The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales

The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales, 2014 edition.

It still doesn’t feel real, to me, but… The new edition of ‘The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales’ is here!

Our new edition reproduces the text of the 1951 First Edition, but we have added a Dales glove pattern and an Introduction, which gives biographical information about the previously mysterious writers/illustrator, Misses Hartley and Ingilby.

This edition’s journey to publication strangely mirrored the journey of the first edition, which was completed in 1949, but wasn’t published til 1951. In that edition’s case, the delay was due to post-War paper shortages! In the new edition’s case, we had to contend with various delays beyond anyone’s control; not least the unexpected complexities of a certain Dales glove. There are also some notes about these gloves: I think I have tracked down the original owner.

Putting the new edition together,  we wanted to give some context for Miss Hartley and Miss Ingilby;  the ladies remained shadowy figures to knitters and yet they gave generations of knitters so much enjoyment. So I researched their lives; travelling to the Wordsworth Trust’s museum and Wordsworth’s former home,  Dove Cottage, in Cumbria – following in the footsteps of Marie Hartley, who was there in 1948 or ‘9, illustrating the Dales gloves in their collection. There we made some very dear friends – a happy by-product of our journey all over the North of England, putting together this special edition.

I also spent time in Leeds at the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, where Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby’s archives are deposited. And yet more time up in the Dales at Hawes, to research in the reserve collection at the Dales Countryside Museum; the museum Marie Hartley set up; the core of her personal collection of farming and knitting paraphernalia becoming the beginnings of their collection. On one visit, I found myself behind the scenes with a gentleman researching arcane Dales folk music. He had a squeeze-box of some kind with him, and kept playing melodies, as he researched. I couldn’t resist striking up a conversation and it turned out he had been Miss Hartley and Ingilby’s neighbour for years!

Original dustjacket, 1951 edition.

We wanted to bring Dales knitting alive again for a new generation of adventurous knitters, so the incredible force of nature that is Shannon Okey decided we’d include a pattern for one of the very gloves Marie illustrated. We decided on the most complex extant Dales glove. The famous ‘Mary Allen’ gloves are a sedate walk in the park compared to the glory that is the “G.Walton. 1846” glove (now on display at the Wordsworth Trust’s Museum in Grasmere). In the end, I reverse engineered the Walton gloves with the help of designer Tom van Deijnen (tomofholland), and “Corvid”, whose technical knowledge is formidable.  As a result, the new edition is the end-product of a collaboration between people from England, Holland (but living in England!), Canada and the US. A truly international effort for a book that is apparently so “Yorkshire”!

We hope everyone who has ever loved this book finds something new and interesting in this special edition.  And also that it finds a new generation of readers who will love it as much as it deserves. Which is a lot. It is a classic milestone, and a piece of knitting history in its own right. Incredible for a book written by two non-knitters in the 1940s!

‘The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales’ is available for pre-order,  and the pattern is up on Ravelry.

Marie Hartley's original illustration of the "G.Walton" glove.
Marie Hartley’s original illustration of the “G.Walton” glove.

 

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