Where the Dala Horse traditionally is made

Freshly cut Dala Horses
If you have been to Sweden you have seen the traditional wooden Dala Horse (Dalecarlian), and if not I’m going to show you how it’s made and how it looks today and tomorrow. Yay!

And a reminder: the photos in this post, and on this entire blog belongs to me, © Hanna Andersson. You’re welcome to link here but please, don’t steal my photos! Thank you.

The Dala Horse is from a region called Dalarna but it is a popular souvenir all over Sweden. You can find horses and items and prints inspired by them everywhere in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. It’s traditionally painted orange and made out of wood. Its a much loved and hugely popular symbol of Sweden and Swedish culture.

Being an ambassador of Sweden

I’ve been feeling a bit like an ambassador of Sweden lately, at least on twitter (where I’ve been name dropping cool Swedish inventions like Spotify for example). This post is a part of that proud feeling. Inviting the world to beautiful Sweden! My next post will be very colourful, with some photos of new horses in every colour of the rainbow – plus snaps form the painting process! Come back tomorrow, okay?

Different horse forms

Dala Horse Craftalong

As part of a Dala Horse Craftalong that starts today,Dala Horse Craftalong 2011 where we hope you’ll be inspired to make something Dala Horsey, I thought I’d share my photos from a recent trip. After midsummer I visited the small village where the Dala Horses is made, called Nusnäs, and the two Dala Horse factories there. The horses are really handmade, and hand painted. Talk about crafty business there, huh?

I am starting with the actual wood crafting today! I hope my photos will inspire you to sew, embroider, paint, sculpt or carve a horse inspired by the Dala Horse. Or even to plan a trip to Sweden, some day. You are most welcome!

Carved Wood Horses
These are part of the exhibition, showing how the Dala Horse has evolved over time in form and execution. Each person who crafts the horse has a slight variation in the carving style. If you’re an expert you can tell who has made each of the vintage horses I guess.

I am very inspired by the clean and “naked” (bare wood) horses, to me they are very beautiful. You can tell that it’s an old tradition, right?

The Wood Carving

Dala horse stamps
I found this huge stamp at the workshop, it’s for stamping the wood. When you’ve got the correct size stamped out, you take the wood block to the saw and cut it up! At the shop you can buy these cut out blocks too, and then go home and craft your own style of horse. Carving, sanding and finally the most fun part: painting!

Dala Horses in the making
Stamped and cut out wood all over the place, here in the midst of the saw dust. I love the smell of freshly cut wood. The ruff and distressed work bench surface. The potential of each block. I love that each piece takes time and skill to craft. I think I love the whole process.

Creating Dala Horses
Dala horses in the making, this guy trying to carve the small horse but admitting his eyesight wasn’t young enough for this tiny work anymore.

Getting a Dala horse - kiddos
These boys were lucky enough to be there when the band-saw was turned on. They each got a free horse to take home that day; what a thrill! Their smiles made me smile. I remember carving something that was supposed to be a horse back in school. I wonder where that figure is today?

I was there as a kid too, and I have fond memories of this very crafty place (I got my very first diary in Nusnäs).

Creative and fun Dala Horses

Vintage Dala Horses
Vintage candle stick holder horse, with a bell.

The scrathcy horse
Tiny horse looking to his right, a scratchy horse and yeah, the Dala Elephant in the background – humorous play with the traditional patterns. Fun fun fun!

The felted Dala Horse
Needle felted horse at the exhibition. Isn’t he adorable?
Blue and fabric horses
Porcelain inspired horses, and the white felted one – adorable!

Felted and embroidered dala horses
The white embroidered horse again. It was inside a glass monitor so it was difficult to get a good photo of it, but it is super cute, right?

Different painting methods
Maybe the Vintage ones are the coolest… there are a lot of different kinds here!

Dala pig
This photos is really blurry but I had to share it, it’s a Dala Pig! Hehe.

Nils Olsson Hemsl÷jd AB - shop
Today, Nusnäs is the centre of Dala horse production with the most famous being the Nils Olsson and Grannas Olsson workshops. I think it is well worth a visit if you are in the area!

Grannas factory and exhibition
Grannas A. Olssons Hemslöjd AB, founded in 1922, is the oldest company which still makes Dalecarlian horses. Nils Olssons Hemslöjd is almost as old. The horses made at these workshops share the same familiar pattern which most people associate to Dala horses. The workshops are neighbor and in walking distance, and both have three parts: the crafting of horses, exhibition part and the shop area!

Join the craftalong

I got invited to be in the Dala Horse Craftalong by Pam in the US I think its so much fun that a Swedish thing can be so loved all around the world. I hope that, as you visit the other hosts of this Dala Horse Craftalong Pam, Kathryn (also in the US) and Carina (Dane living in the UK), that you will be inspired by the Dala Horse too!

Start planning a project, then add your photos to the flickr image pool, post the button to your blog, spread the world and enjoy summer!

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22 Responses to Where the Dala Horse traditionally is made

  1. Kathryn says:

    I love the vintage Dala horses as well, they remind me of ones my grandma used to have up in her house. I especially like that white vintage Dala – beautiful!

    Love the post! :)

  2. Carina says:

    Ohhh, Hanna! I’m SO jealous of your visit with the Dala horses. Even more reason to visit Sweden! Love your photos. :-)

  3. Chris says:

    I am joining in! This sounds way too fun. Thanks for all this great information!

  4. pam says:

    Hanna, Hanna, Hanna! This post is brilliant!

    When you told us that you were planning to share photos from your trip to Dala’s “hometown” I was really excited. If I had had any idea of everything you are sharing – I would have been over the moon! I am over the moon now for sure!

