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.

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The Stash

I approach my knitting needs the way I approach groceries. I buy ‘em as I need ‘em. I have a project in mind. I go to the yarn shop and buy the supplies. When I have finished that project, I buy another skein or two for another project.

Then recently, on a trip to my go-to yarn shop, I saw an ominous sign in the window.

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The owner is retiring and selling the building. She says the probable buyer wants to carry on with the yarn business, but a change in my yarn-drug dealer comes with a risk.  

I need to start a stash.

Many of you have epic stashes. I hear tales of rooms full of yarn that you know you will never live long enough to knit.

But I have to start somewhere.  

First, I made a list of all the yarns I have used in past projects, and that I’m likely to use again.

Then I hit the sale, which was a little underwhelming. “Sale” was more about thinning out the shop’s hoarder-like stock by a few skeins.

One of the yarns on my list, Diamond Select Ultra, was on sale, so I bought half of dozen of those. I bought some Cascade 220 at full price for a sweater I might make next winter. And then I picked up a few sale skeins that looked interesting. I’m just a wild and crazy gal.  

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I’m also looking for alternative sources.

Briggs and Little, the yarn I use for most of the trad Newfoundland-style knits, is relatively easy to find. On some excursions around the bay I found some shops in smaller communities that sell it, so I snapped some up.

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Yes, I know there is online ordering.

But to me, buying yarn in person is part of the process and part of the pleasure. I like to feel the quality of the yarn before I buy. I look at the colours in natural light. I put skeins side by side, colour by colour, to look at potential. I have often gone to the yarn shop with one kind of yarn in mind for a project, but leave with something completely different and way better.

So – in grocery terms – my stash is more of a  “Oh, hams are on sale! I should buy a couple for the freezer”  situation, than say, stocking up the bunker with several years’ worth of canned goods.

The funny thing is, now that I have all this yarn, I’m a bit paralyzed by choice. What am I going to make next?

 

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.

 

Sock it to ya

It turns out everyone who knows I knit seems to dig socks. Bulky, rustic, fisherman style socks. They look great, they are warm, and with all the talk of hygge and coziness, a pair of chunky socks knit by your friend are totally on-trend.

That small Yarn Cove sale I had before Christmas has resulted in a bunch of commissions.

That’s a pair of my socks in action!

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I deposited cash from the sale back at my local yarn shop for more Briggs and Little Tuffy sock yarn.

I’ve been knitting up a sock storm ever since – rushing some to get them ready for Christmas presents, and knitting the backlog in January. I’m only coming up for air now.

It was fun and flattering to be asked to knit items to order.

On the other hand, up until now, I’ve pretty much been following my own whims on what to knit and when. The item, the pattern, and the yarn have all been up to me.

As I was knitting my way through the pile of Briggs and Little Tuffy, my friend Penni came home for a Christmas visit. Penni and I go back to junior high school. She’s lived and worked all over the world and now she’s based in downtown Toronto. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been stylish.

These days, Penni is all about the faux fur. She came home with a lovely faux fur bomber jacket with three quarter sleeves in natural colours.

After I bored Penni with some talk about all my knitting projects, she said “Could I commission you to make me some long, sleeveless gloves?”

Could you ever!

I had just the pattern in mind, sitting in my Ravelry queue, just waiting to be loaded up on the needles. At last, something different!

I decided on a wool-acrylic blend, which could feel nicer on the skin than 100 per cent wool.

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For me, the greatest compliment is that others actually wear stuff I make.

However, I think I now understand why someone who enjoys cooking at home should probably not open a restaurant.

 

Smiling Land pattern launch

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Yarn Cove had a night out on the knitting town on Monday.

Shirley “Shirl the Purl” Scott and Christine LeGrow threw a launch party at Cast On! Cast Off! in St. John’s for their new set of knitting patterns. That’s Shirl and Christine throwing down with their Smiling Land mittens, gloves and trigger mitts.

Here are some of Shirl and Christine’s knitted prototypes.

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The Smiling Land series has four designs created by Shirl and Christine, based on traditional Newfoundland and Labrador knitting designs. The gloves, mittens and trigger mitts are knit in the traditional Newfoundland double knitting style.

It was a wild(ish) and woolly evening. The regular Monday night Cast On! Cast Off! knitting crowd was there, and they were working on a range of impressively intricate projects.

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More on that crowd another time.

There was also a tin of homemade brownies and another tin of homemade shortbread for the occasion. All in all, a rockin’evening.

Smiling Land is available as a set of printed cards.

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They’re stocked at Cast On! Cast Off!, and will likely appear in other shops in the St. John’s area. You will also be able to order them through Briggs and Little Woolen Mills, and directly from Christine LeGrow at ChristineLeGrow@rogers.nl.com and Spindrift Knits.

You can also get their first set of patterns, Some Warm Mittens, at the same locations. That’s the set of patterns I’ve been using for my trad-style mitts.

Note that the Smiling Land patterns are available in hard copy only, and can be snail-mailed to you old school, through the post.

Newfoundland mitten patterns stay trad in every way.

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.

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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.