Annichen Sibbern Bøhn Keeps Popping Up

Things show up in threes? Is this true? It happened to me recently. My friend Karen Weiberg sent me a photo of a book and commented that she should have shown this to me before. And she was right, of course. I love the patterns on the sweater and the modernist geometric style of the book cover of Norske Strikkemønstre (Norwegian Knitting Designs) by Annichen Sibbern Bøhn.

knitting book

Here’s that name again…

A few weeks ago a weaver wrote about some books she found in a box when she purchased a loom. One of the books was Ina og Ankas Vevmønstre (Ina and Anka’s Weaving Patterns), by Ina Oien and the same author of the knitting book, Annichen Sibbern Bøhn.

I looked up information on Bøhn, and discovered a Norwegian Wikipedia entry. She lived from 1905-1978, and was a collector of sweater patterns, designer and author.  She was most noted for her compilation of knitting designs (the one owned by my friend), which was first published in 1929. She worked for the Norske Folkemuseum when she began collecting patterns, and her collection of patterns laid the groundwork for the multitude of knitting patterns that are known in Norway today.

Her knitting book is much more well-known than her weaving compilation. It was translated into English in the 1950s, and a 2011 edition is still available on Amazon. A new book inspired by the original was recently published by Wenche Roald, with Annichen Sibbern’s original book as an insert in the book. An English version will be published in 2020.

Annichen Sibbern Bøhn sighting #3

Then I received (YAY!) Annemor Sundbø’s new book, Koftearven: Historiske Tråder og Magiske Mønster (Our Knitted Heritage: Historical Threads and Magical Patterns). Published only in Norwegian so far, it is a dense, richly-illustrated cultural history. I open any section with a plan to just look at the photos and captions for a few minutes, and quickly find myself abandoning other tasks. Dip in to the text here and you will get an idea why.

Annichen Sibbern Bøhn is mentioned frequently in Annemor’s book (and I’ve only skimmed about a quarter of it). Her importance is noted early on in a caption opening the second chapter. “Lusekofte from Setesdal from Annichen Sibbern’s book from 1929. This is the first lusekofta (sweater with lice pattern) that was published in a knitting book with diagrams. It was borrowed from the collection of the Norsk Folkemuseum, and the book has become one of the richest wellsprings of information for knitters since it was published.”

I loved another Annichen Sibbern Bøhn story later on.  Annemor relates, “Annichen Sibbern launched her idea for a pullover, “Eskimo,” which was exhibited at the Kunstnerforbundet (Artists League) in Oslo in 1930.  The idea came from the Danish film “Eskimo”, in which the leading lady, “Eukaluk,” wore a bead-embroidered dress that provided the inspiration for the knitting pattern. The sweater was published in the women’s magazine URD, #48, 1930, and was also published as a separate pattern brochure.”

I’ve seen the beaded bodices, worn like a short cape, in traditional arctic costumes, but it never occurred to me that they were the direct inspiration that type of sweater pattern.

Koftearven also includes a photo of Mona Mårtenson, who played the Eskimo, Eukaluk.

This anecdote is typical of Annemor Sundbø’s books, in which she weaves the history of sweaters and knitting in to the world in which they were created.  Early patterns included protective symbols, religious and folk symbols that were either purposely chosen or just part of the vocabulary of the knitters.  Later knitting patterns changed for all sorts of reasons–tourism, changing technology, cultural changes, and in this case, the popularity of a movie and interest in another culture. You’ll have to read Annemor’s books to steep yourself in the richness of knitting history.





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