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.

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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 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….

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.

 

Odds, ends and yarns

I just sorted out a big bag of leftover bits of yarn – which led me to the cat fashion experiment/disaster you see before you. But let’s back up first.

I’m catching my breath after completing two large gift projects. So I decided to tackle that big bag o’knitting supplies before starting something else. After pitching out a massive tangle of abandoned projects, perma-knotted yarn, and broken/missing knitted needles, I wound up with this:

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There are some very nice bits of wool here, left over from some toques and berets which turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. So I’m feeling warm and fuzzy towards this pile, which makes me inclined to keep on using those last little balls of yarn.

But what to make? I looked through Ravelry, then I broke out the needles.

A knitted flower is versatile.

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Sew a button in the middle and a safety pin on the back, and it’s a nice brooch. Or, you can sew it on to a toque, a headband, or just about anything as a decoration. I find this pattern works best with a bulky sized wool.

There’s also this sweet knitted bird pattern.

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This works best with a worsted weight. I made this one out of some Patons Canadiana acrylic yarn, but I have lots of Cascade 220 wool that would work well for this, too.

And yes, I eventually made it to this  –  the knitted cat hat.

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I know, it looks more like a knitted shower cap on Jess.  Cats neither need or enjoy knitted headwear; this sort of thing exists only for humans to take photos and post them on the internet.

Anyhow, using up bits of leftover wool appeals to my thrifty nature, and gives my wallet a short break from being emptied at the yarn shop.

If you have more nifty ideas for your odds and ends of yarn, I’d love to know about them.

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.

 

 

 

My Knit Worth

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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.

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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.

Welcome to the knitting cult. Here’s your project bag.

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Soon after I started my first lumpy scarf, I realized that I had joined a cult. A benevolent cult, of course. But once I started casually mentioning my new hobby, some seemingly normal people have swept away the (hand knit) curtain and I have been shown the light.  

Early on in my knitting career, I went for an eye exam. I’ve been seeing my optometrist, Dr. W,  since I was a teenager. She’s a pleasant but quiet woman, not terribly chatty beyond “How far down the chart can you read the letters?”

Dr. W asked me if there was any change in my usual crappy vision, or in my daily tasks involving eyesight. I mentioned that I had started knitting, which requires looking closely at tiny stitches.

“Oh, you knit? So do I!”

Dr. W then spent the next half hour showing me the details on the hand-knit cardigan she was wearing, talking about the differences in British and Newfoundland knitting techniques, and recommending knitting websites for me to check out.

Who was this woman, and what had she done with Dr. W?

Not long after that, through work, I heard about a set of traditional Newfoundland mitten patterns, by Shirley Scott and Christine LeGrow, of Spindrift Handknits. I placed an order.

The patterns arrived in an envelope at my desk, with a nice note from Christine, and this card.
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I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or worried.

And then there’s my friend Rayna Curtis. We first met in junior high school, and like many old friends, we reconnected over Facebook. It was her photos of her knitted creations which got me thinking “hmmm, maybe I should try this knitting thing.”

Now, Rayna is at a completely different level of knitting – which she refers to as one of the “fibre arts.” Here she is spinning her own wool.

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That’s her extremely cute dog, Kayleigh, hanging out in the background.

Rayna also dyes her own wool, she’s a test knitter for some well known knitting pattern makers, and naturally, she has her own blog, First Light Handcrafts.  So I guess she’s my Obi-Wan Kenobi of the knitting.

I reached out to Obi-Wan Rayna early on for some advice, and asked her to go yarn shopping with me.

I picked Rayna up at her house and she came out with a project bag and yarn for me, and a question “Do you know what a project bag is? Well, you do now!”

She was such a force of nature in the knitting store that other random wool shoppers came up to her asking for advice on yarn and patterns.

I’m looking forward to my next eye exam so I can pick Dr. W’s brain on her favourite Brooklyn Tweed patterns.

I carry that card in my wallet. And I use Rayna’s project bag every day.

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Now, I’ve never thought of myself as the evangelical type, but here I am, with my own knitting blog.

Someday, I hope to pass on a project bag, skein of yarn, or wallet ID card to another newbie knitter.

But if I ever wind up working crowds in the mall trying to recruit new addicts to the (knitting) needles, please stage an intervention.