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The Viking Knits Project started in 1992. This page tells the story of its development.
   Today, the project consists of a touring exhibition, Knitting Along the Viking Trail, a book on Viking Age art and contemporary design inspired by it, Viking Patterns for Knitting, and an assortment of Knit Kits.
  
With the introduction of Elsebeth Lavold Designer's Choice, the designer's own yarn label, another addition to the project was released: The Viking Knits Collection, a book with Viking Knits designs introducing her first yarn. The Second Viking Knits Collection followed in 2006, and The Third Viking Knits Collection in 2009.
   Detailed information about the exhibition and the first book can be found in subpages to this one, whereas the design collections and the knit kits are presented in the Designs section.


It all started with an assignment to illustrate a book on historic excursions in the Stockholm area, along with experiments with cable patterns. And suddenly, there it was, the new technique to incorporate the ornaments of the Viking age into knitting.
  
The increases and decreases used are not new in themselves, but had previously been used only to shape garments. The innovation enabled Elsebeth to knit both cables that change direction, and placed motifs. In short, she opened the door to a new universe of patterns.
The Viking Knits design Nanna and the Viking Age object that provided the inspiration, a Norwegian buckle.

An early swatch for the Viking Knits design NannaFrom this point, her exploration of Viking Age art and craft became systematic. She made journeys to museums and excavation sites in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Germany, England and Scotland, and did extensive research in libraries and archives.
   The production of swatches became equally extensive, and, with time, the swatch collection grew to a considerable volume. The experiments had become a Project.

By the fall of 1996, plans for an exhibition had developed. The Textile Museum of Borås in the south of Sweden liked the idea, and became co-producer. The exhibition opened in February of 1997, and has since then been touring Sweden, the USA, and Denmark.
   The basic concept of the exhibit, to display not only the garments, but also knowledge about the beautiful artifacts supplying the inspiration for, and origin of, the patterns, took the form of abundant text, images and replicas of picture stones and runestones.
A part of the exhibition as it appeared at the first exhibit site, Borås, Sweden

Viking Knits Project Knit KitsTwo weeks before the first opening, the museum shop requested material. This was an aspect no one had thought about. The rapidly produced collection of Knit Kits disappeared from the shelves in no time. Obviously, Viking Knits appealed to people, not only to look at, but to wear themselves.
   Over the years, we have produced more than a hundred knit kits with Viking Knits designs, and several of the designs that were originally sold as kits are now available in The Viking Knits CollectionThe Second Viking Knits Collection, and The Third Viking Knits Collection, reworked for other Elsebeth Lavold yarns.
   A small number of kits in wool yarns are still available to Swedish knitters. The rest of the world will have to wait until Elsebeth Lavold develops suitable wool yarns (sorry about that), but you may still see the designs on display in the Designs section.

1997 was also the year when the ICA Publishing Company decided that the project was book material. In Swedish it was published in the fall of 1998, and the first edition sold out in less than a year. Norwegian, German, Danish and Finnish translations followed. In April 2000, which happens to be the year of the Leif Ericsson Millennium Celebration, the American edition, Viking Patterns for Knitting, was released. Cover of the US edition of Viking Patterns for Knitting

The Ager House, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
The Ager House
Photo: Elsebeth Lavold

The first page of the Knitter's Magazine K72 article
Knitter's Magazine
Photos: Alexis Xenakis

This also marked the starting point of an extensive export of Viking Knits across the Atlantic Ocean.
   An English version of the exhibit has been shown in the USA: The American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota (2003), The Ager House in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (2004), The Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, Washington (2009), and The Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa (2009) .
   Over the years since the project started, several Viking Knits designs have been published in Knitter's Magazine. Knitter's also published a six-page article about the designer and her project in their Fall -03 issue, and Elsebeth has been keynote speaker and teacher at two Stitches events, Stitches West i Oakland Ca. in 2003 and Stitches Midwest in St. Charles, Ill. in 2004.
   When Silky Wool, the first yarn from the Elsebeth Lavold Designer's Choice label, was introduced in 2003, it was accompanied by a book with Viking Knits designs, The Viking Knits Collection. In 2006, the ninth book in the Designer's Choice series, The Second Viking Knits Collection, was released. The Third Viking Knits Collection came in 2009. More Viking Knits books are planned. The adventure, and the project, continues.

Elsebeth Lavold, keynote speaker at Stiches West, Oakland Ca. 2003
Elsebeth Lavold at
Stitches West 2003

The cover of The Viking Knits Collection
The Viking Knits
Collection
cover


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Copyright © unless otherwise stated
 Elsebeth Lavold, knitwear design & drawings
Anders Rydell, text & photos