    This is all so much work for you and I can’t thank you enough for sharing how the Dala’s are made with all of us who will no doubt ever get to take the tour in the factory as you have.

    I am more in love with them now than ever. I really should think harder about learning to carve.

  5. Kim Mailhot says:

    Oh, the Dala Horse makes a wonderful canvas for creativity of all kinds, Hanna ! Love it. Can’t wait to see the arty celebration of this lovely Swedish tradition !

  6. Gunilla says:

    Thank you for inspiration. I love them and use to decorate my jackets with a dalahorse botton. Buy small horses, make holes in them and sew them on to my jackets.

  7. Terri Kahrs says:

    What a colorful and informative post! I can’t wait to see your horses, Hana! Hugs, Terri xoxo

  8. Chris Kemp says:

    Dear Hanna
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and knowledge of the Dala. I’m from Australia and only through Pam did I recently discover what a Dala is. Naturally, I have fallen head over heels for these beautiful horses. I love the scratchy one, so original, the elephant and pig, very different. Sweden will have to go on my wish list. It’s going to be a fun few weeks with this craft along. It will be interesting to see what everyone comes up with. Can’t wait.

  9. TJ says:

    Absolutely terrific post Hanna — yeah Swedish horses!!

    I actually have one of these that I made my poor husband drag back from a flea market while I was pregnant. I wanted it for the baby’s room not realizing just how heavy they really are. Everyone who comes over loves it and wonders how I have it though! It is a treasure!!

    Best wishes from tj

  10. Jennifer says:

    wow, these posts are great!! Since I have Swedish heritage (my grandfather on my Dad’s side came over from Sweden when he was a boy; my last name is Ahlstrom), I have seen Dala horses all my life around our house, and even have a few of my own now for my own home, but I have never seen anything about how they are made and painted– thank you so much!

  11. Pingback: The Dala Horse Craft-Along @Craftzine.com

  12. Chris says:

    Hi, Hanna!
    Can you email me and let me know where your Flickr group is? I thought I belonged to your group, but I can only find the DIY Postcard group.
    Thank you! Happy Weekend!


  13. Mama Spark says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us! I have a Dala Horse my husband brought back for me. My ancestors are from Sweden and I hope to be able to visit there some day. My maiden name was Olson. I have Swedes on both sides in my family. I will be back to visit and look around your blog when I have more time!!

  14. I_Fortuna says:

    These Dala are beautiful ! We have fallen in love with the Dala. My husband works the wood and I am a painter. I am sure he will paint some himself as he is very talented. We also love the Tomte and Nisse and perhaps they will be coming along soon too. Perhaps a few Julbock will show up. I am happy to say that we can enjoy having our own and giving them as gifts. Get your crafting knives out folks and start whittlin’! These are so much fun !

  15. I_Fortuna says:

    Just one last thing this evening. I believe that the earliest Dala were true red like the many of the ones made today. It may appear that they were more orange because many of the older Dala have faded because of oxidation. Reds oxidize more quickly and dramatically than other colors and depending on the pigment used the red could take on a more yellow or golden cast over the years. That is why we often see older vehicles with the red paint looking faded. In recent history, there has been much improvement in red paint to help retard the oxidation process. There are also UV retardant polys used to help items painted red maintain their true color. I am sure many of you know this but I thought I would throw this out there for those who don’t. By the way, all the colors are great. We are lucky to have many choices. Happy Holidays! God Jul !

  16. Jessica says:

    Well, I keep dropping in on your blog via “Dala”! I think it’s time for me to say, “thank you” for sharing every cute thing on the subject… even the Pig! I am now working on some embroidery projects for my sister and I to enjoy together as her health continues to improve…! Pigs!… she’s going to love it!!

    Love your blog! Love it! Love it!

  17. W Carmichael says:

    Thank you so much! I’ve loved these since I was a child & never knew this much about them. Really want to attempt a needle felted version myself….

  18. james dloughy says:

    Hello Hanna,
    I love your blog site. I live in the USA with my Swedish wife. We are having a child and are preparing the nursery. The nursery is going to be one of a Swedish theme. You have a great photo on your site (below the being an ambassordor of Sweden paragraph) that I’d like to blow up and hang on the wall. I would appreciate your consideration of allowing me to use the photo, or another photo that you could recommend for our nursery. Thanks so much for considering our request. Sincerely, James & Anne Louise.

    • iHanna says:

      Hi James,
      since it’s for private use I’ve sent you the link to the original file so that you can download it and print it if you still want it. If you print it and hang it, I would loooove to get a photo of the nursery where it will hang. Thanks and enjoy your baby time! Take care.

  19. Shad Singleton says:

    My daughters Schae and Tate are cross country skiers and we live in Mora MN, USA. My oldest daughter Schae has won 3 Dala Horses that have been imported from your country. She has won 2 of them in the Vasaloppet and 1 in the Moraloppet. To our family, the Dala Horse is the biggest award a skier can earn. Thank You for the prize of prizes!!

  20. Arlene colburn says:

    What a delight to visit your site. I am daughter of a Swedish mom and have had a couple Dalas for years. They are treasures to me. My grandfather and grandmother both came to the US long ago. My mom died last year at 100yrs old and told me so many stories about life. I was privileged to care for her in the last 10plus years of her life! I miss her intensely. I am trying to get enough Dalas for my 12 grandchildren. I think l should go over to Sweden and hand pick them. If any one would like to connect to me I would love to . My heart is so cheered by this discovery. XOX Arlene Names were Grahn and Swenson

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