World Wide Knit in Public Day in NL

Saturday, June 18 was cold, wet and windy in Newfoundland – perfect conditions for World Wide Knit in Public Day (WWKIP). 

It’s the largest knitter run event in the world, and it costs nothing to take part (except the cost of your own knitting supplies). Considering the crappy state of affairs in the world at the moment, we could all use a bit of warm, fuzzy fun.

There were a few official events happening in my neck of the woods, and a few unofficial ones.

A craft collective in Bonavista optimistically planned to set up an outdoor tent on the road to the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse. Due to the sideways rain, the group quickly decamped to the dry and cozy Mockbeggars’ Plantation. Here is the group, in a photo courtesy of Joan Kane.

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There were other cool events, including a “Purl with Pints” event at the Captain’s Pub at the Anchor Inn Hotel in Twillingate. That’s my kind of knitting event.

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Here in St. John’s, I had to work. But hey, my job is in public broadcasting, so I celebrated World Wide Knit in Public Day at work.

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Please note, WWKIP is the only day I knit on the job.

It’s a good thing WWKIP took place on that rainy Saturday, because since then, we’ve been experiencing several consecutive days of warm, sunny weather. As this is highly unusual around here in June, all indoor activities, such as knitting and blogging, have been suspended while we expose our pasty white limbs to the great outdoors.

The weather will turn miserable again soon enough, and then knitting will resume.

 

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The Brigus Knitting Mills

I’m working away at my first cardigan – the Harvest pattern from Tin Can Knits.

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It’s certainly not perfect, but I’m learning a lot and I’ll happily wear my prototype once I’m done.  

I brought the work-in-progress up to my parents’ house for Sunday dinner the other day and my mother said the pattern put her in mind of the sweaters from the Brigus Knitting Mills.

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The Brigus Knitting Mills?

My mother still has her mother’s prized sweater from the Brigus Knitting Mills, likely purchased sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

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It’s densely knit, high quality, and has that retro mid-century look about it.

My mother recalls the clothing made by the mill was all the rage in Newfoundland at the time, and fairly expensive. A coveted sweater, jacket or skirt from the Brigus Knitting Mills would have been an investment piece of workwear for my grandmother, who was a teacher and a single mother.

I immediately went to the Google machine to find out more.

The Brigus Knitting Mills started in 1953 as the Eckhardt Mill, an offshoot of an Austrian company.

It was part of  then-Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood’s industrialization plan for Newfoundland. Smallwood had appointed Latvian economist Alfred Valdemanis as Newfoundland’s Director of Economic Development in 1950, with disasterous results. Smallwood, with Valdemanis’s guidance, set up 16 manufacturing plants in Newfoundland in the 1950s, and most were Austrian and German companies.

Almost all of them, including the Brigus Knitting Mills, failed.

Noted Newfoundland costume designer Peggy Hogan wrote a journal article about the Brigus Knitting Mills in 2003. There are a few passing reference to the mills in other academic and government papers, but that’s pretty much the only trace of the Brigus Knitting Mills online – or anywhere, for that matter.

There are no vintage Brigus Knitting Mills outfits for sale on Etsy. No stock photos of fashionable mid-twentieth century Newfoundland women modelling the clothes. No modern fashion revival of the patterns.

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I’m pretty sure that the Brigus Knitting Mills building in Brigus, pictured here,  is long gone.

It’s a shame, really.

I have this vision of a Mad Men-style office, somewhere in St. John’s or Gander or Corner Brook, where Newfoundland women are as fashionable and current in their own way as women working in Montreal or New York City.

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Also, think of the possibilities of a retro revival of Newfoundland fashion that’s not about fishing and outport life, but has a more cosmopolitan spin on Newfoundland style.

If any of you know more about the Brigus Knitting Mills, please drop me a line and let me know!