About Marie-Josée Houle

I've been knitting since I was four years old. I clearly remember the day I sat down beside my mother who was knitting a sweater and I asked her to teach me. Ever since I can remember, I've always been awed and inspired by arts and crafts. And they've always consumed me with a hunger to learn. Luckily, my mother had the patience to teach me what she knew, and graciously supported me in the exploration of the things that she didn't.

As a child, I never knit anything other than two foot long Barbapapa-shaped scarves and clothing for my Barbies. I did start knitting sweaters for friends and family when I started my first Undergraduate Degree. Since then, knitting has been my excuse to just sit and relax, whether at a gathering with friends, in front of a television, a movie or during travel.

When I moved to Halifax for my Master's Degree, I experienced a never-ending chain of hardships: September 11th happened within a week of my arrival, my father fell ill the day I flew back after Christmas, Dalhousie University had a month-long Faculty strike, one of my roommates had a nervous breakdown, we lived in a filthy mouse-infested house, my car was broken into and it was the first time I lived away from home for an extended period of time. I desperately missed my friends and family.

While in Halifax, however, I discovered surfing (yes, in the North Atlantic!!!) and Briggs & Little wool. Made in New Brunswick, Briggs & Little wool comes in skeins of every color. And it was then that I started knitting insanely bright wool socks inspired by the colorful houses that line the Halifax streets, which I playfully called my 'ugly socks.'

During the eighteen months I spent in Halifax, I knit dozens of pairs of these ugly socks. I'd send them home to my family as a thank-you for that extra cash that mysteriously appeared in my checking account when things got bad, or well, just because, and to friends for birthdays and special occasions.

Since then, ugly socks have become my calling card. The minute anyone walks into my mother's country home, she holds up a large willow basket offering a choice of these bright socks to protect their feet against the cold of her tile floors. Highly coveted by my friends, they are my only creation that I will not sell. A pair of ugly socks is a gift. Nothing more, nothing less.

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