Friday, August 17, 2012

The state of yarn shops - Bergen

I never know quite what I will find when I head out of the country and in to local yarn shops. Perhaps it is because I am now a more experienced knitter, or perhaps it is because I work at a great yarn shop, but I find it is becoming increasingly hard to be excited about what I find.  I never buy "souvenir" yarn that I can get at home or easily buy on the internet, so with four really well stocked shops in my town, that obviously cuts down on what I am going to buy on vacation.

Bergen, Norway has some beautiful yarn shops, but they all seem to carry the same things.  Here is my summation - make of it what you will.  I made it to four shops that were the most convenient to my hotel and to other touristy things we were doing around Bergen.

Nilssen pa Bryggen
Bryggan 3
First up, Nilssen pa Bryggen, and despite the very obvious (look at the size of that font!) Strikkegarn on the front window, you won't find yarn when you go inside.  You will find lots of very touristy souvenirs, the ubiquitous machine knit Norwegian sweaters, and a few handknit selbu-type mittens.  Go to the back of the shop, look for an arrow pointing down some stairs, and head down into the basement. You will find Dalegarn, Rauma, Sandnes Garn, as well as some others.  The needles I found there were Knitter's Pride as well as what I recognized as Addi Turbos, but sold under a different name with different packaging. (Interestingly with their old metal-colored cables, which makes me wonder if they have EVER sold a needle in the past four years?) Notions were fairly inexpensive here, but nothing was inspiring.

This is probably the easiest shop to get to as a tourist - it is nearly the first building on the touristy Bryggen.  So, my advice is if you need needles or notions, this may be a good place for you.

Norwegian Spirit
Stromgaten 4
Next up is Norwegian Spirit. This will be particularly easy if you arrive by train because the shop is IN the train station.  You can buy beautiful handknit sweaters here - Norwegian in flavor, but contemporary in execution, as well as other handknit goods - especially hats and mittens. The shop carries Garnstudio (Drops), Lang, Dalegarn, Sandnes Garn, Hifa, Rowan and their own Norwegian Spirit. You will find Drops pattern books here, as well as Dale books, and the fashion knitting pattern books that I can't remember the name of now (but be assured they are written in Norwegian).

This shop had by far the greatest selection of different lines.  But since I was only interested in getting something that I couldn't get in the States (and I also did not want to buy yarn that was from Peru, because, I AM IN NORWAY!) I found two skeins of Hika 2 Ullgarn in light and dark grey. These two skeins are 100 grams each, and are destined to be colorwork hats for me and P.

Vaskerelven 15

Modellstrikk was near our hotel (and the art museum where we had an excellent but exorbitant lunch) and it was a lovely shop, stocked deep in each line they carried - I think they had every single color of Dale Baby Ull.  I also saw Garnstudio (Drops), and Sandnes Garn. (seeing a pattern yet?) I saw Drops pattern books and Dale pattern books as well, but that was it.  It was a beautiful little shop, but I didn't feel like it had anything "special" for me.  I bought some darning needles here.

Strandgaten 72
The last shop I visited was Strikkelykke - a beautiful boutique-type shop with an incredibly likeable name.  They carry beautiful yarn as well - can you say it with me? Dalegarn, Garnstudio (Drops), and Sandnes Garn.  Strikkelykke carried lots of colors of the limited yarn they carried, and I saw Dale pattern books as well as Drops pattern books. They had a great needle selection, and a small selection of silk ribbons, and carry-along metallics to spice up a project.  But again, eh, nothing that was particularly different.


So, I have to wonder, how do these shops stay in business?  I walked to all of them in one afternoon, and to my eye (a trained LYS worker, mind you) they carried the same things. Yes, Nillsen pa Bryggen was a step below the other three - and looked like an unrenovated Joann's if it was in a bomb shelter, but I was surprised by the lack of selection. It does make me wonder what the import tariffs are on non-Norwegian yarn, and why there was no handspun, local, or small studio yarn?  Everything is expensive in Norway, so I wonder if the expense of importing plus the expense of trying to do indie-work makes the entire prospect undesirable?  I found the same situation in New Zealand, (I did find more handspun there, but that may be expected because of the Ashford Spinning Wheel factory) and in Amsterdam and Bruges.

When I was doing my research on Bergen I found a shop called Malsen og Mor, which looks very interesting and promising, but it is an online only store. How sad!

I didn't have time to visit shops in Oslo, so I am not sure if there was a little gem of a shop somewhere in the capital. But when I was in Trondheim I visited three shops and all three carried the same yarns.  At this point I was really quite dejected and didn't even bother taking pictures. Yarn isn't hard to find in Norway - but finding yarn that excited me? That would be a great souvenir of Norway? That was a real challenge!


  1. Can't speak for Norway but handdying and selling IN brick and mortar stores is a pretty rare thing here. Speaking for Germany: very few people are willing to pay for handspun yarn, so yarnstores don't carry it and the contracts with the yarn producers are limiting as well....

  2. Interesting! We are spoiled here in our fair city/metro area with vibrant stores and knitters - I hardly ever try to find yarn stores on vacation now. But it is interesting that the same yarns pop up over and over - perhaps a different/traditional knitting culture, perhaps a tax/duty structure. More time for other sights, I guess. BTW - Enjoying your trip photos and stories from my armchair!

  3. oh! i was just in Nilssen pa Bryggen a few days ago. But I had no idea they actually sold any yarn or knitting accessories in the store. I'm afraid i just saw all the completed Norway/Dale of Norway sweaters and walked out. I'm staying in Stockholm for a month, and have already passed by one lovely yarn store in Gamla Stan--setting out to explore that more today ^_^

  4. I spent time in Bergen a few years ago and agree with this assessment but I hope things have changed because I'm returning in a few days' time. In fact I'll be in Bergen and Berlin so I'm hoping that if Bergen doesn't excite me with its wool then the wonderful German sock yarns and buttons etc will compensate. Getting addresses ahead of time in English is a challenge but I love to wander and discover gems by accident. Hopefully all airlines allow all knitting needles by now. I often complain about the yarn stops closing in my city but most people buy online so this is the result. Knitters should head to Tasmania, Australia.