Wool: it’s one of the oldest and most common fabrics for textiles. Historically, wool knitted clothing was worn by labourers and fishermen throughout rural England and Ireland, and wool knits are practically an icon of home and comfort among Newfoundlanders.
When it comes to form and function, wool is a traditional favourite. We even have our own wooly provider, the Newfoundland Local, which is a hardy, medium-sized sheep that is found in multiple colours. For people who are getting ready to layer up as our typically awesome autumn fades into another bitter winter, there are several purveyors of fine woolen goods available throughout downtown.
Nonia (286 Water Street)
NONIA, previously known as the Newfoundland Outport Nursing and Industrial Association was originally founded in 1920 as a means to raise funds to hire medical care in outports through the sale of handknit garments. Today, a non-profit organization stocks their location at 286 Water Street with handknit sweaters, socks, hats, and mitts. Everything is hand-knit, all created by almost 200 knitters in homes across the province: young and old, some doing it for the extra income.
NONIA produces a full range of classic and contemporary knits for men, women, children, and babies, but their specialty is the classic Fisherman’s pullover, with its intricate stitches and cables. They also sell hats, mitts, scarves, and socks. Custom orders are welcome, though you may be too late for custom Christmas orders: it takes about eight weeks for one custom order, and Christmas is their busiest time of year.
The Newfoundland Weavery (177 Water Street)
Further down Water Street, The Newfoundland Weavery is another popular spot for knit goods. “The name is a bit of a misnomer,” says Gale. “I started this place years back as an independent weaver here on Water Street.” Loom enthusiasts may be disappointed, but since then, it’s become a hub of local prints, regional goods, and Christmas everything, as well as wool hats, mitts, and sweaters.
“Wool is natural and breathable,” says Shirley Thorne at NL Weavery. “And we also have lovely knits in acrylic for those who can’t wear wool.” Newly arrived are alpaca scarves and accessories, which are very popular. Alpaca has great wicking abilities compared to wool, which will hold onto almost half of its weight in moisture (you know this if your mitts have ever gotten sogged). Because alpaca hair is hollow, it mechanically pushes the water away, while retaining more heat, meaning no clammy hands.
As nice as wool is, wool sweaters require special care, as they are susceptible to damage from heat and rough handling, especially when wet, so take care of your wooly coat, and it’ll take care of you this winter.