Norwegian Purling

Update:  My original post from 2007 appears below.  However, to make it easier for users of mobile devices to watch the video, I am embedding a YouTube version here for you to see.  Also, “maske” is the Norwegian word for stitch in case you did not know.


Now, you may not share in the unbridled enthusiasm you are about to witness. If it turns out to be too much for you, I can only recommend that you turn away and mutter quietly to yourself “silly boy!” and go about your business.

You all know by now that I’m a relatively new knitter, though admittedly quite an enthusiastic one. In August while long-time family friends from Norway were visiting my partner’s parents, we got to spend some time with them. I’ve already posted pictures of the marvelous mittens that Berit and Turid knit as gifts for Harald and me. We enjoyed their company so much. When we were up in Lutsen with them, Berit generously offered to help me figure out how to sort a knitting problem (i.e. “knitting problem” read as “Beulah nearly destroyed a ball of wool yarn and the scarf that was taking shape at the other end of it”). Berit is an expert knitter (having done it and taught it for nearly four decades) and went to work and solved the mess in a matter of minutes. What shocked me, though, was the speed with which she knit. So she taught me how to do what I now know is called “Continental” style knitting, and which was once called “German” style knitting, at least before World War II. Having mastered Continental knit stitch, my right-hand numbness issues went away, and I could knit for long periods without any discomfort. And I knit quite a bit more quickly, too.

Now Berit also tried to show me how to purl the way she does, what I will henceforth and forevermore refer to as “Norwegian” purling. I tried to get it, but we didn’t spend much time on it. She assured me the way she purled was the common method of purling in Norway today. After they left and went home to Norway, I looked through all kinds of books, trying to find directions on how to purl the “Berit way” – all to no avail. I searched the web and found many instructions for Continental purling, but all of them were vastly different, and more complicated, than the way I saw Berit purling. I found one video for Norwegian purling, but there was no audio explanation, the video was for only one stitch, and I couldn’t figure it out from that video. Why was it so important for me to learn her particular way, you ask? What if I told you that you could learn to purl carrying the thread in the left hand, behind the work, exactly as you do for knitting in Continental style, but without moving the hands forward to form the stitch (as some Continental purl instructions recommend). For those of you who knit, is the benefit becoming clearer? To be more precise, it became obvious to me that if I could instantly change between knit and purl stitch without my hands ever leaving the needle or having to reorient anything, that it would represent a vast improvement and also provide the added benefit of more speedy knitting. Now do I have your attention? I thought so.

I wrote to Berit last week, bemoaning my lack of understanding and knowledge, and unable to find any resources to show me how to purl the way she did. And, bless her heart, do you know what she and her husband, Jan, did? They made me a digital video and burned it to a CD and sent it to me, post-haste! I got the CD (amazingly) in only a few days, on Thursday. I set every intention of sitting down with it today and figuring it out. In about 10 minutes, it finally clicked in my brain and I was able to successfully reproduce the much sought-after Norwegian purl stitch, thread in the back, no hand forward motions needed to form the stitch. I made a small gauge swatch. After several inches of that, I switched to the dreaded seed stitch, which looks so lovely but which so many people complain about making. A few more rows of that went my amazingly quickly. Then I switched to ribbing, and what a pleasure it was to instantly switch back and forth from knit to purl with only the slightest compensation from the right needle, that being whether you thread is in front of or behind the right needle as you are forming stitches. I feel like I had a knitting epiphany sitting right there on my back porch! Why are they not teaching this in any of the books or on-line resources I’ve encountered? It seems it ought to be at least taught as another option.

Of course, despite the time difference I resolved at once to call Berit in Oslo and thank her profusely for sending the video. I finally “got it” and will be eternally grateful for learning how to knit the “best and most comfortable” way (at least for me), as those in Norway knit, from her feet. As I told her on the phone, I’d kiss her a thousand times in thanks if she was here, so she better be glad she’s there! I asked Berit if I had her permission to post the video she sent me so that others I know who knit might avail themselves of the superior method, should they chose to do so. In her customarily generous way, she said I could use the video however I saw fit. So I am doing what any good and newly-minted disciple does, I’m spreading the gospel – in this case, the gospel of Norwegian purling. If you’ve never tried it, you really should. Those Norwegians, I swear, the really are the most clever people, aren’t they! So today I bless every Norwegian I see – which is pretty easy, considering I see one every few minutes! And for the rest of you who want to learn how to knit this way, I have converted the original AVI file I received into smaller files. I have a Windows Media version, and a MPG version. If these don’t work for you, let me know and I will try to work with you to figure out what version will work for you. I really want you to try this, OK? Here they are:

Norwegian Purling (Windows Media version) – 7 MB

Norwegian Purling (MPG version) – 12.7 MB

And honestly, Berit, because I know you see this blog – a thousand blessings on you and Jan. You’ll never know how grateful I am for the trouble you went to.

Award winning jelly makers, we are!

You may now refer to me as an “Award Winning” apple jelly maker, thankyouverymuch. H’s sister took in a jar of jelly to submit to the Target Corp. HR’s annual applefest today and it won in the recipe competition – the word just came from the contest judges. Hey, those Target people aren’t easy to please or persuade, dontchaknow! Ok, ok, so there were only a half-dozen or so other entries it had to beat, but we’ll just keep that small detail to ourselves, shall we? As H’s mom said when I called to share our success, “so far everyone who tastes it says it’s the best apple jelly.” Too damned bad I didn’t know about the half-pint jar requirement, or I could have entered it in next year’s State Fair. I told Karin nobody would mess with her now that they know she’s a serious jelly maker – nobody wants to tussle with people who are at ease handling boiling pots of lava! A suitable end to a week, dontchathink?

