Antique Treen Knitting Sheaths - Tools or Love Tokens?
The answer to this question is quite simply they were both tools and love tokens.
Numerous antique treen knitting sheaths were used as a functional tool, Worn tucked in a belt on the right handside of the waist. A small hole at the top enabled the point of the needle to be inserted thus providing a firm base on which knitting could be worked. Antique treen knitting sheaths also supported the knitting and allowed the knitters to attain great speeds whilst knitting without the danger of the stitches falling off.
Many people knitted in the evenings, when the day job was finished, as a necessity to earn some extra money. What I like particularly about this was the social aspect where adults would take it in turns to go to each others houses and they would sit around the fire and knit and talk. Only the light of the fire was used, if someone dropped a stitch the fire would be stoked up to improve the light
As love tokens, these elaborately carved, knitting sheaths, sometimes with chains, inlaid hearts or verses, were certainly made. for a wife, sweetheart, mother or even a father making one for a child. They usually were intended for use some with several holes in the end where they had been well used and loved,, but there are some knitting sheaths showing no use at all around the end hole and hence these were just ornamental.
Antique Knitting sheaths have so much social history tied up with them, initially being introduced in the Tudor times and increasing in popularity in the 18th and early 19th century before the decline from the mid 1850's which coincided with the introduction of the knitting machine. Hand knitters could not compete with the speed of machines.
Useful link for more information on knitting sheaths: