a chat with Laura Ricketts

Last week, Madame Defarge released the third book of her knitting series, Defarge Does Shakespeare. Please enjoy this short conversation with Designer Laura Ricketts who has two designs in this collection, The Ravel’d Sleeve of Care Bedjacket and Petard Pants.

Laura also has designs in the second volume, What (else) Would Madame Defarge Knit?, the Comfort of a Friend Shawls for both a Doll and child, and also a Buttoned, Banned Book Bag. I knitted up an adult sized version of the Comfort of a Friend Shawl, a design released to help promote the book.

little acorn:
In addition to your patterns with the Madame, you are known for your interest in Sámi knitting. What lead you to explore this tradition and why does it fascinate you?
Laura:
I lived and taught in Central Asia and Mongolia after university. In 2010 I attended the Nordic Knitting Conference in Seattle, which occurs every two years. While I toured through the permanent collections, I was struck with the beautiful national outfit of the Sámi peoples — full of gorgeous clear blues, reds, yellows and greens.

Not only did the outfits remind me of the Mongols, but so did the Sámi traditional homes (lavvu) and even the reindeer herding. Mongols in the NW part of Mongolia herd reindeer as well. I started asking people at the conference and overseas friends about Sámi knitting. Everybody said there was no Sámi knitting. “They herd reindeer. You can’t spin reindeer fur, and they live in too cold of a climate for sheep.” That didn’t seem right to me. Who could live near these fiber-rich cultures and have no knitting or contribution to the textile arts?

Well, it took some research, but I have been delighted with the textiles I have seen, handled and written about, and am so honored to have made several Sámi friends along the way. The knitwear echoes the national outfits. As I adore color work and bright colors, their knitting was a perfect fit for me! In September 2013 I flew to Stockholm and drove over vast areas of the traditional homeland for the Sámi, called Sápmi: Northern Norway, Sweden and Finland. It also includes the Kola peninsula of Russia, but I did not have a Russian visa. I visited two national museums and 10 regional museums and had full access to their knitted Sámi collections. I took over 3000 photographs of about 400 Sámi mittens (the lion share of Sámi knitting is mittens). It was a dream come true!

Since then, I have begun charting some of the patterns I have viewed, and written some patterns and articles for Piecework, Knitting Traditions, Knitsy online magazine and BAIKI: the North American Sámi Journal. I have lectured and taught at Finnfest 2014, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, the 2014 Nordic Knitting Conference, and this fall I will be teaching at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. Next year, I will be back teaching at the Nordic Knitting Conference 2016, more information (eventually) at https://www.nordicmuseum.org.

little acorn:
Wow, thank you!

What is the one thing you wish students would do in your classes?

Laura:
I have had some fabulous students, so this is a hard question. I guess I would like to encourage students to make sure their questions are answered and not leave without being heard and learning what you came for. I like to pack my classes with tips and tricks! I don’t want to overwhelm anyone, but I certainly want my students to leave with something new in their bag o’tricks.
little acorn:
Good lessons for every student.

When not knitting, you can be found…

Laura:
…running around the house turning off lights. I have three school-age kids. It can be a full time job.
little acorn:
You sound like my husband. I’m terrible about remembering to shut off lights.

Please tell me a bit about how you came to design for this collection?

Laura:
I love Shakespeare and literature and history in general, so designing for Craftlit has been lots of fun. My eldest kid and I have attended some community Shakespeare performances and we loved to listen to Ehren Ziegler’s ChopBard podcast together. When Heather announced the callout, I began searching my mind for knitting references. Well — MacBeth’s quote about “Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care” was just too perfect! Through the quote, a bed jacket was born!

 Ravel'd Sleeve of Care

My essay about the Petard Pants explains my inspiration fully. Suffice it to say, “péter” in French means fart, so my petard pants (from a Hamlet quote) are baby diaper covers. I have two different versions in the book: super easy ones made of cheap wool (Peugeot), and double knit ones made of expensive-and-environmentally-friendly yarn (Porsche).

petardpants-lauraricketts

little acorn:
Kitten or puppy snuggles?
Laura:
I used to be quite the kitten girl when I was younger. We have a dumb (but lovable) dog, now. But I find, with three very-touchy children, I can tend to feel over-snuggled. Thank you!

Laura can be found in even more places, not only is her Fisherman’s Sweater the cover of the Spring 2015 Knitting Traditions magazine, it includes two of her patterns and two articles! She’ll be teaching at the Michigan Fiber Festival in August, both Sámi knitted mittens and Irish Crochet. She is also the host of a local cable TV show about textile art, In the Loop with Laura.

a quick note about photos: Petard Pants and Buttoned, Banned Book Bag © Caro Sheridan, Comfort of a Friend Doll & Girl Shawls © Amy Gropp Forbes, and Ravel’d Sleeve of Care © Elizabeth Green Musselman.

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