The Glass Floats

The Glass Floats Spring 2024 Story Collection is inspired by traditional fishing net floats made of recycled glass. Hailing from Norway, Japan and later the U.S., glass floats are highly sought after by beachcombers and antique collectors alike due to their vibrant colors and unusual story. 


Have you ever seen an assortment of teal, blue, green, brown and sometimes red/orange glass balls at an antique store? These hollow orbs were usually made out of recycled glass and served as floats for fishing nets in Norway and Japan, and later throughout Europe and the United States. A few years after the Japanese tsunami in 2011, many of these glass floats washed ashore in Oregon and the western coast of the United States, reigniting an interest in the history of these unusual objects. Christy has a bowl of glass floats displayed in the entryway of her house that her parents found on  beaches in Alaska in the 1960s. The sea glass blues and greens of these glass floats were the inspiration for our new collection.

Glass floats found on the beaches of Alaska ca. 1960 and the new QQF colorways. Photo by Christy Lombardo.

Glass fishing floats were first commercially manufactured in Norway in the mid 19th century and were widely utilized to support fishing nets for the prolific stockfish fishing industry in the Lofoten Islands of Northern Norway. The first manufactured floats were developed by Christopher Faye of Bergen, Norway in collaboration with the Hadeland Glassverk (Glassworks). The Hadeland Glassverk was founded in 1762 and is the oldest continually operating industrial company in Norway, located about 25 miles north of Oslo. The floats were first advertised as a new product by the company in 1841, though hand blown versions were likely in use by fisherfolk much earlier. 

According to Tom Rizzo: “They vary from small golf ball sizes (about 1.5" diameter) to massive sizes with diameters of 12" and more. The small ones were possibly used for hand-line or rod fishing, as well as for finer diameter mesh nets (used for herring, sprats, trout, sardines, shad, and larger fish such as salmon in bays, rivers and lakes). The 4.5 to 6" diameter floats were most often used for cod gillnets, trawl nets and to mark traps. The very large ones were used to mark net settings and to float and mark the long lines used especially by Japanese deep sea fishermen in the mid 20th Century” (

The fishing industry has dwindled in the Lofoten Islands since the 1960s, as sea temperatures have risen and the fish have moved north towards colder waters. Several abandoned fishing villages are now part of the Lofoten Islands UNESCO World Heritage Site (on the tentative world heritage list), which Gretchen visited on a trip to Norway in 2017. The traditional methods of catching, drying, and preparing stockfish continue today, and it is not uncommon to see wooden racks of drying fish outside many homes in Lofoten’s working fishing villages. 

Cod heads drying at the Lofoten Tørrfiskmuseum, Norway. Photo by Gretchen Boyce, 2017.

Racks of drying fish in Norway. Photo by Piotr Musioł on Unsplash

Glass floats are proudly displayed in the region’s museums and come in a variety of shapes, including eggs, teardrops, discs, donuts, rolling pin, and scored spheres (see here for a great collection of examples: The fused double version below was on display at the Lofoten Tørrfiskmuseum (Stockfish Museum). When in use, the floats were encased in netting, and regional variations of knotting techniques (similar to macrame) developed over time.

Double glass float at the Lofoten Tørrfiskmuseum, Norway. Photo by Gretchen Boyce, 2017.

Prior to the invention of the glass float, fishing nets were supported by wood or cork buoys, which would eventually become waterlogged and sink.  

Wood (or cork) floats on nets used in salmon fishing, Astoria, Oregon, 1941 Sept., Photo source: Library of Congres, 

Colorfully painted wood and Styrofoam floats are still used today in the United States, like these examples seen in Downeast Maine in 2023. 

Painted floats in Downeast Maine. Photo by Gretchen Boyce, 2023.

In Japan, the floats are called ukidama which translates to “floating ball”. The Japanese started manufacturing glass floats around 1910 and many dislodged floats have been found along the Pacific Rim, including on the west coast of the United States and Alaska, after a long voyage across the Pacific Ocean. Amos L. Wood’s 1967 book, "Beachcombing for Japanese Floats", provides a great source of information on the various types of floats manufactured in Japan in the early 20th century. 

Undated photo of Japanese glass floats collected in Oregon. Photo source: North Lincoln County Historical Museum, Lincoln City, Oregon. 

American companies began manufacturing glass fishing floats in the 1930s and 1940s, during a time when the U.S. was looking for alternative sources for many European and Japanese manufactured goods before and during World War II. Large glass bottle and glass food container companies such as Northwestern Glass Co of Seattle, Washington first began making glass floats by hand in 1932 and switched to producing machine-made floats after 1940. The American machine-made versions were sealed with a raised neck seal and flattened base, which makes them distinguishable from earlier Norwegian and Japanese examples. (

According to Christina Sawka, “ of the first things avid collectors of floats look for is the seal mark. These seal marks can tell us a lot about where it came from, how old it is, who used it and if it is rare or common. These marks were used to identify the float or trademark. It must be noted that not every float has a seal mark on it as it was usually done by large companies and are symbols of the glass factory that made them” ( More information and examples: here and here

Example glass float seal featuring a British naval anchor. Photo source: 

As with all of our story collections, the inspirational stories behind the colorways are rich and tell about the people, places, and traditions of the past. We hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the glass float manufacturing industry, Norway’s Lofoten Islands and fish export industry, and the influence of World War II on manufacturing and industry. Check out the “Sources of More Information” section below to learn more about these topics. 


The Glass Floats - Story Collection is available in two different yarn bases! 

The worsted weight collection includes four mini skeins (each approx. 25g) of worsted weight 100% superwash wool milled in the US. 

The sport weight collection includes four mini skeins (each approx. 25g) of sport weight 100% organic Merino wool milled in the US. 

The collection can be ordered beginning May 1, 2024 from the Quill & Quiver Fiber web shop here:

The colorways in the collection are described below (pictured left to right in photo above). Images below: L: worsted weight, R: sport weight.


Pacific Rim is a deep rich teal that is composed of pops of black, ultramarine, and dark emerald. (Note: The color varies slightly on our sport base with pops of black and subtle teal) .

Lofoten Teal is a tonal teal with streaks of navy, light blue, olive, and dark green. Inspired by the Lofoten Islands in Norway, where glass floats were first manufactured. (Note: The color varies slightly on our sport base with muted streaks of navy, light blue, olive, and dark green).

Blown Glass has an overall aqua appearance and is a blend of mint, teal, and robin’s egg blue.

Glasswerk is a very pale aqua with hints of eggshell, light sky blue, and soft sea green


The collection can be ordered beginning May 1, 2024 from the Quill & Quiver Fiber web shop here:

Sources of More Information:


Cover image by Joseph Corl on Unsplash


All images by Quill & Quiver Fiber except where noted. Copyright: Quill & Quiver Fiber, 2024. All Rights Reserved.

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