Selbu Votter

My first pair of Selbu Votter- fini.
Selbu votter originates from Selbu in northern Norway. Growing up in Oslo this is a staple of winter wear, commonly knit in red, blue, grey, black and white. At Christmas the dreaded "soft" package under the Christmas tree meant something knitted....usually wool and itchy, lovingly knit by our grandmothers and aunties.
The days before Gore-Tex and fleece, wool was the work horse- but not always ideal after a busy day of sledding in subzero degrees these woolens became frozen icy clumps that made our wet hands cold. Once home, they were hung on a wooden drying rack in front of the fireplace or radiator to dry, the smell of wet wool wafting thru the house, they would stretch into long woolen sausages as they dried. Happily used the next day skiing or sledding they would regain their normal shape once again.

I couldn't resist these, purchased in Geilo, Norway 2 years ago from an older women selling them at the market.

I knit many moons ago-now from a Swedish pattern and has been lovingly worn ....they have become slightly felted...it doesn't matter I love my Lingon berry mittens knit from "Gotlandska stick monster"

A big fan of fair isle I switched from knitting sweaters to mittens, in my opinion the perfect little project, colorful & quick...and you can show them off unlike socks. My first ones the "Dala Hest" mittens had no real written instructions besides the cuff- just a chart that I worked from. This was puzzling, since it was the first time, especially the " Norwegian thumb", though I could visualize it- quite confusing trying to knit without written instructions.

The first mitten was ripped out 5 + times I lost count after that, frustrated I kept my cool and continued I was determined to make it work...and it somehow did. Happy to have finally finished my first mitten the second one turned out bigger. How?
I did not like the fit either- they are way too big-
- who wants to wear a size "oven mitt " ?!

I consulted Leigh- she is a mitten knitter extraordinaire, gave me some great tips
you can be mused here by her work.

Hence my quest started  finding an easier pattern (written pattern) that broke the steps down and something that would have a better fit.

I also discovered the "magic" with using a magic loop- way better than the 5 needles that I used to knit with. Important to make sure the magic loop is not too big, I knit with a 24 inch.
Knitting with a smaller needle size helped me get the fair isle more even.
Using Latvian 2 ply wool that is textured, it's not smooth and not very forgiving like a 4 ply sock yarn and can break and untwist easily. I plan on knitting my next pair with my own yarn to see if that makes any difference- beside s it wicks moisture with the  nylon.

 I found that Elizabeth Zimmerman had the best pattern, very clear. She also gives a great tip on holding the thumb stitches. I found more simple patterns(written) online.
I have collected  a plethora of awe inspiring patterns
of mittens and fair isle on one of my Pinterest boards
 here is my board if you would like to see:
The second mitten is faster to knit, once you are familiar with both  the mitten pattern and the fair isle pattern its quick. Using markers help...a lot! Good to know where the thumb gussets starts and stops, once the sts for the thumb is set on scrap yarn- you're home free.
Usually patterns that have a 60-70 sts count work for my medium size hands, when searching for a pattern keep in mind, your hand size, sts. gauge and the yarn you want to use. Selbu Votter are knit in sport and fingering weight.
When washing I recommend drying flat- not the good 'ol wooden drying rack...unless you like wearing long wool sausages...he.he.

You can find a great a pattern in this book from Zimmerman.
I use these books a lot.
Note!  Norwegians have a more "relaxed" approach to knitting than Americans.
Not uncommon to see a pattern that reads something like: "cast on anywhere between 60 - 70 sts increase 10 or so sts....depending on your size hand."
- or so?

I need more specific directions

This was one of our families favorite books and have been read to all my 4 children, very sweet.

My mom used to tell me the story of an 80 year man in northern Norway
that  knit a pair of Selbu Votter each day and sold them at the market.
Impressive, he must be knitting in his sleep.

in the end it all worked out - I found a beautiful pattern and the fit was perfect

Some resources I found along the way :

Look at this gal Natalia beautiful fair isle mitten pattern
A great graph to design your own mitten design
Generic Norwegian Mitten Pattern

The yarn I used was from Yarn Stories lots of variety, beautiful colors

I am learning,
- learning something new and fun, these are just my observations.
{ any tips or resources you might have please add them in the comments ~ thank you!}
Happy Knitting!

Thank you all so much for your 
kind words 
and well wishes on my prior post
all is well



  1. glad you are back in your space! (I've missed you!) Lovely work.....so much to learn. Leigh is my mitt-guru, too....but you are now right up there! These are wonderful! Thanks for the resources.

  2. Loved reading about your mittens, I am knitting these http://www.tanisfiberarts.com/products/sweet-nectar-mitten-kit right now.

