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A Q&A with Swedish knitting designer duo, MillaMia

MillaMia, run by the two Swedish sisters Katarina and Helena Rosén, has quickly become recognised for its distinctive, modern knitting pattern designs and high quality yarn. In their latest book Winter Knitting they share some wonderful Swedish winter traditions, designs and activities for bringing warmth and light to the cold season. We asked creative director Helena Rosén about what it is that sparks her creativity, what makes her passionate about craft, and where the business name MillaMia came from.

What makes you passionate about your craft?
Amazing colour, texture, and the ability to create form is what I find most inspiring when I design. The act of making something with your hands is just the most incredible feeling. I think any crafter knows how addictive and satisfying that feeling is and for me, it’s even more special when it’s realised in a material which is pure and high quality. I love the fact that our yarns allow for such versatile stitches, rich textures and patterns – not to mention a whole range of deep, vibrant colours which really sing!

Where does the name MillaMia come from?
When we started the business back in 2009, we struggled to find a name. Katarina and I had discussed starting our own brand for a while but all the names we brainstormed were too specific or just not the exact message we wanted to convey. Anyone who has been through this exercise will appreciate just how hard choosing a name is. We wanted the name to describe us and to be us but all the classic combinations of our names, Katarina and Helena morphed into “HelKat” or “KatHel” which were not all appropriate! We stalled on this for some time, until we remembered the names of our imaginary friends. As children we both had imaginary friends whom we gave names to – names that we thought were beautiful and grown up. Mine was called Kamilla which was shortened to Milla and Katarina’s was called Mia. So MillaMia is really us but in an imaginary and aspirational form!

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?
I feel this might end up sounding like a cliché, but our summers spent in the Swedish archipelago were amazing. We had the freedom to run around, swim in the sea, pick berries in the forest and if the weather was bad we would knit, sew or play card games and bingo with our grandmothers and great aunts. Looking back now, I guess it was idyllic, and I am ever grateful for the memories I treasure of those times spent happily in the heart of my close family.

What sparks your creativity?
I seem to be full of clichés today… but it can be anything! I love to take a camera out onto the street and snap colours and textures that I find inspiring. I am truly happy scouring antique markets and vintage stores for retro inspiration. Also fashion is cyclical and I have immense fun taking something from the past and reworking it to make it relevant for the future.  

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
I don’t think any day is typical when you run a small business! Our day can vary from sketching, swatching and playing with colour to pushing on to the finalised design spec, making mood boards or planning and styling upcoming shoots. I count myself very lucky to be allowed to do a job which is beautiful and which I enjoy so much – I remind myself of that when it involves late nights and early mornings!

Organised mess or creative minimalism? What does your working space look like?
I wish I was one of those uber-clean, efficient architect types who works in a minimal, stream-lined space – but I have to confess my space is a big creative mess! I fill my space with all sorts of things, and to an outsider it must look horrific, but there is method in my madness and I have an ability to locate almost anything when needed – just don’t ask me how!

Winter Knitting (Pavilion, £20.00) by MillaMia is available now