Maritime Folk Mittens

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Traditional Maritime Folk Mittens!

Hiya Friends!

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

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A rocky beach in May on the Chedabucto Bay in Eastern Nova Scotia
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Blue & Red 🙂

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!

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MacAuslands Wool – Medium Worsted 2ply – I love their colours!  So earthy and vibrant

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 😀

PEI Winter
A photograph published in The Guardian, 1982 shot in Summerside, PEI
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Charlottetown, PEI, 2015 taken from The Guardian
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Nova Scotia Folk Artist, Maud Lewis “Sleigh in Snow”

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!

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Flower pattern

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.

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A Pamphlet from the 80’s, sharing multiple charts found in traditional double knit mittens across Nova Scotia.  Many of these have their roots in Scottish and Scandinavian design.
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An example of using 2 different types of worsted wool – the darker purple is from B & L and the lighter is from M.  I really loved this unusual combination
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One of my favourite colours – a green that could pass for gold, mimicking lichens and moss
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Handmade ❤
Blog Mittens
Taking them out for some photos with the moss garden! I love this basket as well – I picked it up at an antique store in Baddeck NS.  The woman working there said her husband was learning basket weaving and selling his first attempts.  SO happy I got one!  Hope he is keeping it up!
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Stop at the beach 🙂
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Mittens on a rocky beach

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!

Farewell!!

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Nova Scotia beach

 

Resources:

Saltwater Mittens: From the island of Newfoundland, more than 20 heritage designs to knit by Christine LeGrow & Shirley Anne Scott

Ultimate Mittens: 28 Classic Patterns to Keep you Warm – Robin Hansen

Worsted Wool from the Maritimes:

MacAusland Woolen Mill, Bloomfield PEI, Canada

Briggs & Little 

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

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Some of my favourite that I made for the shop – simple things

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Mossy woodland walks with Henry Girl

13 thoughts on “Maritime Folk Mittens

  1. Hello Julia! It’s always a treat to open up my inbox and see your new posting. I have always loved the Maritime mittens. I borrowed Robin Hansen’s book (Fox, Geese, etc) from the library years ago when we lived in the very northern and cold climes of NY state. Loved her patterns. Briggs and Little yarns were a favorite of mine back then. I knit a fair isle sweater for my husband and many pairs of socks. We would cross the border into Kingston often and I’d buy it a a local shop there. Still have some leftover…enough for some mittens!

    By the way, that lichen and blue color combination is stunningly beautiful! 💚💙 Thanks for sharing a bit of your world with us. And thanks for the links.

    xoxo
    Bonnie

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    1. Hi Bonnie!

      Oooh, I did see the Fox, Geese Book online. I think she wrote it in the 80s, I have not seen it yet but would really love to! The cover looks cute and it looks like they are the typical designs you would have been back in the day around here! Just really simple fairisle for bulkier wool. If you lived near Kingston, I can only imagine how cold your winters were! I grew up in the Ottawa area and they were frigid (longer out here though on the Atlantic!).
      I just bought some Briggs and Little yesterday to try a fairisle sweater with it! I’m so excited, it’s such nice wool and I love that it’s local to the East Coast! The colours are fantastic too! Yesterday, I was baby sitting my nephew and we went to the local store that has everything – including a wall of Briggs & Little (everything as in… a general store not a wool store!). He would get excited about certain colours, so I chose those ones!

      You should knit those mittens and ignite your love for B & L again!!

      Hope you enjoy your weekend!
      Julia xo

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      1. Oh Julia, I didn’t realize you grew up in the Ottawa area! Ottawa was another Canadian city that we enjoyed visiting and exploring – especially the National Art Museum. It was only about a 2-hour drive for us – and a lovely one at that. Kingston was 45 minutes from us. Sometimes instead of driving to Kingston we would take the ferry over and ride our bikes 🚲 around the city. We have great memories of both places during that time (1992-2001). I’ll have to look through my B&L stash and see what speaks to my heart.

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  2. Hi Julia! Happy Spring!
    Love your mittens even in the spring time! Especially like the green ones ~ I’ll have to give them a try. Hope you have a beautiful spring. So enjoy seeing your corner of the world – our lady show just finished melting – yea!

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    1. Yay! For the Lady Snow melting (cross fingers – last year we had snow in June)! Sometimes, it’s only for the length of the day in June that there is any real indication of what month it is! But, this year – I am so hopeful for the weather and everything that grows !!!

      Happy SUMMER to you! We are so close :D!

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    1. Thank you Kristen! Oh, I can’t think of fall right now >.<! That was just such a long winter that the idea of Fall happening so quickly is sad to me, but you are right – it really will come quickly, all the more reason to relish our summer weather (when it arrives!!).

      Happy Beginning of June to you!
      Julia xo

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  3. So heartwarming reading this post and seeing all your lovely mittens, Julia! I just started a new pair too. Every season is a good time to knit mittens!❤️

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    1. Hi Valerie!

      Happy Mitten Knitting to you! I completely agree, every season is perfect for knitting mittens! I packed a bag for a weekend trip and have a sweater project stuffed in there and decided, this really isn’t enough so packed some more wool for a pair of mittens!

      Happy June!!
      Julia XO

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