The Vikings weren't afraid of color in their clothing.

Viking clothing – a brief history and an upcoming opportunity

We frequently receive questions about Viking-era clothing. So we took this opportunity to ask guest blogger and Nordic Roots educator Kari Tauring to clarify what the Vikings really wore (hint: The folks at the History Channel have really taken some liberties in their conception of the era’s clothing) and to share an opportunity for a unique workshop on historical clothing.

Cultural identity for a Norwegian-American generally relies on a few easily identifiable things. We eat potato lefse, wear Norwegian sweaters, and say Uff Da in the appropriate places.  These were things I took for granted, until I was preparing to go on my adventure to Gudvangen, Norway to become part of the Viking Market last Summer. As part of the village, I needed food, clothing, and accessories that would have been able to exist between 750 and 950 ACE. Well, immediately that leaves out potato lefse!

I began to go to the Dragtuvlag (Folk Costume Club) at the Danish American Center where I knew there were wise women with books that could help me figure it out. Additionally, Kelsey Patton was part of the group and she had been doing Viking re-enactment for several years. The first meeting I brought my basket of material and asked, “Would this work? Would this work?” I have to say that this experience led to something of an identity crisis. They didn’t have fast black dye at that time so no black wool is allowed. They also didn’t have the bright red dye. So in essence, the Norwegian national costume of black wool skirt and red wool vest was completely out!

“Well at least I can wear my Norwegian sweater,” I said. There was a sort of sad and uncomfortable look on the faces staring back at me. Then Kelsey revealed that they, didn’t have sweaters. There was no knitting, only nålbinding, and there is no evidence of making garments larger than mittens, hats, and neck warmers with this technique.

Honestly I had to sit down. They stayed warm with their wool garments, coats and shawls. I suppose I should have realized that these Norwegian identifiers didn’t exist at that time, after all, it wasn’t even called Norway at that time! What I found out was that my pale green, bright pink, and indigo blue were favorite colors of the Viking Era, for men and women both! There is a huge array of yellows, reds (but not the bright vest red), oranges, blues, and greens to choose from. This was actually a very colorful time!

I made an un-dyed linen særk (shirt – with length its a shirt dress) and a green hangerok (apron dress) with a pink open front apron dress for “fancy” wear. In addition, Kelsey made me a green wool “kaftan coat” from some beautiful material a friend gave me. This and a pair of leather slippers I found at Savers and I was ready to go. The only thing left was for me to figure out how to say Uff Da in Old Norse (there is no direct equivalent!) I wound up wearing the apron dress with other tops and linen pants underneath throughout my whole five weeks in Scandinavia. I wear it as a skirt some times too. It’s such a convenient and attractive garment that I made a second one in a darker green and wear it often (sometimes even with my Norwegian sweater).

The Vikings weren't afraid of color in their clothing.

Sonja Lidsheim and Kari Tauring at the Summer Market in Gudvangen, Norway.

Kari in regalia at the Hjemkomst Viking Center in Moorehead, Minnesota.

Kari in regalia at the Hjemkomst Viking Center in Moorehead, Minnesota.

I am complimented on these garments so often that I wanted to support a workshop with Kelsey (who since moved back to her home town in Nebraska) so that others can learn how to make them, what kind of seam treatments they had back then, and really get into the mindset of our deep ancestors of the Northlands. The særk is such a basic garment that it dates from the Bronze Age and has remained basically un-changed into the Immigrant Era. Similarly, the apron dress has a timeless look and can be worn effectively for any era.

Let me assure you that I went into this process only having the basic sewing skills taught to me thirty some years ago by my mother and my Junior High Home-Ec teacher. But working with the linen weave, working with the wool, thinking about what it took to create a full garment nearly 2,000 years ago, really put me into deep respect and communion with my ancestors that no amount of lefse could ever achieve. I want to invite you all into this magical world the weekend of April 24 and 25. Details below!

– Kari Tauring

Please click here for a poster and details of the Viking Costume Weekend:

Viking Costume Poster (1)


Ingebretsen’s – A Perfect Backdrop for Norwegian Television

Sapmi-1NRK Sápmi Reporter Berit Solveig Gaup fits SSNA Chair John Edward Xavier with a handmade Sami tie while NRK Sápmi photographer Vanja Ulfsnes tapes the goings on.

