Thank you all so much for the wealth of information you provided in your comments on the last post. I am now happily at the trip-planning stage, and am really looking forward to visiting Sweden in the early Summer. And as if to provide a colourful antidote to this January’s rather relentless grey, today this book arrived, which I have spent the morning enjoying. It is a 1949 English translation of a book published by the Nordiska Museet, documenting traditional working-class Swedish “costume” by district and parish. Ingemar Tunander’s illustrations are really beautiful, and one must be circumspect about the effect such illustrations have of fixing “costume” in time, as if it were somehow static and unchanging, but the book’s commentary is interesting in acknowledging this, and in its remarks about the influence of modern economic and fashionable changes on what was regarded “traditional” dress. The book has certainly given me lots to think about. Some of the knitwear is spectacular, even in illustration, and I’m particularly interested in the over-apron reticules which closely resemble British women’s pockets. Ah, roll on Summer, and a visit to the Nordiska Museet.

Anna Maja Nylen, Swedish Peasant Costumes, illst. Ingemar Tunander; trans. William Cameron (Nordiska Museet, 1949)







33 thoughts on “Svenska Folkdräkter

  1. Reblogged this on .kirsi and commented:
    Kate is coming to Sweden, how great! The Scandinavian traditional clothing contain a lot of rich patterns that the peasant used in their festive costumes. The inspiration to many patterns came from beautiful fabrics that the nobility used in their clothing, but other patterns were also inspired by nature and its colors. Welcome Kate and hope you enjoy the Nordiska Museum in Stockholm, the museum of Nordic folklore, a great treasury for all interested in past textiles, furniture and decoration


  2. How beautiful! I know it’s not Norwegian but it reminds me of the Norwegian Constitution Day. I lucked out and was in Oslo one May 17, and so many thousands of people swarmed onto the streets in historical national costumes, men and women both. It was such a different feel than Canada Day or Independence Day on this side of the pond.

    Apparently it’s also considered formal dress (to go to any fancy wedding or meet the Prime Minister?) to wear one’s clean, modest traditional costume. I am not sure if I remember this correctly but I seem to remember it can acceptably replace any tux or evening gown.

    I wonder if Sweden does the same on June 6?


  3. My family and I are going to Sweden in March. I can’t wait. It will be my first trip, although my father made several trips there. My grandfather emigrated from Sweden to America around 1898 from Ronneby.

    I am sure you have seen the book Norwegian Knits, if not, check it out, it is GORGEOUS. Also, I have taken a workshop from a Swedish tapestry weaver. Her work is stunning. See her work at


  4. Our friends in Skane made and wear their Haradsdrakt for weddings, Christenings, festivals etc. Berit wove the beautiful striped aprons for herself and her daughter and granddaughters, and the damask for their white blouses. They look stunning! They have different coloured skirts for various occasions, and wear silver pendants or brooches. Lovely to read about the Swedish connections you are making and all the comments.


  5. We spent two weeks in and around Stockholm last August, it was a wonderful holiday, and we cant wait to go back to this lovely country. The Nordiska Museum had some great examples of knitwear & textisles. We were lucky enough that on the day we visited Skansen they had a Spinning, Knitting & Weaving event. My gorgeous hubbie bought me some lovely Swedish yarn to make Blaithin, which I’m just finishing off. Where ever you go in Sweden sure you will have a wonderful time, we found the Swedes lovely and very helpful & friendly. Watch out for the Dagens ratt (Dish of the day) a much cheaper way to eat out. And if you do do to Stockholm get right out into the Archipelego, we went to Moja, a long but enjoyable boat journey, hired bicycles and had a perfect summers day :-)


  6. Dear Kate, if you want to se national costumes of this kind in use, you should visit Norway at the 17th of May. This is our National Constitution Day, and we are dressed up in our National Costumes , walk in large parades with all the children, flags and music :) The largest parade is in Oslo, where we salute the Royal family waving form the balcony at the end of the parade. The latest years the costumes have ben even more popular, mostly women use them but also a lot of men. Have a look at these: or this
    Lots of nice embrodery, sewing, textiles and more :)


  7. I have one of those pockets, but decided it was Norwegian when I searched on the internet. No idea why my family had it, since we’re Ukrainian-descent. If it didn’t cost an arm and a leg to send it overseas, I’d love for you to have it. I’ll take a photo next time I run across it. It’s one of those things that are just too nice to throw away, but no reason, really, to keep.


  8. What amazingly stylish “folk”.
    Great illustrations, though I am little concerned about the couples in illustrations 3, 4 and 6. They seem to be having a tiff!


  9. Hi Kate, I’m returning froma skiing trip today and have to report that fair isle ski sweaters are sorely missed. Apparently they are not very fashionable and everyone is wearing synthetic mid layers (zipped fleeces). Would LOVE to knit a beautiful and warm ski sweater for myself…just throwing that out there since you’re inspired by Swedish design at the moment ;-).


  10. So interesting to read about your fascination with historic National “costume” in Sweden, and your speculations on whether a National identity in dress can (or should) be fixed… I have been looking at Estonian folk costume for a while and have become mildly obsessed with the role that Soviet rule played in consolidating “National Costume” and also, to a degree, encouraging it.

