For Gamle Oslo Tre & Tekstil, a defective Ulvang wool sweater is worth its weight in gold.
GOTT turns leftover woolens such as a faulty socks or returned sweaters into new and beautiful products. We were intrigued about this, so we arranged a tour of GOTT one morning in early September.
Before we'd even entered the premises, we were welcomed by a friendly man. Bjørn, the boss of GOTT was in the process of throwing out some off-cuts. GOTT is a growth company that offers workplaces for disabled people and is owned by Oslo Municipality.
As Bjørn is currently stationed in the carpenter’s department, he doesn't work with Ulvang. But being the friendly guy that he is, he showed us to the textile room and introduced us to department manager Anette Bomann.
30 years of disability employment scheme (VTA)
Anette serves us freshly made coffee and talks enthusiastically about the company, how long it has been around and the work they do here in the workshop.
"GOTT has been around for 30 years and is the workplace of five ordinary employees and around 25 VTA employees. GOTT is currently a department under Oslo Production and Services. It’s a proper job in every respect, and all employees on a VTA scheme receive disability benefits," explains Anette.
Getting a job at GOTT is popular, and there’s a waiting list to get a VTA workplace here, which Anette finds a shame. They would like to help more people get facilitated work.
The collaboration with Ulvang was born about three years ago. It started with an order for seat pads made of surplus wool. Eventually it was extended to woven rugs. There are both plain colored ones and a version GOTT workers have named the Tutti-Frutti, a unique blend of Ulvang garments in a mish-mash of color combinations.
Balder Tekstil, a department in Oslo Production and Services, weaves thin seat pads from Ulvang’s socks.
Wool is a fantastic product
Anette thinks the collaboration with Ulvang is great, both as a job for the employees and as a way to reuse surplus materials. She always looks forward to receiving the lovely wool deliveries.
"Being able to work with wool is really fun. It is of course a fantastic product, it’s just a shame that we have to cut up all those lovely sweaters that come in," she laughs.
All types of returns that can no longer be fixed at Ulvang – from wool socks to sweaters – are sent for reuse. The deliveries often come in large batches and can, for example, consist of an entire pallet of faulty wool socks.
"In the last delivery, we received some wool cords, which might have been drawstrings in a hood or something like that. We’ve used these to add a contrasting color in the Rav sweater rugs, and they look really nice," says Anette.
A pleasant working environment
The employees enjoy having visitors come to the workplace, and everyone greets us politely, giving us their name and telling us what they're working on. With specialized tasks adapted to each individual, I get to learn about everything from cutting, sewing and customization.
We say hello to Munazzah, who is cutting up strips of old advertising banners. The customer wanted to put the solid fabric to good use. GOTT developed a design to put on a fun tote bag, reusing the banners with the recognizable color and logo. What used to be a throw-and-go product has been given a new lease of life.
In another corner of the room, Nikolai is working the sewing machine. He is sewing together pieces of fabric from a button-up Army tent. With a steady hand, he turns the thick cotton pieces in camouflage colors into new ski bags for the BUA lending scheme.
The hand model and the loom
It's impossible to miss the two large manual looms in the middle of the room. Amreen is sitting behind one of them. She is fully immersed in her work, and with quick fingers she inserts a rolled up ball of different wool through a line of strings.
"I’ve been working at GOTT for five years. I work here twice a week. Today I'm making a Tutti-Frutti rug. It’s a rug made of the tiniest pieces of wool in many fun colors. I like working with Ulvang because it’s fun and because I'm good at it. I'm a really fast weaver," she says.
Amren is clearly a talented weaver, but is also a bit shy. She therefore asked us not to take a picture of her in action. But her hands were allowed in the shoot. As both a hand model and weaver, she tells us how much Ulvang wool she uses per rug.
"I use six ball skeins with leftovers of this size, which I pass through the threads on the loom. The skeins need to be put together using pieces of fabric to make sure I have enough fabric to weave with, and I need about 2.5 kilos of wool per rug".
Amreen is also meticulous about adding an element that shows that the garments are from ULVANG, and proudly wears a neckline from the iconic RAV sweater, where the ULVANG name is knitted into the fabric.
“And after I’m done, we braid the ends together and put on a patch with the name of who wove it,” she says.
Braiding and final check
Karin is responsible for the final check. Karin has been with the company for 14 years and is very happy here. So happy that she can be found both in the textile department and in the carpenter’s department.
"I knew how to weave before I came here because we had a Monika loom at home. I learned how to set up the loom and make a weave. GOTT taught me how to braid. I’m the one who braids and checks all the rugs once Amreen has finished weaving," she says proudly.
On the Ulvang project, Karin has an extra responsibility to ensure that everything is as it should be before the rugs are packed and sent to Ulvang’s warehouse in Lillehammer.
“I also add the patch at the end, which shows who made it,” she concludes.