Part extract from Bronte’s book Nørth, available at our cafe, online and in all good bookshops in the UK, Italy, France, America, Canada… everywhere.
When people think of Scandinavian jumpers they are mostly thinking of the Norwegian lusekofte, literally meaning ‘lice jumper’. Lice (lus) refers to the tiny pattern in the knit – ‘little lice’, if you will. These jumpers are also known as Setesdalgenser (Setesdal sweaters), from the Setesdal valley where it originated over a century ago as traditional farmers’ formal wear. Other variations refer to the Marius sweaters – probably a more well known design featuring bands of pattern from midway up the sweater to the neckline, from the 1950s.
Iceland has their own distinct patterns on their jumpers – as do those from the Faroe Islands. Any reference to Danes wearing these types of jumpers is purely for fashion – it is simply not cold enough in Denmark to warrant them. Denmark’s weather is tropical compared to Northern Norway, to be honest. Swedes also don’t tend to wear them – and most attempts of Swedes sporting Lusekofter should not be taken too seriously.
A few years ago, the concept of Nordic jumpers became high fashion across the world. This was largely due to a character in a Danish TV series called The Killing (Forbrydelsen), where the main detective (Sarah Lund) only ever wore woolly jumpers of a particular pattern as she went about her business, solving murders in the unusually dimly-lit Copenhagen streets. Many now refer to Nordic jumpers as ‘Sarah Lund’ jumpers – they were even sold in London where many people could be found wearing them indoors, sweating profusely but refusing to take them off. The sweater she wore in the TV series was actually made by the Faroese fashion house Gudrun & Gudrun and cost around £300 to buy. Probably for this reason most people refused to ever take it off, just to get wear for the money.
Lambswool is thick. That real, thick, coarse, untreated wool really acts as a barrier to the outside elements. If it keeps sheep warm in -20 ̊C (-4 ̊F), it’s going to keep you warm, too. Sheep have the added advantage of a thick layer between their wool and skin – and you do not, so unless you wear a base layer, you will be itching all over. Sheep wool itching is not very nice, don’t do it.
The proper jumpers are all hand knitted and it can take around 80–90 hours to knit just one. Therefore, understandably, they are not cheap.
Your Norwegian jumper, if made from untreated lambswool, doesn’t need washing. It just needs to be dug down into the snow for a while. If you live in a place with a lack of snow like, say, Slough, use your freezer. Move the peas to one side and leave it in there for 24 hours to kill all bacteria.
If you absolutely must wash it, do so by hand in cool water and dry by rolling at in a towel. Change the towel as often as needed. Never, ever hang the jumper up -and never machine wash – and, for the love of Norway, don’t even parade it past the tumble dryer, because it will shrink just from looking at it.