Traditional hand-kitted sweaters from southern Sweden. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
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Traditional hand-knitted sweaters from southern Sweden. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
Teacher Karin Kahnlund shows off some woolen sweaters. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
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Teacher Karin Kahnlund shows off some woolen sweaters. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
Traditional hand-kitted sweaters from southern Sweden. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
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Traditional hand-knitted sweaters from southern Sweden. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
Business owner Thyra Brusewitz with repurposed designs created by her and her sister. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.
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Business owner Thyra Brusewitz with repurposed designs created by her and her sister. Photo: Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden.

Knits from Sweden woven into history

"They had a lot of wool and they could knit"
4:43 min

Given the long cold winters here, it's not surprising that knitting in Sweden is a national pastime. And at the school of Handarbetets Vänner, or the Friends of Swedish Handicrafts, many of the country's woolen works were recently on display.

There were thick pairs of mittens, brightly colored stocking caps and sweaters with ornate designs, each item knitted by hand and telling a different story, whether it be about someone's family history or a nation's cultural tradition.

For Sweden, the craft of knitting arrived in the 1600s and was used to make undergarments for royalty. Instead of strands of wool, they were made from imported silk and must have taken hours, if not days, to complete.

Karin Kahnlund teaches knitting at the school and says the practice in Sweden had its regional differences when it came to what was made. Regions where forestry was a major industry called for thick, warm clothes, while richer parts of the country produced more delicate, lavish garments. 

One area that was particularly known for its knitting was Halland, a traditional province on Sweden's southwest coast. "It was a good area for keeping sheep but they couldn't do much farming there," Kahnlund explains.

For many in Sweden, knitting is a family tradition. Thyra Brusewitz runs a business with her sister that reuses old swatches of fabrics and design to build new creations. She says the biggest inspiration came from her mother.

"For us it's normal to work with our hands and make things - maybe because you need them, want them or just for fun," Brusewitz says.

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