    Soviet rule/influence is less relevant in terms of Swedish “costume” so there are obviously other factors involved in the consolidation of an idea of National dress, but what is also very interesting looking at your pictures from the wonderful-looking book, are the prevalent striped skirts, reminiscent of the striped skirts of a similar length worn in different parishes in Estonia, and also resembling the strippit cott skirts once worn in Shetland!

    The little reticules you mention also remind me of the Kihnu project bags which are worn over the wrist in Kihnu, in Estonia, so that one’s knitting is always handy…

    …Starmore has speculated on the origins of Fair Isle and stranded knitting, and the transmission of patterns and motifs between seafaring Nations and communities bordering the North and Baltic Seas; I think there is something fascinating about seeing all the similarities and also differences as ideas are shared and also differences very clearly defined…

    All this, a long way of saying I’m very excited for your trip to Sweden; it will be amazing!


  11. fascinated by your pocket article – wouldn’t a modern day pocket be useful and a style statement? that doesn’t pull the seems or get worn out, and that could be big enough, but not yet a handbag…


  12. Well, I for one, am relieved that these were illustrations and not photos. I don’t know if I could handle seeing all those manly Swedish thighs in tight britches in photographic form. Phew!

    *fans herself and takes out the smelling salts*


  13. Kate, here is a query you might be interested in:öja&search_context=1&count=44&pos=2

    A spedetröja is a knitted garment, often decorated with ribbons or fancy cloth. In the southern part of Sweden “speda” was the local word for “knitting”. They were knitted on very fine needles with fine yarn.

    These short and tight pullovers were worn during the 18th and 19th centuries but have become popular again, although today they are longer and slightly less fitted.

    Several museums in the south of Sweden have collections of spedetröjor and there is a very fine private collection too.

    If you google the word SPEDETRÖJA you will find plenty of interesting examples, both old and contemporary ones.


  14. Hi Kate, I’m so glad you’ll be visiting Sweden. Don’t forget about the midsummerfeast if you’re here around that time, that’s when you could really see a lot of costumes. I’m from the region of Värend in Småland and this is how the costume for women looks like around here (picture I found on the internet). It has a lot of embroidery on the blouse, skirt and waistband!


  15. Interesting, and these costumes are splendid and colourful even though this Swedish-born could not possibly bring herself to wear one…

    However, I’m intrigued by your remark: “one must be circumspect about the effect such illustrations have of fixing “costume” in time, as if it were somehow static and unchanging,”.

    These costumes must have changed in the past, of course. I imagine that for centuries nobody was aware of them being explicitly something or the other, and that at a given point (second half of 19th century, supposedly, when all things folk were mapped and admired) they were described as THE costume of a particular region.

    But are they still evolving?? Aren’t they now purely ornamental garments forever fixed in time? Does anyone who makes and wear these costumes ever try to reinvent them, introduce new elements or new materials? (Will we have folk costumes with an iphone-pocket?)


  16. Kate,
    I am Swedish but live in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. I have one of these costumes “Lima drakt” form Dalarna. I normally wear it at the Fee’in market in the market square of Stonehaven. This is an event in June every year. I also knits quite a bit, and have taken interest in the fair isle knitting lately, and is searching for patterns.


  17. I found a copy of Folk Costumes of Sweden: a living tradition by Inga Arno Berg and Gunnel Hazelius Berg online which has lots of interesting information as well as photos of different costumes. Was very pleased with finding the book and recommend it.


  18. Missed the previous post and haven’t read the comments yet, but I suppose that you already have got the information I could have provided. However, I would like to add that Sweden is great for trekking and we have lots and lots of kilometers of footpaths in beautiful countryside. Here is a link to my part of the country and one of my favourite trails:
    It is easy to walk shorter distances too.

    You have probably already got this link from other commenters – it is very useful as long as you know what you are looking for:

    I have extra copies of a couple of the embroidery books that were published in Sweden in the 50’s and 60’s. Let me know if you are interested in a swap.

    Welcome to Sweden! I hope you will enjoy your visit here!


  19. I am pleased as ever to see you on a new adventure in design, and look forward to what comes up. I am particularly intrigued with the women’s pockets, they are so obvious to me, the fore-runner of the modern purse. I am also smitten with the idea of the apron, and have been ruminating ideas myself on how to implement them in my modern life, as I am a person who is a messy person and who really needs to wear them! Anyway, Happy New Year, if I hadn’t said so already, I can brace myself for what is ahead for KDdesigns and well… I can not wait to see what you are doing with your new work space.


  20. The Svenske Folkdräkter are certainly lovely! If you make the trip in May, pop over to Oslo on the 17th May to see a wide selection of our equivalent, Norske Bunader, in use on our National Day of Independence. There will be thousands out on the streets :) Or, make a trip to us another year. I’m certain you will have a lovely time in Sweden in early summer!


  21. I am *delighted* to see you recent Swedish posts – I’ll be moving to Stockholm this summer from the West Country…….now I am even more excited! :-) All the very best, Jess


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