Summer knitting

Summer in Yarn Cove this year has been especially warm and sunny. It would be a shame to be tied to a computer screen, so I have let the blogging slide.  

The knitting, however, is an all-weather activity.  

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In July, I was invited to take part in an experimental electronic music/knitting/performance art piece as part of Sound Symposium XIX, an international sound and music festival that happens here every second year.

One of the visiting groups, Rokkur, combines the tools of knitting with electronics to create sounds while knitting and engaging in other woolly activities. I was put in touch with Sarah Albu, one of the members of Rokkur, nearly a year ago. Sarah asked me to wind up a posse of knitters who might be into doing a performance piece.

No problem. St. John’s is the kind of town where random acts of art happen.

Sarah was initially concerned that the knitters might be too shy to perform. Rokkur had encountered that in other cultures and countries.

No problem, I assured her. People in St. John’s are all about random acts of art.

In the end, there were four of us knitters, Sarah, and Reuben the improvisational clarinetist. (What would knitting performance art be without improvisational clarinet?)

We did a half-hour set at a Sound Symposium evening concert at the LSPU Hall.

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Apparently we were a hit.

Annie Corcoran, Sarah Gordon, and the kind people at The Overcast express it more eloquently than I ever could.

In August, attached to my working life, I was invited to take part in the Winterset in Summer Literary Festival in Eastport.

It’s a gathering of writers, musicians, and people interested in such things in a lovely part of rural Newfoundland. I took a bagful of my completed knitting projects, just in case some of them might like a handmade souvenir.

The festival’s HQ is The Beaches Arts and Heritage Centre, a lovely performance and community space at Eastport.

I mentioned to Glendene at the Centre’s office, that I had a few pieces of knitting with me.

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Show me what you’ve got – says Glendene.

The next thing I know, Glendene is digging through my bag of socks, hats and trigger mitts, and she took the whole works on consignment.

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So now there’s a pile of Yarn Cove products for sale at the Beaches gift shop.

I am beyond excited, and I’m curious to see what sells.

It’s also great motivation for me to keep knitting – and get back at the blogging.

 

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Commissions and voyages

I grew up in pre-oil boom Newfoundland and Labrador. Most of my friends from high school and university are scattered across Canada and around the world, simply because most opportunities were elsewhere.

So it was great to see my old buddy Gilbert in town. Gilbert is a pilot based in Nova Scotia, and his work takes him all over the globe. A few of us went out for a pint at the Duke of Duckworth to catch up.  Gilbert mentioned my knitting and wondered if I could make a pair of traditional Newfoundland trigger mitts for a retirement gift for one of his colleagues.

At which point, my friend Danielle added, “Yeah, Heather – I meant it when I asked if you could knit that sweater for me!”

Two commissions!

First, the trigger mitts, since the retirement gift was needed by the end of the month. I had been wanting to try one of the latest patterns from Spindrift Handknits, called the Wesleyville Trigger Mitt,  and this was the perfect chance.  

Everything went along smoothly, until I discovered I was running low on Briggs and Little Regal Yarn in Dark Grey.

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I did the 21st century thing – put out an appeal on Facebook, and within the day, I had bought enough dark grey from a friend’s stash to finish the project.

I’m just throwing it out there to all purveyors of knitting supplies in the St. John’s area: Briggs and Little REGAL yarn is an essential supply for all the traditional N.L. knits – If you stock it, we will buy it!!

Anyhow – back to the commissions. Danielle and I needed to go wool shopping.

Danielle is a visual artist, and I wanted her seal of approval for the colour of her February Lady Sweater.

An aubergine shade of Cascade 220 caught her eye.

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The Wesleyville Trigger Mitts are done and in the mail.

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Now I’m onto Danielle’s sweater. I’m really digging the colour.

As we were talking that night at the Duke of Duckworth, I mentioned that of all out of my friends, I have probably lived the most of my life in Newfoundland. Which is fine, but I think it would be nice to spend an extended period of time somewhere else, just for a change.

Gilbert said, “Well, just put the money for those triggers mitts in your trip fund.”

As for Danielle’s sweater, it’s already prepaid. You see, Danielle and her husband Jean-Marc lived for a couple of years in the south of France. My husband and I got to stay in their vacant apartment for a holiday a couple of years ago.

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I should probably knit Danielle’s entire wardrobe for the rest of her life.

The Shirley A. Scott Knitters’ Library

Many of us get our knitting patterns online these days, but Shirley “Shirl the Purl” Scott kicks it old school – and she has amassed an impressive collection of knitting books.

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Shirl has been doing a bit of downsizing lately, and she has donated much of her large collection of knitting books to Spindrift Handknits.

I was lucky enough to be amongst a select group of townie knitters invited to the Spindrift Handknits HQ for the opening of the Shirley A. Scott Knitters’ Library.  

After the customary coffee, tea and cookies, we broke out our knitting, and sat down to listen to Shirl’s short and colourful talk about her collection.

Shirl had a long career as a librarian, and she has assembled a collection of knitting books with that trade’s attention to detail.

Most of her books focus on North Atlantic knitting.

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There are books on Shetland,  Fair Isle and German Sweaters. Estonian and Norwegian Mittens. Swedish socks. American midwestern/Scandinavian jackets. There’s also the scattered Japanese lace manual thrown into the mix.

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It’s all a bit mind blowing.

A few fun facts from Shirl:

American knitters are credited with most of the English language translations of these northern knitting patterns.

Most knitting books are published with a copyright, but not a copyright date, to make knitters less likely to judge whether a pattern is in or out of fashion.

Japanese patterns rely mostly on graphs and numbers, so even if you can’t read Japanese, you can probably figure out a pattern.

Shirl, goddess of knitting that she is, is like the rest of us mere mortal knitters in at least one respect. Although she has amassed this amazing collection of knitting patterns, she has attempted only a handful of them. We all have good intentions.

We finished off the afternoon with a round of knitting trivia and another round of coffee and sweet treats.  

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I feel like I have entered a secret society of sorts; kind of like the Freemasons, but with wool.

The Shirley A. Scott Knitters’ Library is accessible through Spindrift Handknits by request.

 

On Colour

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“Spring” in Newfoundland is generally fiction, but this year, it’s been especially so. As I write, a mixture of freezing rain and snow is pelting down. Most of the coast has been socked in with pack ice. It’s spectacular, but brutal.

And monochromatic.

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Life here at the moment is happening in black, white and grey, with a touch of brown. Which, as fashion choices, are pretty good. You can’t go wrong with a wardrobe built on these colours, or lack thereof.

But – you need to accessorize in colour.  In St. John’s in April, that means in both  wardrobe and life in general.

I’ve never had a good grip on working with colour, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

My knitting mentors Shirley Scott and Christine LeGrow are particularly inventive when it comes to incorporating colour into traditional Newfoundland patterns. So I thought of them when I went to pick out some wool to make some mittens and trigger mitts.

I laid a rainbow of Briggs and Little skeins on the floor of the local wool shop, and rearranged them until I found a combo that looked good to me. I picked out a navy (which reminds me of blueberries) a maroon (partridgeberries) and a light brown (dirt, twigs, or something from nature in general).

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So I wound them up and set to work.

Voila! Newfoundland berry mitts. Plus some fingerless gloves, in which I clung on to grey as a neutral colour for safety.

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On these projects, I had to think quite a bit about which colour should go where. I also wonder whether these mitts would match with their eventual owners` wardrobes.

It’s time for a deep dive into colour theory, methinks.  In the meantime, regardless if these mittens clash with outfits or not, they are an important safety feature in a black, white and grey world.