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.

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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!

#kwasummer Give Away

What’s your summer knitting project? I’m on my way back home to Norway for my summer holiday and just popped by the shop to make sure I have enough yarn for my summer knits. It seems like I’ve got sleeves issues these days, as this is what’s left to do on several of my projects, and now I hope to finish them while on holiday. Something I made sure to pick up from the shop is the Lantern Moon ‘Stitch Red’ Square Clip Knitting Bag, which is brilliant for travelling. It is spacious, which allows for several projects and yarn balls, and all bits and pieces are easily stored in practical pockets.

Square Clip Bag

I’m completely addicted to tote bags and seriously have no idea of how many different ones I’ve got already, but when spotting the Will Flirt for Gin tote at Of Cabbages & Kings I just fell so in love with it that I had to have it. Not only is it really cool, it is sturdy to, so that I can easily bring my project with me when we’re out and about.

Will Flirt for Gin

This is Larch by Amy Christoffers, which I’m doing on 3mm needles in Scrumptious 4 Ply – Jen’s Green. The large Stockinette Stitch sections have been a huge test for my patience, but as you can see the body is done and I’ve started the sleeves. I love love love this design and how it comes out in my chosen yarn, I really can’t wait to have it done and to wrap myself in it!

Larch

When travelling I try to bring varied projects to prevent me from getting bored, and since Larch is done with thin yarn and needles, I want to bring a quick knit too. This is my Make-it-up-as-I-go-Cardi. It is done on 5mm needles in the softest Pima cotton, Shiny Happy Cotton from Wool and the Gang, in Yellow Brick Road and Jog Grey. This is definitely my favourite project this summer. Look at that yellow! Every time I start a yellow round the brightness of this colour makes me so happy!

Make it up as I go Cardi

As I was taking these pictures to show you my summer knits I had this idea. I really want to see your projects, and where you are bringing them too. Lets share our summer knits with each other, and why not make an Instagram Give Away out of it as well! Follow my Instagram and use hashtag #kwasummer to show off your summer knits, when I return to London in two weeks time I’ll make a little gallery here on the blog for us all to admire. We’ll do a draw and three of you will receive a summery goody bag from Knit with attitude. Now go grab those smart phones and start snapping some pics, I can’t wait to see what you are up to this summer!