Book Review: Knitting in the Nordic Tradition

Knitting in the Nordic Tradition is the recent English translation of a classic Danish knitting book. This book is not for beginner knitters – the patterns are not patterns so much as they are charts and recipes, and would be ideal for designers or knitters who are looking to develop a deeper understanding of the construction of knitted garments and accessories in traditional Nordic styles, as well as the history and meaning behind the motifs that appear in popular knitting in this area through the ages. The book is fascinating, not just for the history, but in the way it deconstructs the elements of charted knitting through sketches and schematics that show how the charts come together in 3D forms, which is particularly helpful when looking at the varieties in thumb gusset construction or how charts come together in crown decreases.

You can see from the photos above that the book is in black and white, and is completely the same (except for the language) as the original Danish version published in the early 1980s. You also can get an idea of how much is packed onto each page – ideas for chart combinations, different charts for thumb gussets that compliment the main chart, as well as information about the math behind the construction.

As I mentioned in my review of Alice Starmore’s books, colourwork can seem daunting. I’ve done it loads of times and I still don’t feel confident about my colour choices until I’ve done a few different swatches. So let me introduce you to my new low-stakes, super easy way to swatch colourwork combos for knitters who hate swatches and feel like they can’t put colours together:

Fair Isle Mice! These are from the free fair isle mice pattern, and instead of using the charts provided, I just substituted different charts from Knitting in the Nordic Tradition instead. They knit up super fast, even for a slow knitter like me. You could whip up a mouse and even second guess your colours, rip back, and substitute a different colour in about an hour. Probably even faster, if you are a fast knitter! These were an easy, zero-stress way of trying out colour combos. I knit four of these mice, using charts I found on pages 26, 27, and 112.

The first mouse I knit was the grey one on Gatsby’s tail, near his back foot. My colour choices were not highly visible against the grey background, so for the rest of the mice, I decided to add in a contrasting stripe and a different colour for the background. Those three mice really pop, and have the added benefit of looking like they are wearing tiny waistcoats.

Then I decided that since I made these mice for the cats to play with, I should put a little catnip oil on them to really get their interest.

Then they got all gross and chewed on and I knew the kids would inevitably pick up the mice, so I washed them in some unscented Eucalan (because it’s non-toxic, pet-safe, and baby-safe):

The white mouse ended up with a chewed-out hole in its back, and one of the grey mice has an eye that is starting to dangle, but it was truly the point of the experiment. No useless swatches to stash away, but something that can be enjoyed even if I don’t like the way it turned out. It was easier than ever to combine colours quickly because I wasn’t trying to make anything big, and the cats have no judgement on my colour combos.

If stranded knitting makes you nervous, or you are hesitant to try out charts that aren’t part of a specific pattern, I really think you should try these mice. They are so small and so quick, perfect for little leftover bits of yarn. My chart rows didn’t always line up exactly with the chart rows from the original pattern, but it doesn’t matter if some mice are a little longer and some are a little shorter. If you don’t have a cat, you could give them to a cat-owning friend or neighbour, or you could donate them to a local animal shelter.

The good folks at Dover Publications have very kindly offered a coupon code for 25% off of ANY book on their site. So if you missed out the last time, now is your chance! There’s loads of knitting titles to choose from here, and you can click around and check out all their other craft books, if you happen to be multi-craftual.  Here’s the coupon code: WRBG


Because they are awesome, Dover Publications is also giving away one copy of Knitting in the Nordic Tradition. So who wants to level up on their stranded knitting?? (US and Canada addresses only. I’m sorry international friends!). And if you are already following on the social media channels for bonus entries, you are ahead of the game! Just click the buttons and enter the info for the bonus entries to count.

Click here to view this promotion.

Contest closes April 14th at midnight EST. Winner will be announced April 17th!

**This is a sponsored post from Dover Publications. All opinions are entirely my own.


  1. Jane   •  

    I love the idea of the little mice as swatches! I don’t have a cat, but I bet my kids would love them, too (minus the catnip oil, probably).

