Interview with Anja at the Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk mill in Norway

In October, Loch Ness Knit Fest will welcome knitters, crocheters, spinners, dyers….yarn enthusiasts in general! People will be arriving from near and far and we love hearing about where you will be coming from. This week, we have been chatting to Anja who will be travelling from beautiful Norway.

Anja works at the Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk mill which is located North of Bergen. The mill was founded in 1898 by Mikkel Myhr and is run today by his great-grandsons Øyvind and Arild.

Hi Anja! Could you tell us a little bit about the mill and your work there?

Hillesvåg has always been an important place for local farmers to deliver their wool and buy back yarn or woven blankets. We still spin yarn from local farmers, but now we buy wool from the wool central in Førde. We spin yarn from different Norwegian breeds: Norwegian white sheep (cross breed), Spael sheep and Norwegian peltwool sheep.

The mill is located at the same place as it was founded, but the old wooden building has had several add-ons and renewals. You can feel the history in the squeaky floor boards.

I work in a team that handles sales and marketing. I also do guided tours of the mill for pre- booked larger groups as we are a part of the Économusée network. This is a network originating from Canada, but now have many members around the North Atlantic. We are proud to present artisans at work and visitors can follow the whole process from wool entering the mill to yarn being finished.

What is the mill’s most popular yarn?

Traditionally Ask has been our most popular yarn. This is a 2-ply woollen yarn spun from Norwegian crossbreed wool. This is knitted up beautifully in traditional stranded mittens and cardigans known as “kofte”. Nowadays we see an increasing interest in our peltwool range. Sølje, Tinde and Blåne is spun from Norwegian peltwool sheep and the wool has a natural grey colour with beautiful curl and shine.

Were you a knitter before you started working at the mill?

I started knitting when I was around 10 years old. My mum always knitted or crocheted in the evenings so I got curious about it. I have knitted on and off for almost 30 years. My interest and skills really got a boost when Ravelry was introduced to me in 2008. Suddenly I had a whole knitting community and an endless pool of patterns. Both Ravelry and Instagram are vital for inspiration and bonding.

We totally agree, it’s lovely to see such a vibrant knitting community. What is currently on your needles?

Lanes cardigan published in Laine no.1. I’m using Tinde pelsullgarn from Hillesvåg as it matched gauge perfectly. I also have a small knitting project in my handbag, a blanket project in my knitting nest (sofa) at home and a big basket full of UFO’s. My most used tag on Instagram is #nevernotknitting.

Okay, so #nevernotknitting, what has been your biggest knitting disaster?!

Every project has the potential of being a disaster. Since I have a very loose relationship with gauge, there has been a lot of rescue operations over the years. I don’t mind unravelling either and think of it as a possibility to make something different. I also have the habit of making changes to the pattern while knitting, so that doesn’t help. Knitting is for me a process, a way of focus and relaxing. I’m of course disappointed when the project does not turn out the way I dreamed of, but I think I avoid a disastrous feeling by just unravelling and starting something new.

We are so pleased that you will be joining us at Loch Ness Knit Fest this year. What attracted you to the festival and what are you most looking forward to?

I’ve wanted to go back to Scotland ever since I visited a friend who studied in Edinburgh around 2001. I have thought about going to EYF, but it always looked so big and crowded on the pictures on Instagram. When I suddenly saw somebody post pictures from last years LNKF, I took notice. So when the program was released earlier this year I was so excited. The workshops looked so interesting! I’m looking forward to my workshops with Hazel Tindall and the Dorset button making with TJFrog. But also to meet all the interesting people at the Knit & Natter lounge and marketplace.

We will see you there! What about for any of us visiting Norway? Do you have any must-see yarn recommendations?

I would (of course!) recommend visiting the West coast of Norway. Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk is located just north of Bergen which is the second biggest city in Norway. Not far from Hillesvåg you can visit Lygra Heathland centre and see the old Norse sheep.

The Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum that host Bergen Knitting Festival is also a very interesting place to visit. It is open for visits almost all year round. Bergen also has quite a few interesting yarn shops.

If you would like to see something different, a visit to the other Économusées will be worth your while:

Lots of ideas! With direct flights between Inverness and Bergen, it’s never been easier to explore Norway. For those of us that can’t make the trip, one last important question… where can we get our hands on some Hillesvåg yarn?!

Midwinter Yarns, who are attending Loch Ness Knit Fest, will bring Blåne pelsullgarn to the marketplace. Ysolda is selling all of our peltwool range online and also Sol and Vilje lambswool yarn.

Looking forward to getting some on our needles. Thank you Anja, it was lovely to chat to you. We’ll see you in the Knit & Natter Lounge for a cuppa in October!

Get Hillesvåg yarn online in the UK from:

written by/copyright: Jo Spencer (for Loch Ness Knit Fest)
Photo credit: Øyvind Ganesh