Who knit ya?
A Memorial graduate has an extra appreciation for the local expression, thanks to her recent work-term experience.
Ontario native Anna Reepschlager recently completed Memorial’s Master of Arts in Folklore Program, which focuses on traditions and intangible cultural heritage.
In the fall of 2022, Ms. Reepschlager began a work term at the Anna Templeton Centre for Craft, Art and Design, a not-for-profit organization located on Duckworth Street in downtown St. John’s.
One of the centre’s projects at the time was a memorial wall to highlight stories of women who knit in Newfoundland and Labrador, in memory of Dorothy Marie Verge Clarke and in fulfillment of a bequest from her family.
To assist with the memorial wall, Ms. Reepschlager researched and interviewed 18 women knitters from across Newfoundland and Labrador to learn more about their traditions, stories and contributions.
“I loved hearing about the ways that people see themselves participating in the continuation of the province’s knitting heritage, be that through their methods, materials or the ways they’ve adapted old patterns into something new,” she said.
As a knitter herself, Ms. Reepschlager says she thoroughly enjoyed documenting the knitters’ work and that she learned a lot about the craft and the people who produce it.
Learning new knitting and dye techniques, colour-work pattern and ways of preparing the wool were just some of the highlights, she says.
“We love the enthusiasm and energy that Memorial students bring to our projects.”
She also says the experience enabled her to develop skills related to folklore and beyond, including research, interviewing, communication, resource allocation, logistics and presentation skills.
Melissa Tarrant, manager and business mentor at the Anna Templeton Centre, says the staff was happy to have a Memorial student contribute to a project that celebrates a significant part of Newfoundland and Labrador’s heritage.
“Hand-knit goods were traditionally made out of necessity and contributed a functional aspect to the household,” Ms. Tarrant said. “We were excited to welcome Anna to our team and we love the enthusiasm and energy that Memorial students bring to our projects.”
Ms. Reepschlager chose to complete the work term route of her academic program so she could explore different job options related to the study of folklore.
“I was excited to join a program with two work terms so I could develop my career path and make connections in the field of folklore,” said Ms. Reepschlager.
Continuing in the field
Ms. Reepschlager’s involvement with the project and the Anna Templeton Centre did not conclude when her work term did.
She was able to continue her work on the project part time during the final semester of her degree.
“I could be creative and make suggestions to influence the direction the project takes.”
Now, as a graduate of her program, she is working as a full-time employee of the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador Gallery, an organization that works closely with the Anna Templeton Centre.
“It was a great experience coming into a project during the planning stages,” said Ms. Reepschlager. “I could be creative and make suggestions to influence the direction the project takes. Now that I have finished my degree, I’m happy to continue to assist with the project through my role with the Craft Council. I have learned so much from this whole experience.”
The next step in creating the knitting memorial wall is to plan and host a community knitting exhibit at the Quidi Vidi Village Artisan Studios in St. John’s in November 2023.
Following that event, the Anna Templeton Centre will create a digital memorial wall using photos from the exhibit, as well as stories about knitters and knitting collected by Ms. Reepschlager and her colleagues over the past year.
“The community knitting exhibit in November is a great opportunity to showcase some of the knitting that is being created in the province and to highlight some of the stories behind the knitting. Knitters are encouraged to submit holiday stockings,” said Ms. Reepschlager. “We look forward to talking to community members at the exhibit and we hope to learn more about our province’s knitters from the people who attend.”
Knitted stockings can be dropped off at the Quidi Vidi Village Artisan Studios until Oct. 15. To receive notifications about the date of the community knitting exhibit, as well as other programming offered by the Anna Templeton Centre’s, join their mailing list by emailing the centre or by visiting the website.