The Norwegian Knitters: A chat with Hanne Orlien

Photo by Cecilie Uglehus Evertsen

In the Norwegian Knitters series, we aim to explore the rise of the Scandinavian knitting community on social media – what inspires and drives the people behind the needles, along with their best kept knitting secrets.

Despite her first knitting project being so tight that the jumper she was excitedly making for herself ended up a more appropriate fit for a 10-year-old, Norwegian knitter and Instagram influencer Hanne Østby Orlien doesn’t easily give up.

She sits on the bed and drinks coffee whilst casting on stitches for a jumper she’s knitting for her husband – the ninth jumper on the needles since June, the previous eight being for herself – as she talks about her knitting journey. Inspired by the wonderful community of Scandinavian knitters on social media, she has become part of a society she feels has welcomed her with open arms.

Hanne is mostly known for her signature mustard yellow designs, rustic cardigans and jumpers, and use of Danish brand PetiteKnit. She believes there’s no such thing as too much mustard yellow. “I mean – how much mustard yellow is too much? As long as the patterns are different, I genuinely don’t know,” she laughs.

It all began five years ago, when Hanne’s sister knitted eight of the traditional Marius Sweaters for Hanne and her family for Christmas. “It was one of those fitted women’s jumpers – not the traditional skiing ones,” she explains. “It was so lovely to receive it that I wanted to knit one for myself and my husband.”

Trials and errors

It wasn’t until she was pregnant in 2016 that she properly picked up the needles. “In my first attempt, I got about 15cm in before I realised I’d twisted the work at the very start, so I started over. In my second attempt, I’d gotten all the way up to the sleeves when my sister said ‘oh Hanne, this is more likely to fit a 10-year-old’, so I threw the whole thing away.”

Despite her failed first two attempts, she persevered. She completed her very first Marius Sweater for her son in 2016, followed by one for her husband. “Suddenly I realised there was a whole world of things to knit outside the Marius Sweaters – and then what followed was a whole revelation of the knitting world. I started following PetiteKnit, Knitting for Olive and Plystre Knit Wear on Instagram, and I was completely blown away by their designs,” says Hanne.

“I thought ‘right, I need to try to knit some of these patterns’. In the beginning, I made so many mistakes, but I didn’t give up. Every time I dropped a stitch, I panicked and asked my sister for help, so it took a long time to finish anything because I always had to wait until the next time I saw her.”

A tight-knit community

Hanne enjoys making children’s clothes due to the small size of the items – particularly with the great sense of achievement finishing a project provides. “One of the first things I made from Instagram was PetiteKnit’s Milla’s Summer Suit, as I wanted to make it for my son’s christening. I emailed the woman behind PetiteKnit, Mette, and asked her how difficult it was – she didn’t realise I was a complete beginner, so I did it in collaboration with my mum.” From then on, Hanne knitted more and more of the PetiteKnit patterns, and she has now been allowed to test-knit some of her designs, which she truly enjoys.

The Scandinavian knitters on Instagram are thick as thieves. They happily help each other out if they’re stuck and they provide thousands of likes, comments and share each other’s pictures. “I’ve met everyone I know in the knitting community through Instagram – it’s almost its own phenomenon,” explains Hanne. “I don’t know how or when it started, but it’s huge in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. People are so nice to each other– they recommend their followers to follow others by screenshotting and posting other people’s profiles, or tag them in their stories. Other times they tag each other in new projects to see what others are knitting – a bit like a chain. It’s such a wonderful thing.”

Through this particular community, Hanne was approached by the knitters behind the Snapchat account ‘strikkere’ (‘knitters’), for a guest spot on the page. As the guest spot went well, she became a regular addition to the account which now features 13 knitters. These knitters share the account and take turns in exploring different themes – everything from techniques to yarn inspiration.

Hanne’s best knitting tips

Watch the gauge. Be aware of how tight/loose you knit by knitting a gauge swatch. It doesn’t have to be complicated – simply knit 30 stitches and a small square to determine the gauge. Knitting can be both time-consuming and expensive – don’t waste great yarn and hours of work on garments that don’t fit.

Choose softness and colours. Always drawn to yarns that look and feel good, Hanne is more interested in the softness and colours than the actual brand names. “It’s a bit like when I buy shampoo and choose my item based on the smell – with yarn, I always look at the colours first,” she adds. If she had to choose brands, she’s a huge fan of Knitting for Olive due to the colour palette and matte look of its merino yarn, along with CaMaRose, Filcolana (both Danish) and Sandnes Garn.

Switch between projects. Instead of starting one – start two or more. Switching between projects is a great way to eliminate boredom.

Avoid the baby blanket. For first-time knitters, Hanne’s tip is to avoid the standard scarf or baby blanket, and going straight for a jumper or proper project, due to the motivation it provides. “Before my first jumper, I actually started on a baby blanket that I never finished, because I got so bored of it,” she explains.

“If you don’t know the difference between knit and purl, it might be difficult knitting a garment, but the patterns that are hard for some are easy for others – if you really try, if you can both add on stitches and decrease them, you can knit a garment.”

Knit a row here and there. Hanne explains that the brilliant thing about knitting is that you can do it anywhere – and you can always squeeze in a row. Unlike sewing, where you’re chained to the machine, she takes her knitting on her daily 30-minute commute to work. “You’d be surprised how much you get done if you just do a bit here and there,” she adds.

Watch out for the men. Lastly, Hanne is excited by the addition of the men to the knitting community – including @Traa.Til, @Strikkefar and @BirgerBerge. She says: “It’s so fun to see all the men knitting – I keep imagining if my husband knitted, and how many nice things we’d have. But he doesn’t – he brews beer,” she adds.

To keep updated on the latest interviews and stories from the Scandi knitting community, follow us on Instagram @knitlikeanorwegian.