Knitted sweaters in 18:th century?

I have been trying to look into knitted garments in 18th century in Sweden and possibly the Nordic countries.
We know there was socks, hats and possibly mittens. But what about waistcoats? or sweaters (in Sweden the same word for sleeved waistcoat and sweater is used) .

In 1741 Carl Linneus was travelling through Gotland and Öland. He noticed that on the northern island of Gotland (Fårö -Sheepisland) the men had waistcoats “that looked like cloth but was by the women knitted“.
He also notices that the ones for everyday use was grey and the ones for more formal occasions was white.

Bishop of Gotland  Jöran Wallin, 1736-46, notices that these where with “flowers and all sorts of colours”

We know of one Gotlandic knittingpattern from 18:th century. It is called Akvileja  (Aquilegia vulgaris L. (European columbine, Common columbine, Granny’s nightcap, Granny’s bonnet))


Another pattern is from Norway, also 18:th century. It is from a grave that in context would be a farmer. I do not know what kind of garment it was.

Norwegian pattern 18:th century

Norwegian pattern 18:th century

And here is a knitted hat from 1785. It was found on the sunken ship ‘General Carleton’.  I add this because it might give more input on 18th century patterns in knitting, and also because it is an adorable hat!
mössa 1700-talTo put some more perspective on the use of colours and patterns I also include this knitted hat from around 1700

ca 1700

But that is Fårö! How common could they have been?


Fårö is of course then, and now, not a centre for fashion. Is this possibly just a local thing? Historical records talk about ‘Tröjkellingar’. A Kelling was a woman who was selling merchandise of own manufacture (or of the ones in the village). A tröja is a waistcoat, with sleeves. These where going into Stockholm to sell knitted waistcoats. A Tröjkelling could have 800-1000 waistcoats with her. If we then think maybe 5 made the trip, that would make 5000 waistcoats a year into Stockholm just from Fårö. We know that there was more than one on a trip as one trip went awry and they assumed that all the tröjkellingar on it had died. I will settle your mind with that they did not and came home safe, but delayed.

Eva Andersson, costume historian at Göteborg University, has seen numerous posts about knitted sweaters being imported from Denmark in toll registers.
The province of Halland was Danish for a long time. It is also, during the 18:th century, the Swedish heartland of knitting. Women in the cottages was paid for knitting  and merchants collected the knitting to sell in bulk. This would probably mostly be socks (the army used a lot of socks….) but as we have seen that Denmark evidently made knitted waistcoats (remember the tollregisters Eva looked at? ) it is not far-fetched to assume a regional tendency and think that even waistcoats was made. As they evidently was not unheard of. 5000 waistcoats in Stockholm each year must have had buyers.


Now, a friend of mine that likes to nose about in old army records also told me that the Carolean army had knitted waistcoats issued to the soldiers (some at least… I can’t say they all had it).
If we take all this into account….  The Tröjkellingar, the Danish import, the assumed production in Halland (and if Halland is involved it is a lot of knitting) and the army issuing them to at least some regiments… it starts to look like knitted waistcoats was not something that would have been seen as an odd thing.

After publishing this, my Friend Adam, that have been looking at knitting in other contexts (förlagsverksamhet i Halland). He points out to me that there are ‘tröjväverier’ in the major cities. This would means ‘Waistcoat weaving factory’, but as he points out knitting machines have been in use since 16:th century in england and as the produce of these factories was, Tröjor (waistcoats) socks and hats, it certainly sounds as knitting. This brings up the numbers of knitted waistcoats even more. Making them less and less uncommon.

But how would they have looked?


Well, we have no idea there, but can speculate.

We know that Linneus tells us that  “they look like cloth but are knitted”. We also dont know if Linneus thinks they look like regular clothes because they are cut in the same way. Or if he just refers to the ‘cloth’.  He also compares them to waistcoats of worsted wool (its not totally worsted.. the term is ‘Redgarn’ but worsted is the closest translation. Anyway it is made with cheaper sturdier wool).

worsted wool waistcoat. 1725-1775 front

worsted wool waistcoat.
front, not knitted

worsted wool waistcoat. 1725-1775 back

worsted wool waistcoat.
back, not knitted


I don’t know if ‘redgarns tröja’ looked in a special way, or if it was just a way of Linneus to describe the texture of the garment. Was it for example fulled after it was knitted? Fulling the knit is common later, in 19th century, but this Norwegian piece is not fulled.

