Adderback Gloves: Resurgam

Adderbacks prototype

A few people have asked where they can find the pattern for the Adderback gloves, that featured in ‘Yarn Forward’, some time back.  They’re here. Apologies for the amateur photography – I don’t have the rights to reproduce the professional photo shoot, so rather than seeing lovely models wearing these you can see my favourite chair…

The Adderbacks came about after a visit to the Dales Countryside Museum, in Hawes.  I wanted to recreate Dales’ style gloves but… should I say the phrase ‘dumbed down’, here?  Dales gloves but dumbed down. I simplified them to make them a faster knit. Some of the originals have over 100 sts cast on. I like gloves, but I don’t want to spend my life knitting just gloves so…    4 ply yarn would be more in keeping with the tradition , or even 2 ply Jamieson and Smiths, or Jamiesons of Shetland’s ‘Spindrift’ would be nice, and also maybe more traditional. But I went for DK in the end again, for a faster knit. Also, the past two winters here have been incredibly cold and snowy, and thicker gloves seemed like a good idea at the time. And so they proved to be. When the snow came again, they did their job.

If you want to change down to finer wool, you will need to swatch, and maybe end up adding in a pattern repeat. Jane Austen, once asked why she didn’t dot the is and cross the ts for her readers, said : ” ‘I do not write for such dull Elves/ As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.'” And that is how i feel about knitting. If you’re reading this and thinking of knitting these, and think the DK is too heavyweight for your needs – you’re already intelligent and can do the maths to make it work.

Another difference between my version and the originals is that they often had one pattern on the back of the hand, and a simpler, filler style pattern on the palm. I opted for all-round lightning.

Although this pattern is traditionally called ‘lightning’ (and similar to the ‘marriage lines’ you find commonly as a gansey motif); I decided to call the modern spin ‘adder-backs’ – as it reminds me of the zigzag patterns on adders.  Lightning was a favourite Victorian motif. Emily Bronte went to Leeds and horrified her family by returning with a mauve fabric with a lightning print on, she made up into a dress for herself.

Initials and year were often knitted into the gloves. You can find alphabet charts online, or in various books about traditional knitting.  I thought laterally, and used the embroiderers’ alphabet chart found in ‘A Scholehouse for the Needle’. Here, my initials were 7 rounds deep. This is an incredibly small canvas to get an initial knitted onto. Gansey intials often give you twice that number of rounds for initialling. Lettering on extant Dales’ gloves is surprisingly economic on space and yet, works well. The earliest dated gloves, now with the Wordsworth Trust at Grasmere,  bear the legend: “G.Walton, 1846”. The large case letters are also only 7 rounds high; the small case, 5.

I have put up my own intials chart as a guideline, for spacing. You are not “dull elves” so can figure out your own.

For the genealogists, I’ve recently been tracing some of my Dales ancestors – mainly farmers with the odd lead miner/farmer for variation. There are the Boothmans of Barnoldswick and the Coates in Wigglesworth, and Waterhouses who were masons in Arthington, nearer Leeds. A further delve into the Coates line gave me a couple of new names – both farming families in Wigglesworth, too, including the direct line ancestor (yet another farmer) with a rather good name;  Lawrence Lawson. Lawrence is one of my sons’ middle names and I always wondered why that randomly popped into my head! Other Dales ancestors include the Westmorland Stephensons and Bellas family. Coates and Stephenson families are both mentioned in ‘Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales’ as ‘known’ families with knitting connections. But I am told that some of my Dales’ surnames such as my greatX2 grandma’s name, Alderson,  are so common up there, people with them were given prefixes, so everyone could tell the different branches apart!

Anyway, in homage to anyone with Dales ancestry, here are the Adderbacks.


Hand is approximately 8″ across palm.
If you want to make larger, use the larger size needles – experiment with tension first.

Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop DK
2 balls
Shades used here: Moonlight, [purple]
Or any 2 strongly contrasting colours. Above, I used a blue and natural cream.

Test knit in progress

Main colour = MC (Moonlight)
2nc colour = CC (Purple)

7 st = 1″  9 rows = 1″

2.5 and 2.75mm DPNS, or circular needles if doing magic loop

Stitch markers


With needles of choice, CO 56 stitches using CC.