With thanks to our guest blogger, Anessa Andersland…

In February, Ingebretsen’s was host to the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and the Sámi Siida of North America. NRK Sápmi was in Minnesota to report on how Sámi Americans celebrate Sámi National Day, as well as to tape other stories about Sámi Americans.

The visit was in the works since last autumn, when NRK Sápmi approached the Siida about covering Ingebretsen’s own Sámi Day on the first Saturday of December. Julie Ingebretsen and Carstens Smith graciously agreed to the filming on a busy holiday weekend, but NRK needed to reschedule the date.

Plans were then made to cover the Twin Cities Duodji Group celebratory gathering for Sámi National Day.  Duodji is the Sámi term for crafts that are useful as well as have an artistic aesthetic.   The Duodji Group was started by Marie Kvernmo, who visited Minnesota for several months in 2014. Marie Kvernmo is a performance artist and a duojar (craftswoman) who holds a master’s in indigenous studies.  Siida Chair John Xavier states, “Marie Kvernmo has had a major impact on our communities in Sámi North America, and has helped us all in our efforts to be social with each other and to do such as wood-carving, knitting, weaving, and so much more.”


Berit Solveig Gaup takes a brief break from reporting to participate in the Duodji Group with Evelyn Ashford

Ultimately, the segment for Sámi Day was taped the day before the officially celebrated day due to the time difference and the need to have a produced segment on television the next day.  The NRK Sápmi team, Monica Falao Pettersen, Berit Solveig Gaup, and Vanja Ulfsnes, worked into the night to produce their news stories so that their coverage on television, radio, and online news would appear the next day.


Twin Cities members of the Sámi Siida of North America took a turn with their camera and captured (from left) Berit Solveig Gaup, Monica Falao Pettersen, and Vanja Ulfsnes.

Carstens Smith was on hand to provide Ingebretsen’s hospitality, and the journalists from Norway couldn’t have been nicer. It was a winning combination! “Once more” John Xavier states, “Ingebretsen’s has reached out to the larger Nordic communities. Here we had a major effort by NRK to relate the various s stories of Sámi in North America. Giitu (thanks) to both Ingebretsen’s and NRK Sápmi.”  You can view the final product of NRK’s visit to Ingebretsen’s here after the eight minute mark:

-Anessa Andersland

Swedish meatballs with slaw

Bits, Bites, and 1500 tiny Swedish Meatballs – Ingebretsen’s at the Food&Wine Experience 2015

Photo courtesy of MInnesota Monthly

The 2015 Minnesota Monthly Food&Wine Experience at Target Field.

Participants tasting curry

People at the Food&Wine Experience didn’t hesitate to try Ingebretsen’s offering of yellow pea coconut curry with fried lefse strips .

In a total of 8 hours over 2 days, the intrepid cook and servers behind the Ingebretsen’s table at the Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience served 6,000 people a variety of foods, including 1500 Swedish meatballs and 186 cups of soup.

Guest sampled Swedish meatballs with orange zest and ginger on a bed of quick-pickled slaw, Nordic Cool smӧrgås, yellow pea coconut curry with crispy-fried lefse, and tempura-fried pickled herring with lingonberry hot sauce. (For recipes, click here.)

Patrice Johnson

Patrice Johnson developed the recipes for the Food&Wine event, cooked, served, and remained smiling throughout the process.

“The event was awesome,” said Patrice Johnson. “People lost their minds over the meatballs and herring!”  Patrice created the recipes and oversaw the preparation and service. “We had a steady stream of people coming to the table. It was a little slow at first when we were serving the tempura pickled herring, then the word got out that it was good. People started coming to the table asking, ‘Are you the herring table?’ and taking a sample.”

sliced veg

Vegetables ready for quick pickling.

Swedish meatballs with slaw

The end result: Swedish meatballs with ginger and orange on a bed of quick pickled vegetables

People who attend the Food & Wine Event are generally an adventurous lot when it comes to flavors and combinations, so only a few questioned why Asian influences were paired with Nordic foodstuffs. But adding new twists to old favorites is an idea as old as the Vikings, who made use of the foods they encountered on their raids and explorations.

A much more recent example is curried fishballs (fiskeboller), now considered a “comfort food” in Denmark. According to Danish chef and food writer Trine Hahnemann, an English curry blend was popularized in Denmark around 1935 and combined with classic meatballs and gravy. The varieties of meatballs expanded, including vegetarian versions with lentils and root vegetables starting in the 70s.

