It’s 5am. When most people are comfortably sleeping behind dark curtains at this time of year as as the sun is rising somewhere far in the distance, Birger Berge is already awake and about to have his morning coffee – whilst working on his latest knitting project.
As a Higher Executive Officer at the University of Bergen, Birger likes to prepare for his day with some crafting – mainly with yarn and needles, but he also sews.
“I can’t remember not knitting,” says Birger and takes a sip of his coffee before rummaging through his bag to pick up his current project – a grey and pink sock pattern he’s created himself.
Birger doesn’t only knit the patterns he loves, he also designs his own garments – most of them (well, all of them), incredibly detailed – and not for the inexperienced knitter.
His fascination with crafts started at a young age, inspired by his mother and grandmother who quickly taught him how to knit when they saw their hobby had sparked an interest.
With a twin brother and a year-older brother, Birger noticed that his knitting gave him a bit of attention, when competing with his brothers. “It gave me a bit of an edge,” he laughs.
By the time he attended the mandatory crafts classes in school, where his classmates were simply learning how to knit, Birger was already knitting socks – a true milestone for any knitter (the heel is enough to scare many people away).
“People did think it was a bit weird,” says Birger who grew up in a small village called Naustdal, in western Norway. “By the time everyone else were getting their moped licence at 16, I was crocheting a large tablecloth,” he laughs.
This was for Birger, however, the time he discovered Ravelry – a network he now sells his designs through.
Breaking gender stereotypes
But being a male knitter, which we previously discussed with Simen Ødegaard, has its pros and cons – according to the 29-year-old.
“I know that a lot of the attention is due to the fact that I’m a male knitter, and that’s both positive and negative. I get a lot of free attention, but I also get singled out for being ‘that guy who knits’. I do think it’s a bit of a shame when things get only female or male dominated. But that’s how society works.
“Ideally, my gender wouldn’t matter. But that’s just how it is.”
When it comes to public knitting, he never gets any negative attention. “Sometimes people come over and ask me about my knitting. Other times, they recognise me from Instagram. Strangers often sit down and knit with me,” he laughs.
A love for traditions
Birger is a huge fan of the traditional styles, rather than the more modern look circulating on social media these days.
“I knit mainly patterned designs. I think non-patterned designs can be a bit boring,” he says.
He enjoys the old traditional sock patterns, and goes into great detail about his current project, which is a heel-less sock that shapes to your foot when you put it on.
His passion for crafts in general is hard not to notice, and he speaks about it in a way that only a person with great knowledge on the subject can do. Most people flinch at the sound of needle size 2.5mm, but for Birger, it’s his favourite. He also occasionally dabbles in 1mm.
“I’m a huge fan of double pointed needles as well, instead of magic loop. And my favourite needles are carbon, as I’m quite heavy-handed.”
When it comes to his technique and speed – and whether he does anything other than knit in his spare time, he laughs. “The rumours have been greatly exaggerated.
“But I am good at knitting where I can – lunch breaks, transport, meetings where I can knit, and all kinds of occasions. I do also sometimes bring my knitting along when I go to parties. I knit fast, but not as much as it looks on Instagram,” he adds.
From necessities to luxuries
When it comes to knitting trends throughout the years, Birger has seen a fair few developments.
“Things need to be a bit more Instagram-friendly these days. Previously, people knitted necessities, such as thick socks, but now it’s more luxurious and expensive, with hand-dyed and high-quality yarn.
“I also notice an increase in patterns that are easier to read. Patterns in the past used to be less explanatory – they assumed you knew the techniques.
“I like that you can find your own style and personalise what you make these days. Although people still really appreciate traditional patterns. I’ve had a lot of response internationally on my traditional patterns – from places as far away as New Zealand.”
He notes that the past decade has been revolutionary in terms of knitting popularity in Norway.
“From the end of the 90s until 2007/2008, knitting wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now.
“But I think it’s also due to the time we are living in. People want local produce and fair-trade goods. And instead of sitting in front of a computer, they want to be sitting with something they’re physically creating in their hands. And there’s a huge trend for that.
“You’re not going to be saving those H&M jumpers that you bought, but it’s different if it’s something you knitted. I think it speaks to people, in a sort of way.
“If you want to be creative, you can, if you don’t, you simply follow the pattern. There are so many ways to do it.”
For those interested, Birger has a lot of patterns looming, including mittens, hats and socks.
He will also be hosting a workshop at Bergen Strikkefestival (Bergen Knitting Festival), which is held 28-30 September.
So stay tuned to see what he creates next – he’s got a lot of exciting things on the horizon.
GIVEAWAY ALERT: We’re giving away a ticket to Bergen Strikkefestival over on Instagram @knitlikeanorwegian. For a chance to win, head on over and tag two friends in the comments section, as well as following us and @BergenStrikkefestival.