6 Steps To More Hygge in 2019


By Kim Ryan
Owner, Kim Ryan Makes

With long, cold winters and rain most of the rest of the year, you’d expect the people of Denmark and Norway to be a right gloomy bunch, but you’d be wrong. In fact, Danes and Norwegians consistently place at or near the top in rankings of  the world’s happiest people. 

What’s their secret to happiness? According to our Scandinavian friends it all comes down to Hygge (pronouned Hoo-Gah)…basically a quality of coziness that makes one feel content and comfortable. Here’s a few ways to achieve greater Hygge in your life…

1. Slow Down

knitting slowSlowing down, unplugging from social media and being mindful of the moment is a key tenet to Hygge. Definitely, going slow has it’s benefits. Recent studies suggest eating slower may actually help you lose weight, while  reading slower has been shown to benefit your brain and reduce stress.

TIP: You can even practice hyyge while watching TV. Check out Norway’s Slow TV series available on Netflix Canada. I especially liked their 3.5 hour National Knitting Evening…hubby preferred the full 7.5 hour  Slow Salmon Fishing episode.

2. Cook a Simple Dinner for Friends

dinner hyggeStaying in by yourself is not Hygge. Hygge is all about sharing and togetherness.

Cooking for a large group can be stressful (Basically the opposite of Hygge) so forget about lots of courses and fancy place settings. Instead, consider  a rustic meal with simple flavours.

A slow cooked meal is a good choice since it allows you to pop the food in the oven early so you can relax and enjoy the company of your guests when they arrive.

TIP: This recipe for slow cooked beef shanks is a family favourite at our place. It’s delicious, super cheap and so easy to make. You do most of the prep work before your guests arrive. When it’s cooked just serve it family style at the table. What could be more Hygge?

3. Candles, Candles and More Candles

Candles light in advent.. Christmas candles burning at night. Golden light of candle flameHere’s a weird Hygge fact. Danes are the biggest consumers of Candles in Europe. At 13 lbs of candles wax burned per person annually, their candle usage is almost double that of the second place country.

Anthropologists say the calming effects of candles may harken back to our caveman days when sitting around a fire made our ancestors feel safe and facilitated social gatherings. Whatever the reason, looking at candles has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure and bring on a sense of calm…so light up.

TIP: I love the handmade soy candles made by Toronto based The Eco Candle Shop. Not only do their candles smell great, but they have natural wood wicks that give off a faint crackling sound…you’d swear you were sitting in front of a cozy fire.

4. Learn a Craft

hyyge knit 739

Knitting is very much Hygge. The slow and rhythmic movement of the needles helps you enter into a state of relaxtion. One recent study found that knitting reduces blood pressure and can slow your heart rate by up to 11 beats per minute. If knitting is not your thing, pretty much any craft (painting, pottery, etc.) would qualify as Hygge. The simple act of handmaking something connects you in a way that staring at an Iphone screen cannot.

TIP: Join a knitting club or take some knitting classes. Where I live in Toronto, Canada knitting meet-ups are available through our local library system and at many area yarn stores like The Purple Purl

5. Keep it Soft

hygge pillow kim wordpressHygge is all about warmth, coziness and calm. This means lots of lots of neutral colors, natural materials (wood, wool, leather, etc.), plants and soft furnishings (rugs, pillows, blankets,etc.).

TIP: I’ve been making these handsewn/handknit throw cushions shown above. I use natural, chunky wool on the front for extra warmth and natural cotton canvas on the back for added texture. I intentionally use muted colors so the pillows can be used as accessories in any color scheme.  These Hygge-style pillows are available for $45 at  The Nooks , 2038 Danforth Ave., Toronto or The Arts Market, 846 College St., Toronto

6. De-clutter

minimalist-home-tips-01 739There’s an old saying; “Mess causes stress”. A home full of clutter signals to our brain that our work is never done. It distracts us away from the people and experiences that Hyyge says we should be focusing on.