Norwegian knitted garment. 18th century

Norwegian knitted garment. 18th century

There are some knitted garments from later part of the 17:th century. But these are knitted of silk and very high up in the society. They are also more registered as shirts.
They do however show a type of garment that will be the base for knitted garments in Norway in 19:th century. The Lusekofte.


Knitted Silk sweater, Norway (probably import) 17:th century.

Knitted Slik sweater, Norway (probably import) 17:th century.

Knitted Silk sweater, Norway (probably import) 17:th century.


The last of them has been opened in the front later. Now, this is rather interesting as this might have been done to convert it to current fashion. But.. alas it does not really tell us anything…..

Knitted Slik sweater, embroidered, Norway (probably import) 17:th century. Later opened in the front

Knitted Slik sweater, embroidered, Norway (probably import) 17:th century.
Later opened in the front

It was common for the peasant class to use hooks and eyelets instead of buttons. So If it was opened it would probably have had that. Also, the most common technique to knit was roundknitting. If the garment was to be open, it was cut after it was knitted. It Basically leaves us with two ways.. either it was a full garment, like in the shape as a modern knitted sweater. Or it was an opened garment. Roundknitted and later cut.

In conclusion

It seems that knitted waistcoats was around, but it is difficult to figure out how they would have looked and how they were used. Three options seems plausible.

  • It was a full garment without opening
  • It was an open garment with closing, probably hidden hooks and eyelets
  • It was semiopen, like a modern LusekofteIt seems clear that they was knitted with pattern. Either simple lines or more figurative patterns.

Posted in 18th century, Clothing | 2 Comments

Footdragoons of the great Nordic war


This article is a short summary of the free companies of footdragoons used in mainly Finland and Norway by the swedish army during the great Nordic war. It will use captain Långströms company as an example.

In short they where free companies attached to the army314424_10150357342622277_265702151_n command and used for diversion, scouting, prisonersnatching and deep patrols and raids. They where to worry and harass the enemy to bind up forces and make the life generally uncertain for them. In the Norwegian campaign they where also used for important messages.

To harass the rear areas of the enemy will have the effect that they need to direct forces from the front to rear security. As small units are hard to pin down in the massive forests and blocky terrain a relatively small force can drain quite a lot of forces for security.

The beginning.


Sissar, partisans of fortune and somewhat religious principles

The Eastern parts of Finland was even before the war a mix of Lutherans and Russian orthodox faiths. When the war started the tension got worse. The orthodox was seen as sympathizers with the Russian aggressors, and the Church and authorities fuelled these notions. When Russian raids across the borders started the peasants soon retaliated with crossborder raids of themselves. The target was peasants on the other side of the border. The Finns called these raiders/plunderers Kivekkäät, after the farmer Kivekäs that was a central figure. They where also called “sissar”.  Abraham Cronhiort, commander of the army in Ingermanland,  was concerned about the unlawfulness and chaos and wrote about his concerns to the king. The king replied that ha saw no problem with his loyal servants wanting to harm the enemy. Thus the all out war was started with irregular forces and militias wreaking havoc on each other.

The need of Footdragoons.

The carolean army was meant, as most armies of this age, to work on open and flat fields. They where extremly aggressiv in tactics, in general firing thier weapons only twice, the first line at 50 paces and the second at 25. After that they drew steel and charged.

The terrain in Finland was not open fields and flat ground though. The need for irregular fightingtactics was soon discovered.

The organisation.

The disorganised rabble soon came in need of better organisation and especially Control.
By early 1710 the army in Finland command organised them in a battalion, promoting Daniel Luukkoinen to major and putting him in charge. Under him the different companies where organised and numbered around 200-300 all in all (the exact number was Always fleeting and based upon how good the companies could muster people). Captains of free companies under Luukkoinen included Captain Peter Långström, Captain Solomon Enberg, Lasse Kärki, Stefan Löfving, Johan Henrik Fieandt, to name some of the more known officers  They also got renamed officially as Footdragoons

11128637_10152777886052765_48282698090355844_nSince the companies continued to operate on their own, the new organisation might have had Little real impact. In spring 1715 the Army chief gave Långström, and men he could muster from the farmers, orders to “hang on to the enemy as usual, seek knowledge and prisoners and report to me over the lake or northabout”. On the 25 of may he reported to the king that he had not heard from Långström since then.

They where assingned directly under the army in Finlands command. Their irregular status is shown by the fact that they are referred to as ‘partisans’ (partigängare) by the Army commanding officer.