Purl 1 round using CC
Knit  1 round using MC

Then, alternate colours 1 X 1 rib for 2″

K 2 rows CC
K 5 rows MC
In MC,  K7, M1 [65 sts]

K Chart A (7 rounds)
K 3 rounds MC

Change to larger needles. K pattern Chart B (6 rows)
Knit 2 rounds MC

Establish Thumb Gusset.
Before starting thumb gusset, ensure the lettering is centred – date is underside of hand, initials the top.

For left glove, establish thumb  in the stitches directly above the end of your final letter , and before start of first digit of date(should be start of round).

For right glove, establish thumb above the stitches between first letter of initials and final digit of date).   Basically, you just need to place the thumbs in the spaces between lettering/digits!

To Make Thumb Gusset
M1 Purlwise, M1 Knitwise, M1 Purlwise

These 2 Purls will mark where your thumb begins and ends. Maintain them as P stitches in every round.  For thumb, make 2 increases every 3rd round, 1 after 1st Purl, 1 before last Purl.  Keep increasing inside the P stitches every 3rd round, til you hit 13 sts inside the 2 Ps.  Knit thumb in hit and miss st.  I find it looks best if the Ps are in the MC, but do what looks best to you!

When you have 13 sts between the 2 Ps [15 st], leave thumb gusset sts on waste yarn, til you are ready to come back and knit up thumb.  For second glove’s thumb, remember to mirror first glove, insert thumb so that your initials will face up, date face down.

Whilst starting thumb gusset, knit main body of glove, using Chart C , til glove reaches base of your fingers. Place on waste yarn.

To Complete Thumb
Knit existing 15 stiches (now K those 2 Ps) and pick up 11 [26st].  Knit in hit n miss til you reach full length of thumb.
Shape thumb top:
Round 1: K2 tog to end of round, continuing in patt.
Round 2: K1, K2 tog to end of round, continuing in patt.
Break yarns, thread through remaining sts and fasten off.

To divide for fingers: centre the first finger over the thumb.

Finger 1
Ensure the centre of your sts for Finger 1 are above the thumb.
16st and M7, [23 st]
Work in hit n miss until you hit top of your fingernail in length.
Shape Top
Round 1: K 2 tog to end of round, K1
Round 2: K2 tog to end of round
Break yarns, thread through remaining sts and fasten off.

Finger 2
Pick up 16 sts from waste yarn.  Between Fingers 1 and 2,  pick up 5 sts. Between fingers 2 and 3, Make 4 sts [25st].
Work in hit n miss until you hit top of your fingernail in length.
Shape Top as for Finger 1.

Finger 3
Pick up 18 stitches from waste yarn.  Between Fingers 2 and 3, pick up 3 sts.  Between Fingers 3 and 4, M 2 [23sts].
Work in hit n miss until you hit top of your fingernail in length.
Shape Top as for Finger 1.

Finger 4
Pick up remaining 15 sts.  Pick Up 6 sts between Fingers 3 and 4. [21 sts].
Work in hit n miss until you hit top of your fingernail in length.
Shape Top as for Finger 1.

Chart A

Charts B, C and Thumb

And finally… how many yarn shops do you go into where you can look out of the windows and see the donators of the clip that went to make your ball of wool?  You can do that up near Leyburn at the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop. Breed specific yarns are a wonderful thing, and making a bit of a resurgence of their own. Another supplier of great British breed specific yarns, are Blacker Yarns.

Had a great time yesterday at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show, and now I’m all spent out.  I was sad to hear of the demise of the 5 ply gansey wool, sold by Wingham’s down in South Yorkshire, but did manage to find a supplier of something very interesting.  Over in Saddleworth, are producing a range of yarns including some navy blue 4 ply which should knit up into something approximating to some of the finer, traditional ganseys that can be found in museums round the coastline.  Woolsack were completing their epic quest, to craft 40 cushions using British Wool, over the Harrogate weekend and best news of all – this year we didn’t get snowed in after the show, and have a 5 3/4 hour crawl back the 20 miles from Harrogate (or ‘Arreget’ as I prefer to call it) to York. The overall message I came away with was to celebrate and support British wool.
I will leave you with the Longwool Sheepshop’s Wensleydales, in the fond hope some of you may enjoy knitting Adderback gloves to match your mauve lightning print frocks.


