Norwegian Natural Dyeing

Written by: Mette Biering

Norwegian Natural dyeing: Art, Craft, Gender and Innovation - Natural dyes as a Tradition in Norway

(Views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the Author, a narration of their experience.)

As you may know, Norway is located far north in Europe. We have a cold climate with a short summer, during which nature almost explodes. The country is sparsely populated, and because only 2 per cent of the land is suited for farming, Norwegians never supported themselves exclusively from growing crops. Multi-tasking and trading have always been necessary to survive "on top of the globe".

Despite the short summers, sources for all the rainbow colors can be found in nature. Plants, trees, bark, lichen, shrubs, mushrooms, seaweed and even purple snails (Nucella lapillus), are something the old Norsemen and women were aware of and used, not only on their home made textiles, but also as trading commodities. Sheep wool, linen, hemp and nettle were the most common fibers and from trading trips abroad (some would probably call these trips with different names) the Norwegians developed a taste for silk fabrics as well. The silk was, of course, used by the wealthiest only.

Bright colors in textiles have a long tradition in Norway. The old Viking sagas and findings show that household textiles and apparel were created in bright reds, yellows and blues, when people could afford them.

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This article was originally published in the "11th Biennial Symposium", Textile Society of America, 2008.