Looking at how a company was organised we can take a look at Långströms Company.
Långström got a comission to set up a free company in December 1710. Långström also recived 100 soldiers as a start, derived from different regiments. The company was supposed to solve its logistics by what they could salvage from the enemy. In truth they often ‘taxed’ the local farmers.

in August 1714 the company mustered:

  • Captain Långström12042668_10153101670202765_363814328433606790_n
  • one Lieutenant
  • Six NCO:s
  • one Companyscribe
  • one Corporal
  • one Drummer
  • 82 privates

All in all 93 men.

In April 1718 he had 60 men and 9 ‘that looked all to young’. Their age ranged between 14 and 40


That is a sweet deal!

The army found good use of its footdragoons but10563020_10152210569852765_7031327320711478832_n they had trouble enlisting people to the companies. In oktober 1712 Army chief Georg Lybecker complains that even if the Finnish farmers have the best circumstances in the world to become ‘snaphaunces’ (old Swedish term for partisans). But even though massive campaigns had been launched not one had taken the bait.
He had spoken to them “about the manliness of the footdragoons, how they attack the enemy and claim good loot. ”

They also got deals that was unheard of in the regular army.


  • Freedom to serve for as long as they them self wanted
  • Promises to belong to a company directly under the army chief
  • Their wifes and kids would have the free use of deserted homes for as long as the war lasted
  • They would never be ordered out somewhere unless they them self agreed to it (!)

The Footdragoons sure had a very special arrangement.


Uniform or not?

There is abit of confusion about if the unit used uniforms or not. On one hand some where regular Soldiers from the start. The officers most certainly HAD a uniform.
Långström complains Before the Norwegian Campaign that his mens uniforms ‘where not fit to represent the king in’. That may refer to uniforms in a wider meaning though, as in ‘working clothes’. The army quartermaster Frisenhielm arranges uniforms for them  (and that would most probably mean uniforms as in armyuniforms).

The only eyewitnesreport of footdragoons in action though states that they where ‘clad in simple grey broadcloth coats. Ragged and worn”.

Civilian clothing to the left, uniform of the Army to the right.

Civilian clothing to the left, uniform of the Army to the right.

Some finnish regiments had grey uniforms, as well as the artillery. But this was well known so they should have been referred to as in uniform then.

Not all units had to have uniforms. Stockholm citizen guards regiment was not obliged to have uniforms, even if it was encouraged. Perhaps it was the same with the footdragoons.

Most scholars, for example Anna Guttorp,  seems to think that the Footdragoons wore civilian clothes when out on missions, to melt in with the locals and easier escape detection. We also know that clothes was a common loot when they robbed peasants. Also Russian military clothes was captured. It seems possible these where taken to be used.

Perhaps it was a mix of uniforms, parts of uniforms and purely civilian clothes that was used.

“Långströms men killed 51 men, took 19 prisoners and 64 horses with tack. of other loot there was clothes and other” (February 1714)

When the farmers complained about Cpt. Långströms ‘taxations’ they report that he

“takes everything they have in the house and also hidden in the woods. He takes the clothes from our bodies and show no respect for our needs”

possibly they used uniforms when in encampment and other “official” duties and civilian when out. The very generous contracts they had suggests that they could pretty much be dressed as they liked and expect Little trouble….

Some missions, as examples.


1711 two parties was sent out to blockade the waters into Viborg castle.  Peter Långström had 100 men and Lt. Stigman had about 80 dragoons.  A Major Fraser had trouble with his part and said he could not possibly hold the blockade without artillery and he retreated after a skirmish that killed 20 of his men. Långström, instead of just holding his small islands captured two boats (Lodja) and took 21 prisoners1896745_10151909416307765_1173711342_n

1714, February, “Captain Långström have with 120 men  followed a russian force of 80. They killed 51, took 19 prisoners. Långström was ‘hurt’ and one officer (Kariander) and 8 men died.

1714, in the summer, two units of russian dragoons (around 120 men each) hunting for Lt. Sahlos unit, had the bad luck of running into Långströms company. 20 russians where killed and a couple of prisoners taken.

later that summer he was back in the archipelago and taking several lodjor loaded with supplies.