Knit-Frock and Condiment Thief

“Mary Murray, an Irishwoman, aged 30, was indicted for stealing a woollen frock, and other articles, as books, shoes, a comb, and various small groceries, the property of Jeremiah Long, mariner.

Jeremiah Long deposes that he lodges at Mr. Metcher’s, in Westgate-street; on Saturday night the 26th of June he locked up his room and went away till Monday morning, when he returned  at about seven o’clock on that morning, he found, on entering the room, a window open; two Guernsey frocks, a lot of grocery things, three books, a pair of shoes, and other things had been stolen.

From the evidence of Jonathon Fisher, it appeared that at a quarter before six o’clock in the morning, the prisoner was sitting on the Itchen side of the ferry, when the prisoner offered him a woollen frock and a pair of shoes for sale. She wanted ninepence for the frock, and he gave her sixpence for it.  She offered him other things for sale. At twelve o’clock the prisoner was seen drunk in St Michael’s square with the books, offering them for sale. A policeman apprehended her for drunkenness, in the High-street, with the books on her, and in her bosom, some mustard, pepper, salt and other things.

The prisoner in defence told a long story of coming from Titchfield on the morning of the 28th of June, and at the ferry meeting with a young sailor,  who looked respectable, and addressing her said he was hard up and ashamed to sell his things himself, and employed her to do it, and she accounted to him for the proceeds. He gave her the books and the grocery for herself. She got her living by selling knitted caps, and knew nothing of the prosecutor; but she said that it was very unlikely that she should come into the town to sell articles stolen in it. She delivered herself with great volubility and propriety of language’ intermingling the whole with protestations of innocence.

Verdict, Guilty. Sentence six months’ imprisonment and hard labour, the last week, solitary.”

From ‘The Hampshire Advertiser & Salisbury Guardian’ (Southampton), Saturday, July 10th, 1847

Image Credit: “Portsmouth Point”, by Thomas Rowlandson, 1811

See a gansey in the 1811 Rowlandson print above? Me, neither!

Victorian Stripes

Miss Ryder's 1860's child's sock

Have had a knitting filled week or two; from documenting the 1846 Dales glove up in Grasmere, to figuring out how to knit an 1860’s child’s stripey sock, to putting the finishing touches to our inland waterways ganseys and Yorkshire Dales knitting projects for the book. I’m even dreaming in knitting at the moment. That’s how bad (good?) it is.

The interest in Victorian stripes started when researching, last year, I started looking for references to non standard blue, cream or grey ganseys, in the 19thC newspapers. This shocking crime near Thirsk struck me as maybe responsible for the origins of the mythic Burglar Bill in his stripey jumper with swag bag and face mask:


“…It appears that the house was forcibly entered by three men, armed with pistols and long pointed knives; one of the men was very broad set, dressed in a Guernsey frock, with stripes across the body… the other two ere similarly dressed….”


The York Herald, and General Advertiser (York, England), Saturday, July 18, 1840

[Robbery and assault of toll bar keeper nr Ripley. From victim’s testimony – Wm Stubbs]

“….’The men had on tan or flesh coloured masks, striped jackets, and woollen caps that came on to the topf of their masks. ….’
Witness George Bradfield describes them:

‘..They were dressed in short, striped frocks,…’

“Thomas Ellington Collinson, police officer, Boroughbridge, produced the guernsey frocks which were taken from the prisoners  in London when they were apprehended…..”

And this from Liverpool:

“On Sunday morning, the body of a man unknown was found floating in the river. not far from the Seacombe Slip. He had on blutcher boots, blue worsted stockings, with a striped Guernsey-frock…”

Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Friday, May 29, 1846

Sadly, I’ve found suicides, dead sailors, and sailors committing crimes to be the most fertile ground for finding descriptions of 19thC ganseys. Some of the ganseys are less conservative than we’d imagine.
I dug a bit deeper in search of the 19thC stripe.

