LEARN TO KNIT PORTUGUESE- STYLE WORKSHOP

 

 

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SATURDAY, 19th AUGUST 2017

2 – 4 PM

£35

Visit us at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, and LEARN TO KNIT PORTUGUESE-STYLE!

 

Portuguese knitters work with the yarn tensioned round their neck, or secured on a hook attached to the chest. No special equipment is needed, but you can use a knitting pin (as in the pictures, here).

Knit and purl stitches are both made with the yarn at front of the work. Come along & learn how!

Portuguese-style knitting is efficient and comfortable. You can use this technique to knit on two needles or in the round; ordinary, bog-standard everyday one colour knitting or stranded knitting with two or more colours.  Everything on my Ravelry project pages was knitted using Portuguese style knitting; ganseys, Fair Isle, vintage style knits – the lot.

All you need to bring is a current knitting project you have going, on its needles.

Learn from one of the UK’s few experienced Portuguese-style knitters, (me!)

To book your place email: penelopehemingway@gmail.com

No deposit, just pay on the day.  But there will be limited places, so email to book early.  If the workshops proves popular, we will re-schedule another.

We have a small stock of Portuguese knitting pins available for sale, on the day. So if you have always wanted to learn this technique – now’s your chance!

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If this date doesn’t suit you, I’m available to teach Portuguese Knitting one to one, any weekday evening or weekend half day, with a little notice.  Email and ask!

 

Where: Yorkshire Museum of Farming, Murton Park, York, YO19 5UF

 

 

 

 

Walking Wheel – How Many Miles A Month?

spinning wheel
Illustration by Marie Hartley, ‘The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales’, 1951.

So how many miles could a Great Wheel spinner walk in a month? 120 miles?

To reprise; in “Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning”, Patricia Baines wrote:

…It is said that spinners who worked in the textile industry in Yorkshire and Lancashire walked the equivalent of 30 miles a week spinning wool…

 

[Baines,  Batsford 1977 Edition, p.61]

 

I wanted to see if that was even remotely accurate. Not that I doubt Patricia Baines – have learned and continue to learn so much from her book. But you know how these things get currency, without ever quite being tested out.

At the British Wool Show, on the Saturday I tried to use a pedometer.  Only to realise my highly accurate 3D pedometer is highly accurate because – it only starts counting after ten consecutive steps. It wants to accurately measure your average stride length over those ten first steps, I think.  And I was doing less than ten, per length of yarn spun!  So it was barely counting my steps at all.

So, on Sunday, we measured the average distance I walked in spinning one length of yarn; firstly, walking backwards whilst spinning and then back towards the wheel’s head, placing the newly spun yarn onto the spindle.  In making each length of yarn, I walked about two metres – half of it backwards. Slightly more than 2m, but I settled on 2m to make my final figure a conservative estimate.

We then measured, several times, how many lengths like this were spun over a period of five minutes.  And then figured out an average.

So we knew that in 5 minutes, on average,  I walked a given distance (roughly).  Bear in mind I’m mathematically challenged.

We then figured out how many metres I’d walk in ten minutes, then 60 minutes.  Then one working day (which in the late eighteenth century might typically be around 12 hours, but we took two hours off that for other household tasks/eating, child wrangling etc).  Then we assumed a six day week.

 

In all, we ended up with a figure of around 57600m in a month. Which comes in at…  35.79 miles.

Obviously, that’s just a rough figure.  But does indeed verify that 30 miles a month is possible, assuming a 10 hour day and 6 day week.

30 miles a week?  I’d have to be spinning four times faster.  (To be fair, my ‘fastest’ spinning yielded a much higher figure than this, but I was very inconsistent and usually at the slower end of the spectrum, so I made everything my most conservative estimate). A show probably isn’t a fair test of distance – home, uninterrupted, (see the child is doing the cooking in the 1814 George Walker engraving?) – would give a more accurate figure.  The difference between the amount spun in 5 minutes – ie: walking backwards and forwards – at the start of the day, and once ‘warmed up’ was significantly different.

