Snow On Snow

The Knitter, 131. © The Knitter, 2018


The most recent one in my series of pieces about nineteenth century designers/knitting manual writers is out in ‘The Knitter’ 131. It’s about the Yorkshirewomen, the Ryder sisters – another sister act, like the West Country’s Cornelia Mee and Mary Austin.  In all these pieces I’ve tried to uncover new or previously unpublished  information about my targets – enjoy!

Meanwhile, on the blog, I’ll be turning my attention to eighteenth century tape looms (British and American) and showing you a beautiful Georgian temple, a blog reader brought along to the Masham Sheep Fair, this year, to show us.

I’ll also be documenting the our 1770s’ English tape loom as well as my reproduction ‘Mifflin’ loom made by the brilliant Paul Parish; and writing a little about inkle and tape-weaving for living history.  (I can’t find anyone in the UK currently making these, but Paul will ship them to the Britishers – message/email me if you’d like his details).

Rare English 1770s’ fruitwood tape loom, from Derbyshire Peak District. Needs some restoration.
Nalbinded hat in Oslo stitch with ‘Little Dragons’ tape border.


We have nalbinding kits here, for anyone interested – a very brief ‘How To’ booklet, alongside some British wool and a shorter-than-most horn or boxwood nalbinding needle – because for many, it is easier to learn with a short needle.

I’ve been busy lately nalbinding, tape-weaving and knitting up a storm.


Next year I’ve got some slight departures coming up in pieces for some US magazines – including a nalbinding How To for neo-nalbinders, and a piece about an incredible craft-related item from, of all things, the Donner Party. I never said I wasn’t eclectic!  I’ve long been fascinated by the history of the Old West – especially the Yorkshire card sharps and sharp-shooters, the Thompson brothers,  (whose lives were slightly more colourful than the sedate Ryder sisters’, has to be said), and occurences like the Fetterman incident and the Donner Party.

Talking of snow; I decided to put my money where my mouth is, re. knitting being political, and the Quintillion Snowflake Hat (for snowflakes) is the result.  It uses 5 ply gansey but am about to test it in DK.  It’s an eco friendly hat because it uses up leftovers of yarn and is a weird Fair Isle/Gansey mash-up.  So it’s been a busy few weeks, with the nalbinding, weaving and hat sample knitting.  Lots of new things to look forward to, dear Reader.


Quintillion Snowflakes Hats




Like most Europeans, I had more than one ancestor killed in World War One.  Today I found my photos of one of them.  He died just over 100 years ago – my dad spoke of him when we were growing up, and his other uncle who died in 1917.


I thought it was very instructive to put the two photos of my grandma’s brother side by side.  Same young man, probably the same uniform, same hat. And maybe only two years’ difference, between the shots.  My grandma is the little girl on the right of the photo.  She adored her older brother, I was told. I can’t imagine how it must have felt, the day the family got that telegram.   There was no body found, no grave for anyone to visit.  Most of William’s colleagues lasted a few months in this unit. He lasted several years.  He is one of the names on the memorial at Soissons Cathedral. I’ve never been able to afford to go there so have never seen it. One day I’d love to.

My oldest son was born on a Remembrance Sunday and we gave him William’s name.

What I’ve always found striking is that you would think two decades not two years, had passed, between these two images being taken.  One is a boy; one looks like a tough, middle aged man.  I wonder if it’s the same hat in both photos?  The second picture is pierced round wonkily with a pin, and has his name written in ink, on the back and something my dad was told was a bloodstain. It does look possible.

Gunner William Boothman, Royal Artillery, X Battery trench mortars, (“suicide squad”), number: 107649.  He was my great grandparents’ oldest son.  He joined up the same day as his cousin, of the same name, also from Leeds.  The other William survived the war.


Politicians (donkeys) still sacrifice lions.  So – lest we forget.  Here is one of the faceless many.