“When someone approached me with a ‘This doesn’t look like Scandinavian food’ comment, I reminded them that across Scandinavia, just as in the East Lake Street neighborhood where Ingebrestsen’s is located, we greet many new immigrant neighbors every single day. Taking old immigrant ingredients and updating them with new immigrant flavors honors both communities and tells a new story of immigration,” says Patrice.

zested oranges

Denuded oranges, after contributing their zest to the meatball mix.

But does one really need a reason for adding orange zest and ginger to the Ingebretsen’s Swedish meatball mix besides it’s tasty and fun to try?  Most people at the Food & Wine Experience weren’t concerned about the sociological implicatons of bahn-mi-inspired slaw with their meatballs. They simply enjoyed good food and great flavors and in the spirit of another great Minnesota food enthusiast, Andrew Zimmern, they were willing to try the new and unknown. We hope you’ll do the same.

yellow pea coconut curry

Yellow-pea coconut curry with crisp fried lefse

The Tiny Wish – Anja’s Adventures Continue

Anja's adventures continue with The Tiny Wish.

Anja’s adventures continue with The Tiny Wish.


Children’s literature has a rich tradition of stories of very tiny people looking at our world from a very different vantage point. Scandinavian authors have contributed some of the most beloved fairytales of this type. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, Thumbelina, and Children of the Forest all come to mind. Now there is The Tiny Wish to add to that list.

The Tiny Wish chronicles the summer adventures of Anja. Anja first appeared in The Christmas Wish, a story of an adventurous little girl who goes in search of Santa Claus. Along the way, she is helped by, and helps, Arctic animals as she travels the snowy far north.

Anja’s new adventures take place among green grass and moss and flowing streams. She is playing hide-and-seek, unsuccessfully, with her cousins. She wishes she were tiny so she wouldn’t be found so easily. Her wish is granted and Anja’s explorations of her familiar world, now filled with gigantic, meal-sized strawberries, and birds that can take your for a ride, are joyful and engaging.

Anja envied the  butterflies and birds as they swooped over the mountains and valleys.

Anja envied the butterflies and birds as they swooped over the mountains and valleys.

Lori explains the inspiration for the tale: “I became enamored of the idea of tiny worlds when I began to visit Norway almost 30 years ago and started hiking in the mossy forests there. I love to imagine exploring the lush microworlds of a patch of moss, or in the crack of a giant boulder. The idea of The Tiny Wish was born the summer after we started shooting The Christmas Wish; Anja was playing in her grandmother’s garden in Norway with a tiny doll that resembled her, and she put a leaf of lady’s mantle on the doll for a hat.”

The home of Anja’s Norwegian grandmother, Per Breiehagen’s mother, inspired the adventures in the story. Lori says, “The cousins in the book are Anja’s real cousins, and the horse is Per’s mom’s next-door-neighbor’s horse. We are so fortunate to have so many amazing resources like those and the architecture and landscapes that inspire these books.” Per’s photography showcases the beauty of the landscape without ever losing the importance of our heroine’s actions. This makes the story accessible to a wide age-range of children.

Every page shows Anja having an adventure, which engages children who can listen and follow a story line. But those of us who read to squirmy little people who have no patience for text can engage them by looking for details, such as the butterflies that appear throughout the book or finding the reindeer antlers mounted on the front of buildings.

Birds and squirrels play an important role in the story. Unlike Anja, who takes direction well according to her mother, the wildlife wasn’t as compliant.

“The squirrel was the most difficult animal to photograph. Per’s mother cuts bread, saves scraps and buys seed for the birds, squirrels and deer, so these animals visit her yard all day every day. Per had to be very patient with that young squirrel, even more so than with the birds, because the squirrel was skittish and fearful,” says Lori.

Anja and her mother share ideas for the book.

Lori and Anja working on the manuscript for The Tiny Wish at the family cabin in Raggsteindalen. Photo by Per Breiehagen.

Anja was more than a model for the pictures; she actively contributed to the creation of the story. When the family went on hikes to shoot for the book, mother and daughter took their own photographs alongside Per, and would reference those photos later as they worked on the story. While all of the adventures look like great fun if one could really become tiny, the one that appeals most to Anja is “flying on the bird’s back, because I would love to fly like a bird, and that is something I could never do in real life.”

If you’d like to meet the creative family behind The Tiny Wish, Anja, Lori, and Per will be at Ingebretsen’s this Saturday, February 14 from 1 to 3. If you would like a signed book, they will be available for purchase or you may bring a previously purchased book with an Ingebretsen’s receipt.