  2. Cloudberry   •  

    I love this book and I have borrowed the norwegian version so many times at the library just to read and look through it! It’s such a great book.
    And I love those little mice – so cute!

  3. Kat   •  

    Those are so cute! I don’t have cats right now, but this is such a great idea to test out colorwork (and to make knitting cat toys even more entertaining)!

  4. Samantha   •  

    I love the book and the mice swatches!

  5. Laura   •  

    Those mice are adorable! And your photos are so fun, I bet those mice could get into all sorts of shenanigans when noone is looking!

  6. Cheryl L.   •  

    Those mice are so cute! I want to knit them right now! Great reference books to add to my library too.

  7. Leah   •  

    Thanks for sharing, the mice look cute and the cat is the perrrrrfect model! Lol sorry couldn’t resist.

  8. Margo   •  

    That book looks great! And your little mice swatches are adorable.

  9. Linda Norris   •  

    Thank you for reviewing Knitting in the Nordic Tradition. I have a copy published by Lark Books in 1997 and it is my Number One knitting book. I use it again and again for reference and inspiration and cannot overemphasize its usefulness. It gives the knitter lots of information and ideas to run with. I enjoy your website very much–also a great source of inspiration! I knit the jogger pants for my brand-new granddaughter, and she wears them all the time. In the spirit of modification, I extended the waist quite a bit, to cover the ever-exposed baby midsection, and that has worked very well. Not sure what will happen when she starts crawling, though.

  10. Renee Anne   •  

    This book is sitting in my wishlist on Amazon. I almost bought it with my last order but opted for a few other more pressing items instead (like dyeing yarn). I’ll get it someday…

  11. Adrianne Smith   •  

    Those mice are absolutely adorable! What a great way to get acquainted with fair isle and have a super-cute FO for your furriend! And Gatsby’s lion cut is precious! xo

  12. Valerie   •  

    I have a copy of the Lark edition myself. It’s a wonderful book and has a lot of hat recipes and some sweaters in only one size, etc. Many of the charts are small, but you can still follow them, and it’s jam packed with good stitch patterns and interesting anthropological content about Scandinavia.

    The mice are adorable, not to mention you kitties. I loved the washing photo of them all wrapped in the towel. I enjoy your blog a great deal, and your joint career as poet and knitter is inspiring.

  13. Annie   •  

    What a great swatch idea! Too cute!

  14. Meredith MC   •  

    The mice swatches are genius. I’m in!

  15. Wanda   •  

    seriously, turning swatches into little mice for the kitties (or even young kiddos) is genius! I am a hater of swatching, though understand the necessity – why do I hate it? I think it’s because I am impatient for a product from my knitting – so this is just perfect. My cats would love these – and wreck them quickly – if I put a little catnip oil in them. But that’s ok too, the point is to try different color combo’s. (Your cat’s lion trim is very adorable!) The book looks jam-packed, it’s going on my knitting book wishlist. I just bought Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook – I can’t recommend that enough; I’ve had it for 2-3 weeks and still just thumb through it daily, admiring the beautiful cables. A knitting book that gets you experimenting, creating, and happy – priceless!

  16. Alina   •  

    Mice swatches are genius 🙂 Yarn, the cat, is adorable!!!

  17. Tien   •  

    I bought this book many years ago and it’s one of my favorites. I love looking at all of the historical knitting pictures and the charts are numerous and interesting. Those fair isle mice are adorable! They would make cute holiday ornaments too.

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  19. Tahnee   •  

    These fair isle mice or so incredibly clever, plus I have two eager cats who’d love this experiment as well (just last night they threw a yarn party after somehow getting hold of my leftover sock yarn stash, I’d much prefer they would do that with some mice). Also, I LOOOVE Gatsby’s haircut, do you always do that for summer?

  20. Lauren   •  

    Thanks for the giveaway. Keeping my fingers crossed!

  21. Ada Lovelace   •  

    Great idea to figure out color combos before committing to a larger project. And let me just say, I love Gatsby’s haircut!! we have a long-haired Tortoiseshell cat that minds the heat terribly in the summer, and we always shave her for cooler comfort. So cute.

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