Friday, January 23, 2009

Today's history tipoff

Did you know that fishermen in Maine in the Maritime provinces of Canada (and probably a good many other seaside communities) used to wear mittens that were knit clownishly large and put straight to work, where they'd felt naturally from the salt water and the net-hauling and the drying out on a radiator afterward? As one woman noted, "We knit them 14 inches long, and by the end of the fishing season, they fit perfectly." Eventually women were pre-felting the mitts so they'd work better sooner, but they'd still shrink and get denser on the boats.

Some even wore their mittens wet, wringing them out in warm sea water from the engine before they put them on. I'm missing the science here, but apparently the felted fabric combined with the salt water to insulate their hands so that they were steaming with heat by the time they finished their work and hung the mittens up on a hook on the boat, where they'd dry and stiffen before the next wearing. No comment on how long it took for the fishermen's fingers to lose the prune resulting from all that time in a wet bath.

Why am I intrigued by all this? Because even inside my super insulated high-tech mittens my hands have been freezing for a week now, and we get another cold snap on Saturday. Do you think the sea water trick works inland?

1 comment:

TexNan said...

Hmm. As one who's become obsessed with felting, I'm wondering how you can make it work in a washing machine. Sea salt? How much would be required.

Your poor fingers! We've been enjoying spring-like weather here, though a cold front is supposed to blow in tomorrow. (Or as we Texans like to call it, a norther.)