antique textiles handspinning History Knitting Leeds local history Textile Arts

Knitting with the Brontes

Albert Anker, via Wikimedia Commons





In this month’s ‘Yarnwise’, I took a look at the knitting sticks in the collection of the Bronte Parsonage Museum, here in Yorkshire.  And came to some interesting conclusions about the knitting sticks, and the Brontes’ experience of knitting. One conclusion I came to was that at least half of the sticks originated with Maria or Elizabeth Branwell (the sisters’ mother and aunt) in Cornwall.

The Museum were kind enough to give us permission to reproduce some absolutely iconic images, of the young Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell, as well as great images of the knitting sticks themselves. Enjoy!


Coming up next month, a fascinating look into the knitters and hand-spinners from the 1790s-1830s in York’s “The Retreat for Persons Afflicted with Disorders of the Mind”, a trailblazing Quaker asylum. Patients indulged in some yarn therapy (as well as, in some cases, spectacular retail therapy). I went in search of their story, and tried to figure out just what on earth people were knitting around 1800!


It’s been a frantic month, locking down the text for ‘River Ganseys’ and completing the charts for the book as well as test knitting Dales gloves for a forthcoming Cooperative Press venture – so do look out for them, over the winter! The good news is, our wonderful test and sample knitters have reached the finishing line, with the ganseys for the book.  I’m now busy knitting “something Victorian” for an article and pattern  due out in the Spring. I realised the other day, apart from a hat for myself for this winter, and a couple of pairs of fingerless mitts for my teenagers, all my knitting for months on end has been 19thC reverse engineering! Blimey.

Photo by Belinda May, Dales Countryside Museum


Two of the sticks in the Bronte Parsonage’s collection, are similar to this one from the Dales Countryside Museum, in Hawes.

For more information about the Brontes and the Bronte Parsonage Museum, visit:





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