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18th Century Treen Knitting Sheaths & Sticks

What's the Purpose of the antique treen Knitting Sheath ?

Hand knitting clothes dates back as far as the late 16th century in England, Wales and Scotland.and provided work for the poor in urban areas. By the 18th century industrial framework knitters was introduced to towns and forced the craft out to Northern England, Uplands of Wales and the Highlands Hand knitting was carried out by women, men and children and provided a very important source of income in these areas. So much so that miners would even knit to and from the mines.

The knitting sheath is essentially a piece of wood, (but can be made from other materials). They are approximately 8 inches long with a hole in the top into which the tip of the needle would be placed for support.

Knitting was carried out on curved metal needles, one of these needed to be kept rigid by being held between the hand and knitting sheath held at the side of the body either tucked into a belt or held under the arm pit.

The sheath would allow someone to knit with one hand whilst performing chores with the other.They also took the weight of the work and stopped stitches slipping off the bottom of a double-ended needle. Many were given as love tokens but there were plenty made by men for their daughters or other close family members.

Here are a few of our current stock items.

The first three images below are of two knitting sheaths unusual as they are, clearly made by the same person or workshop. They have a lovely colour and patina. The first has "Go and sin no more" on the back of the sheath and the other has beautifully carved hearts, flowers and leaves on the back.

If you need anymore information please contact me.

The next is a dated chip carved knitting sheath with two ball cages. This knitting sheath comes from West Cumbria. More details are available on the web site, link below.

This lovely Welsh double ended knitting stick originates from Pen - Uwch, Cardigan. It is beautifully turned from fruitwood, note it has a wide double cup terminal so it ouldn be used at either end. It is symmetrical around the shaft. Similar examples can be seen in the Welsh Folk Art Museum. There is a link below for more information.

This is such an interesting field to collect, with many different styles each telling a story.


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