Knitting is a craft born out of necessity – how should one keep one’s loved ones warm and cozy? During the Great Depression, which affected people worldwide, necessity dictated more problems to solve: how to feed a family when so many were out of work? Emma Jacobsson, the wife of the governor of Bohuslan, Sweden, came up with an idea: start a cottage industry producing knitted garments. The Bohus Stickning collective was founded in 1939. Beginning with mittens and socks but soon becoming famous for its sweaters, the label soon became a worldwide phenomenon. To this day, Bohus patterns are prized for their intricacy and beauty.
The collective stayed together for thirty years, and was a major reason why Sweden became known as a center of design. When luminaries such as Eartha Kitt and Grace Kelly were photographed in Bohus Stickning sweaters, the general public became interested, and the company was recognized as a worldwide fashion source. Different patterns such as “The Red Edge” and “The Wild Apple” became crave-worthy, and have been since been curated at craft museums.
Although Bohus Stickning was dissolved in 1969, the designs have stood the test of time. In 1995, the book Poems of Color, a history of the collective and its art was published by Wendy Keele. Following this, interest grew in recreating the designs with modern yarns and preserving the artistic tradition. In 2015, Viveka Overland published Bohus Stickning Pa Nyet (the Revival) .
These patterns are characterized by intricate stranded color work that uses a mixture of knit and purl stitches. Traditionally, these sweaters have been made from a combination of merino wool and angora yarn in lace weight. Color combinations reflect traditional Swedish design; while there are some monochrome patterns, the majority use cheerful colors that will help to offset the dark of winter.
Today’s knitters can create their own Bohus Stickning sweaters by purchasing kits from Pernille Silfverberg of the AngoraGarnet company in Bohuslan, Sweden. The company’s website is written in both English and Swedish; prices are quoted in krona. One can also find patterns inspired by the company’s work on Ravelry and in several published collections. Marcia Lewandowski’s “Bohus Stickning Mittens”, published in her book Folk Mittens, is written for worsted-weight yarn and thus makes a good pattern for those new to stranded color work.
Disclaimer: I am not associated with the Bohus Stickning collective. I purchased my copy of Folk Mittens and Poems of Color with my own funds.