Norlender: The Story of Ola


     Norlender only exists today because of one small purchase Ola Tveiten made in 1927. When a cousin told Ola, “People will always need clothes,” Ola went out and bought his first knitting machine (Ola certainly wasn't going to allow the future to be naked!). Now, Ola was a carpenter, and a man living in the 1920s, so he couldn't just start right up, getting all cozy with doilies in the basement where the knitting machine was kept. No! Ola had to work! But when Ola left for work, traveling all over the west coast of Norway, he told his sons, “make it work” (this was before Tim Gunn was even born).

 

     Well, the boys made the knitting machine work! Aged only 9 and 15, they tinkered and labored over that knitting machine until it was steaming up like a smoking hot Ferrari (also not born yet). With that, the family clothing business was off and running! But where was it running? It was off to make women’s cotton underwear! I know! The boys’ idea? We’re not sure. Luckily for the women of that time, mom was in charge of designing, cutting, and sewing the undies.

 

     The trouble with starting your own family factory in your basement though is that you usually have no idea what you’re doing! There are going to be all these awkward batches of knitwear. You’ll have underwear that look like clouds and ones that look like bunnies. It was hard for Ola’s family but eventually they figured out how to stop doing things that were weird and did more and more things that were really great. Things went so well in fact that they started selling wholesale to places like Bergen and Oslo (the ones you can actually see on a map)!

 

     Now with all those wholesale orders, you can imagine the little knitting machine-that-could is getting pretty tired. Ola’s knitting empire had outgrown the basement. Don’t we all? Now we need a farm, a building to put on the farm, some more machines, and some more girls (those always help). With all that stuff, things are going really well! Now how about we add a war and we take away all the yarn?


    Wait, what? A war? Oh yeah. You know 1940-45. The sweet spot as no one says. Poor Ola! On top of all the strife of having humanity trying to obliterate itself and being occupied by the worst rulers ever, the yarn market is just non-existent. But as we all know, beneath the market is another market. We shall call this market, “contacts.” Ola used his “contacts” and sometimes yarn would make itself available. The precious knitwear that came from these rare opportunities then had to be spread as thinly as possible to provide for all the customers, just like King Solomon did with that baby. 

 

     Visionary that he was, Ola didn't spend all those years just listening to the shells rattle. He was busy thinking about a bigger and better factory. He didn't want to go too far though. Just Hosanger. You know, down by the sea. By 1947, Ola’s dreams were realized and the brand new factory was ready to start production. Ola wasn't the only one who loved his dear factory either. The women of the town swooned and fell over themselves to work there as it was light and warm, clean and merry, and it had flushing toilets. This factory was very popular with the ladies.

 

      Those boys who started Ola’s first knitting machine didn't stay boys though. Shaped by the ruckus and upheaval of a chaotic yarn economy, the boys became men in charge of running a factory. And now that the two boys were men, they were slightly more mature. They thought, I guess we can make more than just women’s underwear. The clothing range was expanded so that it also kept men, children, and babies from being naked. Wouldn’t Ola be proud? For fifty more years, people always needed clothes.

 

     But the underwear gods are very capricious. Things were going too smoothly at the Hosanger factory they felt. There was no war. There were very few entertaining logistical errors. The gods wanted to see drama! The underwear gods were bored, which also made them vengeful. The underwear gods considered sending a flood to the factory, but that had been done before and seemed unimaginative. What about a plague? Goodness! These underwear gods couldn't think of anything new. Finally, exhausted from their strenuous brainstorming, they resigned themselves to slowly encouraging other factories to flourish in outside countries were labor was so cheap workers were compensated in crackers. Economists have the tendency to call this competition because they are clueless and don’t understand how underwear gods work. By the 1990s, cotton was being produced for next to nothing in these foreign factories, and Ola’s dream was in jeopardy of dying.

 

      The sheep gods, however, took pity on Ola’s descendants. The sheep gods told the family to gather heavier flat-knitting machines to start a new production line, and that if they did this, they would be bountiful again. The gods then sent sheep pheromones to the nearest farms so they could use all the best organic local wool. It was a miracle! Under the label Norlender, the business began once again to thrive! The wool was warm and stayed dry in wet conditions. It made wonderful sweaters, gloves, and more. With Ola’s granddaughter at the helm, they made knitwear with beautiful designs based on the rich heritage of Norwegian knitting. And, best of all, each piece of knitwear could still be made with lots of sheep and human love, just like they were in 1927.  

 

      By the 2010s, Norlender knitwear was available for purchase on the internet at Sweater Chalet’s website, and people from all around the world could have their own piece of human and sheep love made in Hosanger, Norway by the lovely local people who live there. They want to thank you because every purchase you make supports woolens made in small batches in small factories by loving families among the mountains and fjords of Norway.

 

All is well for Norlender as men, women, and children, all love wearing clothes to this day.