Lois Crowley of Gouldsboro works on a mitten, one of “thousands” she has made over the years. PHOTO BY JACK DODSON

Corea’s Lois Crowley and others still knitting up a storm

GOULDSBORO — Lois Crowley was probably in her 30s or 40s when she began knitting. Either way, she’s knitted thousands of mittens since then, she notes with a laugh.

Now 89, she’s lived in the village of Corea for 69 years. Boats moor just outside her window in the harbor and just beyond the stacked lobster traps. She can look out and see any activity from the chair she knits in.

There used to be a house obstructing Lois’s waterside view, but when the owner died she bought the land and turned it into an empty parcel, clearing a swath down to the water. She cooks, reads and works on jigsaw puzzles, as well, and spends time with her 65-year-old son.

Lois Crowley’s living room overlooks Corea Harbor where she can see the local lobster fleet’s comings and goings.

Living a pretty active lifestyle, her only issue is an occasional ache in her back. She mows her lawn, hangs out with her dog, Scrappy, and shovels the snow in winter, though she’s promised her son she’ll stop doing that. When she reads or knits, Scrappy, a miniature Doberman pinscher who is the length of Crowley’s forearm, lies on a blanket in her lap.

Lois says not a lot has changed in Corea in her time there. Many of her friends are gone. But she stays busy, channeling much of her energy into warming the hands of Schoodic Peninsula’s children.

Seven years ago, she helped launch a program enlisting local knitters to make mittens to give away at the onset of winter to children at the K-eighth grade Peninsula School in Prospect Harbor. This year, alone, the program received about 80 pairs, half of which were knitted by Crowley herself.

In the beginning, Crowley helped run the program, but has passed off that duty to Gouldsboro resident Nancy Hill. Hill puts out the call for mittens in local town newsletters each year and rounds up the donated pairs. Crowley is one of many contributors.

“I never see some of these people,” Hill said, noting some of the donations are anonymous.

Come December each year, Hill and Peninsula School staff hang mittens on a holiday tree. Then, just before Christmas, they’ll bring a cart of mittens around from classroom to classroom.

School Principal Sally Leighton says the children love to pick out their own pair.

“We are just so grateful,” she said. “The people in these communities — Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor — are just so generous.”

Scrappy, a miniature Doberman pinscher, is a constant companion.

She said the event brings “piles and piles” of mittens to students. They start with the youngest and work their way up by grade until they run out of supplies.

As the program has grown, Hill said there are now enough mittens that the children can pick a pair they like.

“You ought to see their little faces,” Hill exclaimed, recalling the various years of distribution.

This year, the mittens will be handed out on Dec. 22.

For Crowley, the event is a nice way to stay in touch with the community. Her husband died in 2004, and she leads a fairly quiet life in a house that doubled as Corea’s post office. Bud, her late husband, served as the village’s postmaster.

Before she began knitting mittens, she would knit what she called “marlins,” which aren’t made anymore. They’re a green cord that was used as netting on the tops of lobster traps.

“We always called it marlin; I don’t know what it is,” she said. “Probably no one alive would know what it is… it made your fingers sore, too, that stuff.”

For the mittens, Crowley uses a pattern she learned from her aunt when she was a child, called “double-knit,” in which two layers are knitted simultaneously.

Hill noted that the program’s grown each year so Crowley has helped keep many of the area’s schoolchildren warm in the harsh Maine winters.

“It keeps me busy, it’s something to do,” she said of knitting. “I don’t like watching television.”

Jack Dodson
Jack Dodson began working for The Ellsworth American in mid-2017, and covers eastern Hancock and western Washington counties. He grew up in the Mid-coast region before living in New York City for five years, where he freelanced in documentary filmmaking and journalism. He is particularly interested in criminal justice, environment and immigration reporting.

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