To see the entry from earlier this year when we made our jelly, click here.

Knitting quote du jour

I am one of those people that when I take up a new hobby, I like to read the “classics” in the field, both so I can get up to speed and so that I don’t appear completely ignorant when the subjects come up. So I took up Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears because of its numerous recommendations. I find her sense of humor utterly delightful, although I am only a few pages into the book so far. I offer you these words on this last day of summer:

Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.

When I say properly practiced, I mean executed in a relaxed manner, without anxiety, strain, or tension, but with confidence, inventiveness, pleasure and ultimate pride.

If you hate to knit, why, bless you, don’t; follow your secret heart and take up something else. But if you start out knitting with enjoyment, you will probably continue in this pleasant path.

Consider the agreeable material and tools.

. . . . . . .

Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.

Now, really, how can you not love this woman?

Four years in the making


B.A. in Religion/History

Who ever though that such a “little piece of paper” could have such enormous real and symbolic importance in one’s life? It took four years of serious hard work, from August, 2003 to June, 2007, to earn this degree – plus about 10 years before that of taking one class at a time here and there to get rid of my core curriculum requirements. Well, never mind that now. I have it. I stuck with it until I got it done. I can’t tell you how proud I am of myself for sticking with it until I was done this time. This time, I knew it was now or never. Making a big commitment to oneself and then seeing that commitment through to the end brings an immeasurable amount of self-esteem.

My first little hat … ain’t it cute?

My first little hat

While at the State Fair last month, I bought this yarn at the booth from the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers Association. The yarn came from a producer called Shepherd’s Choice located in Wyoming, MN. I just loved the colors and had to have it, despite the fact that it cost $20 for a 120 yarn hank. I started this simple little hat on Sunday afternoon, using a “Knitting Pure & Simple” pattern that I bought on Sunday when I went with my Sister Woman (that’s Tennessee Williams’ speak for sister-in-law) to All About Yarn in Coon Rapids after a friend kept recommending it. Hats work up wonderfully quick, and Lord knows we need ’em here in Minnesota! I just got a pom-pom maker tonight from Joann’s and I highly recommend you try the Doodle Loom next time you need to make pom-poms. Now, I’m supposed to turn the edge in two inches and sew in a hem, but I kind of like the funky, slightly ‘deconstructed’ look of the rolled edge. Harald said it makes it look like a flapper hat. What do you think? Send me a comment and tell me which treatment you prefer.

Summer’s Last Glory

Tonight they are predicting our first frost of the season, so this may prove to be the natural end of what will be remembered as one of the most memorable summers of my life. So I thought I would share with you some of the final glories of summer before they fade or freeze.

Our backyard deity

And an astronomer said, “Master, what of Time?”

And he answered:

You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.

You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.

Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness,

And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.

And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.

Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless?

And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed within the centre of his being, and moving not form love thought to love thought, nor from love deeds to other love deeds?

And is not time even as love is, undivided and paceless?

But if in you thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons,

And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

New England Aster
These are flowers that whisper of fall’s fast approach.

I don’t know what this sweet little buttery yellow flower is, but it’s marvelous in its simple beauty.

Pink zinnia
How you could not adore this pink zinnia, that gets deeper and deeper towards the center?

Orange calla lily
I fell in love with calla lillies when I was in Guatemala – they grew wild on the sides of the mountain roads. I decided I wanted to grow some myself.

They are so simple, but I do love coleus and the color it brings to the yard.

This is a magnificent burgundy coleus – the picture doesn’t do it justice.

This lime green and yellow variety we tried this year is luscious, isn’t it?

Sometime later tonight we will pick all the zinnias and tomatoes – and begin the inevitable turn inward that comes with fall.

Norwegian Mittens

No, no, no. I did not create these delightful, delectable, delicious, degorgeous mittens. They were knit for Harald and me by Berit & Turid, two longtime family friends from Norway who were recently here for a visit – wonderful women I am already anxious to see again. But for those of you who hadn’t yet seen these (or couldn’t, because you are too ding-dang far away), I wanted to share the photos. The pattern and workmanship are exquisite and they were a surprising and much-appreciated gift.

This pair with the deer on them are, I think, going to be Harald’s.

This pair with the traditional snowflake pattern are going to be for me – I hope.

Then again, we always swap them whenever we want!

My first pair of socks

It seems only fitting to give those who are interested a peek into my recent knitting obsession. This is the first pair of socks I am making, a result of careful teaching from a friend in St. Paul who makes oodles of socks.

Here is sock 1. I’ve done the ribbing, body, heel flap, and I’ve turned the heel. I’ve yet to do the gusset and rest of the sock. That’s why it looks unfinished. As soon as I get sock 2 to the same place, my friend is coming over for my next sock lesson.

And here is sock 2. Having been adequately warned about the dangers of “second sock syndrome” – where you finish the first sock and not having started the second sock, never do – and so I’ve cast on for this sock as well and am getting the ribbing done. Kind of putzy, but it’s a nice change to work at slower pace and on a smaller scale.

You know, I’ve always been so impressed when I see someone working on some knitting that has four or five needles all going at the same time. It always looked so awesome and so intimidating. So it gives me no small thrill to be able to see those same needles in my own hands at night. What can I say – I thrill easily over certain things – yarn being among them.

I’ll post pictures of my Einstein Coat once it looks like something other than a very long and very wide scarf. I’m almost ready to begin the front panels.