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Norwegian wool is like wearing nature

Woman sitting in stone stairs in Geiranger .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
Woman sitting in stone stairs in Geiranger .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

The best way to experience the pureness of Norwegian nature is to dress in Norwegian wool, which will finally obtain its deserved success thanks to new design, according to Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, a former fashion magazine editor-in-chief turned wool authority.

She is dressed in wool from top to toe, and on the table, her computer is wrapped in a wool cover which replicates the diamond twill material of a tunica from around year 400. The garment was recently discovered when parts of a glacier melted in Mid-Norway.

Tone Skårdal Tobiasson, who is project manager at NICE (Norwegian Initiative Clean and Ethical Fashion), is co-author of the book Strikk med norsk ull, Knitting with Norwegian wool, and is a driving force when it comes to tying together designers and the wool industry as well as encouraging new takes on old wool traditions.

Well-dressed for hiking

“It’s simple. If you want to have a good experience in the varied Norwegian nature, you should dress for it by using garments in wool, preferably Norwegian wool. Wool regulates temperature, which surprises most people. It will ensure that you never get too warm or too cold, regardless of season”, says Tone, who has also heard rumours that the fitted carpet in the Oval Office in The White House in Washington is made of Norwegian wool.

“The exceptional crimp of Norwegian wool makes it extremely sought-after,” says Tone.

Whilst the use of Norwegian wool goes back way longer than the Viking period, for years its qualities have been underestimated by an industry which have preferred the benefit of merino wool from other parts of the world. According to Tone, it is a myth that all Norwegian wool itches. And it is indeed stronger and more durable than your typical merino fibre.

Women sit and watch the view of Oslo in knitted overalls
Women sit and watch the view of Oslo in knitted overalls.
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

World-class wool lustre

“Think about it: Meat from Norwegian lamb is considered a world-class delicacy, so there is no reason the wool shouldn’t enjoy the same success. Many times I have heard that Norwegian sweaters are indestructible, and that the wool is unusually lustrous,” Tone says.

Recently there has been a fashion hype around Norwegian wool. According to Tone, the hype has now evolved into something bigger, helped by product development from the Norwegian woollen mills and the athleisure trend which combines athletics and leisure.

“The thickness of the wool works well with the traditional Norwegian knitted sweaters and cardigans, and stems from the fact that these animals have great lives,” Tone says.

“Our sheep feed on the lush Norwegian nature. Unlike most merino breeds in hot and dry climates, they eat green grass, leaves, luscious herbs, flowers, and heather. Norwegian sheep are truly powered by nature. Like with humans, the good life shows in the thickness of the hair and turns the wool into a gourmet fibre,” Tone says.

A cool climate also reduces bacteria and other pesticide problems, hence no need for ‘dipping’ in strong chemicals. Therefore, 75% of Norwegian wool production has been approved by The Swan, a Nordic eco-label.

Eco-friendly animal

“All in all, wool is positive for the climate,” Tone argues, and adds: ”Of course it depends on how you look at it, but if you see it as a whole, these animals contribute a lot to nature. When they fertilise it, they help capture carbon. And their constant grazing keep the landscape open so our visitors can actually enjoy the view”.

Bring the feel home

Tone continues to help launching new woollen-based product ideas, and she has many tips for visitors who want to bring something wonderful and warming home. “After all”, Tone adds,” I suppose that Chinese visitors would prefer to bring home a woollen blanket or sweater that is made in Norway, not in China, and with wool from a sheep they may actually have glimpsed grazing happily”.

A woman having a good time in the garden at the farm Hoel Gård at Nes, Eastern Norway.
Hoel Farm at Nes.
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen, Maverix / Visitnorway.com

Tone’s tips for wool shopping and weaver visiting

Tone Skårdal Tobiasson is enthusiastic about the many new, small designers and startup businesses experimenting with Norwegian wool.

Fogg Gildeskål and Vêr

The beanies of Fogg Gildeskål is hand-knitted by the two design sisters’ mothers, whilst Vêr in Lofoten makes accessories and pull-overs.

Rauma Collection and Lillunn

Rauma Collection sweaters are available in the handicraft stores Norsk Flid and Husfliden, that you can find in many Norwegian towns and cities. These stores also sell Lillunn Design, iconic woven outerwear in Norwegian lamb’s wool.

Dale of Norway and Devold

Dale of Norway offers some traditional sweaters of Norwegian wool, and the sweaters of sports brand Devold are found in shops in New York.

Røros Tweed

Tone also loves the famous classic Røros Tweed blanket in Norwegian wool. “The old company in the city of Røros cooperates with everybody from Norwegian designers at Snøhetta to artists like Bjarne Melgaard.”

Other Norwegian wool producers

Greater than A
Norwegian wool is also found as insulatiing lining in garments by Greater than A, the clothing brand of the famous Norwegian alpinist, World Cup Champion and Olympic gold medallist Aksel Lund Svindal.

Krivi Vev
The weaving mill Krivi Vev in Tingvoll, Møre og Romsdal blends wool from Norway’s oldest sheep breeds into materials like those the Viking’s used to survive in.

Varp & Veft
Varp & Veft in the city of Sandnes near Stavanger uses wool of Grey Trønder sheep, an ancient breed that was considered extinct until 1992, when a small flock was discovered in the county of Telemark. Today, the breed consists of around 800 animals.

Lofoten Wool & Art
Lofoten Wool & Art is run by craftswoman Ragnhild Lie in Lofoten. Customers can shop directly from her outlet Høystålet.

Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk
Just north of the city of Bergen, Tone Skårdal Tobiasson recommends visiting Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk, part of a system called Economusée, a network of Artisans at work. “Discover the whole value chain, the wool production process, and the beautiful machines from the late 1800s.”

Værbitt has just opened shop in Oslo, with an array of Norwegian wool spun by all the woollen mills. At the Oslo hotel The Thief, wool is present in most rooms.

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