Wensleydale and Malhamdale

The Adderback glove pattern is now out!  Yarn Forward 26:

Also an article on the history of Yorkshire Dales knitting.  ‘Yarn Forward’ have done us proud with the lovely layout and choice of images to go with the article.

After the article was written and the pattern finished,  the magazine wanted more pictures so we went up to Wensleydale and Malhamdale for the day.

We visited the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop.

Interior Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop.

A very kind Raveller gave us permission to knock on her farm door, whilst she was at work, and ask her bemused family to let us photo the sheep, then lambing in the barn, not far from Hawes.

This was last month – in the scramble to get everything together for the article, I didn’t post on my blog.

Whilst we were there, we saw a lamb being born:

One minute old!

And as a handspinner I was particularly taken by this lovely Texel:

Texel

And here are some lambs ‘gambolling’. Cute but probably requires different shutter speed:

Lambs gambolling near Hawes

On the same day I went into the Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes, and was given some photos of artefacts for the article and our upcoming book, hopefully. I wish I’d had these sharp, museum quality images when first designing the  Adderbacks – although given the constraints of translating an old pattern into something contemporary and more accessible, I’m not sure if I’d have made too many different design decisions.  But see how refined the 19thC lightning pattern gloves are:

Photo Credit: Belinda May

As you can see, these do not have the adders’ back (lightning) pattern the whole way round but a ‘Midge and Fly’ on the palms. One pair appeared to be silk, too (They ‘read’ as wool in photos). The knitting is considerably finer than my pattern and the lightning itself not solid.

The real refinement (and something I found impossible to replicate going up in tension and needle size) is the way the solid vertical lines between the lightning patterns end precisely at the intersections between fingers – something I couldn’t copy without going down in yarn grist and needle size – and I decided modern day knitters wouldn’t ‘wear’ that idea!

This is the trouble: it’s a fine line between dumbing down patterns for perfectly capable contemporary knitters, thereby patronising them – and making it accessible enough to catch the interest of people, and be an instant gratification knit that even new knitters might attempt.  Knitting a glove is a great introduction to knitting in the round and I was conscious of that, too.  I’m not sure whether I hit that right or not.

I will definitely come back and work out the pattern for a precise copy of some of the Hawes gloves.  Why? Because I can!  And because maybe the 19thC re-enactors out there might find it useful!

My other big design decision was going with DK not 4 ply yarn.  (I used yarn from the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop, near Leyburn – spun from the Wensleydales in the fields round the shop!)  When I figure out a pattern of a repro pair, will probably handspin but the Wensleydale DK was good for purpose as it was not only locally sourced but had all the qualities the original yarns had – as lustrous as silk, and worsted spun so very good for showing off the subtleties of two colour knitting.

I was lucky enough to see two pairs of the Hawes gloves at a recent exhibition at the Castle Museum in York, at Easter – actually out of display cases, so it was fascinating to see them close up.  They are fine, beautiful and practical pieces of knitting.  What I like best though is the way they are so personal to someone’s history – with dates and intials knit in to the deep wrist cuffs.

At York, the Hawes folk brought down this pair:

From the Dales Countryside Museum. Credit: Belinda May

Colours faded but look carefully, you can just make out the pattern.  I wonder whether they were dyed in the 1860s at the very start of chemical dyeing, with unstable dyes – or earlier than that, a fading vegetal dye? Natural dyes are reliable and fast as a rule.

Even with the colour gone, you can see this is a refined piece of knitting.

We rounded off the day by going  deeper into the Dales, to Malhamdale where Nat got the beautiful watery sunset shot, featured in the ‘Yarn Forward’ article. A walk down some sunken lanes and,  to end our sheepy day, a shepherd and her flock going back to the barn:

Malhamdale
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2 thoughts on “Wensleydale and Malhamdale

  1. Best wishes from all at the Dales Countryside Museum.
    We all love the article and your pattern for the gloves in the July Yarn magazine.

    It has set us wondering if we can develop a knitting pack to sell as part of our proposed museum retail range. Would it be possible to use your pattern for the gloves? Our idea is to make up a pack with wool from the Wensleydale sheep shop, old fashioned needles and your gloves pattern. Very early days and an initial enquiry, we look forward to your reply.
    Maureen

    Like

    1. Hello Maureen Thanks so much for your lovely comment.

      I’ll email you to reply properly – what a fantastic idea!

      Like

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