– Carstens Smith

Anja with her father explore the forest.

Per and Anja shooting ferns in the woods near Per’s mother’s home in Hallingdal, Norway. Photo by Lori Evert.

Sámi Day at Ingebretsen’s, a Twin Cities Tradition

Join us this coming Saturday, December 6, from 11 to 3.

Sámi Siida of North America is so thankful for Ingebretsen’s support over the years, including our annual winter gathering at their store right before the holidays!  This year, our focus will be on traditions.

Our special guest will be Marie Kvernmo from Sápmi. Marie, a member of the Sámi Jienat Choir, is a talented singer and will present a program on Yoik, the traditional vocal music expression of the Sámi. She will present her program at 11:30a.m.

Over the past year, Ingebretsen’s has participated in the tradition of duodji (traditional artistic handcrafts with a purpose) by hosting a variety of classes on Sámi mitten knitting by Laura Ricketts.  Throughout the day, duodji will be on display in the Ingebretsen’s classroom along with general information about Sámi culture. Authors’ Publisher books will be provided as door prizes. Kurt Seaberg’s calendars will be available for purchase, as well as other Sami themed items.

A sampling of the mittens knit during Laura Rickett's class.

A sampling of the mittens knit during Laura Rickett’s class.

We invite folks of all ages to come and visit. Buresboahtin! (Welcome!)

– Anessa Andersland, Community and Culture Representative

[The Sámi, are the indigenous people of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. This area is called Sápmi .Today, there are approximately 80,000 Sámi living in Sápmi.]

The many traditional patterns reflect a rich tradition.

The many traditional patterns reflect a rich tradition.

Smör, ost och sill bord (butter, cheese and herring table)

This post is courtesy of Patrice Johnson, friend of Ingebretsen’s and valued guest blogger.  Enjoy!

Patrice Johnson

Minnesota was once host to several smörgåsbord restaurants before 1970s trends changed the supper club and dining scene. Remember the Jolly Troll? I don’t remember the food or the buffet, but I do recall pressing my nose up against the glass to watch the animated trolls that served as the décor.

Smörgåsbord translates to “sandwich table” or “bread and butter table” and is the obese grandchild of a fashionable grandmother known as the brännvinsbord (the burning wine table or spirits table). In the 1700s the brännvinsbord was popular with wealthy Swedes who served the appetizer buffet before elaborate banquets. The table was laden with bread and butter, salted and cured fish, meat, cheese, beer and aquavit. Guests served themselves and stood as they ate, drank, and socialized.

During the 16th and 17th Centuries it became common to present all food to be served during the meal on the table upon eating commencement (not unlike what we refer to as service family style). The modern smörgåsbord spread from these customs during the 1880s when travel by train increased as did the need for lodging and public dining. Moreover, new methods in food preservation allowed an abundant feast where out-of-season delicacies appeared alongside seasonal specialties. The popularity of smörgåsbord grew until WWII when, due to food shortages, the government prohibited it. Reinstituted in 1949, several decades passed before the smörgåsbord was again a national activity.

Now that I am an adult I am a stickler for smörgåsbord tradition. There must be a first course table with what I call the big money items: assorted herring dishes, gravlax and poached salmon, shrimps, boiled potatoes with dill, cheese, pickles, bread and crispbread (knäckebröd), all washed down with beer and shots of aquavit. The second course table includes cold dishes such as cold cuts, sausages, ham, pâtés, and salad. The third course table is known as the hot course and often includes meatballs, seasonal roasts, and Jansson’s Temptation (a potato, onion, and sweet anchovy casserole also known as Janssons frestelse). Lingonberries and warm vegetables also make appearances. Beer and aquavit continue to flow until the final table is visited. The final course is a dessert table loaded with an assortment of pastries, cakes, puddings, cookies, fruits, and occasionally cheese. This is also the time for a sobering cup or two of coffee.

(A gentle word on behavior I’ve witnessed at local smörgåsbord events: there are rules to be followed. Please change your plate for each new course. Do not overlap courses. Do not load your plate. As I mentioned, I am a bit of a stickler.)

Brännvinsbord  is alive today in that first big money course of smörgåsbord. Often referred to as Smör Ost och Sill Bord (butter, cheese and herring table), this unique spread can make your next brunch or cocktail party fun and unique. An updated SOS table perfect for entertaining and adapts well to seasons.

