Tobias, Gundahl, and Knud and Faroese Knitted Icelanders
What do Tobias, Gundahl, and Knud have to do with a particular style of sweater? In the first decade of the 20th century, all three men, all Danish explorers, wore the distinctive “Icelander,” a warm wool sweater, on their adventures to Greenland with its harsh climate. Photographs of the three wearing their Icelanders are included in Lita Rosing-Schow’s fascinating article on the evolution of these sweaters in the recently released July/August issue of PieceWork.
Here’s an excerpt:
In 1906, during an era of many large expeditions, the Danish explorer and ethnologist Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen (1872–1907) gathered twenty-six men to explore whether Greenland was connected to Peary Land, the northeasternmost region that men could reach by foot and dogsled. They sailed from Denmark to Greenland in a ship christened Danmark (“Denmark” in Danish), and the fjord where they dropped anchor duly became Danmark Fjord.
To some extent adopting the traditional dress of the Greenlanders, the explorers dressed for the harsh climate. Their summer outfit comprised an under-sweater, a sweater with an anoraq (a windproof hooded parka) over that, and leather pants. In winter, they wore pants of polar bear skin and soft boots called kamiks. Photographs show that nearly all of the men wore an “Icelander,” a patterned sweater from the Faroe Islands knitted for export.
In preparation for the Danmark expedition, the explorers picked up Greenlandic sled dogs on the Faroe Islands, which lie off the northern tip of Denmark nearly midway between it and the southern tip of Iceland, a way station on their journey to Greenland. While the men could have bought their sweaters at the Icelander shop in Iceland or back home in Denmark, I believe that they saw and purchased the sweaters in the Faroe Islands, where the price would have been about four crowns (less than one U.S. dollar).
Lita shares much more about these sweaters and their construction, along with a pattern so you will be able to make your own Icelander. She updated its classic look—white background and small black motifs—with striped borders at the neck, wrists, and lower edge. Tobias, Gundahl, and Knud would be very pleased!
The Icelander is only one example of what you’ll find in the July/August issue. It’s jam-packed with family stories, articles on needlework’s fascinating history, and out-of-the-ordinary projects—the exquisite Yap Lace is just one!
Open up a world of discovery in PieceWork’s July/August issue.