A beautiful Sunday to you! It’s early morning still with a half moon hanging in a hazy blue sky. The leaves are only beginning to burst forth and we are desperately awaiting what everyone else calls Spring. Isn’t it almost June? If I were to walk up the hill right now, I would be bound up in wool to ward off the chill. I almost feel like I need to apologize for sharing a post about mittens! Tomorrow, I’ll share a glimpse into our spring but it’s high time that I share these mittens! Anyway, I could knit mittens in the heat of July and be perfectly happy, so what better time than May ;P
We had the longest winter in my recent memory, arriving unexpectedly after a dreary autumn and still dipping around 0 in the night as late as, well last night. Although we didn’t get the mountains of snow, the cold and grey stretched for half a year. Smoke billowing from chimneys is still a common sight and although I am honestly desperate to feel the sun on my bare arms, I do love the smell of wood smoke mixed with damp earth! Things are growing too, ferns are unfurling and the rhubarb is emerging from its prehistoric sleep.
I was sick far too many times to even count and the whole thing is a blur at this point. I did make a collection of traditional Double-Knit East Coast mittens and put them aside so that I could share them with you. Life has just been putting everything on the back burner so, with June in a couple days, I hope you still like seeing some traditional mitts 😀 even though I’m sure planting galore is taking up much of our thoughts!
The mittens that I focused on making this past winter can be identified as Traditional Maritime Knitwear. Atlantic Canada consists of 4 provinces: New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The Maritime provinces consist of all but Newfoundland (Newfoundland is further out in the Atlantic ocean and a unique place, only joining Canada in 1949). What makes them unique to the region is of the use of our local wool and the fun interchanging pattern, creating an extra thick and warm mitten! If you’re familiar with knitting patterns, you will see the similarities between our traditional mittens and Scottish & Scandinavian Patterns.
Our winters are unpredictable. We’ve experienced winters buried, the ground floor of houses darkened by snow pressed up against the windows! We’ve also experienced winters with very little snow but a steady wind whipping in from the Atlantic. Our traditional mittens were created by a past generation, sitting by woodstoves, clicking away with their needles, a necessary safety precaution against the vicious cold. Using either homespun wool (in our old house, there were wool winders stuffed away in the attic) or worsted wool from a local woolen mill, knitters combined 2 colours with different patterns in order to create an extra thick mitten for the cold ahead. Traditionally, natural colours would have been used like black, brown and off white. There are records of dyeing using lichens, seaweeds and other native plants so who knows the array of colours that once adorned the hands of Maritimers! I imagine earthy browns, mossy greens and mustard yellows 😀
The wool that I use switches back and forth between Briggs & Little Heritage Wool & MacAuslands 2 ply. This wool is very similar, using the fleece from the sheep of the region. I really do love it for its hardiness, colours and rootedness in the area. It’s also very affordable, ranging between $3-4.50 for a skein. If you’re ever in New Brunswick or PEI, I highly suggest checking out the mills! I have yet to go to Briggs & Little, but hope to my next time passing through the province!
The particular mittens that I knit are based on the traditional pattern Crows Feet Mittens, published by Robin Hansen. I love this pattern for it’s simplicity and versatility. I simply change the design to represent flowers, anchors, foxes! Anything that strikes my fancy at the time. My favourite part is combining colours. Briggs & Little Heritage and MacAusland’s 2 ply have so many unique colours, I can’t help but constantly dream up combinations. Classic Grey and Ivory, juxtaposed against a lively lichen green and deep blue! As an artist and knitter, colour combination is an exciting journey, I really love it! I find the same satisfaction just staring at wool as I do staring at a small plant ❤ Both exude life and the promise of a future.
Mittens Galore! I know it’s not even close to the time to wear mittens, but I’ll be posting all of them up in our shop for anyone who is so inclined to prepare for Winter 2020 (oh goodness..).
Have a very happy last Sunday in May! I can’t believe I’m saying that…. where has the time gone ? I’ve been practicing meditation, hiking/running and working on this new project that I will share officially with you all in good time, all in good time 😀 Still… I feel like May Day was yesterday and I can hardly catch my breath when I think how quickly the days are passing. You may notice again my absence from SM – the world outside of a smart phone is becoming a haven for me – it’s invigorating!
Worsted Wool from the Maritimes:
Some Atlantic Canadian Fiction & Folklore
Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery
Fall on your Knees, Anne MacDonald
No Great Mischief, Alistair MacLeod
Bluenose Ghosts, Helen Creighton
Strange Terrain: The Fairy World of Newfoundland, Barbara Reiti