Spring is coming, I promise, and my spring SOS table will include pickled asparagus and ramps, boiled eggs with lemon and chive mashed yolks and caviar-topped, at least two kinds of pickled herring, gravlax kissed with beets, dilled new potatoes and cucumber salad, cheese and accoutrements, and local beer and Gamle Ode aquavit. The focus of my spring SOS will be small pots of brandade to be spread on good rye bread. The promise of this meal has me powering through lent.

Think of brandade de morue as fish and chips Provencal. Brandade is a puree of reconstituted salted cod, potato, and aromatics. It is especially popular in regions where commercial salt cod is available, such as in the Mediterranean. Home-salted cod is a satisfying substitute, and happily this simple yet glamorous dish plays well with Scandinavian flavors.

Serve the pots hot with bread or crackers or spread the pâté uncooked over crostini, garnish with the almonds and herbs, bake 10 minutes, and then pass a serving tray among your cocktail party guests. For a less formal snack, roll chilled brandade into balls and coat with egg wash and bread crumbs, then fry.

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Brandade Recipe

Servings: 12


1 pound cod
1 cup Kosher salt if making your own salt cod.
4 cups almond milk
Zest from two lemons and one orange
Fresh cracked pepper
Three sprigs thyme or dill, plus more for garnish
1 small white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed but not minced
1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg plus more for garnish
1/2 to 3/4 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 to 3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or cream
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice from half a lemon

¾ cup sliced almonds
1 lemon, seeded and cut into 12 pieces

1 orange, seeded and cut into 12 pieces

1. Cover fresh cod completely in salt and refrigerate 24 to 48 hours if making your own salt cod. Soak in clear water if using salt cod. Soak 24 to 48 hours in the refrigerator. Change the water 2 to 3 times.

2. Remove cod from refrigerator and rinse very well with cold water; pat dry with paper towels.

3. Add milk, zest, pepper, thyme or dill, onion, garlic, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg to bread loaf pan; place in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Add cod to hot milk and return to oven. Oven-poach fish for 10 to 12 minutes or until flaky and tender.

4. While cod poaches, cook potatoes in unseasoned water until tender; drain. Push cooled potatoes through ricer or food mill.

5. Remove cod from poaching liquid and cool. Remove any bones and skin; flake flesh as fine as possible.

6. Combine potatoes and cod; add eggs and mix well. Fold in olive oil and lemon juice.

7. Divide mixture evenly into 12 buttered ramekins. Garnish each ramekin with 1 tablespoon of almonds, thyme or dill, and nutmeg. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with lemon and orange wedges and thin slices of toasted bread.


–Patrice Johnson

Generations of Quality

The magnificent silver brooches you see women wearing with their bunads, the Norwegian national costumes, are called sølje. The dangling spoons were once thought to deflect evil from the wearer; they protected one from trolls and other dangers, especially in times of transition. It was a loving gift to babies and brides.

Round Sølje Brooch

Round Sølje Brooch

Elisabeth Sleire-Gjerde, silversmith and a representative of Silver of Norway, one of our sources for jewelry, will be at Ingebretsen’s on Thursday, March 20 from 10 am to 2 pm. We appreciate her coming to the store, especially because we can’t imagine leaving a home as lovely as she describes.

Elisabeth i bunad

Elisabeth says, “I am the fourth generation goldsmith, working together with my mom. We design and handcraft all of our design jewelry, in our workshop in Norway. I am 40-years old, have three children and married to my husband, Thomas. We live in the countryside, with a small mountain behind our house, and a beautiful fjord as our view from the house. My mom and dad have a house right next door to us.”

This idyllic setting surely must inspire Elisabeth and her mother as they design and craft sølje. She shared some background on making this traditional jewelry:

The other characteristic of sølje, besides the spoons, is the intricate silver filigree work. Filigree is thin silver treads combined together in different designs and techniques. A filigree worker may work with silversmiths, goldsmiths or in separate workshops.

In Norway, we associate filigree with the Sølje for the national costumes. However, filigree is also used in other jewelry, such as bracelets, necklaces and earrings. The technique has been used for thousands of years, especially in Asia and the Latin countries.

Filigree artisans need the ability of accuracy, the good touch and good vision. We consider our work important; we are protecting our inheritance ad our culture. A filigree worker should have good knowledge of the filigree history, and our nation’s history.

Elisabeth has much more to share about sølje. Please stop by and chat with her this Thursday and learn more about the rich heritage of Norwegian silversmithing.