I think all this proves, rather than disproves, Baines’ assertion.  A speed considerably faster than mine (ie: the number of times the spinner walks backwards from then back towards the spindle) would be entirely possible for someone younger, fitter, who had been GW spinning since a young age, and who wasn’t at a show stopping to chat to people!

But the uncontested highlight of my weekend was spinning on the Great Wheel whilst being told a (very apt) Yorkshire folk story by none other than Ann Kingstone.   It’s always a joy to bump into Ann and Marie. Knitting people are the best kind of people anyway. Ann is, of course, a designer of great renown – but she also is a passionate enthusiast and expert about Yorkshire lore and Yorkshire knitting history.  Ann told me about The Thrangness of Keziah Throp which was fascinating.  And I told her about the weasel – the reeling device that was used to measure the length of spinners’ skeins.

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Grandma has a weasel (on the left).    Image from ‘Costumes of Yorkshire’, George Walker. Courtesy: Yorkshire Ancestors.

I will be making a quick appearance at Ann’s Yorkshire Knitting Tour, with a talk on the history of Yorkshire Ganseys.  We’ll demonstrate knitting sticks, and all the paraphernalia of 19thC gansey knitting, etc (But not a weasel – unless I stumble on one in a junk shop in the next few months).

There were some interesting exhibitors at The British Wool Show.  My favourites included Margaret L. Glackin and Catherine Faley, who make ceramics and crafts fantastic boxes, and other things from reclaimed wood.  Some of the wood comes from demolished buildings in North Leeds, my dad’s old stamping ground – so I found the boxes fascinating as well as beautiful. I am now plotting to get to Leeds, to treat myself to one of the boxes as I regretted not buying one at the weekend!

Their ‘Craft Boxes’ look like boxes I have seen stood on the tables of old Great Wheels in pictures. I have just had a basket-maker in my village make me a mudag (well, he’s making it as we speak), so I will soon have a way to store rolags on my wheel. Otherwise one of the Craft Boxes would be perfect.  But my current Object Of Desire is one of Margaret and Catherine’s lidded boxes.  The yarn bowls look stunning too, but I can’t justify one after recently buying my fab one with a crow painted on it.

Another intriguing exhibit was the Zwirnzwerg e-spinner made by Schwabenlaud Supplies. Silent! It has a Bosch engine, apparently.

And of course, my fellow Great Wheel Spinning folk, Mad About Wool.  It makes me proud that at a wool show in Yorkshire, once the epicentre of Great Wheel spinning, you can still find not one but two Great Wheels in action. I noticed Chris was spinning from tops, worsted-style, when I wandered past. And I’d been demonstrating with rolags, woollen-style. So anyone who walked round that show, potentially got to see two very different sorts of spinning going on, on these beautiful wheels. That’s a rare thing, under one roof!

If you’re in the area, we’re doing an Old Hand knitters of the Dales talk at Tynedale Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers, on Saturday morning. We won’t be in costume  (I find it hard to ‘sissy that walk’ effectively in clogs!)

Talking of which, honourable mention should also go to the lovely people from Baavet. I met the lovely gent last year, who couldn’t resist asking me about my clogs, when he heard me clomping past from a mile away, when we were demo-ing.  He used to wear clogs, he said.

He wore his clogs on Saturday this year, just to show me them.  Impressive, they were, too. Much fancier than mine.  Mine came from a farm, somewhere near Haworth and were from the 1950s or 60s, but essentially are identical to 19thC clogs.

Mr Baavet had to revert to normal shoes at some point in the afternoon of the first day of the show.  But I carried on. Because I had research to do!

