"Norwegian Stockings and Socks from a Rag Pile - Recycling and Retelling." Lecture by Annemor Sundbø, Wednesday, 18 December, from 14.00.

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Annemor Sundbø

Annemor Sundbø

“If you don’t behave, I’ll sell you to the ragman.” This was my mother’s usual threat whenever I was too wild as a little girl. I didn’t believe her at the time, but her prophecy came true when literally tons of knitted rags landed on my lap when I bought the Torridal Tweed and Shoddy Mill some 25 years ago. I must admit that I have often wondered whether the rag pile was a punishment or a reward. It is said that arrogance brings its own punishment, but I am absolutely certain: this enormous amount of remnant thread has been spun into my life thread.

Everyday issues are reflected in the rags, including the fight against poverty, but there are also funny and creative aspects. My role has been not only to reuse woollens from all of these remnants, but to give them an afterlife by passing on their history.

Customers come to my mill everyday, bringing worn-out knitted garments as part-payment for wool-filled quilts, mattresses and sleeping bags, or wool blankets and tweeds.

It all started in 1983 when from one day to the other I found myself in the possession of the creative work of others in the shape of tons of knitted waste. From spinning my own thread for artistic work, I was suddenly feeding other people's knitting into a shredding machine. All traces of the function of these clothes disappeared and what was left was blanded into a grey mass of fiber. Almost everyday I decided upon the fate of knitted remnants, standing in judgment over which garments and rags I should transform into used fiber, and which would have meaning for future knitting history and therefore should be spared.

Out of approximately 16000 kilo of rags that lay in storage when I took over the mill, I have chosen a collection of cultural treasures that amounts to nearly 1000 kilo, including more than 300 stockings and socks. The woollens derived from the everyday lives of everyday people from our closest past. I got the feeling that something of the knitter’s soul followed these threads, which had been formed by their hands. It gave me a sort of hunting instinct for conjuring the spiritual power out of the rag pile... I have started winding the threads back in time, through folk belief, religion, mythology, legends and tales for finding a deeper understanding of the design and the use of knitted objects.

Lecturer: Annemor Sundbø (Norway). Date: Wednesday, 18 December. Time: 14.00 - 15.30. Language: English. Location: TRC, Hogewoerd 164, Leiden. Admission: 7.50 euro. RegistrationDit e-mailadres is beschermd tegen spambots. U heeft Javascript nodig om het te kunnen zien. . Registration in advance is required.


Annemor Sundbø (1949) is a Government Scholar, author, knitting and weaving instructor, and promotor of Norwegian textile traditions. She is also a textile designer and the owner of the Torridal Tweed and Shoddy Mill for 25 years

She was awarded the King's Medal of Honor, the Norwegian Handicraft Association’s Medal of Honor in 2004 (for preservation and continuation of cultural values, both domestically and internationally), the Aust-Agder County’s Cultural Prize in 1999, the Bygland Community’s Cultural Prize in 2004, the Sørlandet’s Literature Prize in 2006, the Vest-Agder County’s Cultural Prize in 2015, and the Kristiansand Cultural Prize in 2017.

Books published:

  • Everyday Knitting. Treasures from a Ragpile, 1994,
  • Setesdal Sweaters,1998
  • Invisible Threads in Knitting, 2005,
  • Norwegian Mitten and Gloves, 2010,
  • Knitting in Art, 2010,
  • Spelsau og Samspill, 2015
  • Koftearven, 2019 (No English translation)

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Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428  info@trc-leiden.nl

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