Yarn Cove sale

I reached a knitting landmark this month – my first product sale.

It was stuff I had left over, once I sorted out everyone’s Christmas presents.

I’m not entrepreneurial by nature. I get nervous about putting my work out there, and about spreading the word about it. Is it good enough to sell? What if I don’t have enough made? Would anyone really buy this stuff?

Or maybe I was overthinking it. My first Yarn Cove sale event was really just a basket of hats, socks and other small things that I placed in our staff lounge at work. This was not exactly a Dragon’s Den situation.

Anyhow – I made a few sales, and I got some commissions – for more socks.

I immediately took some of my (modest) profits from the sale and went to the wool shop, where I bought more raw materials.

I’m just in the process of finishing up two more pairs of socks for a work mate.

All in all, my pop-up sale wasn’t too traumatic an experience. And because some of my work buddies were curious about what else I could make for them on commission, I thought – why not put it out there on Yarn Cove?

So – please check out my new Shop Yarn Cove page.  I guess I’m now a micro-micro-micro business person. Let me know what you think!

Knit one, purl one, chill out

I’m working on a pair of socks right now and I’m thinking about one of the major reasons why I took up knitting in the first place: to stay away from screens and digital information overload.

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I’m an information junkie by trade and by nature. I spend most of my work day in front of a computer with an internet connection. On my off time, my smartphone and tablet are always near. I’m on Facebook and Twitter just as much as the next person.

But all that has changed in the past month.

I’m finding all the news from the United States quite depressing and distressing. The news from the rest of the world isn’t particularly cheerful either.

It’s getting to the point where I’m feeling panicked as I scroll through the alarming headlines I see shared on social media or on respected journalism sites.  The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert don’t seem that funny to me anymore.

I know I need to stop worrying about things I can’t control.

If I already hadn’t started knitting, I would be starting now.

Google “knitting and mental health” or knitting and stress reduction” and you’ll find many articles, such as this one and this one, which confirm what knitters already know: knitting is good for you.

Which brings me back to knitting as a way of pulling the plug on information overload. .  

The more I knit, the more my fingers and brain are occupied and NOT surfing the web. 

And when I’m not knitting, I’m retraining myself in my online habits.

If I want to do some aimless internet surfing, I have moved my bookmarks for Ravelry, Knitty, and online yarn shops to the top of my browser.

If I’m watching television, it’s home decorating and nature shows, and more soothing Netflix fare. I’m really getting into The Crown!

I’m glad I started knitting a couple of years ago simply out of my own curiosity and as a bit of a self-improvement project. That way, I don’t associate knitting as something I started as a result of something stressful.

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Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a heel to turn and an episode of Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party to watch. Martha is wearing an intriguing knitted sweater. 

 

A Visit to Baynoddy

It’s been a while since my last post – and I have no excuse. I fell off the regular writing wagon, what with work, life, knitting, etc. But I’m back!

And I’ve been thinking about the whole locavore thing.

Occasionally for a treat, I’ll go out for a nice meal at Mallard Cottage, or another of one of the happening restaurants in St. John’s that specialize in local food.  Who would have known that root veggies and cod would be so trendy?

The meal is always delicious, the atmosphere and service makes for a lovely evening out, but for my wallet, it’s pretty expensive. A meal for two, with wine, comes in at around $150. So, it’s not every week I can do this sort of thing.

I got to thinking about this when I paid a visit to the Fahey Farm recently, out in Chapel’s Cove, home to Baynoddy Knitwear, Spinning and Weaving.  

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Linda Lewis creates the gorgeous Baynoddy knitwear and woven textiles I’ve seen at craft fairs for years. Her husband is part of the Fahey family, which has operated this farm since 1789, which makes it oldest heritage farm in Newfoundland and Labrador.

These days, the Fahey Farm’s main crop is fibre.

Linda and her husband raise sheep, goats, and alpacas who provide the raw material for the Baynoddy sweaters and scarves.  

It was great to spend a couple of hours with Linda, touring the small farm, meeting the animals, and seeing the process of getting the fibre from the backs of the animals, through the cleaning, carding and spinning process, and then, finally to the sweater.  

See that hand spun skein of yarn? That came from Henry the Alpaca!

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That woven scarf over there? Half Clover the Sheep and Gertie the Goat.

It’s also really hard, time consuming work. They run a friggin’ farm. That means year round early mornings, late nights, and everything in between.