So yes, we can confirm, you would be walking possibly over 30 miles a week, if Great Wheel spinning all day – if you were fast. A lot faster than me!  (I do think it is feasible as in some outlying 5 minute sections, I was much faster than others – just not feasible for me).  And I did my challenge in 1800 kit (well, no head gear – which would make me essentially a nudist in 1800). But yes – uncomfortable stays and heavy clogs.  (I did wear a dress as well…)

 

 

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Image Courtesy The Wordsworth Trust.  “G.Walton, 1846”. The finest extant pair of Dales gloves. They appear to be handspun, unlike the later millspun gloves.

Boring But Useful – Knitting Needle Size Conversion Chart

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Just finally got round to making one of these.

And I thought it might be useful for other fans of vintage haberdashery and knitters of old patterns.  Many charts available only go down in size to the more useful needle sizes for contemporary knitting – ie: around 3.25mm.

Yet many Victorian patterns call for 1mm or smaller.  You can see from gaps in the Old UK sizes’ numbers below, there were some intermediate sizes, based on old imperial wire gauges between 05.mm and 1mm – that were very non metric, therefore less easily available now. Otherwise, this is a slightly more complete Old UK/metric conversion chart; useful for vintage knitters – or rather, knitters of the vintage.

Feel free to use, or copy for your reference!

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Some of our vintage cassein, plastic or bone imperial sized needles

The Great Great Wheel Experiment

IMG_20161010_162509431We’re off to the British Wool Show, at the weekend.

We’ll be taking our Jack Greene-made Great Wheel, and finally trying out an experiment we’ve been threatening to do, for years.  If you’ve ever seen us demo-ing the Great Wheel, you’ll probably know what it is.

Sources mention how much it was possible to spin in a day; an experienced Great Wheel spinner, working fairly flat out.  This question has intrigued me for a long time.    But another question has also intrigued us for a long time and some experimental archaeology beckons.

In “Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning”, Patricia Baines wrote:

…It is said that spinners who worked in the textile industry in Yorkshire and Lancashire walked the equivalent of 30 miles a week spinning wool…

 

[Baines,  Batsford 1977 Edition, p.61]

Usual caveats apply to “It is said” as I’m sure Patricia Baines would be the first to point out.  This 30 mile figure has often been cited, including by ourselves.

30 miles. That’s 5 miles per day, assuming a six day week.  We have long threatened to try to spin for a complete day, wearing a pedometer, and just see if that even looks feasible.

I have been spinning on the walking wheel since the mid 1990s, probably.  I originally had one of the few Timbertops Great Wheels ever made, which was custom built for me.  Since sold as  lovely as it was, I couldn’t use it for multi-period Living History, like the Jack Greene wheel and let’s be honest, we barely had space for one big wheel, let alone two.  (By “barely had” I mean “don’t have”).

I reckon after 20 odd years my level of competence on the big wheel now is roughly on a par with an eighteenth century 7 year old’s.  Plus I am slow, unfit, distractable, and at shows inevitably have a lot of stop and start – which will skew our figures quite a bit. But anyway, one of the two days at the British Wool Show, I am going to attempt to spin as much as possible, and see how far I walk.  Which will at least give us a ball park realistic-ish Miles Per Day figure…. for a fat, distractable eighteenth century 7 year old’s probable distance covered.

But… 30 miles over a 6 day week (as no-one worked on a Sunday in the eighteenth century – well, actually quite a few did but that’s another blog post)..?  Will that look credible?  Let’s see.  If I have walked the required 5 miles at the end of a single day, it would, frankly,  be a miracle.  But that’s where we’re aiming.   I’m using a fairly accurate but very basic 3D pedometer which will only give me the step count not the distance, so maths may be involved.

Of course, all this pre-supposes we have enough rolags. So I’m carding our lovely Norfolk Horn all week, between other things.

If you’re planning a trip to Thirsk this weekend,  come and see how we’re getting on with the 30 mile challenge!

 

spinning wheel
Illustration by Marie Hartley, ‘The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales’, 1951.