Seventy years of knitting

Main Brook resident wants to pass on the cast net tradition

Adam Randall
Published on November 14, 2012
George Elliott has been working with a needle and twine for more than 70 years and he wants to pass that knowledge on. Elliott makes cast nets and is worried the knowledge will be lost if younger generations don’t pick it up.

“My father knit smelt traps, which is small mesh, and I would help him out,” George Elliott said as he picked over twine.

“But he didn’t make cast nets. It was something I learned on my own.”

Already handy with the needle by the time he was 15 years old — he’s been netting twine in the underhand fashion since he was nine — the Main Brook resident said he found a cast net mesh that was knitted by his grandfather and it all started from there.

Elliott said knowing how to make the net was important at the time because fishermen would use cast nets to catch bait.

Almost 70 years later, Elliott can still keep a steady pace with the needle.

Working his way through a series of twine, in a continued looping motion, Elliott wraps the twine around a measuring card, pushes the needle through the mesh to create the knot and says he doesn’t know if he’ll make too many more.

The reason being, he’s out of lead — which is used to make the sinkers.

“I had some Babbitt (bearings to melt down), but the fumes are hard,” he said. “If I came across some lead I’d probably do another one.”

But at 82 years old, Elliott is more interested in passing the skill on.

He would like to teach the underhanded knitting style, and how to attach drawstrings and make lead sinkers.

“I only knows of myself still making cast nets, and once I’m gone, …” he said. “I’d like to see someone else to keep it going.”

The process

Elliott said the first thing that needs to be learned is tying the underhand style, which he can teach.

“It’s the same knot over and over,” he said.

From there, his approach has been to start with a 48-mesh horn — the top of the mesh.

Knitting his way down the mesh, adding additional meshes to expand the width, Elliott’s cast nets are 26 inches long and contain 240 meshes at the bottom.

When this is completed, he’ll add the lead sinkers — 80 in total.

Elliott will melt the lead down himself, in a mould that will shape the sinkers into a ball shape.

“I had a mould that belonged to my grandfather for shaping leads, but it (went missing),” he said. “So then my grandson made one up for me.”

After the leads are attached comes the attaching of the drawstrings, which Elliott says is the most important part of the net.

He adds 16 drawstrings — of the same length and distance apart — and connects them to the hand-held line that is used to tuck the net together and drag in the catch.

If this isn’t done correctly, the net won’t draw together evenly, he said.

“It’s a lot to figure out by yourself, but if someone had the interest, I’d be willing to teach them.”

The Northern Pen