Washing, cleaning, carding, and spinning wool is a slow and careful process which requires a lot of time and even more patience.

That’s before Linda even gets to the weaving and the knitting.

It’s one thing for me to knit for fun, as a diversion at the end of a work day, but it’s another ball of wool to make a living from it.

I can totally understand why yarn and the finished products from Baynoddy are a bit pricey. Even so, I’m still amazed – and impressed – that Linda and her husband are making a go of it.  

In an ideal world, me and all the other local knitting fanatics would be buying all our supplies at Baynoddy and a handful of other local wood producing spots.

But for me, on a modest budget, artisanal yarn is a special occasion thing, just like having a meal at Mallard Cottage.

Then again, when I’m gonna splurge, I’m gonna splurge local.

So, while I was at Baynoddy, I picked up two skeins of 50% mohair and 50% wool, which means half Gertie the goat and half one of the sheep (I can’t remember which one).

I made a set of fingerless gloves and a matching earwarmer headband.

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Fashion and function!  

I’ll use them to punch up an otherwise blah outfit in the middle of winter.

Just like a meal and a night out at Mallard Cottage can punch up an otherwise blah week anytime of the year. 

P.S. Here is the result of my visit to Baynoddy from my day job.

NONIA needs knitters

If you’ve knit-bombed your friends and family with enough knitted gifts to set them up for life, NONIA needs you.

At my day job, I got to chat with Keelin O’Leary, NONIA’s manager, about their casting (on) call for knitters. This is Keelin with some of NONIA’s products for sale.

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NONIA stands for the Newfoundland Outport Nursing and Industrial Association. The non-profit organization started 96 years ago.

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These days, NONIA is known for its shop at 286 Water Street in  St. John’s, which sells hand-knit toques, scarves, socks, trigger mitts, sweaters – you name it – to locals and tourists alike. It’s a Newfoundland and Labrador institution.

Here is how NONIA stocks up: The group mails out boxes of yarn and patterns to knitters. Knitters return the box, filled with completed items. Knitters get paid by the each. It’s old school and it works.

So if you’re interested, give their toll free knitters’ line a call 1-877-753-8062, or check out their website: www.nonia.com

You can find out more about NONIA from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Woolen drawers

It started as a joke.

I was sitting in front of the television one evening, knitting, as usual. My teenage son was there, looking at both the television and his phone.

So, just to give him the gears I said, “Sure, if you play your cards right, I’ll knit you a nice pair of drawers for Christmas.”

Drawers is Newfoundland slang for underwear.

Eyerolls, cringes, and a good laugh followed.

Hey, wait a minute….

A quick internet search later, and I found a pattern, which proves that you can knit pretty much anything.

The pattern calls for a mid-weight wool, and I worked with my go-to, Cascade 220. Knit in the round, you start from the bottom of the legs. The left leg even has a nice cable pattern.

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After the legs are joined up, it’s a fairly straightforward knit in the round. A few straight rows are required to put the arse in.

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And voila!

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On the plus side, they’re seamless, they’re made of natural fibre, and they’re breathable.

On the minus side, they are, well, woolen drawers.

Interestingly enough, this is my first knitting sale. I printed the pattern at work, and one of my work buddies offered to buy them. Sold!

My work buddy, who’s hip to the scene, thinks that there could be a market for woolen drawers. He’s promised to give me a product review.

If there is indeed a market, I can make two versions of the woolen drawers: regular and extra scratchy.

Travelling yarns, part deux

My knitting and I recently spent two weeks in Sete, in the south of France and Barcelona, Spain.

The south of France is known for its linen and other cloth textiles, but alas, I did not find any sign of local yarn. Most of the farmland I saw seemed to be devoted to grapevines, not sheep farming. Not that that’s a bad thing.

I thought about taking my knitting to the beach, then ruled it out. I’d get sand in the yarn.

So most of my knitting was done while we hung out under the hot sun on my friends’ balcony, drinking rose and listening to some music.

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However, I did take out my sock-in-progress on our train ride between Sete and Barcelona.

Two freshly retired couples got on at Narbonne, and took a set of seats diagonally from us. One of the women in the groups said to the other, in English, “Look, she’s knitting.”

Then they took out their knitting – one woman was knitting an afghan, the other, a scarf.

So of course we got to talking.

They were from Brisbane, Australia, and the two couples were on a post-retirement, around the world travel binge. They had just spend a few months at a rental in the south of France, and then they were heading to Barcelona to take a cruise.