TIP: New Year’s is a time of fresh starts. Get the whole family involved in identifying items they no longer love or need. Take whatever items you collect and donate them to a worthy cause that helps others make a fresh start, like the Salvation Army. Need more inspiration? Check out the Netflix Show “Tidying Up” with cleaning guru Marie Kondo


Top 10 Things Not To Say To An Artisan

angry_upset_pout_face_dissatisfied_emotion_woman_evil-1384125.jpg!dKim Ryan
Owner, Kim Ryan Makes

First,  let me say that the vast majority of people I deal with in my business are very complimentary of my products and ask great questions to help them make their purchasing decisions. Then there are the questions and comments that drive every artisan a bit crazy…

1. “I Could Make This Myself”

This is the #1 annoying comment for artisans. I get this one a lot.

I know many people do know how to knit and sew. That’s great. Unfortunately, most people just don’t have the time to sit down and actually do it.

When I was working full time as a university administrator, I would knit after work for an hour or so. But stopping and starting a project repeatedly is a slow process. Typically it would take me a few months to finish a project.

As a full time artisan, I devote myself to my craft. I do it eight hours a day. With all this practice, I think it’s safe to say that I am pretty proficient at what I do and it  shows  in the quality of my goods. If you think you can do better, feel free to do so. . .but we both know you won’t.

2. “Why is it so expensive?”

Handmade things made in North America by skilled artisans do cost more than items made overseas. I can’t beat the price of a company that pays it’s workers a few dollars a day to pump out products made on machines. I can, however, beat overseas sweat shops in terms of the quality of my product.

If cost is your most important criteria in choosing an item then,  by all means, feel free to  shop at your local Big Box retailer. If you care more about quality and supporting the local economy, handmade goods are your best bet. Continue reading “Top 10 Things Not To Say To An Artisan”

Merino Vs. Alapca: Which Yarn is Best?

merino alpacaBy Kim Ryan, Owner – Kim Ryan Makes

For the past decade or so, I have been knitting with only two products: Merino wool and Alpaca fleece. For me, these are the Rolls Royce of yarns. Yes, they are a bit more expensive than other yarns, but they more than make up for the extra costs in warmth softness and several other key factors.

The Basics

Merino wool and alpaca fleece are natural, sustainable products (i.e. good for the environment). Merino wool comes from Merino sheep, an ancient breed originally from Spain, but now raised worldwide. Alpaca Fleece comes from the Alpaca, a native of South America and a member of the cameloid family (Cameloids also include camels and llamas). Alapacas are also bred worldwide, including Canada.


If you were to put a bunch of different yarn samples under a microscope, you would see most are made up of a series of scales. Generally speaking, the larger the scales, the itchier the material. From the photo below, you can see that plain wool (far left) has  large, protruding scales which makes it pretty darn itchy.


Fine wool (Merino) and Alpaca have much smaller, flatter scales, making them much softer – ideal for people with sensitive skin.

Polyester yarn has no scales since it is a chemically treated and extruded petroleum  product (Yuk). Polyester is certainly soft, but because it is a petroleum product, it lacks many of the important qualities (i.e. breathability)  found in natural materials

Alpaca, to most people, feels closer to the silkiness of cashmere than to Merino wool. A fine merino wool though is still pretty soft …about twice as soft as regular wool.
Softness Advantage: Alpaca Continue reading “Merino Vs. Alapca: Which Yarn is Best?”

A Healthier Tote: Beeswax to the Rescue

By Kim Ryan, Owner – Kim Ryan Makes

A few years back I had an allergic reaction to some cosmetics I had just bought. My eyes swelled up, my face broke out – in fact it got so bad that I had to go a local clinic to get treatment.

Returning home, I went through my make-up and found they contained a wide range of questionable ingredients – ingredients that  seemed more suited to being stored in a landfill than being put on my face. Since that health scare, I’ve become far more selective of the products and ingredients I let into my house or near my body. Continue reading “A Healthier Tote: Beeswax to the Rescue”