Laura Ricketts Designs

"She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands..."

Laura Ricketts Designs is a personal and business website for Laura Ricketts, hand-knitwear designer, author, teacher, crafter, mother and wife.

North House, Grand Marais, Minnesota

So, I started up the North Shore and stopped at a couple of places I love in Two Harbors, Minnesota. The first was the silversmith Brad E. Nelson's shop. He built it himself in an old Norwegian style called stabbur -- a kind of Norwegian log cabin. Such a beautiful building! And, inside, he features Scandinavian objects of many kinds. But he makes the silver jewelry and some other types of jewelry, too. And his mom helps out as a saleswoman. This visit, he had glass bottlenecks he had fashioned into earrings and necklace baubles. He said, "everyone says Two Harbors is such a bottleneck. I thought I'd make something out of them!"

The other place I like to visit is the Lake County DAC, or Developmental Achievement Center. It is a workshop for adults with disabilities. Some fabulous people there have put together a paper making workshop and a rug weaving area for the adults to train on and have a job. I love the fact that it is creative. I like to see the work that they have done and have purchased a few rugs from them over the years I have visited (and the paper, too). 

Here is a picture of their cloth wall for the weaving.

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Isn't it fabulous? All this has been donated for the purpose of making rag rugs. If you are in the area and have cloth to donate, contact them first. Then, stop by and see the rugs in production.

Further up the North Shore, past beautiful state parks and lake vistas, is Grand Marais. North House is one of the first things you pass on your way to downtown.

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Grand Marais itself is only 1351 souls, as of the 2010 census, but it is a vibrant community with great restaurants, music, and artistic workshops. This is most likely because it is in such a gorgeous spot and hundreds of people swarm up in every season to take advantage of the beautiful locale.

North House itself is a collection of about six buildings on this beautiful lakeside site. It has been around for 20 years and features artisans teaching the crafts of the north. One can go there to learn how to make a canoe, log-framed building, outdoor pizza oven, case your own sausages, knit, spin, felt, make moccasins, turn green wood... Really, the list is non-exhaustive, as the coordinators are always adding teachers and events.

 Sunset over Lake Superior from the North House Folk School beach.

Sunset over Lake Superior from the North House Folk School beach.

 panoramic view of North House grounds from their dock, early morning

panoramic view of North House grounds from their dock, early morning

The class I taught was on Skolt Saami mittens. The following are some pictures of my students at work. A wonderful class!

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Fiber people are the best, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with these ladies. Each had such different tales to tell, and all were great needle women.

Cheers to you as you continue on your fiber journey!

Early October

I taught at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota the beginning of October. I remember picking the date thinking I'd see the beautiful fall colors during that time. Well, fall is late this year, both where I live and in Grand Marais. So, while I did get to see the beginning of fall color the day I hiked in Superior National forest (away from the warming effects of Lake Superior), I still loved the birch trees and beauty of the lake.

Here are some pictures from the travels.

Almost everything is easier after skirting past Chicago. I knew I was in the north when my stop for gas revealed this:

 I drove up through Wisconsin, where the tackle is always kept close to the liquor. 

I drove up through Wisconsin, where the tackle is always kept close to the liquor. 

They have their priorities in order, or at least, an order to their priorities.

My next stop was at the wonderful, magical Schoolhouse Press in Pittsville, WI.

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Schoolhouse Press is home to Elizabeth Zimmermann's mail order knitting business. She established the business in 1958 and it has come to include mail order yarn, books, patterns and some other items.

For us knitters, EZ (as she is known) has come to represent an intelligent, warm approach to knitting that lays aside fears and failure, takes up the needles and makes wonderful garments. EZ has passed onto her greater reward in 1999 at the age of 89, but her daughter, Meg Swansen, is at the helm now, with her son, Cully, a joint partner in the business.

And so, I stopped there on the way to the North Shore, having made an appointment with Cully to show him my work with an eye to Schoolhouse Press carrying my patterns.

We spent a delightful couple hours together. I was able to meet Meg and discuss my work, and I am thrilled to say that we are planning to collaborate.

After my show and tell, I shyly asked if they would pose with my newest child's sweater. 

 the Tomten sweater

the Tomten sweater

This is one of Elizabeth's well-known sweaters. She loved to make garments out of the workhouse garter stitch. This sweet thing has a clever arm-insertion. I loved doing the contrasting i-cord edging, incorporating clever buttonholes with its application. The bodice is fully-lined with complementary quilting material I bought on my jaunt to South Dakota in August.

It was a joy to meet both Cully and Meg, and it really made my trip a delight from the start.

From there, I went to Duluth. As I arrived over the bridge from Superior, Wisconsin, the sun was setting above the hills of Minnesota. It is such a pretty city! I spent the night there, and the next day met with my friend Karen for coffee, and Marlene for lunch. Marlene is chairman for the Sami Cultural Center of North America in Duluth -- definitely worth a stop for any Minnesotan or traveler.

 Sunset over Lake Superior from Duluth, Minnesota

Sunset over Lake Superior from Duluth, Minnesota

My next post will tell about my time in Grand Marais.

New work and another look back on summer

This week I turned in a project that will appear in PieceWork magazine next March/April addition. Timothy Roe and I wrote out how to tie Eastern Orthodox Prayer knots in a prayer rope. I was fascinated to see Tim do this on my television show about 3 years ago, and I'm so happy he joined me in writing about it.

We'll have to wait until its release to post photos. So, in the meantime, here's a few photos from our family trip to Europe this summer.

We visited several Reformation sites, since this is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I also worked in a few textile related stops. In Brugges, Belgium, I visited a lace museum. And, what lace it was!

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And, that's just one piece in the museum's collection. It's hard to imagine that all this was handmade. It took years to create such fine lace. Many of the intricacies of its creation were secret.

Upstairs I was able to meet one of the lace professors who teach one form of lace on a regular basis.

Wish I lived closer!

Another pair of socks...

...I finished recently, was my Christmas pair from last year.

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In plenty of time for this year, so that's okay. The yarn was lovely -- a store brand from Simply Sock Yarn store, called Jollyville, named for Jollyville, Texas. The heel and cuffs were knit from leftover sock yarn scraps in my stash.

Have you started your Christmas crafting yet, or are you finishing up last year's like me??