At 28, Mette Wendelboe Okkels is about to become a mother of three. She also has a year and a half left of medical school, alongside running her very own incredibly hyped-up (with excellent reason!) successful brand PetiteKnit, which has taken the knitting community by storm – especially in the past year.So where did it all begin?
“Well, the truth is, I’ve always knitted. When I was a child, I sewed and crocheted, and dreamt about one day becoming a designer. In many ways, creating PetiteKnit was a dream come true,” says Mette.
She is sitting in a bustling Danish café smiling from ear to ear when we catch her on FaceTime on a Wednesday morning, and explains that the beginning of the brand can be traced back to when she was pregnant with her second child in 2015.
“I’ve never knitted from a pattern, but in the winter or summer of 2015, I designed Little Brother’s Romper,” says Mette and tries to remember exactly how it all happened. “There was a big interest straight away – people are so sweet on social media and said they liked it, and that was incredibly motivating for me.”
A business-minded knitter, Mette quickly realised that there was a huge market for her patterns, and one after the other, she released patterns that became more and more popular.
No frills: back to basics
“When I released the No Frills Sweater in 2016, I was almost scared to publish it, because it was just so basic,” she says.
“But that’s exactly what I wanted – and what I believe others want as well. Something that is handmade, but looks like you’ve bought it in a shop. You don’t necessarily just want to walk around in something that looks like your grandma made, so it’s a combination of modern and basic.”
This Christmas, she knitted the brand new Hanstholm Sweater for her husband which she explains was a completely simple jumper without any added extras – a bit like the no frills sweater.
“That’s what he wanted – a basic, rather boring, jumper – and he’s worn it every single day. He thinks it’s the most amazing thing, especially the fact that I made it with love for him,” she says.
When her son Jens was just six months, she decided she wanted to make him some sort of suit or romper with buttons on the bottom, but all the patterns she found were so feminine.
“I wanted to create something more masculine, without being boring. Then I realised I could make a simple ribbed pattern, and that’s how the anker’s series was made.”
The importance of accurate patterns
Despite never having knitted from a pattern in the past, Mette’s patterns are known for being simple and easy to understand, which she believes is due to her academic background.
She is used to writing research articles, which need to be entirely accurate and free of any excess wording, which is a model she uses for her patterns as well.
“They should be precise and chronological – there shouldn’t be a sentence too many or too few,” she says.
Why do you think knitting has become so popular?
“I believe it’s part of the whole ‘back to basics’ movement. People want to be part of a culture that takes you back to a simpler time. They want to lovingly make clothes for their children, which they will carry with them. Additionally, the shops have a lot of knitwear too – so it’s not some sort of sub culture, it’s actually very modern,” she explains.
Mette believes the knitting scene is bigger in Norway than in Denmark. “Everyone knits in Norway, don’t they?” she laughs. “I think it’s becoming more and more modern, and people are realising that they can make things that are on trend and fashionable.”
A huge part of Mette’s customer base is from Norway, which is why she has chosen to release patterns in Danish and Norwegian on the same day. “I think it’s more of a cultural heritage in Norway, but it’s very trendy in Denmark,” she adds.
A business with a personal touch
Currently on maternity leave from her studies, Mette explains that PetiteKnit is her real passion, and something she wants to grow even further. “I’ve always dreamt of having my own brand,” she smiles, and adds that she sometimes gets up in the middle of the night to work.
“I don’t want to just work from 8am-4pm – I work all the time. There’s book-keeping, accounting, my web shop, making patterns, packing orders – and actually knitting,” she laughs. All the while studying to become a doctor, which her husband already is.
“PetiteKnit is my true passion,” admits Mette. “My husband has a lot of shifts and works a lot, but what I do now is incredibly flexible. I feel like I have so many ideas, and it’s going exactly how I want it to go at the moment, so I’d like to grow it and hire people to work for me if I can do it without losing my personal touch.”
For Mette, it has been incredibly important to keep PetiteKnit personal, fronting it herself. “I’d never want anyone else to design for me – I want people to feel like the brand is me. When they write an email to me and put ‘Hi PetiteKnit’, I’m like ‘no, it should be ‘hei Mette’!” she laughs.
She feels that when there is distance between the brand and the people it is run by, people immediately become more critical. “People don’t have a filter if they don’t feel like it’s personal. My worst fear is for someone to say something awful about what I’ve made, but I think that threshold is lower if I’m the face of it. They might think it, but they won’t say it,” she adds.
A meditative hobby
Juggling many balls so successfully, Mette explains that if she didn’t knit, her head would explode. “When you sit there with the knitting in your hands, you buy yourself time to think, at the same time as creating and producing something.
“You can take a step back from the real world, which feels very meditative, and you think so many new thoughts when you’re knitting, which means it’s a genius way of producing something.”
She believes that if she didn’t have knitting, she could easily end up working 15 hours a day, and with knitting being the cornerstone of her business – she kind of does.