Many people across Newfoundland and Labrador turned to knitting during the COVID-19 pandemic — and no one knows that better than the two women who have written a bestselling series of books filled with local designs.
Christine LeGrow and Shirley A. Scott are well known for their popular knitting books the Saltwater Knit Series and they're wrapping it up with their fourth and final book, Saltwater Socks. They launched the series with Saltwater Mittens, which was published in 2018.
"Four books in five years. For ladies who are long beyond the point of needing a new career.… It's been wonderful to have this work to do," said Scott in a recent interview, adding that she and LeGrow found knitting to be a great comfort during the last couple of years.
"It was wonderful to have a sense of purpose during the pandemic, you know. And something to do in the winters, that has been very precious to me. And something creative to do in the winters."
When it came to their books, LeGrow said, people had plenty of suggestions for what they should tackle next and they settled on socks for their final book.
"So many people, as we did each book, said to Shirley and I, 'Are you going to do a socks book? Are you going to do a sweater book? Are you going to do a children's book?' So we settled on socks because socks are such an important part of Newfoundland's knitting heritage. And we thought we really wanted to give them their due," said LeGrow.
Their new book doesn't only contain sock patterns, but also headbands, caps and trigger mittens, she said, as well as a lot of nautically themed prints.
Launch derailed by Fiona
Scott's favourite knitting pattern in Saltwater Socks is for leg warmers called Warm Ups For Legs.
"It was on Middle Cove Beach in the middle of winter, just taking a little walk there and being so freezing that I had to come back to the car. I thought we need something like this to put over our jeans in the winter and to keep the sloop off of everything. So I really, really like them and I knit them in my spare time," Scott laughed.
The pair were in Charlottetown last weekend to officially launch the book at the P.E.I. Fibre Festival. That plan, however, was derailed due to post-tropical storm Fiona, which cancelled the festival. They were able to have a book signing at a shop instead.
Saltwater Socks will have an N.L. launch on Oct. 6 at the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador's Water Street shop in St. John's.
When it came to a theme for Saltwater Socks, LeGrow said they were intentional with the pattern choices.
"In this book we went with the theme of all the iconic things Newfoundland is known for, to tourists and ourselves."
For instance, there is the Sound Waves sock pattern, inspired by whale songs, and the Signal Hill Vamps with "sweetheart soles" — when you look at the foot, you can see a heart, said LeGrow.
After Saltwater Mittens was released in 2018, Boulder Books asked them if they'd like to do more, so they decided on two more books, said LeGrow.
They followed the first book up with Saltwater Classics in 2019 and Saltwater Gifts in 2020, which was supposed to be the concluding book.
But the books gained momentum under the lockdown and sold really well, recalled LeGrow, so Boulder Books asked them if they'd do a fourth book, and they decided to focus on socks.
Not only are the Saltwater Knits Series popular with locals but also tourists, who pick the books up as souvenirs and coffee table books, said LeGrow. The book is also filled with stories about Newfoundland and Labrador culture.
Scott said it's been great to see how well received the books have been and that people have appreciated their work, as well as the books' spectacular photos.
LeGrow and Scott will be keeping busy with a whirlwind book tour, including stops at Cast On! Cast Off's new shop in Triton and Some Good Market in Clarke's Beach.
Since the Saltwater Knits Series began, LeGrow said, they have done online seminars with yarn shops in other provinces, including P.E.I. and Alberta, and they have a few U.S. dates coming up.
"We have a very tight schedule with an online presence. So we are not going to be bored," LeGrow said. The pandemic opened up a new virtual world for them to share their knowledge and stories of knitting, she added.