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.

Filtering by Category: Knitting

December catch up

It is wonderful to be able to sit down and catch up my blog readers on all my doings, but it is also a frustrating practice! So much has happened since my last post. It is always intimidating to try to include everything at once. Should I start from where I left off? Should I only blog about highlights? How about all those pictures? Maybe, I should just write about today!

All these thoughts and frustrations are only compounded by the fact that I HAVE blogged in the past bit, but the posts never loaded, or failed, or I got a message to try the website upload later. What if that were to happen now?

With this in mind, I am going to choose to do little uploads that jump around in my updates: in case the post doesn't upload, I won't risk marring a linear storyline, or be unable to go back and fill in details later.

Today, I am home. What a blessing in this crazy December time! Not only do we have the usual Christmas rush-about, but two of my kids have December birthdays. Because I have three kids, we are also very busy going to band concerts, choir concerts, basketball games and swim meets. And, while I am very thankful to have met my December 1 deadline for two magazine articles, two knitting patterns and two knitted samples, I now have the joy of working on my own self-published patterns. The boss is totally crazy: she's trying to get a sweater pattern, mitten pattern and hat pattern out the door before year's end!

Sniff! We're all in double digits, now!

A beautiful Christmas Vespers at the Culver Academy Chapel.

I love the tuba player by the column.

Her "Grown Up Christmas List"


In other knit news, I am totally stoked to be in conversation with The Loopy Ewe, one of my favorite knit stores. We are trying to work out a class(es) I could teach there when I am in Fort Collins, Colorado this coming April. The Loopy Ewe will start carrying my patterns in January. And, Canadian pattern store Patternfish is working on getting mine uploaded before the end of 2014.

Off to work on those, now!

Karasjok, the Sámi political capitol in Norway

Wednesday morning dawned bright and early.  I ate my expensive breakfast, bought by myself in the expensive grocery the night before, packed up the car and left. 

Off I went down the road I had journeyed up and down the previous three days. I said good bye to the little fishing villages, and the church at Nesseby. 

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I right past the Tana museum in Polmak again, taking a quick sidetrip to cross the Tana bridge.  The various bridges across the Tana are a big deal: until 60 years ago, there weren't even roads in the area. 

Just past Polmak was the Finnish border.  That's right.  Even though I started off in Norway and my destination for the day was in Norway, borders are very close in this area.  Mountains, rivers and other formations, often make it quicker to go through a neighboring country. Crossings are easy and swift.  In fact, in the three weeks I was overseas, I went in and out of 10 countries, and the only time my passport was asked for in Europe was in Berlin, Germany on my layover on the way home.  But, that's another story. 

Welcome, Finland! 

Tana bridge

Tana bridge

The speed trap on the eastern side of the Tana bridge.  I didn't participate in the fun.

The speed trap on the eastern side of the Tana bridge.  I didn't participate in the fun.

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The Tana river is really quite beautiful.  It forms the northern border between Finland and Norway, and in this area is shallow and rocky.  The surrounding land is sheltered and excellent for farming, and unusual occupation this far north. 

The Tana river

The Tana river

The car I rented, a VW golf, had bluetooth capability, so I was able to play the songs on my phone over the stereo system. Occasionally, I found the automatic shuffle / song choice ironic.

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At Utsjoki, Finland, the very tippy-top of the country, I crossed another bridge, the twin of the Tana bridge, and went back to the Norwegian side.  Utsjoki was smaller than I expected: basically a school, grocery, gas station and several campsites. I made sure I used the cheaper gas station and grocery, then took off up and down the hills of Norway. 

I arrived in Karasjok around 11 and headed straight for the parliament building. Karasjok is a charming town.  

The Sámi parliament building in Karasjok, Norway

The Sámi parliament building in Karasjok, Norway

Roadway sign indicating the Sámi parliament building

Roadway sign indicating the Sámi parliament building

At the parliament building I met with a librarian I had been emailing back and forth for a couple years.  Kåre took me on a tour of the building, introduced me to colleagues, took me to the Sámi museum where his cousin, Berit Åse, showed me some amazing mittens, and then we had some coffee with other colleagues.

Back at the campsite, I had a very interesting conversation with a Irish shepherd, recently come to Karasjok to do 3 months of shearing. 

The parliament building as seen from the Prime Minister's seat

The parliament building as seen from the Prime Minister's seat

The Prime Minister's seat from the gallery

The Prime Minister's seat from the gallery

A handcraft shop in Karasjok that has a hilarious door covering that mimics a woman's cap.

A handcraft shop in Karasjok that has a hilarious door covering that mimics a woman's cap.

It was a very full day. Tomorrow would prove to be just as full, as I got up and drove to Alta, Norway.  Until then, knit fast, knit safe. 

Museums 3, 4 & 5

The first day in Vadsø, I drove back to Neiden and visited the Øst-samiske museum.  Curator Honna Havas has done a magnificent job putting together exhibits and planning this new museum despite multiple, frustrating set-backs to the museum's opening. Her enthusiastic love for her job and the Skolt Sámi people (referred to as the East Sámi or Øst-samiske in Norwegian, hence the museum's name) was both stimulating and infectious.

She made sure Heine Wesslin was there to talk with me.  Heine is a younger woman who lives and attends college in Northern Finland.  She also has a deep love for the Skolt people, collecting patterns and learning multiple handicrafts under the tutelage of Matleena Fofonoff, a master craftsman of the Skolt Sámi people. 

I enjoyed the drive to and from Neiden much more this second day, now that I had driven it once before and knew what to expect. 

