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.

06_nyh_Garnsurr4What 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.

IMG_20170613_212159_766Can 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.

IMG_20170929_105521How 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.

2-7What’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!

Interview with Beata Jezek of Hedgehog Fibres

We love getting new yarns in the shop, and having Hedgehog Fibre as a new brand is extra exciting! Their colourways are beautiful and speckled, from subtle neutrals to bright neons and everything in between. We currently have Twist Sock and Skinny Singles in the shop, but they are going quickly. Our first shipment sold out in two weeks!  We are going to do our best to keep this yarn in stock, but due to lead times of it being dyed in Ireland, we do expect some gaps of availability.

We were happily able to ask Beata Jezek some questions when Natalie visited their offices in Cork over the Christmas holidays. What a colourful office!


How long have you been knitting?
About 8 years and I learned from YouTube tutorials.

What inspired you to get into dyeing yarn?
As soon as I got sucked into the knitting world I knew I wanted to create my own line of hand-dyed, soft, squishy yarns. I was always very visual and colour obsessive and I felt that none of the yarns on the market really offered what I was into at the time. I love creating new colours, changing things up and staying current. I think Hedgehog Fibres really reflects that as an extension of my personal style. 


You have quite the operation going in Cork, Ireland, and it is exciting to hear that you are continuously growing as a company. What has been the most surprising thing about being a small business owner of a company like Hedgehog Fibres?How far you can get with the right product by word of mouth alone.

The colours of HF are stunning, and have unsurprisingly caught the eye of many knitters around the world, including designers such as Steven West. Do you see any particular trends in what knitters make with HF, or are they more universal?Our customer is not afraid of bold colours and interesting designs. Stephen West in particular is such an innovator and he has changed knitting so much in the past few years. I work quite closely with Stephen and I think together we are making knitting new and fresh again. We even have a few surprises up our sleeves!

How do you develop a new colour way? Do you start with a specific combination in mind, or is it happy accident?
Sometimes we come up with a great name and then create a colourway to match (like Teacup), sometimes I realise there’s something missing in the line and then get completely obsessed with a colour (I had to have lilac, so we have ‘Birthday Cake’) Some colourways were definitely happy accidents. Crybaby was such a good potluck that we added it to the line.


Do you have a favourite colour way?
Yes! Always the newest ones 🙂 I’m really into speckles and brights with a good strong contrast like Graphite or Electric at the moment. 2016 will be a big year for pastels and mohair I think.

Are you a process or product knitter?
Product knitter all the way. I’m on a mission to knit faster and to knit all of the things.

What are you currently knitting?
I’m swatching for a new design of my own and I’m making a little brioche jumper for my doggie who likes to wear stuff.

Getting to Know: Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe

Here at the shop we have been looking for some ethically produced, knitter friendly hand products to carry for our customers. We were so happy to find Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe, a small business in the US that produces just that. We have a few scents in a solid lotion bar that includes lanolin, a natural oil produced by sheep in their fleeces, and also in a goats milk soap. The scents are all made from essential oils.

We were happy to have a little interview with Alicia, the founder of Sweet Sheep and ask her a few questions about her business, and of course, knitting!lotionbar

How long have you been knitting?
I learned to knit in 2006 when I had knee surgery and was stuck in bed for 6 weeks. However, I didn’t really get obsessed with it until 2009 when I began graduate school. I needed a creative outlet to balance out all the left-brain thinking I was doing and knitting fit the bill nicely.

What inspired you to get into making all natural body products?
I began making natural body products when I came across a lotion bar at a Stitches East event. I liked the concept, especially for knitters and anyone who works with wool, because my hands are always so dry from handling yarn. However, I didn’t like the texture or intensity of fragrance of the bar I tried, and decided to come up with my own recipe. Plus, I really wanted to use lotion that contained lanolin, since it’s great for your skin AND derived from sheep’s wool, so I had to make it myself.

You are a biologist by day and a soap and lotion maker by night. Is there any crossovers between your two professions?
My biology training comes into play when I’m reading up about essential oils or the different properties of the plant-derived oils, waxes, and butters I use in my products.And because of my ecological background, I’m conscious of the environment and of the chemical effects of the things I use on my body, so making and using skin care products that don’t contain petrochemicals (derived from oil) is important to me.

Can you tell us a bit more about how you make your products?
My lotion bars and lip balms are made following a similar process: I first melt beeswax in a double boiler, then add vegetable butters and allow them to simmer for a while, then the oil components, lanolin, and finally the fragrances. Then the mixture is poured into molds or lip balm tubes and allowed to set. The soap I make is the melt-and-pour variety. I purchase large amounts of high quality, pre-made soap and then melt it down, color and fragrance it, and pour it into molds or layers depending on the type of bar I’m making. Since the lotion bars and lip balms are the same process every time, soap-making has been a really fun way for me to get more creative with colors/textures/etc.sheepsoaphand

Are you a process or product knitter?
I like to think I’m a product knitter, since I’m a selfish knitter and love to keep and wear every FO I produce, but in truth, I have so many WIPs on the needles that I don’t think I can say that. I feel like a product knitter would be more dedicated to the finish than I am, and sometimes I just cast on socks to have something simple to knit while I read, not because I need more socks. 🙂

What are you currently knitting?
This holiday season has been extremely busy for me with Sweet Sheep orders, wholesale orders, and moving to a new apartment so my active knitting time has suffered! However I recently finished a bulky weight hat (Galicia pattern on Ravelry) and I always have a pair of socks on the go. To switch it up from socks a little bit, I’m currently knitting a Sockhead hat, but it’s still very simple, on-the-go type travel knitting (my favorite kind).