I’s the By Who Builds the Boat…Newfoundland, Our East Coast Heaven

I remember singing this song when I was in public school.  I thought it was hilarious when I conjured up a mental picture of people dancing around, in their rubber boots, “up to their knees in gravel”!  Newfoundland and Labrador was the last province to join Canada and we are sure glad they did.  This province has the most warm-hearted and funny people who have, and continue to, contribute immensely to Canada.

I’s the B’y
Folk Song
I’s the b’y that builds the boat
And I’s the b’y that sails her,
I’s the b’y that catches the fish,
And brings them home to Liza.

Hip yer partner*, Sally Tibbo,
Hip yer partner, Sally Brown,
Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour,**
All around the circle!

Sods and rinds to cover your flake,***
Cake**** and tea for supper,
Codfish in the spring o’ the year
Fried in maggoty butter.


I don’t want your maggoty fish,
That’s no good for winter,
I could buy as good as that,
Down in Bonavista.


I took Liza to a dance,
As fast as she could travel,
And every step that she did take
Was up to her knees in gravel.


Susan White, she’s out of sight,
Her petticoat wants a border,
Old Sam Oliver in the dark,
He kissed her in the corner.


I’s the b’y that builds the boat
And I’s the b’y that sails her,
I’s the b’y that catches the fish,
And brings them home to Liza.



A few years ago, Canadian Living magazine, posted a pattern for Thrummed Mitts and we all made several pairs.  These East Coast mittens are knit up in warm wool, while “thrums” of short lengths of roving are knit into the fabric.  The result is a pair of super thick, woolly, and warm mittens for a cold Canadian winter.

(photo courtesy of the Yarn Harlot)

You can see from this great photo, the outside and inside of these wonderful mittens.  If you would like to knit a pair, please click HERE for a link to a free pattern courtesy of Debi Wilbur.  Any worsted weight yarn will do as well as about 50 gm of unspun roving.  We love ours done up in Peace Fleece yarn.  Check out our selection HERE.

And, if you are loving the mittens, how about a pair of THRUMMED SOCKS!  If that doesn’t keep your tootsies toasty, nothing will!!  Click HERE for a free pattern courtesy of Linda Boudreau.



As a Rug Hooker, I have been fascinated by the Grenfell Rugs of Newfoundland.  While women had been hooking for years before Dr Grenfell arrived, his contribution to their cottage industry made a huge difference for many poor families.

“The quiet months of February and March were known as the “matting season” along the rugged coast of northern Newfoundland and Labrador.  it was a time of respite from the fishing season.  Decades old by the time the Grenfell Mission began, the roots of mat hooking lay with the founding English and Scottish settlers.  The women all hooked, most from their earliest childhood.

In 1892, when Dr Wilfred T. Grenfell arrived from England, he met courageous, hardworking people who were fighting terrible odds against chronic disease, hunger, poverty and exploitation.  From his determination to alleviate their distress, Grenfell’s medical mission began.  His conviction that outright gifts of money, food and clothing would offer no long term help , led to the development of a cottage industry known as the “Industrial” which produced distinctive handicrafts including hooked mats.”

Map of Newfoundland (chrome)

Silk or rayon stocking material, dyed.  Mat maker unknown, Circa 1938

Picture courtesy of Paula Laverty

“To the mat hooking industry, the mission brought standardization, colour harmony and incentive.  Sixteen mission picture mats, many designed by Grenfell himself, were in production by 1916. Distinctly norther images – dog teams, snowy owls and polar bears, were now in the centre of the mat.”

Two Polar Bears on Ice Floes

Silk or rayon stocking material, dyed: 28: x 39″; Mat maker unknown.  Circa 1928

Photo courtesy of Paula Laverty

“The first call for silk stockings occurs in 1928 in “Among the Deep Sea Fishers”, the quarterly publication of the Grenfell Mission.  The use of silk stockings, dyed to beautiful soft hues, helped to propel the mat industry into its peak production years.  By the winter of 1929, 3000 mats had been hooked and revenues from the sales had rising from $27 000 in 1926 to $63 000 in 1929.  New designs were in production.  Geometric and floral patterned “scrap mats”, often of the mat hooker’s own design, were popular and provided an interesting contrast to the picture mats.”

Falling Leaves

Silk or rayon stocking material, dyed: 21″ x 27″; Mat maker unknown, Circa 1930

Photo courtesy of Paula Laverty.

“Mat hooking has had wide-ranging benefits for the women of Labrador and Northern Newfoundland.  In the early dye of the mission, their mat hooking income would only provide the bar necessities: clothing and medicines.  But as the industry and their income grew, the goods they were able to purchase with “mat money” inspired a new pride.  Women could earn their own livelihood and were no longer forced to marry young.  The men looked at the women with new respect.”

(2002, Paula Laverty)

Lastly, in order to be called a true “Newfie: you really have to be screeched in by one of the locals. So if they offer, be prepared to kiss a cod and drink the local beverage, Screech, and probably a lot of the latter before you kiss this fish.

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