifs configured in a diamond-shaped grid. The finished sweater measures 45 3/4 inches / 116 cm. This is an intermediate level knitting pattern.
The Best Things About This Book
This unique book is part history lesson, part design manual, part stitch dictionary and part pattern book. These elements all work together to give you an excellent reference that is well worth learning from, and knitting from.
If you’re interested in acquiring a reference library of designs that are historically accurate, attractive and usable, this is definitely a book worth looking at. This book gives you instructions for knitting a whole bunch of wonderful motifs and stitch patterns — stars, diamonds, trellises, lattices, textures and ribs. These designs share a visual simplicity that makes them ideal for being used and re-used, ad infinitum, in knits that have everyday, wearable appeal.
Vintage photographs are included in multiple places in this book, and they help to make the history lessons more interesting and relevant.
In my opinion, this book’s main selling point is the fact that it makes important and previously hard-to-access information widely available to an audience that would never have had a chance to use it and enjoy it otherwise.
Another exciting thing about this book is that its author was absolutely the ideal person to write it. Vivian is an ultra-experienced knit designer whose career has spanned more than 30 years. She has authored 10 knitting books so far.
I bring this up because a knitter with less experience or determination would likely have had a hard time finishing this book. There were countless pitfalls Vivian came up against in creating it.
One of the most compelling problems was the nature of the vintage sweaters she was using as design inspiration. The years haven’t necessarily been kind to these old garments, and many of them are in fragile condition. Some of them are excessively felted or torn. This made it a real challenge for Vivian to decipher some of the stitch patterns — but she persisted. This book gives you the option to enjoy the results of her persistence.
Imagine if she hadn’t taken the initiative of compiling this information. In another few generations, this rich heritage of knitting design work might have been lost.
For me personally, as a knit designer, one of the things I enjoy most about the book is the thorough and systematic exploration of a theme and bunches of possible variations on it. The most obvious example of this is all the different representations of star motifs that are included in this book. Looking at these compels my designer’s brain to start thinking of how these same sorts of variations could be applied to other types of motifs. The possibilities are totally exciting.
Other Observations About This Book
The stitch instructions include several helpful features that are intended to make the knitting process as easy as possible for you. One repeat is clearly marked in red on each chart. Repeat sizes are also noted. In cases where the stitch pattern incorporates twisted stitches, they are indicated in yellow on the chart. However, written-out text instructions are NOT included for each stitch; you’ll be relying on the charts to do your knitting.
To make the most efficient use of the charts, and prevent a lot of page flipping, you’ll most likely want to copy the page of symbols and keep it handy to refer to as you are knitting.
I attempted to compare the charting convention in this book to see if it is the same as Barbara Walker’s. The symbol for yarnover is the same between this book and Barbara Walker’s legendary stitch dictionaries, but I observed some differences, too. So, even if you are experienced with knitting from charts, you are likely to need to familiarize yourself with at least some of these symbols before you’re able to knit from the charts as intended.
Some of the star patterns presented in the book are extremely similar to each other.
The charted designs are presented as grids on squared graph paper rather than knitter’s graph paper. Knitter’s graph paper would have given a more accurate representation of how the design will actually knit up. Luckily, you also get a photo of how each design looks when knitted. When you decide whether or not you want to use these stitches, look first at the photo of the knitted swatch rather than the chart. And, this goes without saying — but always keep in mind that the most reliable way to tell how each stitch will work for you is to knit a gauge swatch using the yarn and needles you plan to make your finished project with.
The sweater patterns in this book are only available in one size each. This is because the author, Vivian, reproduced each of her vintage inspiration pieces as faithfully as possible, and only one size of each was available.
HOWEVER! I hope you won’t think of that as a deal breaker — because this book has so much more to offer you than just the sweater patterns.
To my way of thinking, the sweater patterns are excellent examples that show you how women in years past constructed their own designs. Why not let them serve as inspiration for you to do the same? The section following the sweater patterns is all about helping and encouraging you to design your own unique night sweater.
If you think about it, that is what the Danish women in years past were doing — designing their own unique sweaters. As far as we know, they were not following commercial knitting patterns to make their sweaters. If any written Danish night sweater patterns existed in the first place, they apparently haven’t been preserved for us. At least, Vivian notes in the book that she had no luck in finding any written or sketched patterns for these sweaters at the time they were originally popular. I don’t know of any, either — and I’ve been collecting antique needlework patterns since 1998. I’ve owned quite a few antique pattern books in many craft techniques from all over the world, but have never come across one that documents knitted Danish night sweaters such as these.
These sweaters all had similarities, but they were also unique and individual expressions of creativity. And you, too, can use the material in this book to craft your own unique and individual expressions of creativity, if you choose.
With all the effort that has gone into producing this book, my opinion is that the asking price is an unbelievably good value. I think you get more than you’re money’s worth for this book, assuming you have a use for knitting stitch patterns or you’re interested in knitting history. I’m delighted to recommend this book to knitters of every skill level — beginner through advanced.
I think intermediate and advanced knitters with an interest in knitting pattern design will get the absolute best value from this book; however, the book also has a lot of appeal for beginning knitters. This is the type of book that has the potential to empower beginners to advance their skills and progress in the artform.
Where to Buy Your Own Copy of the Traditional Danish Sweaters Book:
- Click here to shop for this book at Amazon.
- Click here to shop for this book at Knitpicks.
- Click here to learn more about this book at the publisher’s website.
Find More Knitting Pattern Books Featuring Scandinavian Design:
- Winter Knits From Scandinavia
- Arne & Carlos Favorite Designs
- Maja’s Swedish Mittens
- Socks From Around Norway
Learn More About Scandinavian Design
- Want to learn more about Scandinavian design — including fashion and home decor? Check out this article on Scandinavian style, posted at DecoratorsWisdom.com.
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About Your Book Reviewer: Amy Solovay is a freelance writer with a background in textile design. She has been crocheting and crafting since childhood, and knitting since she was a teenager. Her work also appears at AmySolovay.com, ArtsWithCrafts.com and Crochet-Books.com. Amy invites you to subscribe to her free knitting and crochet newsletter to easily keep up with her new patterns, tutorials, book reviews and product reviews.
This page was last updated on 9-6-2019.