Fisherman knit chic

Following on the heels of Lumbersexual and Normcore, Fisherman Fashion is now a thing.This is something knitters in Newfoundland and Labrador can get behind.

According to an article in the U.K.’s The Guardian, Fisherman Fashion has now replaced Lumbersexual as the hipster look du jour.

Vogue even declared the Aran knit fisherman’s sweater THE sweater of 2015.

This is George Clooney in the 2000 film The Perfect Storm. As you can see, Clooney’s knitted sweater and toque certainly work in terms of Fisherman Fashion. Oh yeah.


However, these days, Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen (and women) tend to rock this sort of look.


This is the 2016 cast of the Discovery Channel’s reality series, Cold Water Cowboys. It’s a television series about  real-life fishery workers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Modern fishing is a highly specialized and technical profession. The people in the trade tend to go for the latest high-tech outdoor gear, which these days, does not generally include a chunky sweater hand-knit by Nan.

Although, to be fair, the Cold Water Cowboys crowd does nod to grunge, with the plaid, and to hipsters, with the trucker hats.

Or maybe the plaid shirts and trucker hats are just functional wear out on the wharf and out on the water.

Anyhow, Fisherman Fashion is not necessarily about how fishermen really dress on the job. It’s about how fashionistas think fishermen dress on the job.

And if the fashion world thinks Fisherman Fashion is about the perfect hand-knit  sweater or toque, let’s go with it.

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I happen to be working on an Aran-weight toque right now, to match a pair of trigger mitts I just completed. The set is a gift for a friend of mine who lives “away,” ie. somewhere in mainland North America.

The toque and old school Newfoundland trigger mitts are just as functional for hopping on your fixed-gear bicycle for a trip to the  artisanal microbrewery, as they are for going out in an open boat to check on your crab pots.

I’m hoping that he’ll get the gift just before the peak of Fisherman Fashion.

It’s about time that Newfoundland and Labrador gets a shout-out for its forward-looking fashion.   

Yoga for knitters

In the words of people around Yarn Cove, “I finds me hands.”

These last few days I’ve been knitting more intensely than usual. I have a gift project that needs to get done. More about that later, but I can’t talk about it just yet. Here at Yarn Cove, news tends to travel quickly, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Anyhow, I’ve been knitting a lot, and my hands and lower arms are…feeling it.

Now, I’m lucky enough to be in decent physical shape, so I can be a little bit paranoid about aches and pains.

I also run quite a bit, and that’s a sport where people tend to get injured, especially runners of a certain vintage. Running generally agrees with my body, so I have avoided most health speedbumps there.

So when bits of me start to hurt, my mind takes me to the worst case scenario.

“I’ll never knit again. The doctors will have to amputate.”

Obviously, I need perspective. And I need to pace myself. I need to think of knitting the way I think of training for a long-distance race.

Some days I’m gonna hurt, and that’s different from being injured. But I’m also going to have to manage the aches and pains, like I do with running.


So, I thought of something I do with my feet after a long training run. After logging 20k, I’ll sit down, put my sock foot on a golf ball, and roll the ball around under my foot. It’s uncomfortable, but it breaks up the tense and achy bits on my sole and arch quite nicely.

I decided to try to same technique on my hands and forearms.

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Again, uncomfortable to do, but my hands and arms felt much better afterwards.

Part of my running maintenance is to also try to get to a yoga class once a week.

This morning I went to an hour long hot yoga class at Moksha Yoga St. John’s.

The yoga helps stretch out my quads and hips from running. It also unsnarls my neck and shoulders from my day job, working at a computer.

But this morning, during the downward dog, I started thinking about my hands and forearms. As I switched my concentration from my legs to my arms, suddenly little pings, not unpleasant, started happening in my wrists and forearms. As the hour went on, my arm and hand muscles loosened up, and unsnarled, the way my neck and shoulders do during a productive yoga session.

If I’m at the knitting for the long haul, regular maintenance will be required, even – gasp – a rest day every now and then.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Namaste, and pass me my 4mm circular needles.


The New Newfoundland work knit

I’ve been spending a lot of time working on trigger mitts lately.

I’ve been using Shirl the Purl’s Baccalieu pattern, and Scott and LeGrow’s Diamond pattern from their Some Warm Mittens series.  I made these two pairs using Briggs and Little Regal yarn.

