In Praise of Slow

Sorry for the grey appearance - it is the Pacific Northwest in November here, after all.
Slow, ah yes. On one hand, I have been working like a busy bee on my stitching - I have finished Maskoutensak Man and now will move on to the rest of Jacques Cartier. Very thrilled at how it is progressing. And I will be removing the lighter brown threads on Jacques' leg - a "What if?" that didn't please me.

But on the other hand, I have been so demoralized by the month's world news that I have been rendered voiceless. Which led me to find solace in Slow TV, a Norwegian series of real time television, where real people take train trips, chop firewood and make a sweater from scratch. Norwegian Knitting Night, all 8 1/2 hours of it, captivated me. Believe it or not, it had drama, with the focus being an attempt to take a fleece from sheep to sweater in world record time.

Set in a knitting factory museum, it begins with the stalwart Rolf, shearing a sheep (Guri, a Norwegian White) with hand clippers. (It later is revealed that he has placed in the top 10 in world shearing competitions.) He completes this feat in 15 minutes or so and the raw fleece goes directly to the five spinners, who manage produce enough yarn for the two knitters to begin the 40,000 stitches that will make up the sweater. The spinning continues for almost the entire program, although about halfway through two of them switch to knitting sleeves.

Now, don't fall asleep, this is fantastic stuff! The seven member team are all lovely characters in their own right, and their charm, wit, and optimistic spirit is truly remarkable to witness. By the end I felt like they were my friends. There is a supporting cast as well: a bouncy host/cheerleader who sports an array of wonderful handknit sweaters, and the two witnesses, one of whom doesn't appear to do anything other than chew gum and twiddle with her hair, while the other makes sure the team has plenty of coffee and gets to model the finished sweater. And dear Rolf, who is the source of much amusement, stays on through the whole event.

The camera work is awkward at times, but also manages many mesmerizing sequences of spinning wheels, treadling feet and flying fingers. There are equipment failures (a broken needle) and injuries (blisters). The fleece turns out to be a major impediment, being heavy with lanolin and moisture. The bored witness develops into a truly dislikable character, just sitting around looking at her phone while everyone else is working so hard.
I spun along the whole time, and only managed two skeins of somewhat finer yarn than what they were making. My wheel only has a right treadle, and at about the six hour mark my right hip started seizing up, so I switched to my left foot. I have real admiration for the Norwegian team's accomplishment. Check the show out on Netflix or Youtube.


  1. Oh, that is hilarious! So you, Heather :)

  2. wonderful progress. and i think i will look into that show...i like things different than the norm.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! I have participated in similar contests--"sheep to shawl." But we started with clean fleece, and of course the end result was a woven shawl.

  4. You're certainly coming along on this piece!

    I've participated in many a Sheep-to-Shawl contest but the final project was woven. (And we started with the warp already on the loom.) Knitting a whole sweater takes a lot longer!

  5. your sense of line & space is true magic

  6. Anonymous5:55 AM

    I've had the pleasure of meeting quite a few Norwegians in Japan. What I have learned about Norway from them makes me very envious. They became wealthy through North Sea oil, but unlike most other oil nations, where the majority of the oil profits go to the oil companies, in Norway they have put all their profits into a sovereign fund because they know that the oil will run out one day. So sensible. They pay very high taxes but they also enjoy cradle to grave social services. The older generation still remembers the pre-oil age, when Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe so there is a humble quality to the people, except when they are poking fun at Swedes. Many of them have told me that a national past-time is spending vacations in a simple cabin, far from the modern world. All in all a very likable country and I'm not surprised to hear that they've made saga-length films about knitting a sweater, from sheep to finish. On the other hand, Norway is also home to a very active heavy metal scene. Jean-Pierre


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