Monday, 6 December 2010

Irish Knitting History: cottages and clothing

In an article on Cottages and Farmhouses by Rosemary ffolliott mentions that "In pre-Famine days almost every house had a spinning wheel for making yarn, but this practice was largely discontinued (except in flax-growing areas) after 1850.

In Irish Ancestor Vol III No 2 (1971) in an article on Women's Dress in Ireland 1680-1880 by Rosemary ffolliott she discusses an engraving of a Girl of the County of Wicklow engraved in the 1780's she is portrayed "busily engaged knitting a sock: this was an endless female occupation, although strangely knitting was not used as a means of making other garments." (p88) the sock appears to be knit in the round and has just turned the heel, the colour seems to have changed from the foot to the heel, possibly indicating a different wool used, possibly coarser or thicker wool at that stress point.

In an article about Emigrating from the Limerick Workhouse 1848-1869 by Dr S C O'Mahony (Irish Ancestor Vol XIV no 2, 1982) discusses the fact that in 1848 some 750 inmates of Limerick Workhouse, largely girls, emigrated to several countries. There were three work schemes. One to New York (103 people, 10 male adults, 75 female adults and 18 children, where adults were anybody aged 15 or older), one to Van Diemen's Land (50 girls) and Quebec (112 girls under 25); they were bought an "outfit" having to take their own bedding and cooking utensils) this outfit consisted of "2 night caps, 1 pair of shoes, 1 gown, 2 combs, pins, needles and thread for sewing, needles and 1/2 lb cotton for knitting, 1 flannel petticoat, 2 aprons, 1 bonnet, 2 shifts, 1 wrapper, 1 shawl, 1 brush, 2 towels, 1 neck kerchief, 2 pairs of stockings, 2lbs of soap, 1 prayer book, 2yds of calico, 1 scissors, 1 canvas bag." I would say that the quantity, and the fact that this is only about 220g of yarn that this was probably fine yarn and fine needles.

In an article "Shall these Bones Live" by Rosemary ffolliott she talks about a famers wife "She too often spun yarn for sale, or got her elder daughters to do it, and she and they would knit all the socks for their menfolk, as well as turning a useful hand to the making of clothes."

In the article by Ms ffolliott Men's Clothes in Ireland 1660-1850 she briefly mentions knit stockings worn by men with knee breeches in 1783 "doubtless kntted by his wife".

From much of this it would appear that woven cloth was common and used in the main for clothing. Alice Starmores point that the Aran Knitter was a seamstress may have been as much that the woman who designed the garments was familiar with cutting and sewing garments and not that familiar with the potential of knitted garments. All of this points to Knitting being a relatively new and relatively underused skill in Ireland. A person familiar with how woven garments were put together would be inclined to think of garments as something which was designed and created in pieces and then sewn together.

The evidence also says that wool, cotton and linen thread was available fairly readily (silk would also have been available as Huguenot weavers brought in silk weaving and would have had silk thread, but this would have been beyond the price range of most people, and probably to fine for most knitters. The evidence also points at fine knitting, and while the knitted garments would only have been socks, there may have been domestic knitting as well in the form of doileys, bedspreads, and other such items.

This is an interesting topic to pursue, I would like to find more.

(edited for a minor correction)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Irish Knitting History - 17th and 18th Century

There were also some more Quaker Inventories
Thomas Rushworth of Athy in Co Kildare in 1675 had in his shop (among other things)
Item, for wool, tips of horn and one hide

From a farmer and merchant, William Collins from 1750. He was apparently farming and trading in wool in Shinrone in Co Offaly (then King's County) with his brother.

There was a considerable list of items which included

Wool in the house in value and salt £9 15s 6d
Combed wool part in the house and part in the hands of spinners worth if to be got in £17
Spun worsted in the house worth £28 10s
Combing rings, hutch and press and wool Tub, wheel and lossett 10s
Combers Wool Tubb 4d

(his total in goods he had were £181 14s)

this indicates that he outsourced the spinning and that there only appeared to be one listing for a type of yarn suggests that there was a single weight of yarn.

