Tuesday, 12 February 2008


Wordsworth and Coleridge liked hand knitters and spinners. They thought the terrible knitters e Dent looked like a good scene. (Dent is a village in Dentdale with a great tradition of hand knitting.)

In 'Michael', Wordsworth wrote,
"While far into the night
The housewife lied her own peculiar work,
Making the cottage through silent hours
Murmur as with the sound of summer flies."

To knit for your living on a 2mm bent pin, sharpened on a stone, with poor lighting and a dried goose windpipe rattle, stuffed with dried peas on the inside of your ball of wool, for finding your ball in the dark, with RSI, tarry lungs and clogs.  I could do that. 
We know that the village would sit around a peat fire knitting and sing their rows away, and that's why we researched all the old songs.  Carolyn took them from scraps of paper to music on her banjo, and we all sat around in the hall at Dove Cottage with our needles and wheels and had a lovely sing song. 
The Wordsworth trust at Dove Cottage, Grasmere,  has a collection of knitting sheathes knitted gloves and socks, and a dialect story about two girls running away from knitting school in the snow, from Dentdale, all the way to Langdale, some 40 miles as the crow flies with only 2 cakes in their pockets.
These are my sheathes, all from Westmoreland, they were made as love tokens from man to woman, worn in her belt, curving around her hip, sometimes carrying her initials and decoration.

Tarry Woo, Tarry Woo
Tarry Woo 'tis ill to spin,
Card it well, card it well,
Card it well 'ere you begin,
When 'tis carded wove and spun,
then your work is almost done,
But when 'tis woven, dressed and cleaned,
It will be clothing for a queen.