A few weeks ago in much colder weather, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the incredible Laerke Bagger. I’ve been a fan of her work for some time and I was so excited to chat with the person who makes such beautiful things. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but she was one on the kindest and inspirational makers that I’ve had the chance to speak with. Whenever I interview a maker I’m always pleasantly surprised when they are the people I have built up in my head. I’m so excited to share this segment of our chat with all of you.
“I feel like I’m more a part of a movement than I am just a knitter”
|“Took me six months to apply
every single thread by hand”
Sam: How would you describe what you do?
Laerke: That’s a big question… I just love crafts. All sorts of crafts and I’ve been doing crafts ever since I was eight years old. Of course I’m a knitter. But I feel like I’m more a part of a movement than I am just a knitter.
Sam: When did you learn to knit and when did you decide that knitting was the best way for you to express yourself?
Laerke: I think that there were two times in my life that I would say I started knitting. I started knitting when I was eight years old and I was way into it, but only doing scarves in garter stitch with the edges going in and out, because you’re constantly increasing and decreasing and slowly becoming better. I was about seventeen years old when I really started knitting. I had been knitting all my life, but that was when I really started doing my first patterns and crazy jumpers. So ugly… but crazy jumpers.
\”I had to drop out and I was like, ok I’ll give it a shot, this knitting thing\”
Sam: You were exploring.
Laerke: Yeah, I was, but without really knowing that I was exploring. But I think that was when I really started to realize that this was really something… Actually the third experience that I had was when I went to University for six months. I was just knitting through all of my classes and all of my lectures. Then we came to the exams and I realized that I actually had to take exams, but I had been knitting the whole time. I studied religion. So it was all of these tales about ancient Rome and ancient Egypt. Really exciting! But I had absolutely no notes. So I had to drop out and I was like, ok I’ll give it a shot, this knitting thing.
|“The best kind of mess”|
Sam: Did you end up going to school for knitting?
Laerke: After I dropped out of university I took three years of unpaid internship with one of my knitting heroes, who is this Danish woman called, Isabel Berglund. She studied at Central Saint Martins and did these amazing knitted sculptures and she was also based in Copenhagen. So I interned for her for three years while I was working in bars and serving beers. She actually gave me the confidence to apply for The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Then I applied and was lucky enough to get in. So I actually have a five year degree, an MA in arts with a specialty in textiles and hand knit.
“It’s hard to say this, but in the beginning I was mostly driven by fear”
Sam: And then what did you do after school?
|Laerke Bagger’s first Instagram post|
Laerke: I was very determined. It’s hard to say this, but in the beginning I was mostly driven by fear. The fear of never having a job. Or the fear of not being able to afford an apartment in Copenhagen. Or the fear of my future child not being able to go to badminton. So I was like “I have to do something while I’m still in school”. So I started using Instagram at a very early stage of Instagram. Which was exactly the right time to get on. I didn’t want to do any portfolios online and I thought that was really boring. I don’t like any sort of tech. I’m a crafty analog person, so it was the perfect thing to get on Instagram and use it as a very flexible online portfolio.
Sam: I was going to ask you about your Instagram and what made you get on it in the first place. So that was how your account got started?
Laerke: Yeah it was! And then when I graduated about two or three years later I had this huge following at the time. Maybe it was about 5,000 followers, which was a lot at the time, because this was before the whole influencer thing came along. Then I had my daughter, because I knew that I was going to be self employed and I like to plan. I thought why not have the child now and then open the business afterwards? But I was still working during my maternity leave. I’m always working.
Sam: Yeah, it sounds like it! So what were you doing for a job outside of your designs?
Laerke: I’ve never had a “real job” outside of bar tending in school. After I was finished with school I went on maternity leave and I opened up my own business and I was freelancing doing knitwear design for knitwear companies and magazines. Selling my jumpers. I had a lot of different sorts of income, but everything still surrounded knitwear. After six months I was headhunted for this creative director job for this big yarn company. It’s everything from branding, strategy, picking new colors, & trend spotting.
|Laerke’s table mid project|
Sam: Are you still doing that currently?
Laerke: I’m still doing that. Together with my own business
Sam: It sounds like you kind of get the best of both worlds. You have your personal creative outlet and then you also have a more technical practice with that company.
Laerke: Yeah, I do. For example some of the things I use for my own work and my own patterns I use for the company and some of the things I use for the company I translate into my own work. It’s sort of difficult to say where one thing stops and the other thing begins.
Sam: Can you describe your beaded jumpers and your loop knits?
Laerke: Loopy knit was actually one of the first techniques that I explored
Sam: Again, you’re reading my mind! I was going to ask which one came first.
“Suddenly knitwear wasn’t just knitwear”
Laerke: It was actually loop knit. I started doing the furs while I was still in school. It’s sort of fun to look back on the work that you did. This is about ten years ago now. Seeing how the work was effected by the youth. I was younger and much more experimental. It’s an old technique that I found in this knitting magazine from the seventies. I haven’t invented any of my techniques myself I just apply them to contemporary trends. It was a really easy technique to do and it really suited the way that I like to work, creating effects and drama, making emotions and playing with colors. It was a really easy way to incorporate that into knitwear.
The beading came much later. I was in my last year of school. My dad lived in Greenland and had lived there for fifteen years. He sent me a set of wrist warmers. Which is a really weird set of clothing. But they have this tradition of beadwork and this was knitted in this pattern of ice crystals. Kind of like when you look at a snowflake through a microscope. It was really ugly, because they were fuscia and yellow. But I’d never seen this technique of adding elements onto the thread and then knitting it into the jumper. It was adding another element. Suddenly knitwear wasn’t just knitwear. You could add something else to the knitwear.
“Usually the initial inspiration can come from anything. I could be in the supermarket and watching a bag of frozen vegetables”
|Spring knitting experiments|
|Laerke in her studio workspace|
“I don’t know I think most textile designers are collectors. Obsessive collectors. Or hoarders”
“It’s order and chaos in the best possible way”
“It’s in the breaks that you can do an analysis and think about your work and that makes the work better. Rather than keep on going like a machine”
“New books sell more of a lifestyle. They tend to be in pastels. They are heavily stylized. The older books don’t have that. Especially if you want to do design. Learn the basics and then search for inspiration elsewhere”
|Close up of Laerke’s beaded & knitted clutches|
“I’m not an Instagramer and I’m also not an influencer. I’m also not a blogger. I’m a knitter who uses Instagram to share my work with other people”
“I know how long it took. So I would rather that other people wear it, because they aren’t as defensive or connected to it”
Laerke: It’s because you don’t have to look at it all the time. If you miss fifteen minutes it doesn’t matter. If you miss an episode it doesn’t matter. They argue all the time so you can just sit and listen to the arguments. You don’t really have to watch it you can just listen to it. I love it. My boyfriend paints and does ceramics in his free time whenever I knit in the evening. He always says, \”oh, no are you watching this again? I can’t stand listening to their voices\”. I’m destroying his creative process while enhancing my own.