1714 Långström manages to capture the later famous Vitus Bering (that have given name to Berings straights) . He later manages to escape due to a traitor in Longströms own ranks…

these small actions where happening all the time and they seem to have had little or no rest. In november 1717 Långströms company follows the swedish army over to Sweden (the regular army left Finland 1714). Lasse Kärki with 60-80 footdragoons and Lorens Häikäläinen with 40 was left behind.

The Nils Muus raid was in harsh terrain

The Nils Muus raid was in harsh terrain

1718 in august, Långström is sent out to capture the Danish/Norwegian priest Nils Muus that was a vital part of the spynetwork in the area. Nills Muus was a high profile target so there is a lot of rumours about this raid. We can be sure that Långström got his man though as the Commander Armfeldt writes “now in this moment comes Cpt. Långström that has been sent out to collect a Norwegian priest Nils Muus in his home in Snasen”

1718, November, Långström leaves Melby with a letter to the king and 21 men in escort. He is recognised and rides into an ambush where he is shot dead.
With a silver bullet.

Footdragoons and the locals.

The relation to the local farmers was often very strained. The farmers feared the footdragoons as much as the Russians. If it wasn’t ‘taxation’ where the footdragoons took whatever they needed or wanted, those found, or even suspected, aiding a footdragoon was hanged and tortured. Most farmers ran or tried to hide when the footdragoons came a calling. Major Luukkoinen was concerned about the bad reputation they had and wrote to the Army chief that “they see us as little better then common robbers”.  The army chief responded that they had cause. The majors troops where being to rough with the locals.wp-1453995629470.jpg

the peasantry in Kajanaland wrote a desperate letter to the magistrate saying that two things was being their undoing. The enemy and captain Långström. The Russians plundering was a big problem but Långströms was far worse.

“Captain Långström treats us so very harsh that he dont just takes from us taxmoney, tithes and ‘gärden’ (another kind of tax) but also with a unchristian plundering and 20151029_113948whipping lets his men take everything that they find in the house, everything we have hidden in the woods, and clothes from our bodies without concerns for our needs, all the hay, all the sledges and tack for the horses, our only cows and sheep and cereals, which he eats or sell. He ties and violently abduct our only men….”

The letter did end up in an enquiry, but Långströms manages to die before it gets solved.

Anders Märäläin of Långströms company was so brutal and evil that after he drowned (when trying to cross a river on some logs) the parish priest was not sure he could be buried in consecrated earth. He had for example frightened some children to a farmer he extorted so badly they had run of into the woods and frozen to death.  there was also some acoints of sexual conduct that was not of the good kind and he also had tied and extorted money from a peasant as a fine for that the same peasant had stopped him from raping his sister inlaw.  On top of all he also had not taken the communion in three years.

But it also seems that hey collaborated with local farmers, or Sissar and Kivekääs. It is mentioned here and there that ‘The company with some Farmers’ has done this and that. so some was cooperative, or was forced to help either they wanted to or not.

If you like to read more, the book ‘Gerillakaptenen Peter Långström’ By Anna Guttorp et al is a perfect buy.

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The year of 2015

A year as a footdragoon

Yet another year has passed. The year 2015 came out 20150712_155515being quite adventurous for the 18:th century. We where out on several smaller outings and some longer. Some of the group was preoccupied with the Waterloo anniversary and therefore could not get out in the 18:th cent as much was they might have wanted.

The highlight was when we took three days to walk the Scand mountains. in the same area and at the same time the Swedish army entered on the 1718 Norwegian campaign. But there was also many small outings that helped us try out our gear throughout the year.


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To beard or not to beard

skäggBeards in the 18:th Century is a bit of a conundrum.

The fashion of the time was to be clean-shaven. But does that mean that everyone was?

Especially in the early part of the century the practise of shaving yourself had not quite caught on. The shaving was done by a barber, or possibly someone else that was skilled in the art. In the later part of 18:th century you start to see adverts for razors for the home. In 1770 French barber Jean-Jacques Perret (1730-1784) published a treatise called Pogonotomy, or The Art of Learning to Shave Oneself.

In civilised areas this was no big problem, in more remote areas, it could become one. Soldiers had the regimental barber that kept them up to reglemented standard.

The swedsih farmerclass

Carl von Linné remarks on his travels that ‘most farmers was bearded’, even noting some differences in different parts of the land. In the province of Scania they had no beard on the lip and throat, but on the cheeks and chin, indicating the shaving was indeed practised but that they choose to have a beard, even a fashioned one.

