Emma Jacobsson organized the Bohus Knitting project in 1939 to create job opportunities for the women in the stone quarrying districts of Bohuslän in Sweden.
Unemployment was rampant among local stonemasons, and their families were in need of financial relief. Emma, who happened to be the Governor’s wife, wanted to help, so, in the fall of 1939 the association of Bohus Knitting was established.
Knitting in Bohuslän
There was no tradition of knitting in Bohuslän when Emma Jacobsson started the project. She happened to be a talented designer trained as a botanist and art historian who hired several professional artists to help her design and create the unique patterns. The Bohus Knitting project became world-famous for producing designs of the highest quality, usually knit with Angora wool, which explains the fuzzy surface.
The Bohus sweater collection was only available as ready-made garments that were sold in a few select stores in Sweden and abroad. Patterns and yarns were only made available for sale to knitting enthusiasts after the project ceased in 1969.
The Bohus Project
The project was based in Gothenburg, and the yarns and patterns were distributed to knitters who lived in Northern Bohuslän. The finished sweaters were returned to Gothenburg for inspection before being shipped to upscale stores in major cities.
Knitting lessons and instructions were required of everyone who participated in the project. It not only guaranteed the quality of the finished sweaters but helped to build a strong social network among the knitters. One of the popular benefits of participating in the project was the week-long vacation away from home; a concept that was foreign, but welcomed by rural women at the time.
The quality of Bohus knitwear attracted attention far beyond Sweden’s borders. Upscale department stores in the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, France, and Denmark also sold these distinctive sweaters.
In the 1950s, the project was at the height of its production. Whenever Swedish handicrafts were shown internationally, Bohus Knitting was always included. Bohus became a well-respected craft and a sweater or twinset was a must for the well dressed ladies wardrobe.
The End of the Bohus Project
Jacobsson closed Bohus Knitting in 1969. The Swedish economy had improved; women had more options for better paying jobs and the designs had become so complex that many knitters found them hard to duplicate. Also, the popularity of cheaper, synthetic yarns were beginning to revolutionize the market.
Bohus designs aren’t as popular as other types of stranded color work and innovative new Bohus designs are hard to come across. But, I hope that the spirit of Bohus Knitting continues to live on.
Sticks & String,