The history of knitting is so full of interesting tidbits, and the Dancing Couples cardigan is one of the cutest. Knitting scholar Susan Strawn was contacted by Rechs Ann Pedersen, and American living in Denmark. She asked Susan if she would like to add a baby cardigan to her knitting collection. Rechs Ann sent Susan scans of the sweater, which had red dancing couples encircling the lower border. Susan said, "No one could have found the reply button faster than I to respond with an enthusiastic yes!"
|The cardigan with the Dancing Couples pattern knitted by
Agnethe Sundby probably in late 1946. Her daughter, Rechs Ann Pedersen,
gave the cardigan to Susan Strawn for her collection of knitted
articles. (Photograph by Joe Coca)
|Susan Strawn's version of the Dancing Couples sweater (Photograph by Joe Coca)
Here's a little history of this pattern, from the March/April 2013 issue of PieceWork magazine:
Dancing Couples: A Nordic Design
all the Nordic nations (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, and the
Faroe Islands), Norway and the Faroe Islands are the most closely associated
with the Dancing Couple pattern. Among the knitting designs documented by
textile artist Annichen Sibbern Bøhn in her travels through Norway after the
1905 dissolution with Sweden and published in her Norwegian Knitting
Designs are three with dancers:
Mitten from Selbu depicts only the girl figure while Stocking from Selbu has
dancing couples encircling the upper calf, and Cap (Lue) from Selbu boasts two
rows of dancing couples.
Figures have appeared on Norwegian knitted garments for about 200 years
according to Norwegian knitting scholar Annemor Sundbø. In Norwegian Mittens and
she explains that "motifs are an inheritance from a time when not everyone
could read so the language of pictures was an important means of communication."
The importation of books of embroidery patterns and knitted goods into Norway from
Denmark influenced the evolution of those designs.
with a border and second row across the chest of dancing couples. The
sweater, donated by Irene B. Thomas, was knitted circa 1940-1950 by the
donor's great aunt, Roxie Whaley McGladrey (born in Waukon, Iowa, in
1866 and died in 1953). Roxie's mother Mary Olson Whaley immigrated to
Allamakee County in the 1850s. It is believed that she immigrated with
Ole Bull's group and lived in his New Norway Colony for a time.
Collection of Vesterheim Norweigan-American Museum, Decorah, Iowa.
(1997.005.001). Photograph © Vesterheim Norweigan-American Museum.
Between the World Wars (1914–1918 and 1939–1945), Norwegian home industries exported
more than 100,000 pairs of Nordic-design mittens and gloves annually along with
thousands of caps, sweaters, and stockings—some with Dancing Couple patterns. As
evidence of their popularity, the back of the Sport Mittens from Norway: The
Northern Star Design in the January 1933 issue of Needlecraft: The Home
Arts Magazine has
not only two star motifs but a dancing couple below them. Sundbø's Norwegian Mittens and
charts containing hand-holding couples in both Happy Couple and Reassurance
Mittens. Writing in Invisible
Threads in Knitting,
Sundbø also describes dancers found among the discarded knitted garments from her "rag
pile" for recycling into mattresses, comforters, and such.
Knitters today can and dancing couples in numerous pattern books. Vibeke Lind describes ways to incorporate dancing couples into handknitting in Knitting in the Nordic Tradition. Alice Starmore depicts the dancing boy and girl posed with flexed muscles in Alice Starmore's Charts for Color Knitting. Sheila McGregor includes the "little dancers . . . knitted in Faeroe" in The Complete Book of Traditional Scandinavian Knitting, commenting that they "epitomize the old Faroese ring dance . . . accompanied by saga-like songs."
—Susan Strawn, PieceWork magazine
Isn't that the cutest little sweater? The dancing couples are so festive; if you enjoy knitting patterns for children, this one's for you! Subscribe to PieceWork today to get the pattern for the Dancing Couples baby sweater and many more historical patterns.