    Ann in Vancouver

  3. I am so glad all is well and you have returned to this space Camilla. I must tell you I squealed when I saw your mittens, stunning does not even begin to describe their beauty. I love them.
    So, the magic loop is the way to go huh? Ahem, I guess I better start learning how to use it because I want to knit a pair of those mittens myself.
    Happy December.

  4. Hi Tracey, glad to see you too :)
    - yes, you can find magic loop on you tube, once you start knitting mittens this way it gets pretty addictive.

  5. Wow, those mittens are awesome! I only hope one day to knit a pair of those. Happy to see you back in your space. xo

  6. Oh MY GOODNESS!!! Camilla you totally rock the mittens. These are amazing and leave me feeling completely inspired by your talent. Love the colours, love the different cuffs, the yarn, the snow...sigh. Despite their being oven mitts sized, those Dala mittens really are wonderful - would they fit your husband? Are you tempted to full them a bit? Thank you for your generous words. I am so glad to hear that everything has gone well with you and so thrilled to see you back here.

    1. Hi Leigh...I wish- there is a slight pink hue to one of the Dala mittens- and my hubs has pink phobia, I will try felting them, I think that will do the trick. You need to set up some kind of knitting hot line with all your great tips :)

    2. Hi Camilla, I remembered this passage from Terri Shea's book Selbuvotter last night - your comment on Norwegian knitters turned on the switch - I hope you don't mind me sharing some of it here, I remember feeling completely nourished by these words:

      "The greatest discovery I made in studying the old mittens is how the old knitters were not necessarily any more talented than we are. They followed patterns, made mistakes, corrected them - or didn't. Their stitches were occasionally too loose or too tight. Their thumb bases have holes in them. The lines between the fingers don't match up.

      What they did seem to do better than we do is to accept the mistakes that they made....Today we have an expectation that everything we make should be neat and finished and cleanly, perfectly designed. That's because in the mass produced world, it is. Clothing manufacturers design for the machine....

      Selbuvotter are folk objects, not high art. A hallmark of folk art is the small mistakes and inconsistencies; they are what give a piece its life and liveliness, compared to the sleek perfection of Fine Art and mechanized production."

      It goes on, and gets better. Refreshing, don't you think? Well, so much for me trying to be less wordy these days ;) xo

    3. Thank you so much for this Leigh- yes, nourishing for sure. I love to read these words they will resonate with me as I continue my knitting journey. Refreshing to not have to live up to mas produced items- so true what she writes !!!! I am going to check out this book at the library.
      Thank you Leigh

  7. beautiful mitts! I do love to knit colorwork and have more ideas to cast on once the holidays are over. I love the colors and the designs. Just gorgeous!!

    1. Hi Karen, Thank you- can't wait to see what you will be knitting.

  8. c, you shine when you are creating. i'm smiling all the way through this post. passion i say! you are a wool genius among many other things...XOXO

  9. Beautiful mittens, I loved reading about the resources you found for mitten knitting. I've knit some mittens earlier this year, but am now finding they are not warm enough in true winter temperatures. So I'm planning on a pair of lined mittens, hopefully that will work out nicely.

    1. That is a smart idea- lining them. Yes, these are definitely for sub zero degrees.

  10. I'm glad all is well!
    Wonderful mittens!
    I can not knit. Maybe it's time to learn it.

  11. Hi Patricia, knitting is fun, but you do so many other beautiful creative things too and also your lovely photography too.

  12. Thank you for sharing your wonderful mittens, Camilla! I just finished the Dala Hest mittens, and know just what you mean about the lack of direction. Thanks, too, for your book recommendations, and the link to Pinterest. What an amazing collection of mitten photos and patterns! Very inspiring. :)

    1. Hi Valerie, thanks for stopping by- I guess that is comforting to hear, I do love the pattern and now that I have knit them once I might be brave and try them again ( slightly smaller)

  13. You've absolutely inspired me...Leigh gave me the mitten bug & now you've totally pushed me over the edge, ha! Thank you, Camilla! I will be casting on one of these beauties after the holidays. EZ is such a helpful knitting fairy goddess. I am not very experienced with colorwork, so I am a bit apprehensive, but your post is so very helpful & written so clearly, I have confidence. I remember those days of frozen-solid woolly mittens from childhood, yet we kept playing. The part of the country I grew up in was settled mostly by Norwegians and Germans--I love when I can relate to your posts as a result. xo

  14. Hello dear Camilla! everything is so inspiring - pictures, mittens and preChristmas spirit... Thank you! ;)

  15. I had to smile at your lingon berry mittens - I love reading Jan Brett books to my toddler daughter and in our recent favorite, Home for Christmas, the trolls eat lingon berries. Absolutely stunning mittens - way above my current knitting level!


Hello- thank you for stopping by :)