Posted in Knitting
July 10, 2009

Queen Sophie and the forbidden knitting

Ok, I admit it, I am officially fascinated and on the trail of this story now. Having read in Nordicfibregirl’s profile on Ravelry that “I grew up in Denmark, where King Christian IV once outlawed knitting. It made women too ‘dreamy’! His own mother would sneak out of the castle with only 1 of her ladies in waiting — imagine the hardship! — and row to her private island to knit in secret.” I need to know more! It’s the former history major in me.

Who was Christian IV of Denmark’s mother? She was Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow, quite an educated woman for her time, and rich to boot!

She was engaged in a power struggle with the Regents of Denmark and The Council of State, which had Christian declared of age in 1593. Sophie only gave up her position the following year, 1594. As such, she came into conflict with the government, which expelled her to the palace of Nykøbing Slot on the island of Falster. She spent her time there in the study of chemistry, astronomy and other sciences.

The Dowager Queen Sophie managed her estates in Lolland-Falster so well that her son had to borrow money from her on several occasions for his warfares. She was also engaged in large-scale trade and money-lending.

Her daughter Anne went on to become the queen consort of England. Anyone have a source for the knitting story? I know how she felt, sometimes I want to row to an island somewhere and do nothing but knit, too.

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  • jonquil

    i have always loved the name sofie/sophia & here is another reason to continue! i would love to read a biography of her.

    Reply to jonquil
  • tina

    I have two large paddles, lets go—- (very interesting post btw)

    Reply to tina
  • mary lou

    Former history major here,too. Great story. i’d love to find out more.

    Reply to mary lou
  • Lisa-Jean

    You really are a history geek. It’s fabulous! (says the woman reading the history of women and the whaling industry in Southeastern Massachusetts).

    Can you imagine the tasks at hand for a lady in waiting to a knitting Dowager Queen? …you there, untangle that Seasilk, and when you are finished, I’d like this alpaca in a darker shade of brown.

    Reply to Lisa-Jean
  • Kathy Sue

    Danish friend says he wouldn’t doubt that it is true. King Christian IV meddled in just about everything! It is interesting that there are so many creative knitters in Denmark today, as well as Sweden and Norway.

    Reply to Kathy Sue
  • Post authorShannon

    Lisa-Jean, I am laughing my head off at that!

    “And when you’re done untangling that skein, go get me another set of circulars, this one’s connector is all funky.”

    Reply to Shannon
  • Nordicfibregirl

    Hi Shannon,
    I was born in Denmark and went to school there for a few years before moving to Canada, but my source for the knitting story about King Christian IV is from British author, Rose Tremain, in her book ‘Music & Silence’. You may have seen the film ‘Restoration’ based on her book of the same title. I was so taken by this story about outlawing knitting in Denmark, of all places, where everyone knits.
    The fact that the King felt it made women ‘too dreamy’ really resonated with me because I love the meditative quality of knitting. If I’m overwhelmed or depressed, knitting is a dependable way to restore my normally positive outlook. Is it possible that it releases serotonin in the brain?? Someone should look into that.
    I have heard this story about King Christian IV verified elsewhere but can’t recall at this moment. Would be fun to find Ms Tremain’s source.

    Reply to Nordicfibregirl
  • Lisa

    Very interesting! I am a big fan of historical fiction and, of course knitting. Would love to know more about this woman and her knitting. I can just imagine her saying, “just one more row”. 🙂

    Reply to Lisa
  • orangehall

    I’m teaching Music and Silence at the moment and my search for whether or not there was any factual basis for the knitting ban in the story led me to this site. Shame you haven’t found any answers yet either!

    I did find lots of fabulous pictures of “guerilla knitting” on my travels though, so it hasn’t been a wasted journey.

    Reply to orangehall

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