Why they were a) knitting in the 30-degree plus summer weather and b) why they knit in sub-tropical Brisbane, I have no idea. The love of knitting knows no climate-related barriers.

We admired each other’s works in progress, swapped pattern ideas, and even had some conversation in French with a neighbouring passenger. The French lady was a knitter, too. Pretty soon our section of the rail car turned into a mobile, bilingual knitting party.

As we pulled into Barcelona Sants, one of the Australian women mentioned the group was taking another cruise in the fall, this one in the North Atlantic, with a scheduled stop in St. John’s.  Any must see knitting shops there?

I told her about Nonia, Cast On Cast Off and Wool Trends and then we parted ways, moving onward in our holidays.

It’s funny how knitting can overcome geography, language, and climate.

Perhaps the next G8 summit or world climate change talks should include knitting sessions. World leaders would probably get a lot more work done together.

 

Travelling yarns, part un

Yarn Cove has been busy for the past little while, making the most of the all-too-brief Newfoundland summer, and having an away adventure.

A last minute opportunity to take a holiday in the south of France and Spain came our way (yeah, life is hard in Yarn Cove) so immediately I planned out my Mediterranean knitting schedule.

First order of business: what knitting gear can you take on international flights? Air Canada says plastic knitting needles with rounded tips are acceptable.

Lion Brand Yarns also has some good travelling tips, and as it’s an American company, I figure their rules are pretty airtight, so to speak.

After figuring out which projects I would likely take on during the holiday (a beret, a toque and a pair of socks), I went to my local knitting shop and bought some needles.

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I was a little worried about the short 4.5 mm circular needle, as I wasn’t sure what material it was made of. So I cast on some stitches and knit a few rows of my beret pattern, just in case the CATSA workers at the airport had any doubt as to my intentions. But really, I can’t see any airport security staff in Newfoundland not recognizing knitting needles.

Anyhow, my bag went through security with no issue and off we went, to Toronto and then Barcelona.

The beret project kept me occupied on the red eye between Toronto and Barcelona and after some great progress, I managed to doze before landing.

We then had to transfer from airplane to train. Here I am knitting in Barcelona Sants, the city’s main train station, while waiting for the train.

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The world has changed quite a bit since I went backpacking in 1990, and Barcelona Sants had an airport security style x-ray system for our luggage. I hadn’t thought of that.

How do you say knitting in Spanish?

Anyhow, I kept my cool and I guess I looked non-threatening enough, so on we went, luggage and knitting, to the town of Sete, France.

More woolly aventures to come….

The knitting needle and the damage done

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Last weekend, the unthinkable happened. I ran out of yarn.

I finished a toque ahead of time, the rational part of my brain admired it and I put it with my finished knitted goods. No big deal, right?

Not a big deal until Sunday afternoon, when I got hit by a rogue wave of panic.

We were in the Costco parking lot, heaving a 50-pound box of cat litter into the car, when I mused aloud,

“I’m trying to resist the urge to go over to Michael’s and buy some crap yarn to get me through this evening, because the wool store opens at noon tomorrow, so I’m just wondering if I can hold off until then. What do you think?”

My husband stopped mid-cat litter lift and said, concerned, “Um, you’re thinking about this a lot, aren’t you?”

I didn’t go over to Michael’s to buy the crap yarn. I could wait it out.

That evening, we settled in for a bit of Sunday night telly. Netflix, not Knitflix. But my hands got fidgety. I tried working on a page of my Scenes of Paris adult colouring book, but it didn’t quite scratch that itch. I picked up the iPad, to look at knitting patterns online, but that just made me more twitchy.

I know, I thought. I’ll take photos of my completed knitting projects, just for my records.

So I did that. And then I just went to bed out of it. What was the point of staying up if there was no knitting to do?

The next day, I was at the wool shop at noon, and bought enough skeins to start a three-colour mitten project. Calm washed over me. The universe had righted itself.

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So yeah, maybe this is a bit of a problem.

But then again, I could pick worse things to be addicted to. With the standard vices, I’m a moderate kind of girl – although the idea of giving up coffee is as unthinkable to me as giving up wool.

In terms of money spent on my habit, I average about $30 every two weeks for knitting supplies. That’s reasonable, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t give up nights out or social time with friends to knit, although I do like to get a few stitches in after I get home and before I turn in for the evening.

I have this under control.

I won’t have time to knit tonight. I have tickets to an experimental music concert.

Should I take my knitting with me?

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.

 

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!