Photo by Salt Water New England

Monday, September 6, 2021

How Do Devold of Norway's Classic Birdseye Fisherman Sweaters Compare to L. L. Bean’s?

Photo by Salt Water New England
A thick and hearty Devold Nordsjø classic birdseye sweater in Off White, from Arthur Beale.  Pure Norwegian Wool.

 A Reader Question:

Dear Muffy, 

I was curious if your readers had any experience with Devold Sweaters?  One would think that L.L. Bean had invented the Norwegian Birdseye Sweater, but there appears to be several others that had come before them.  I have been hearing a lot about Devold, based in Norway, and specifically that the quality is much higher.  I have been less than thrilled with the Bean version.  Any thoughts?


 

13 comments:

  1. I wear both; the LL Bean version is old, from the 80s; the Devold sweater is a few years old.

    The old Bean Norwegian was a different sweater than the one available today. Mine is 80% wool/20% rayon (a bit scratchy) and has a very roomy fit - arms are very wide. today, they’re 100% wool, the fit is more narrow, particularly the sleeves and neck. I tried on the new ‘heritage’ version to compare. Both made in Norway.

    The Devold ‘Islender’ sweater has softer, thicker wool and weave than the Bean. The only color available at the time was cream-colored wool with the pattern in a grey/black color, and the pattern is a mix of Birdseye and squares. The wool panels are sewn together with a machine - it’s ‘designed and developed’ in Norway but manufactured in Lithuania, according to the tag. I prefer the Devold sweater.

    I don’t have personal experience with the brand, but Dale of Norway appears to make high-quality traditional Norwegian sweaters, at least one with a Birdseye-type pattern but with some other details around the yoke. Might also be worth a look.

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  2. I have two of the Bean sweaters; one is a roomy vintage model and one is a much more recent model. Andrew is right about the fit. The older sweater is made of more substantial material and is roomier but the newer model fits me a bit better. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet but I have been considering the Norlender “Svalbard” sweater… perhaps it is an alternative to consider in addition to the Devold?

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  3. The narrative speaks of 'Pure Norwegian Wool,' but I'm pretty certain that no wool is actually grown in Norway.

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    1. Wool is sheared from sheep, not grown, and Norway has, by conservative estimates, a few million sheep.

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    2. Can't wool be grown on sheep and subsequently sheared from sheep, similar to hair????

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    3. There was a little known attempt to produce wool without sheep in the early 18th century in Germany. The general idea was to produce wool at a lower cost, the wool trade being tightly controlled by certain North German cities, although by then, the monopoly was beginning to unravel. In any case, the experiment was a failure, the reason generally given was the emigration of key individuals to Virginia, having been invited there by the colonial governor at the time. He had planned to create a local iron industry and had enticed the Germans with promises of free land and free beer. There was land but no free beer and the iron industry did not materialize. There was speculation of involvement by the entrenched sheep and wool industry but it was never proved. It was just as likely that the climate was not suitable. Later attempts to produce silk without silkworms were more successful.

      This all happened in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany and given the failure of the wool-without-sheep (schaflose Wein) project, the family (this being the work of a small family) decided to produce wine, since half the work had already been done. It was considerably more successful and the family business continues today under the name "Shafwein." It enjoys a certain local popularity, although it is said it has a wooly taste.

      My family name originated in that part of Germany and that's the story that was handed down through the generations, even though the family left Germany over two hundred years earlier, possibly on the promise of free beer.

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  4. I have two devold sweaters, and two bean norwegians (one from the 60s, one new). The fit on the devold is tough to dial in because it's SO substantial. I isn't nearly as flattering, but it is, in my opinion, better for pure functionality and warmth.

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  5. I own sweaters like this, but it's never been cold enough to wear them

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  6. Ditch them both and get yourself a Dale of Norway (Correctly pronounced Da-luh). Still made in Norway and still the gold standard when it comes to Norwegian sweaters. They will become family heirlooms passed down generation to generation, as they have been in mine. Anything else is just a poor facsimile of the genuine article.

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  7. Add Dale to the mix as well! Our Bean is still our go to though! Thanks so very much!

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  8. No experience with Devold or Dale of Norway, but Norlender has a very substantial knit with good fit on most of their sweaters, perhaps not so good for very heavy people in the fit department. They are so warm that I used them only on the very coldest and windiest days where I will be outside for long periods. I gave away my modern LL Bean to a friend who needed a good warm sweater, the Bean was more suitable for everyday use when the temperatures were not so severe.

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  9. Nostalgia should never forget reality. I owned a Bean Norwegian Birdseye sweater from the mid-1980's when we lived at 6600' Rockies elevation when nine months of snow were common. It was very warm, very boxy and very itchy. After a Winter of this, I donated it to charity and switched to Shearling!

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  10. I can't speak about others, but have had two Bean Norwegian sweaters over the years and loved both. The first lasted many years and was still in good shape when I replaced it with a smaller size after losing some weight. The first was donated and is probably serving someone else well today.

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