The Norwegian Knitters: From nanotechnology to yarn dyeing

DSC06284With a master’s degree in nanotechnology for civil engineering, the woman behind Lille Rille Design – who specialises in hand dyed yarn – never in her wildest dreams ever thought she’d go straight from maternity leave with her youngest into a career of dyeing yarn. But today, that’s exactly what she does – whilst slightly wondering if she should get a ‘real job’. 

Dragging tonnes of boiling pots full of dyed wool isn’t a job for the faint-hearted; but mum-of-two, 27-year-old Vilde Sofie Sørdal isn’t exactly what you’d expect her to be. After Oslo Knitting Festival last year, she was so fascinated by some of the hand dyed yarn she’d seen that she decided to try it herself.

“I started with a bit of yarn and some food colouring,” she excitedly explains. “I became more and more fascinated by the process – and in January this year, it just escalated. I bought five kilos of undyed yarn and some proper colours and started dyeing the wool myself – I felt a bit crazy doing it, but it became incredibly popular straight away.”

Modest at heart, Vilde believes she was simply at the right place at the right time, as many people were just starting to discover hand-dyed yarn when she first launched her own batches. “I make things that other people like – mainly I make what I like, but I think it hit home with a lot of people,” she says.

DSC05661She often poses the question of what to dye next to her many followers on Instagram, but sometimes, she can simply become inspired by something small that gives her an association. “I did make a tulip-coloured batch that was really popular, and I made that because I love tulips and thought it might make a lovely colour,” she says, explaining it will make a comeback when spring comes. “It’s mainly just seeing things around me that I love – and colour-combinations that I enjoy.”

Playing job

When she was on maternity leave with her youngest, nearly two years ago, she started creating her own patterns. “I knitted a lot for my eldest, and when I got more and more experienced, I decided I wanted to do things my own way. I didn’t exactly find what I wanted, and it was so much fun to create my own things. I did a lot of free-hand knitting and I realised that, if I was just going to go back and forth rocking him in my carrier, I might as well write patterns at the same time,” she laughs.

Vilde has always been creative and interested in making things, drawing and colouring. She took art courses in her later school years, and attended Steiner school, which encourages free thinking and creativity, as a child. “I feel like I’m playing job though – I’ve never had a real job with colleagues, an office and working hours. Even though I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now, and feel like it’s the perfect thing for me to do right now, I do want to get a ‘proper’ job in the future, just to try it,” she adds.

Except a little help from her grandmother, and her friendly neighbours, Vilde runs a one-woman show. “Not all the processes are equally fun, though. If I’m dyeing 15 kilos of yarn, I use big pots of water that need to be boiled and moved – so I end up carrying tonnes of pots in one day, which is quite physically demanding,” she adds.

“There’s a lot of things to keep track of and control over – accounts, purchases, advertisements, marketing – everything.” On particularly hectic days, her grandmother helps her to label her yarns – in addition to her neighbours who will come over if she needs them. “But I do run the whole business myself, and there’s no one to cover for me if I’m sick,” she adds.

A child-friendly activity

Vilde can’t remember when she started knitting, but she has always loved being able to dress her children in the clothes that she’s made. “It’s just something we do in Norway – everyone knows someone who knits. It really suits me, because I used to draw a lot in the past, but to draw, you need to sit down at a table and have time to concentrate. With knitting, you can easily knit three stitches and put it back down.

DSC07907“You can even take your knitting walking – I sometimes walk and knit. It’s such a great activity to do in an otherwise hectic everyday life,” she adds.

Vilde loves the community she’s discovered via social media, and explains how she’s made some good friends that she’s never even met. “It’s so nice to be able to share what you’re doing with others, and see that other people are equally as concerned with the same things as you are,” she says. “It also helps to get good feedback – it genuinely makes me very happy when people give me recognition.”

With a strong-willed attitude, she believes anyone can do what they set their mind to. “I’ve redecorated my kitchen and laid tiles without having any prior knowledge of how to do it, but I did it. You’ve just got to jump into it,” she adds.

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