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Shirl the Purl has done a lot of research on the origin of these mittens, and the origin of similar hand coverings across northern countries and provinces. If she’s giving a talk on historical knitting in Newfoundland and Labrador, go. It’s fascinating.

Trigger mitts were a traditional Newfoundland mitten made for use while seabird hunting, (trigger mitts for the rifle, get it?) or for fishing, or other outdoor work.  The separate thumb and forefinger gives the wearer more use of his/her hands, while still keeping them warm with the two-colour double knit. Function and fashion!

Now, trigger mitts were designed for the outdoor Newfoundland worker who probably looked like the people in this photo.


But the truth is, not a lot of people in Newfoundland and Labrador work like that these days.

Most of us have indoor jobs. Those of us who work outdoors tend to be skilled tradespeople or labourers at something like this.

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That got me thinking. What could I knit that represents the modern, outdoor, hard working man or woman of Newfoundland and Labrador?

I came up with this.

File_003 (1).jpegI was inspired by the ubiquitous safety vest, and the rock and steel of the industrial work site.

I also needed a change from trigger mitts, which, to be honest, are a bit labour intensive and require more than some of my concentration. I decided to mix it up a bit and go for a simpler, colour blocked sock. I used DROPS Nepal yarn.

These socks should tuck nicely into a pair of steel toed work boots.  The 35% alpaca and 65% wool blend yarn would keep the feet of tradesmen or tradeswomen toasty on the Muskrat Falls job site, on the deck of an oil rig, or while framing up a house on Kenmount Terrace.

I’d like to try this sock in a hot pink, to match the colour of the hard hats that some tradeswomen wear on the job.

Now of course, even though most of us don’t make a living in an open boat, trigger mitts are still really popular, and worn by people from all walks of life in many outdoor situations.

Maybe I should make a pair of trigger mitts in safety vest colours.




My Knit Worth


Prior to my knitting addiction, my experience with gathering supplies to make things to wear dates from my childhood in the 1970s.

The principles of knitting and sewing were, back in the day,  1. It was cheaper to make it yourself, and 2. You would have more options if you made it yourself.

I remember fidgeting as my mother and grandmother rifled through cubbyholes of yarn on sale at Giant Mart in Churchill Square. Whatever they made from that material would be much cheaper than a store-bought toque or mittens or sweater.

Whether the yarn they bought came from the finest merino sheep or from a vaguely petroleum base, I have no idea. Everything was “wool”. Even –  shudder –  Phentex.


I have inherited the family love of a bargain. When it comes to what I wear, I pride myself on never paying full price. I’ll stalk items in shops for months until they go on sale. My go-to for clothing basics is the cheap and cheerful Joe Fresh line at my local supermarket.

So my view of shopping for yarn is stuck in a time warp.

I visited a knitting supply shop the other day, the one that I don’t go to so much. It has a smaller yarn selection than my usual shop, but one that these days, we call a “curated” selection. Everything there was appealing. None of it was cheap.

I saw one loose skein of wool with a price tag of $48. And many gorgeous ones in the  $20-40 range.

One skein of wool makes, approximately, one hat or a pair of mitts. And if I’m going to spend $48 on the equivalent of a hat or a pair of mitts, it’s going to be made by someone, somewhere,  who can do a much better job of it than me.

Then again, anytime I’m flicking through the sale rack at Joe Fresh, I’m not looking at the tag to see whether the sweater is acrylic or wool, or where the sheep that the wool came from spent their grazing time. I’m just looking at a trendy sweater that’s cheap and easy enough to pick up with my groceries.

With the emphasis these days on wool quality and provenance, selecting yarn for a knitting project can be more like trying to make wine and food pairings for a fancy dinner party.

Which got me thinking. These days, you have to have time, money, or both, to knit. Knitting, which in my childhood, was the practical, economical way to provide for your family, has now become a bit of a luxury.

As I made my way through the wares of that knitting shop the other day, I found a  selection of Cascade Yarn at $10 per skein. At that rate, I could knit myself a sweater for about $80 plus tax.  That’s still more than I’d pay for a sweater at Joe Fresh.

I did, however, splurge on this beautiful skein of grey baby llama yarn, as soft as the fur of my cat.

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What to make with it? I want to pick a pattern that’s classy enough for the wool. I want to knit it into an item that will get worn, but won’t get worn out or lost. I’m a bit tied up in knots about the decision.

I’m pretty sure this was not a dilemma my mother and grandmother faced as they brought their balls of Beehive yarn to the checkout at Giant Mart.