In early 18th century a book to show sweden and its history was printed. It is called “suecia antiqua et hodierna” and it has pictures of Castles, towns, interesting places and also of men. What is noticable is that almost all farmers are depicted with beards on these pictures. I choose three below, but it is easy to google up several more.

In later 18th century the farmers class representant to the king was painted in court with his magnificent beard (I have no picture of this painting alas…)

The same is true in Norway, who has a similar tradition to sweden.


Norwegian farmer


Swedish cartographers


The Guide of the Swedish Army in the baltic

Norwegians. Bergen

Swedish Farmers, Uppland

Swedish Farmers, Uppland

In 1764 the Danish king started a park with statues of his Norwegian subjects. It shows simple folks, Fishers, hunters, farmers as well as some more fashionable types. What is noticeable is the beards on many of them…..

11707851_905655969506170_6057920880095430023_n 11229898_905655312839569_7960143694536642321_n 11855762_905656142839486_88087110619784066_n 11836778_905654546172979_7747240414357662680_n 11825117_905655362839564_8676515887287708336_n norwegian early-18th-cent

The lack of beards in paintings from 18th Century only goes so far. Those that painted simple folks, did paint some beards. It is frequently pictured on poor or old, or poor and old people. There are some few examples of respectable men with facial hair, but I guess those could have been thought rather eccentric in their time.
Thomas Gent 1733) the-departure-of-the-poacher Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié the old beggar 18thc. pitocchetto

Now, on to myself and my reenacting.

Sometimes i sport a beard.. sometimes I dont.

Soldiers and beards

Soldiers in the Carolean army was to be cleanshaved or have a moustache in some cases (cavalry and possibly grenadiers). My Friend Dennis found that a Regiment of about 6000 men had three journeyman barbers and one master. They say a good barber lifts his knife four times during a shave. A very good one three. So, lets say these barbers take ten minutes per soldier (that allows time to sit and maybe chat abit) and them 5 soldiers an hour (it never goes smooth anyway). That is 35 soldiers on a 7 hour work, times four barbers. 140 soldiers a day. Now, many soldiers might be so young that they don’t even have a proper beard to shave. Lets say a third of the regiment is that young. That gives us 4000 soldiers to shave. But a regiment is seldom full, people die and get sick get lost and all sorts of things… lets say 1000 is not in current state to get shaved. 3000 beardos to get into regimental orders. That will get the barbers a turnaround of 21 days. But they cant work on Sundays so we add three extra days for the Sundays work lost. And lets round it up to 25 for a good measure. That will mean that a soldier might get a shave every 25 days if lucky.

But then we have not counted on the barbers that most probably have joined up in the baggagetrain. The Carolean army when marching out on the Russian campaign of 1707 manned about 44.000 to 60.000 men. All of which where bound by the regs to be shaved. My guess is that few ambitious barbers would not try and get a piece of that action.

Not a Regular soldier…

1896745_10151909416307765_1173711342_nI reenact a Footdragoon. A irregular soldier often fighting behind enemy lines. Many of these where little more then highway robbers even before they got recruited but it was certainly so that they where operating far from civilized areas.

The Army commander once complained in a letter to the king that he had sent captain Långströms footdragoons out on a mission and had since then not heard from them for six months. I Think that being this far out and in a society where beards for peasants was not uncommon, shaving would have been far down the necessity list. They are described as dirty and ragged in ripped clothes. Quite possibly they shaved when in the vicinity of the army headquarters, but out in the field, bearing in mind that self shaving was not the norm, one could expect them to be quite shaggy.

So, if you are reenacting a regular soldier, a townsman or a respected Citizen. Cleanshaved would be the most probable option. If you are something like me…. maybe a beard is actually more probable.

And here is a couple of other pictures of beards in the 18:th century:
pietro_bellotti_-_old_pilgrim Pietro_Bellotti_(attr)_Anaximander lepicie_nicolas_bernard John Worley, 1624-1721-1705 Jean-Etienne_Liotard_1741 Jan_Jozef_Horemans_Die_Schulklasse Giacomo_Ceruti_-_Encounter_in_the_Wood Giacomo_Ceruti_-_Beggar_Resting_-_WGA4661 Giacomo_Ceruti Giacomo Ceruti 2 E. Teach Ceruti_Autoritratto befdd8636f3de30bf8d2e2893edb30ca bearded man with a young girl  by Jacob Toorenvliet. 4345OP314AU7611 800px-Giacomo_Ceruti_-_Sleeping_Pilgrim_-_WGA04671

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