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Selbu Flag


– an agriculture, lumbering and industry community at the east end of the thirty kilometers long lake Selbusjøen, southeast of Trondheim

All Norwegians – and quite a few foreigners – know the Selbu (sports) knitwear and regard it as something typical Norwegian. The Selbu tradition of knitting a rose pattern with dual yarns of different colors was initiated in 1857 by a 16 years old girl,

Marit Olsdatter

Marit Olsdatter (above), born 1841 on the farm Gullsetbrua in Selbu (died as Marit Emstad in 1929). Originally this knitwear was essentially for the family and for traditional wedding gifts (actually from the bride to the groom and the male guests!), but during the 1890s the knitting developed into a home industry and a new source of income, reaching an incredible peak between the two world wars. For many years "everybody", including men and children, knitted whenever possible. The genuine Selbu knitwear is made from the undyed wool of white and black sheep, and the sweaters, stockings, mittens and caps are thus ideal for sportswear. The most common motif is the star variant of the Selbu Rose, depicted in the Selbu flag above. (The latter rose has a four axis symmetry while the knitted one is usually closer to having only a two axis symmetry.)

"Selbu troll"

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A "Selbu troll", almost properly dressed, but I don't know why a knitted cap is missing. This troll is a commercial one; it's carrying a sack with the name of an adjacent grocery store, and apart from the long nose and overall size it does indeed look more like a shop clerk than a troll.

Morsarvin, sculpture by Sivert Donali

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Art at the town hall: "Morsarvin" (Maternal heritage, 2004), bronze sculpture by Sivert Donali (1931–2010) showing a mother teaching her daughter to knit.

the Selbu church

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The Selbu church, the oldest part dates back to 1183, but it has been expanded and renovated several times since then. One Sunday in the winter 1857–58 Marit Olsdatter and her sisters came to this church wearing the new mittens and thus attracting the congregation's attention (which embarrassed the sisters). Soon Marit was asked by a lot of women to teach them the new knitting.

Close to the church, in the old priest's residence (built 1745), you'll find the Selbu Village Museum (web site in Norwegian).

Selbu knitting museum

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As a part of the village museum we have – surprise! – the Selbu Museum of Knitting. My collage shows some pattern samples.


Another sweater in the museum.

Selbu woolen glove
I got a pair of woolen gloves from an elderly Selbu lady some years ago. Still many Selbu women are knitting for the market. Please note the pattern on the fingers. Obviously this is for the advanced ones, and they make it at high speed almost without looking.

A more detailed description, including patterns, is found in  this pdf .

Others are copying the pattern, like in  Iceland .

World Championship logo

The logo for the 1997 World Championship of Nordic Skiing was derived from the Selbu Rose. The three colors pattern departs from the traditional two colors one, but it's the national colors red-white-blue. The championship took place in  Trondheim .

"Felkar'n" by Kristofer leirdal

 A statue at the Selbu administration center, "Felkar'n" by Kristofer Leirdal, 1991: A millstone quarrier with his pick hammer and pair of compasses.

About twenty kilometers east of Selbu, in a mountain area that is now the Skarvan and Roltdalen National Park, rock suitable for millstones is found. It's biotite schist with imbedded hard grains of staurolite and garnets. While the schist wears off slowly, the grains tend to persist; thus these millstones are self-sharpening as they should be. When millstone quarrying started here is unknown, a guess is the fourteenth century. There is another major site for millstone quarrying in Hyllestad in Sogn where the activity probably started around 600 AD. However, maybe from the sixteenth century on, the production in Selbu was the larger one, and during the nineteenth century nine out of ten millstones in Norway came from Selbu. There was even some export, mainly to Sweden and Denmark, but also to Russia and U.S.A. At the end of the nineteenth century the production subsided and ended when World War I started.

Millstone quarrying started in October, when summer work on the farms was over, and the half-finished stones were transported back home, usually at night on crusted snow in April. It was tough work in a tough climate, and a substantial fraction of the time they had to spend removing water and snow from the pits. But they did get their reward.

Millstone memorial

A millstone at the Selbu church with the inscription (in the local dialect) "In memory of the men on Kvennfeli" (i.e. The Mill(stone) Mountains).

It may be noted that the rise of the knitting industry coincided roughly with the decline of the millstone industry. In those days Selbu had it's "millstone" businessmen with networks throughout Norway and to a lesser extent abroad, which was doubtlessly a great advantage when marketing the knitwear.

And – what else came from Selbu? Two very different ladies should be mentioned (yeah, beware of the Selbu ladies!). The first one is

Belle Gunness

Belle Gunness a.k.a. Lady Bluebeard, the serial killer. The number of victims is unknown; one estimate says 25–40. Belle was born 11 November 1859 in Selbu as Brynhild Paulsdatter Størset and emigrated to U.S.A. on her own in 1881. Her year of death is unknown: On 28 April 1908 her house burnt down and the bodies of her three poisoned children was found in the ruins, together with a headless female body. The obviously pragmatic police concluded that this was the body of Belle Gunness, although the size seemed wrong.

The Andrews Sisters – cover

The second one is Olga (nickname Ollie) Pedersdatter Sollie who married Peter Andrews (born Petros Andreou in Greece) and became the mother of the Andrews Sisters. Olga was born April 1887 and May 1888 her parents (Soffi Pedersdatter née Haave and Per Pedersen Sollie) emigrated to U.S.A. with their five kids. She died 3 July 1948, when her three daughters were at the height of their career.

Drinkin' Rum and Coca Cola, go down Point Cumana
Both mother and daughter, workin' for the yankee dollar...

Which reminds me of present day music – in Selbu:

Sommerfestivalen i Selbu

Like in many other places a music festival takes place in Selbu every summer. Here it started in 2002 and it's always near midsummer. This seems to be popular music primarily for young people, those that can enjoy living in small tents and maybe get a bit wet. The  website is in Norwegian only.

22 June 2014: This seems to have been the wettest festival here ever. Some cars in the parking had to be moored. And it was rather cold, "green winter" as we often call it. But the participants seemed to be happy. (I wasn't there, too old, but I watched the flood on tv, warm, dry and comfortable.)

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changed 2015-07-26