Two women from the province are keeping the culture alive by recreating and sharing rare Newfoundland knitting patterns.
Christine LeGrow, owner of Spindrift Handknits, and Shirley “Shirl the Purl” Scott put together patterns for hand-knit items such as trigger mitts, flapper caps and scarves.
Scott, originally from New Brunswick, said Newfoundland has long been known for its variety of knitting patterns – more intricate than today’s popular diamond pattern.
“When I came here in 1979 I saw them and knew they were special,” Scott said.
“I didn’t know I would live here [one day], and I started buying them. Over the years I have collected 30 different pairs with different designs [from] all over Newfoundland. I have mittens that I found in Hibbs Cove, in all sorts of places.”
Last year, Scott passed on these traditional designs to Sprindrift Handknits. According to Scott, the company is committed to keeping traditional Newfoundland knitting alive.
“People should knit them again,” Scott said.
“But, of course, they were never written down. They were passed down from knitter to knitter.”
“These are quite sophisticated; I was very surprised by that,” she said.
“I have lots and lots of praise for the old maids who knit them – trust me, they knew a lot of stuff.”
For LeGrow, preserving this part of the province’s culture is particularly important.
“I have always admired a lady, Anna Templeton, who has made it her mission to preserve and promote craftsmanship in Newfoundland and Labrador. LeGrow noted.
LeGrow came across Templeton’s pattern for traditional trigger mitts 20 years ago and said at the time, no one else shared Newfoundland’s unique pattern.
“Most of the women, back when trigger mitts were very popular and everyone knew how to knit them, a lot of those women couldn’t read or write, so they had to have a grandmother, an aunt or a mother, or a neighbor shows them how to do that,” LeGrow said.
LeGrow, who is a long-time partner of the province’s crafts council, sells her Newfoundland knits at craft shows across the island.
“Every fall craft fair there is always a group of gentlemen [who] come to my booth and it’s like they have a magnet on the trigger mitts,” she said.
“They pick them up in their hands, they get wistful and watery-eyed and they say, ‘I remember when my grandma used to knit these mittens for me, and she’s gone now and I loved these mittens,’ and that’s very moving for them.”
LeGrow said she hopes the revived patterns will inspire a new generation of knitters to pick up a pair of needles.
“I want the kids of these ladies and gentlemen to be able to say when they grow up that they had a nana who also knitted these trigger mitts for them.”