Stripey knitting is nothing new.  It’s always been a good way to stretch a favourite colour, and a thrifty way to use up odds and ends.

Under the heading “LABRADOR NEEDS”,  The anonymous writer of a booklet with patterns for the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, solicited various items of clothing, and yarn to be made into useful comforts for the fishermen:

“Woollens and wool – odds and ends will be manufactured into garments cheerfully; the fisherman does not mind his guernsey being one of many colours – short lengths might be joined together, lest they go astray…”

(Given the list of patrons, the book is Edwardian, and wrongly dated at 1800 in the Richard Rutt collection of digitised knitting manuals, here).

We now think of ganseys as having been blue, or cream or grey for Sunday best. But some of them most have put Joseph’s Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat to shame! The American Civil War Soldier’s hood knitted from odd lengths of various yarns on p 47 of Susan Strawn’s “Knitting America” demonstrates this tendency, in extremis, for knitters to work with oddments and knit stripes.  In his seminal ‘Glorious Colour’, back in the 1980s, Kaffe Fassett documented how his first efforts at colourwork were also stripes. And as sophisticated as his colourwork got, he still reserved a section of the book for stripes and how to knit them well.

In ‘ How To Knit Socks’, by Miss E. Ryder of Richmond, Yorkshire, ca. 1860’s Miss Ryder mentions stripes and advises:

“The chief things to be remembered in knitting stripes: – to commence your sock, after ribbing the top, with a fresh colour, to bring your stripe right so as to commence the heel with a fresh colour – to take up stitches at the side of the heel with the same colour as you commenced the heel, thus bringing your stripes right across the foot…”

She suggested mauve and white, or scarlet and grey as good colour combinations. I found many mentions of this latter pairing.  Often they seem to have striped a natural colour like cream or grey with a vividly dyed colour, usually scarlet or blue.

Grimsby Football team, 1878

Any excuse to link to the lovely Mr Laing must, of course, be exploited. His stripes, like many Victorian stripes, appear to have been quite narrow and very uniform. Sports clothing is one obvious place to find early stripes. The Grimsby team from 1878 may well have had a mix of hand and machine knit jerseys, given the non uniformity apparent in the whole-team shot. Grimsby, of course, would not be short of competent fine gauge hand knitters.

So stripes were good for tennis and football, in the mid 19thC. Something about stripes said “Sporty!” Cricket jumpers were not yet the V neck white cabled things we expect them to have been, and I have seen an early shot of a local cricketer, wearing what looks remarkably like a late 19thC cycling jersey. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if stripes didn’t crop up there, too.

When I asked on Ravelry about stripes in old knitting, some kind person linked to the Met Museum’s rather splendid stripey stocking. It may well be frame knit, but it’s still fascinating to look at.

When you knit stripes in the round (far more elegant and satisfying than trying to knit them flat), you discover that annoying little jog at the start and end of your round. The Victorians got round this neatly, by purling a seam st (or two sts next to eachother)  every round or every alternate round, like in my first pic here. This totally masks the jog. Contemporary knitters do some magic called a ‘jogless join’, for which you can find numerous good tutorials online. I found the jogless join not neccessary when I knitted Miss Ryder’s stripey sock, as she tells you to purl at the back seam each round and, as you can see, that sorts the dilemma.

The child’s socks in the 1860  William W. Nichol painting ‘Quiet’ was my starting point for the next ‘Knitting Genie’ article. We have permission from York Museums Trust to reproduce the painting and also a detail of the sock,  for knitters who’d appreciate, in trainspotterly fashion, a really good close up of some well painted 19thC knitting – you are urged to look out for the christmas edition of ‘Knit’. The painting is currently hanging in York Art Gallery, for anyone who’d like to see it in the flesh. Miss Elizabeth Ryder’s several 1860s’ books on How To Knit Socks (and Stockings), which I used to help recreate the child’s sock, can be found here.  It was quite appropriate, finding an 1860’s Yorkshirewoman’s child’s sock pattern, to go with this 1860 painting. I think the pattern will pop up on Knit’s blog, at some point in the not entirely distant future. The Knitting Genie about the sock should be in the xmas ‘Knit’.