Hunting for Knits: An Interview with Nöel Margaret
Header Image Photo Credit: Noël Margaret
While meandering through the Pennsylvania Endless Mountains Fiber Festival, I met Noël Margaret. I was absolutely intrigued by her ingenious approach to sculpture knitting, which combines her interests in fiber and the natural world, especially wildlife.
Microdermy Knits: North American Wildlife Collection, a miniature collection of taxidermy-inspired pieces, is quite different from the typical book of stuffed animals. The three bears we meet in Noël’s book are not Goldilocks’ bears, but rather miniature bust representations of the trio of bear species (black, brown, and polar) that inhabits North America. We are introduced to the lone cougar, which—because of its extensive range across the continent—is known by many names, including puma, mountain devil, and panther. A tiny herd of white-tailed deer, an opossum, a narwhal, a stoat, a cottontail rabbit, a fox, a walrus, and a turtle also grace the pages of her book.
But most important is the last creature that we encounter in Microdermy Knits: the enduring wolf. The wolf is Noël’s totem animal and the symbol of her business—Wanderlust Woolves. She recognizes the complicated relationship that humans have with wolves, with the species being both persecuted and protected. Because wolves resonate so much with Noël, she has based her knitting skill-level guidelines on the social hierarchy within the wolf pack, with patterns rated as beginner (Pup), easy (Omega), intermediate (Beta), and advanced (Alpha).
Microdermy Knits, Noël’s first pattern book, focuses on North American wildlife and features not only knitting instructions, but also a few tidbits of information about each animal. Her ambitious goal is to ultimately offer a complete set of books, in which each volume is a representative anthology of the wildlife on each continent. Currently, she is investigating the animals of Africa for her next installment.
Noël’s unique perspective grew from a childhood spent exploring nature. She made many fascinating discoveries as she wandered the property of her family’s thirty-five-acre New York farm. Her mother, who also sewed, wove, and crocheted, introduced Noël to fiber at a very young age so that by the time she was five, she had woven her first basket. During long car trips, Noël often kept busy with a crochet hook and yarn, amusing herself with her creations. Noël furthered her study of art and sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she took a course that included machine knitting. This experience prompted her to pick up needles and experiment with the creative potential of handknitting.
When she worked in the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab at RISD, Noël was responsible for cleaning, restoring, and preserving the multitude of exhibits. Fascinated by the wall-mounted specimens, she found herself drawn to the character, mystery, and beauty of these animals frozen in time. She feels that much can be learned from these pieces and their eternal gaze, and she hopes that when others view them, they too can perhaps feel a sense of compassion, curiosity, appreciation, and awe.
Wunderkammer, or cabinets of curiosities, also intrigue Noël. Created during Europe’s Renaissance, these elegant furniture pieces, which housed specimens from nature, were essentially precursors to the natural history museums of today. Through a harmonious blending of her sculptural background, her deep love of nature, and her experience with fiber, Noël has re-created nature’s splendor in miniature. She has, essentially, made her own fiber wunderkammer.
In addition to Microdermy Knits, her work has been published in Joan of Dark’s book, Geek Knits, and Judith Durant’s One Skein Wonders for Babies. Projects that are sure to capture hearts include Toot, the bunny; Dire Wolf; Ursula, the bear-hug cowl; and Lil’ Stinker, a skunk cowl for children. Find her unique pieces on her website (www.wanderlustwoolves.com), on Ravelry (as NoelMargaret), and in her Etsy shop (Wanderlust Woolves).
The fiber community is filled with many interesting and creative people that writer Kathy Augustine enjoys meeting. She spins, knits, sews, and weaves in her Pennsylvania home with her family and is learning the art of shepherding with her small flock of animals.