An interview with designer and prolific knitter Hanne-Mette, on knitting to care for herself and the people around her
I got to catch up with designer and prolific knitter Hanne-Mette, about her approach to gift knitting, how she uses it as an active mindfulness practice, “knitfulness”, as she calls it. We also talk about how knitting helps her manage elements of her chronic fatigue. Hanne-Mette grew up seeing her mother knitting for those around her - not specifically as “gifts”, but as a way to care for people around her. We chatted about how her upbringing in Norway and her time working on her Ph.D. in Ireland have impacted how and what she makes, and we talked specifically about her practice of gift knitting for friends, family, and charity.
Hanne-Mette learned to knit before she could read - her mother would read the patterns and translate the text for her into motions. She began knitting clothes for her dolls in kindergarten and picked it up on and off for years. While doing her Ph.D. in Ireland, she brought her knitting to the pub to take her mind off her thesis, relax and unwind. After completing her studies, she became ill and then chronically fatigued. She had little money, and the holidays were approaching, so she put her childhood-learned skill to use, and thus began her tradition of knitting gifts for her closest friends and family.
She prioritizes her closest family and friends who she spends the holidays with - parents, grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews, and her best friends - and begins knitting her holiday presents almost a year in advance. This year, she began Christmas and Holiday gift knitting in April to be able to finish all the projects she had planned. Most summers she spends 3 weeks at a family home on an isolated island. Here, she has no electricity, so she’ll bring a LOT of knitting - usually around 15 projects, and that’s when she’s able to get a bulk of her holiday gift knitting done. She sits and knits and “enjoys the silence”, she tells me.
In Norway, kids learn how to knit in school - and Hanne-Mette notes that almost everyone she knows can knit, so she finds that it’s not too difficult to explain the time and financial commitment that handknitting for others takes. In her words “we need wool to keep warm… wool is necessary”, so she primarily knits with wool, and occasionally with merino/cotton for summer. Hanne-Mette has been participating in a project run by The Norwegian Salvation Army, Frelsesarmeen: Sokker som varmer, literally translating to “socks which warm” - to provide warm, handknit socks for persons experiencing homelessness in Oslo. Indie dyers donate beautiful wool and Hanne Mette knits around 7-8 pairs a year for this project.
After hearing about all of the knitting that Hanne-Mette does for others - her family, for the Salvation Army, for the children of her close friends, I had to ask - “do you ever knit for yourself?!” To which she replied “mostly for myself, actually… last year I knit 122 projects, so far this year I think I’ve knit 84…” That’s a lot of knitting! Because she’s been mostly at home for about 4.5 years due to chronic fatigue, she knits to stay grounded. She tells me, “Because I’m sitting still so much, I’d just be sitting on my phone otherwise. It feels much more productive, like it’s a mental yoga, Mindfulness, “knitfulness”, as you might call it, it’s keeping sane. It’s the joy of planning a project for someone specific, with specific yarn - the color, the fit, and everything. It’s really nice. It makes me happy”