the knitting ladies of guðrun & guðrun
September 2, 2017
Hand knits require a set of hands, and between them the two Guðruns only have two… That’s why we have several amazing knitting ladies tied to our brand. In addition to our Faroese knitting ladies and our Danish charity knitters, we proudly have two women’s empowerment projects in Jordan and in Peru.
After the first Guðrun & Guðrun show in the hall of the shipyard in Tórshavn back in 2006, the team realised that something had to be done to fulfil the demand of hand knits. It was not enough to rely on our Faroese knitters that made the sweaters. At this time our commercial director Guðrun Rógvadóttir was contacted by a supplier/production company in Hong Kong that offered to produce hand-knit for us. He was given a couple of samples to copy and came back with beautiful counter samples. The meeting with him after is something that Rógvadóttir still remember clearly. As the Guðrun & Guðrun production was based on a very good relationship to every single knitter that we knew by name, it was important and natural for her to ask him how he recruited the knitters and how their working conditions were. He very proudly told Guðrun: ”I go to the poorest village, I blow my whistle and they come crawling”. This was another call for action in order to be true to the original idea of the brand.
Then came the question of how. It was still very important for us, the brand and the two Guðruns behind it, to still be true to the idea of being able to look into the eyes of the people working with us and to know their faces.
In her ‘former’ life as EU consultant, Rógvadóttir had been stationed in Jordan with various projects and came in contact with a lot of great people. She had previously talked to them about giving the women in Jordan a real opportunity to earn their own money. Many women in Jordan live very traditionally and are expected to stay at home and take care of the house and family. The phrase ‘we believe that women empowerment starts with the opportunity to earn your own money’ came to life.
A simple idea and project was needed. From past experience Rógvadóttir knew that support from home and family was crucial when working with projects in development countries, if not, her experience told her that the women would not be able to continue the job.
What is simpler than knitting….
The knitting project was in no way interfering with the women’s traditional roles and values. They meet in a charity group with other women, knit and earn money. There’s no training period, if the sweater is well knitted they get paid straight away. And they are still able to take care of their house and family. This has turned out to be a very successful project. Most of the Guðrun & Guðrun knitting ladies in Jordan have been there since the beginning and lately several refugee women have heard about it and joined the project (stay tuned for more about the refugee knitters next week)
The project in Peru was a bit different. After the Danish show Forbrydelsen (the Killing) aired, the famous Sara Lund sweater got extremely popular. The original sweater is made by Faroese yarn, which some might find itchy and dry. We wanted to make sure that the sweater was available for all and a parallel sweater in alpaca wool was made.
At first the alpaca wool was bought from Italy. This didn’t suit the sustainable idea of the brand and it was therefor decided that products and material had to come from the core. Like the Faroes, Peru also has a long knitting history and who knows better to work with Peruvian alpaca wool than Peruvian women..
Guðrun & Guðrun was contacted by a sourcing company based in Peru. The brand was organising sale and production and had learned that we were working with alpaca wool. They offered a trip to Peru for a meeting.
The Peruvian women were not in the same situation as the Jordanian, but were affected by poverty and unemployment. The Gurðuns came to Peru and demanded to visit the knitters in the neighbourhood south of Lima. Again it was important to get to know the knitters and a new project came to life. The expertise of the Peruvian women is now well used in our alpaca products.
The knitting ladies of our women’s empowerment projects are incredible strong and brave women - and obviously, like all our knitting ladies, are amazing knitters. It’s their story that gets knitted in to our sweaters - and you can actually see that in the product. In one sweater it is possible to see areas with loose stitches and in other areas tighter stitches. This is the emotions of the maker of the sweater, if the knitter is stressed or annoyed she knits tight stitches and if she’s happy the stitches are looser. Knitting is somehow something very personal and emotional - and for us it also tells the story of the woman who knitted it.