Keeping occupied

Stephen Roberts
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Forteau’s Alex Flynn finds pastime in knitting vegetable bags

Alex Flynn of Forteau is an expert at knitting nets and vegetable bags.

In his living room, where he watches television with his wife Rosie, the 84-year-old has a hook placed on the wall where he sets up his twine to do his knitting. You can find him there working on his bags pretty much every single day, from the moment he’s up, at around seven in the morning, until dawn.

For the process, he also uses a net needle, and a small piece of pipe which Flynn uses as a “card”.

He knits the bags using an “underhanded” method.

“When you’re knitting a cast net, or those bags, the needle is full of twine, and you can’t get the needle up through there,” he explains. “You got to slack your twine off to get your needle up but now we’re going underhanded with it, you knit it this way: turns your hand over and puts it up through that and the hole of the mesh is big to put your needle up through.”

The only differences, he says, between a vegetable bag and a cast net is that a cast net has a mesh so that it will spread open when you throw it out into the water. The vegetable bags also have a draw string for you to pull tight when you drop the bag into your boiler.

He guesses that the bags can hold up to about 15 vegetables. He explains that you put your potatoes, turnip and carrot (together), and cabbage in separate bags.

The vegetable bags are useful, he says, because when you lift the bag out, the vegetables will be as firm as they were when you put them in – whereas when you’re taking them out with a spoon, they tend to break up and fall apart.

Of course, this isn’t a new activity for Flynn. He says he has been knitting vegetable bags and cast nets for about 75 years – ever since he was old enough to do it.

It is only in recent years, after he was diagnosed with cancer, that he has taken it up as a consistent hobby, working on them every single day and occasionally other items, such as snowshoes, small komatiks, hammocks, and whips.

“I didn’t know what to do for pastime and I couldn’t sit down all day long doing nothing other than looking at the TV,” he says. “So I started doing that.”

With the cancer now under control, he continues to keep himself busy with the work nonetheless.

Many of these things he gives away to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren – he says they’re the first priority.

People also started to give him money for the bags he would knit for them. Initially, he didn’t charge anything but now the only place on the coast he can get the twine is from John Lavallee’s store in Blanc Sablon.

Now he charges four dollars a bag, for the gas it takes to get the twine and for the cost of the twine itself. He estimates this equals about three cents per hour for his work. Often, people will give him more.

He adds that he can normally finish two bags per day and will take orders for multiple bags. He presently has orders for six.

Flynn will certainly be keeping himself occupied with this and other hands-on work in the future.

 

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

Geographic location: Blanc Sablon

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Recent comments

  • Karen Payne
    February 02, 2014 - 12:40

    Great story about a great man! I too have a net he made for me....his story is inspiring to many, keeping busy and providing products to people that you could never buy in a store...keep up the great work Alex...you make the people of your community proud :)

  • Karen Payne
    February 02, 2014 - 12:05

    Great story about a great man! I too have a net he made for me....his story is inspiring to many, keeping busy and providing products to people that you could never buy in a store...keep up the great work Alex...you make the people of your community proud :)

  • Donna Ryan
    January 31, 2014 - 08:08

    I have one of his vegetable bags and a pair snowshoes he made my daughter about 15 years ago.. Very kind soul and beautiful person.

    • Shirley Hicks
      February 02, 2014 - 11:11

      I have the Veggie bags,also have one of Alex cast nets,nice being in the family Great job Alex hope you continue your hobbyand have good health for many more years......

    • Shirley Hicks
      February 02, 2014 - 11:16

      I have the Veggie bags,also have one of Alex cast nets,nice being in the family Great job Alex hope you continue your hobbyand have good health for many more years......

    • Shirley Hicks
      February 02, 2014 - 11:18

      I have the Veggie bags,also have one of Alex cast nets,nice being in the family Great job Alex hope you continue your hobbyand have good health for many more years......

  • Donna Ryan
    January 31, 2014 - 08:07

    I have one of his vegetable bags and a pair snowshoes he made my daughter about 15 years ago.. Very kind soul and beautiful person.