Interview with Ann Helen from Garnsurr
Here at Knit With Attitude we are always on the look out for new and exciting companies to work with. Maya was so excited when she met Ann Helen of Garnsurr at the Oslo Knitting Festival in October and heard about their project to help refugee women integrate into Norwegian culture through language courses, gainful employment and social outreach. Garnsurr is the newest yarn in the shop and we are loving all the new fun and exciting colourways.
We were able to ask founder Ann Helen a few questions about why she started the business, and the inspiration and women that keeps it going. You can find the Garnsurr yarns in our webshop.
Where and how do you source the yarns that you work with?
We buy all our yarn from Chester Wool in the UK and the yarns originate from Peru.
What does social integration mean, and how have you built your business around it?
Social integration means that we try to help refugees in our area to become a real part of the community. That means in every way - both creative, workwise and social. This also means that we always have to work with the social part of our business, not only the business side. I use quite a lot of my time helping them handle their personal economy, and other problems they encounter in our society. This comes in addition to the dying job and language training.
How has Garnsurr been received by the wider community in Norway?
We're quite young in our business life, but have been very well recieved both at Bergen and Oslo Knitting Festivals. The local community is also very supportive, we get a lot of emails and comments on our project from all over the country. We're quite overwhelmed by this support.
Can you tell us a about the women that are currently dying with Garnsurr?
We have three women at Garnsurr at the moment working full time. The first one is Akberet, 50 years old from Eritrea. She became a widow earlier this year, and she has five almost grown up children. Three are living in Norway, a daughter in Sweden and a son in Germany. She is the most experienced dyer at Garnsurr at the moment. Second is the single mother Leila, 35 years from Afghanistan. She has four children from 9 to 14 years old. She has a wonderufl devotion for Garnsurr, and her tremendous spirit inspires us all every day. The third lady is called Hawa, 45 years old from Somalia. She has a real big family, she has given birth to thirteen children, but only eight are alive. She has a special eye for colour, and gives a lot of our colourways a real "african" touch.
Recently we also got another women from Eritrea, who will have language practice with us one or two days a week.
How do you develop a new colourway with your dyers? Do you start with a specific combination in mind, or is it a happy accident?
The Garn Surr ladies decide most of the colours nowadays. Some days I wish for colours, and they try to make what I dream about. Sometimes we also make "happy accidents" on purpose - just to try out new techniques and ideas that appear in the team. Most of our time goes to turn on the "sold out" signs in our webshop, and make deliveries for our stockists.
What’s currently on your needles?
At the moment, I'm about to finish Cobaltoan hat by Lesley Ann Robinson from Pom Pom magazine 23. The brioche pattern is my first, and I really enjoy it. I've sadly made a mistake on one side of the hat, but I close my eyes and forgive myself! I've also just finished another hat by Stephen West - Syncopation Adoration which is just waiting for the ends to be woven in. A jacket by Pickles (a very fashionable yarnstore in Oslo which we are collaborating with), "Big Nore" is just waiting for buttons. The very next project on my needles is Comfort fade cardi by Andrea Mowry - I will attend her KAL in December, and all of my earlier projects in November are also parts of our #garnsurrKAL which started the 1st of November and ends on Christmas Eve. As you see - I knit as much as I can!