Knit­ting for NO­NIA

Trin­ity South sis­ters keep ‘em in stitches


They may not be out-and-out come­di­ennes, but the three sis­ters have def­i­nitely got­ten some fine yarns to­gether over the years.

Eileen Mas­ters, Joan Bel­bin and Bertha Nor­ris are car­ry­ing on a tra­di­tion that be­gan in 1920, one that was handed down to them by their mother, Florence Ash.

Mas­ters and Nor­ris live in Hant’s Har­bour; Bel­bin lives just down the road in New Chelsea.

Their mother be­gan knit­ting for NO­NIA (New­found­land Out­port Nurs­ing and In­dus­trial As­so­ci­a­tion) in 1940. In 1990, Ash re­ceived a gold watch in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of 50 years of knit­ting. In to­tal, she spent 56 years work­ing for NO­NIA, lay­ing down her nee­dles in 1996, just four years be­fore she passed away.

Her daugh­ters, who learned the craft at their mother’s knee, started off knit­ting sim­ple squares, ad­vanc­ing their skills as they got older.

Mas­ters used to knit for NO­NIA years ago and would of­ten get her mother’s help stitch­ing the fin­ished items to­gether.

“Af­ter she died I gave it up, be­cause I couldn’t sew them to­gether.”

She picked up the NO­NIA nee­dles again in 2003, knit­ting well over a thou­sand salt and pep­per caps, hats and scarves since then.

“Dur­ing Christ­mas I counted up how many caps I’d knit; I think it was 938. I get Joan to sew them up for me now,” she says, smil­ing at her sis­ter sit­ting op­po­site her on the couch.

An im­pec­ca­ble knit­ter, their mother crafted sweaters in very fine wool, and Mas­ters says her mom was in­cred­i­bly con­sci­en­tious about the work.

“It took her around a week-and-a-half to do one sweater. She’d have a white cloth and when the piece got so long, she’d wrap the cloth around it so it wouldn’t get dirty or (pill). Then she’d wrap an elas­tic band loosely around the cloth. She wouldn’t have the elas­tic band tight be­cause that might put a mark on the sweater.”

Bel­bin gives her sis­ter a know­ing nod.

“Mom had to press the sweaters be­fore she sent them in and she wouldn’t use an elec­tric iron. She used the old-fash­ioned iron you put on the stove. She was afraid she’d burn the wool, so she’d put a press­ing cloth over it. Then she’d have to fold it up just so.”

She says their mother was such a pro­lific knit­ter, “you just wanted to do it too.”

Like Mas­ters, Bel­bin knit for NO­NIA years ago, but gave it up when she got mar­ried, then took it up again in 2003.

“I do mostly head­band hats, and hat, scarf and mit­ten sets.”

With all the knit­ting go­ing on in the fam­ily, two years ago Nor­ris de­cided it was time she tried her hand at the craft and has pro­duced more than 50 items for the as­so­ci­a­tion.

“I pre­fer to knit some­thing small, like toques

“Mom had to press the sweaters be­fore she sent them in and she wouldn’t use an elec­tric iron. She used the old-fash­ioned iron you put on the stove. She was afraid she’d

burn the wool, so she’d put a press­ing cloth over it. Then she’d

have to fold it up just so.” — New Chelsea res­i­dent Joan Bel­bin

and scarves,” she says.

The sis­ters have never col­lab­o­rated on one project be­cause, as Nor­ris points out, “ev­ery­one knits with a dif­fer­ent ten­sion,” some pro­duc­ing loose stitches, some tight stitches.

The three say they find the craft an en­joy­able and re­lax­ing pas­time and plan to con­tinue in­def­i­nitely.

“As soon as I’m sit­ting down, I pick it up,” Bel­bin says with a smile.

Man­ning Award

NO­NIA re­cently re­ceived the Man­ning Award for its on­go­ing role in the his­tory of the prov­ince. The as­so­ci­a­tion was pre­sented an award in the pro­vin­cial cat­e­gory and was se­lected as over­all win­ner of the Man­ning Awards for 2012.

Man­ager Judy An­der­son says NO­NIA has car­ried on as a cot­tage in­dus­try since 1934, ba­si­cally break­ing even or show­ing lit­tle or no profit at year-end.

“We own the build­ing we’re in, so main­te­nance eats up prof­its. If we have monies left over it goes back to the knit­ters as bonuses,” she ex­plains.

The knit­ters are paid by piece­work, de­pend-


• The New­found­land Out­port Nurs­ing and In­dus­trial As­so­ci­a­tion was founded in 1920, and was in­cor­po­rated as a non-profit busi­ness in 1924. • Its aim was to as­sist out­port com­mu­ni­ties in the prov­ince ac­cess health ser­vices by rais­ing money from the sale of hand-knit gar­ments to pay the salaries of public health nurses. • The op­er­a­tion’s health care por­tion was taken over by gov­ern­ment in 1934, but the in­dus­trial side con­tin­ues in the same tra­di­tion to­day, with a board of di­rec­tors and a staff of four to six de­pend­ing on the sea­son. • NO­NIA em­ploys about 175 knit­ters and weavers across the prov­ince. They pro­duce hand-knit sweaters, socks, hats and mit­tens for all ages, as well as wo­ven items like place­mats, run­ners, nap­kins and scarves. • Ac­cord­ing to man­ager Judy An­der­son, sev­eral men have tried their hand at knit­ting for NO­NIA “oc­ca­sion­ally and for short pe­ri­ods” through­out the as­so­ci­a­tion’s 92-year his­tory. • More on NO­NIA can be found at­ or Face­book, through No­nia Hand­knits. ing on the dif­fi­culty of a pat­tern, the weights of the yarn used, the size be­ing knit.

They get paid once a month for what they’ve made and the wool and pat­terns are sent to the knit­ter at NO­NIA’S ex­pense.

An­der­son says the as­so­ci­a­tion can usu­ally es­ti­mate how much stock they’ll need for the store and for craft fairs.

“We do a lot of spe­cial or­ders, as not ev­ery­one is the same size. We have spe­cific knit­ters that we know we can de­pend on to get spe­cial or­ders pre­cise.”

NO­NIA will some­times advertise for knit­ters through no­tices in news­pa­pers or on bul­letin boards in com­mu­nity gath­er­ing places. And some­times they get their knit­ters, like the three sis­ters in Trin­ity South, as part of a fam­ily tra­di­tion.

From left, Sis­ters Eileen Mas­ters, Joan Bel­bin and Bertha Nor­ris pick up their knit­ting while re­lax­ing at Mas­ters’ home in Win­ter­ton.

Salt and pep­per hats and a gi­ant Christ­mas stock­ing rep­re­sent a very small por­tion of the knit­ting done by sis­ters Eileen Mas­ters, Joan Bel­bin and Bertha Nor­ris.

Bertha Nor­ris has only been knit­ting for NO­NIA two years, but has com­pleted more than 50 items for the as­so­ci­a­tion.

Ho­tos by Lil­lian Sim­mons/spe­cial to The Com­pass

John Bel­bin works on a scarf she’s knit­ting for NO­NIA.

When it comes to knit­ting, salt and pep­per hats are a favourite for Eileen Mas­ters, who knits for NO­NIA.

Photo cour­tesy of NO­NIA

The late Florence Ash (right) of Win­ter­ton spent 56 years knit­ting for NO­NIA. In 1996 she was pre­sented with a gold watch for 50 years of ser­vice. Mrs. Ash passed away in 2000. The woman at left is Marilyn Woolridge, for­mer man­ager of NO­NIA.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.