Danish wrist warmers

I fell for Danish star patterned night sweaters, bought the book and decided to practice the technique in a small scale by knitting a pair of Danish wrist warmers.

It happened agan. An idea came and poked me in the eye and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Lina Odell, a talented journeyman in folk costume tailoring, has shown image after image on Instagram of the most beautiful knit bodice-like sweaters with knit and purl damask patterns.

Danish nattrøie and Swedish spedetröja

The sweaters are called nattrøie in Danish, night sweater. In the county of Blekinge in southernmost Sweden they are called spedetröja and the versions look basically the same. I asked Lina about paterns for night sweaters and she recommended a book: Traditional Danish Sweaters by Vivian Høxbro.

A book titled Traditional Danish Sweaters. A woman on the cover is wearing a knit and purl damask style top in burgundy.
Traditional Danish sweaters by Vivian Høxbro.

Høxbro has dived deep into museum artefacts, stories and patterns. Despite the name in Danish, the night sweaters were not used only at night, though. A night sweater was a sweater to be worn over a shift at any part of the day.

Of all the sweaters in Danish museums, not one is like the other. However, they are put together in very similar ways. Sweaters can often be connected to a region via patterns, colours, embellishments and combinations. Still, no sweater looks exactly like the other. I checked the Swedish digital museum – oh how I love it – and found lots of examples of the Swedish spedetröja.

The typical pattern is a damask knit and purl pattern with a main pattern featuring different kinds of stars. An edge pattern at the lower edge of the body and sleeves, followed by a border pattern before the main pattern. Sometimes there are vertical panels too. Many of the museum sweaters are embellished with silk ribbons. The sweaters are usually knit with a natural white fingering or light fingering yarn and 2–2.5 mm needles and then dyed.

Danish wrist warmers

Once the idea had planted itself in my head I was very eager to knit myself a night sweater, but I had no yarn for a whole sweater. I couldn’t wait until I had spun enough for a sweater, though, so I decided to knit myself a pair of whist warmers in the night sweater pattern to practice the technique. I found a light fingering Shetland yarn in my handspun stash and a pair of 2 millimeter needles and started playing.

Høxbro’s book has a chapter with over 200 patterns, divided into the different sections of the sweaters. After having browsed the paterns back and forth I chose two edge patterns, one border pattern and two main patterns. I picked the main patterns from the vertical panel section, though, I figured the main patterns were too large for my narrow wrist warmers.

I loved putting together and knitting my own Danish wrist warmers. Høxbro writes in the book that mistakes were common in the antique sweaters she had investigated – knitters seemed to embrace their mistakes and happily move on. And so did I.

The modular technique suits me perfectly. I love that I can put pieces together as I go. The important thing is to keep count of the stitches and make sure the patterns match at the end of the round. And mine weren’t as wide as on a sweater.

The main pattern is quite large – 39×24 stitches – and quite takes a lot of focus to knit through. This is not a commuting knit! But I found a way to divide the chart into bite-sized sections that made it easier to remember and keep track of where I was.

I decided to taper the wrist warmers as I knit, to fit the shape of my arms. I incorporated increases at the main pattern on the back of the wrist warmers. This gave them a perfect fit and they go very well with the 3/4 style sleeves that I love.

A dreamy fleece

I have the loveliest fleece from the Swedish Svärdsjö sheep Lotta. She is quite untypical for a Svärdsjö sheep but has the loveliest soft and lofty dual coat staples with almost on crimp. I intend to spin it into a woolen 2-ply yarn for a night sweater. Perhaps it will be enough for a pair of leg warmers in the same style too. The fleece is not at the top of my fleece queue, though, so it will be a while before I can dive into it. But I will. Wearing my Danish wrist warmers.

Happy spinning!

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4 Replies to “Danish wrist warmers”

  1. Lovely! I’ve recently been looking at many Gansey sweaters that also are constructed of knit and purl designs. They are so versatile . I look forward to seeing the leg warmers!

  2. I am very much a fan of wrist warmers myself, and casted on a few days ago a simple pair with my very own handspun! They are the second item I knit with my homespun so I very excited (and proud).

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