Knitting becomes a labour of love

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By Ellen Millard

June Kirjavainen helping Afghan newborns survive

June Kirjavainen shows off some of her knitted goods at the pre-Christmas craft sale at the North Shore Recreation Centre. She is kitting one of the garments for newborns she plans to send to overseas countries. 

Tatamagouche & Area Notebook

Local resident June Kirjavainen set up a table of beautifully knitted garments and accessories at the pre-Christmas craft sale at the North Shore Recreation Center in December. However, during the event her hands weren’t idle. She’s using her love of knitting to join in a project called “Omeed-C-Kodat” in which people knit sweaters for newborn babies in Afghanistan and other Third World countries.

Kirjavainen learned of the knitting project from her cousin who works for Hope for the Babies International (HOBI), which gives help to many babies born in poverty stricken countries all over the world. It also helps mothers learn to care for their infants.

Kirjavainen is pleased that many other local knitters are also now involved in the project. She says she was taught to knit by her father when she was three or four years old using wooden match sticks as knitting needles.

Kirjavainen and her husband, the late Duncan McFarlane, had liked coming to Nova Scotia from Ontario on vacations and she says they found the residents very friendly and “always spoke to newcomers.” So they put their home in Markham, Ont. on the market and began looking for something in this area. Fortunately their Ontario house sold just about the time they looked at property in Brule and they decided the area had all the services they needed within a reasonable distance, so they bought the property near the golf course.

After moving, McFarlane was able to spend his time painting, producing many works depicting the local scenery, including the Barrachois Fisherman’s Wharf and other sights that caught his eye. Their home was set up to allow him to exhibit his works. Kirjavainen also became involved in the life of the community in many ways. Sadly McFarlane passed away several years ago, but Kirjavainen still has the gallery set up and can occasionally be found as a vender at the local farmers’ market.

The words Omeed-C-Kodat mean “Knit-a-bit“ in the Diri language, which is one of the official languages in Afghanistan. Representatives of the overseas program say the knitted garments increase the survival rates of newborn babies as it provides them with sweaters that are easy to put on and keep clean.

Kirjavainen says that when enough tiny garments are knitted, they’re going to be shipped to Geneva, Switzerland from where they’ll be distributed to newborns in many countries. First, though, they’ll have to come up with the money to cover the shipping charges involved in getting the small vests to the babies.

For more information, or if you would like to help either by knitting the small, simple vest or helping with the costs of shipping, call June Kirjavainen at 657-9131.

Ellen Millard is a historian, author and longtime resident of Sand Point, near Tatamagouche. Email her at

Organizations: North Shore Recreation Center, Third World, Babies International Ontario house

Geographic location: Afghanistan, Nova Scotia, Ontario Markham Brule Geneva Switzerland Sand Point Tatamagouche

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