 Øst-samiske museum in Neiden, Norway

 Øst-samiske museum in Neiden, Norway

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The second day, I drove to Polmak, Norway, nestled next to the Finnish border on the Tana river, to visit the Tana museum. It is in an idyllic location, in a sheltered valley.  This is the traditional home to the River Sámi. The curator at this museum, Turid Lindi, arranged for several Sámi knitters to meet with me and share their projects.  What a joy to see their fine knitting, and hear our conversation translated from English to Norwegian to Sámi and back again.

Tana museum in Polmak, Norway

Tana museum in Polmak, Norway

The knitting group in Polmak

The knitting group in Polmak

I also popped in and chatted with curator Mia Krogh at the Varangerbotn / Sea Sami museum.  I had previously emailed with her, but forgot to tell her I would be in the area. She rose to the occasion and rustled up four pairs of mittens.  This pair, although not Sami, was particularly interesting with its history of being peddled door to door by a crazy old man years and years ago.  Now this pattern is associated with this region, and a region of Southern Sweden.  Very curious...

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The last museum was the Vadsø museum itself. The curator here, Renate Martinussen, arranged the Knit Cafe to meet when I was there, and for me to do a presentation.  A lovely warm evening, I walked to the Knit Cafe, and enjoyed a lovely coffee and cake, warm conversation, and beautiful projects.

Renate and a wonderful knitter, Turi

Renate and a wonderful knitter, Turi

a collection of local mittens

a collection of local mittens

the international women's group joined us for the night

the international women's group joined us for the night

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Next: my drive and time in the Sámi Norwegian political center city, Karasjok. 

The Samisiida, the Finnish Sámi Museum, and Sajos, the Sámi Parliament

Friday morning dawned bright and early. Eeva went for a swim in the lake (brrr!). I opted for a more comfortable warm shower.  

We're here!   

We're here!

 

The view at the hostel

The view at the hostel

At 8am I was at the Samisiida museum with curator Aile Aikio. What a wonderful time! She and I had emailed quite a bit over a year ago, and I was quite looking forward to meeting her. Every once in awhile you meet someone who has the right job, enjoys it and excels at it. Aile is such a person. She has a finger on the pulse of the Inari community.  She interviews elderly in senior centers; she collects stories; she collects materials.  As a result, she has so much information about so many aspects of the Sámi life. One undesirable effect of this knowledge is "ethno-stress" -- the stress of knowing all the history and "right" ways to do things. Does the life of Sámi culture depend on them? Sometimes it feels so.  It can be a heavy weight to bear.

Happily, one area she knows much about are Sámi mittens from her area. Before I talk mittens, however, let me educate you about the Sámi in Finland. The museum had exhibits on both of the following sub-groups and had mittens from both as well.

The Sámi peoples have about 9 subgroups. Most of these subgroups have a wide land area. Only one of these sub-groups is within one country only, and that is the Inari Sámi.  They are found within Finland, around Lake Inari. They herd reindeer near the lake and enjoy other lake activities. Their national costume has green in it, not common with most other sub-groups.  Likewise, their mittens often have green.

The other Sámi sub-group mostly found within Finland, the Skolt Sámi, have their original homeland divided between Norway, Finland and Russia.  Approximately half of it is in Russia. Around 1935, they were instructed by the Russian government that the borders were closing: get out or stay. Most left, but were allowed back in a year later. 

In 1947, they were told again: get out or stay. Most left to Finland.  They have never been allowed back in. The majority of those who remained in Russia were collectivized and moved to the town of Lovozero.  Their reindeer were seized and collectivized as well. Much of their culture was destroyed. Less than 2,000 Skolt Sámi remain in Russia.

Of those that remained in Finland, many settled in Sevettijarvi, north of Lake Inari. You must understand, that the Skolt Sámi living in Russia for 100s of years were influenced by the Russian majority.  Many have Russian last names, wear Russian influenced outfits, and are Russian orthodox by faith. They, however, are not Russian. 

As a generality, Finns hate Russians.  The Finns have had bitter conflicts and many wars with their giant, overbearing neighbor to the East. Russia has so many people and so many resources compared to this small neighbor, so naturally, they almost always won. So, when Russian speaking Skolt Sámi fled to Finland, the Finns didn't exactly greet them with open arms. When Skolt Sámi moved near lake Inari, the Inari Sámi weren't exactly thrilled either. The Sámi peoples have been discriminated against by their majority cultures for over 100 years. Now the discrimination was within their community. As a result, the Skolt Sámi were treated as the lowest of the low.

Their culture is fascinating, though. Sevettijarvi has a beautiful small orthodox church, reindeer, lakes and birch trees.  The traditional women's costume includes the old horn hat, long skirts and shawls. The men wear Western dress and were the first of the Sámi peoples to drop traditional clothing. The women stopped wearing the reindeer skin leggings, and so became the only Sámi people to wear knit socks in the traditional costume. 

The Skolt Sámi have distinctive mittens.  Most of them are plain on the hand and patterned only on the cuff.  The patterning is every other stitch, with the stitch inbetween in the base color. Many of the patterns have names, as well: ptarmigan's foot, boat's bow, and netting. As you may guess, fishing and bird trapping are a part of everyday life.

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the museum.  Here are some pictures of the parliament building just around the corner.  I've read somewhere that it is shaped like a reindeer bone.

The Finnish Sami Parliament in Inari, Finland

The Finnish Sami Parliament in Inari, Finland

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Inside is a rather nice handcrafts shop with books, shawls, jewelry, CDs and knitting. 

Skolt socks

Skolt socks

Finnish mittens, River Sámi mittens, Inari mittens, and Swedish Lovikka mittens

Finnish mittens, River Sámi mittens, Inari mittens, and Swedish Lovikka mittens

We filled up on diesel, visited a small grocery and bought some food for the following days in Norway. I bought an "Angry Birds" candy for my eldest (Angry birds is one of Finland's biggest exports these days!).  Then, we loaded up and headed for the border. 

Tomorrow: Norway!