The history of the Marius sweater

The Marius-sweater was designed in 1953 by Unn Søiland, and sold to Sandnes Wool factory in 1953 as a handknit-reciepe pattern. Today it is known as the bestselling and most knitted pattern in Norway. It is considered a Norwegian icon that says something about Norwegians' love for the outdoors in the free Norwegian nature.

The designer Unn Søiland made history by designing new patterns and used wool with bright colors, which was very unusual at the time, and this made "Norwegian sweaters" to great fashion, also abroad, - and "Norwegian sweaters" became an internationally popular concept.

Unn Søiland Dale received the King's Medal of Merit in gold for her lifelong pioneering work to develop Norwegian knitting traditions and design for hand-knitting and wool, and to make Norwegian wool fabrics popular internationally.

The book "To rette og en vrang" was released in 1994 which is about Unn Søiland's life as a designer and about all her patterns, where many today are considered as Norwegian classics. The book is made available here by courtesy of the author, Nanna Segelcke. You can read it here: «To rette og en vrang»

Later, two books were released that specialized in the history of the Marius pattern with many knitting patterns. In 2012 «Marius strikkebok" was published by Juritzen Forlag which printed nearly 115,000 copies. In 2014 the book "Marius Inspirasjon" was published by Tigerforlaget. This book has the largest and most detailed story of the Marius pattern, while having the most knitting patterns.

New, good old Marius sweater

Today the Marius sweater can be purchased in all major Husflid stores in Norway. It is knitted by Rauma Ullvarefabrikk, in contemporary thin, airy and strong wool yarn, in 100% fine wool yarn in many different colors. A product of the finest quality.


Scene from the Norwegian film Troll i ord, 1954, where all actors are wearing sweaters from Unn Søiland Design and Production. A Danish female star is wearing the Eskimo sweater and Marius Eriksen who is wearing a dark blue Marius sweater with white shoulders.

From Dagbladet in 1955. Fashion Reporter Love Yngve Andersen writes about the success of designer Unn Søiland and uses the image from the movie Troll i ord, with Unn Søiland's sweaters Geilo and Marius as images for the article.


Hand-knit pattern Slalom was the first pattern of this type that Unn Søiland designed for Sandnes Garn as a recipe. The sweater in red, white and blue, the Norwegian flag's colors, one year before the Marius sweater, to the World Championships in Skiing in Oslo in 1952. It is often confused with the Marius sweater.

Marius II, also designed by Unn Søiland. Created for the Norwegian skiing team for the World Championship in Oslo in 1954.


The book by the author Annicken Sibbern, who had collected hundreds of years of Setesdal knitting traditions and Fana patterns for this book in 1928, by assignment from Norsk Folkemuseum. This book became the basis for all women who knitted in Norway in the 1930's and during World War II from 1940 to 1945, when Setesdal patterns were very popular because they signaled Norwegian patriotism.


A version of the traditional Setesdal sweater (above), and the designed Marius sweater hand-knitted (below). Both sweaters are produced as exclusive hand-knits from Lillunn Sport a/s that was Unn Søiland's original company.

Unn Søiland was the first woman who was part of the Norwegian Industry Association, where she organized the women who knitted throughout Norway, and it was regarded as "home industry". Over the years she organized more than 1,000 Norwegian women to her production.

She developed a special manual for her hand-knitters, where she introduced measures, systematized techniques and equipment for hand-knitting. These manuals have since been copied by all wool manufacturers, and are today the basic instructions for all hand-knitted patterns.

She designed and produced hand-knits for the German Uli Richter. She designed patterns for American McGregor, and later in the 90s she designed the most exclusive hand-knits for French Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy and Castelbajac. She is the only Norwegian designer that has had hand-knits on french catwalks in Paris.

The quality of the handicraft in Unn Søiland's organised hand-knitting production, combined with her elegant designs, was one of the reasons that this became a big export item, and that the phrase «Norwegian Sweaters» have a high standing for most foreigners today.


The Marius sweater is regarded to be the most knitted sweater in Norway, and has become a Norwegian Icon. Here is a white version, poorly knitted as the neck should not cut down into the pattern. But handicraft like knitwear varies and depends on the skills of the one who is knitting, so this is not uncommon. But, Rosalynn Carter was probably happy for her sweater anyhow!


Scene from the Norwegian movie Troll i ord, in 1954, with Henki Kolstad in the leading role, in a Marius sweater, Inger-Marie Andersen as the leading female role wearing the Geilo sweater, and in the back in the sofa, Marius Eriksen, also in a Marius sweater. The Geilo sweater appeared in the English Vogue Fashion Forecast the same year.


Stein Eriksen, the older brother of Marius Eriksen, and the Gold Medal Winner in Slalom in the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 1952. Here photographed in Unn Søiland's Marius sweater, in a version with inverse colors, and in black/white/red. Knitted by the designer Unn Søiland's company Lillunn Sport a/s, which at that time sold to Eriksens shop in Oslo. Stein, who was most famous of the two brothers, could not be paid to model, as he could have risked to lose his amateur status in the Olympic Games. Therefore his brother Marius took the job. He was also an excellent skier, he was a war hero and actor in the film «Troll i ord», wearing Unn Søiland's sweaters. At the same time he gave his name to the sweater on the recipe to Sandnes Garn that same year. That is how the Marius sweater got its name, and that is how it became famous, because the film became a big success over the whole of Norway. Everyone wanted to knit Marius sweaters.


Unn Søiland, here photographed in the 90's, where she is wearing the Slalom design which is often mistaken for the Marius pattern.

Here is Marius Eriksen photographed again in one of Unn Søiland's designs, and this time with his wife Bente in an article about "after ski" fashion in the 50's.


Unn Søiland Dale's handwriting on copies of the patterns, where she explains what her pattern design is; The Marius pattern is to the right, and the traditional Setesdal pattern to the left, over the old Setesdal Lusekofte. Unn Søiland always said that the old Setesdal patterns inspired her to create the Marius pattern. She had, like most Norwegian knitters, knitted versions of Setesdal sweaters during the war, while she grew up on the West Coast. It was her design, the Marius pattern, in red, white and blue, which later became the most knitted and sold Norwegian pattern.


The Designer Unn Søiland shown in a review in Stavanger Aftenblad in 1958 which said "In the US they have something they call career women. Here in Norway we have Unn Søiland." Headlines such as "Selling sweaters for half a million kroner", "Large export of sweaters." Unn Søiland, with her business Lillunn Sport a/s was the largest private facilitator of Norwegian hand-knitted production.







New, good old Marius sweater

The Marius sweater is today produced by Rauma Ullvarefabrikk at Åndalsnes, in a contemporary thin, airy and strong wool yarn, in 100 % fine wool yarn in many different colors. A product of the finest quality. New old Marius sweater, a real Norwegian garment for generations..