In none of the listings are mentioned knitting needles, which may not have been considered of any value or may have been considered a woman's property and perhaps handed over to a daughter or friend.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Irish Knitting History - 17th Century Quaker Merchants evidence

My day job is a Inter-Library Loan Librarian, dispatching books hither, thither and yon. I recently got a request for an article from the Irish Ancestor Magazine (1). While we do have it in paper form, we also have the CD. So while I was doing work today I put the CD in the computer and did some searches while I worked. The search terms were "knit"; "crochet"; "yarn" and "wool". The magazine was twice a year and Rosemary ffolliott says in her introduction that it suffered from the rise of the internet, so she folded it up. She was preparing a book on Irish Costumes which was never published but alas died last March

Wool threw up the most results. After all wool merchants and woolworkers did throw up a number of results rather than anything about wool itself.

One of the articles is from Vol X No 1 from 1978, entitled "Inventories of Five Dublin Quaker Merchants in the Late Seventeenth Century" contributed by Olive C. Goodbody (Google doesn't give me much beyond the fact that she wrote a lot about Quakers). In it she lists wsome of the wills and deeds preserved in the Quaker Archives in Eustace Street. Abstracts of the Wills to which they are attached were printed in Quaker Records, Dublin. Abstracts of Wills in the possession of the Dublin and Wexford Monthly Meetings of the Society of Friends. Edited by P. Beryl Eustace and Olive C. Goodbody

One of these people was William Barnard of Dublin, clothier, 1684
Among the stock were:
Item: Wool 70s 1b Fustick and lumber make £3-10-00
Item. One coper, one pan one iron furnace and lead 7£ and combs and lumber in the shop 4£ make £11-00-00
Item. In worsted wool and worsted yarns and twelve stockins 272 pounds weight and 195 yarn in Spinners hands £047-07-00

John Inglefield of Dame Street, Dublin, chandler 1693 had some cotton yarn, cut, one presumes for wicks.

John Johnston of Chapelizod, Co. Dublin, weaver, 1694, had (among many other items):
Two whole packs of white Linnen yarn at 26£. pr pack £52
More Linnen Yarne 203 vallued to £15 4s 26l ditto 75l ditto broune 90l ditto 74l ditto Bobing Wolsteed Calinder & warping frame & bobing beam & scales 94l tapes 80p.l £20-5-4

However the one that caught my eye was Isachar Wilcocks of Dublin, Grocer, 1694

20 reams of paper £9
52 doz of pins £22-18-00
76 peeces Girt web £13-04-00 (not sure what this is, anyone know?)
36 pounds knitting needles at 8d p pound £1-04-00
17 doz of Wool cards at 15d per doz £12-15-00
A parcell of dye stuff val £157
A parcell of linen yarn value £25

What I find interesting is that the Knitting Needles aren't divided by size, did this indicate that there was only one size used? I also find it interesting that Linen yarn and cotton could have been used if people were so inclined. It does point out that knitting was known in 1694 in Ireland, and judging by the quantity and fact that the needles are available in a general store, indicates to me that it's relatively popular.


(1)Irish Ancestor

Needlecraft Book Review


Bookdepository Link

Types of patterns: Guide to rather than pattern book

Colour/Black & White: Colour throughout


Target Audience: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced/mixed: more towards beginner but some guides to other methods

How to knit guide: yes, and how to crochet too. (as well as Embroidery, Needlepoint, Patchwork, Applique and Quilting)

Experimental/Classical/Modern: Pretty classical stuff

Comment: this is a manual book rather than a pattern book, it starts with a section on Knitting and then Crochet and then the other mentioned techniques (which it covers pretty much the same as the knitting and crochet, this is a knitting blog so I'm skipping the other three sections). Both sections start with tools and materials, and some of the details are almost identical. The photographs are large and clear. This is written in UK english with UK terms (i.e. stocking stitch for Stockingette, there may be differences in the US edition). After showing a few ways to cast on, it shows a few plain stitch patterns and then more complex. All are clearly photographed in a low-fuzz yarn and very clear. Then it has a few flower patterns, then cables and twists (twists it works without a cable needle) Then they give some cable stitch examples. Next up is lace with some examples of yarns for lace and some samples, both written out and charted. Then colourwork, with colourwork slip stitch patterns, and some examples. Then there's advice on following patterns and hoow to read them. Embelishment is next, embroidery, bead knitting and edging. Then circular knitting. There's a chapter on knitting toys with a knitted monkey, which is worked in the round. Felting is the next chapter and then knitting with unusual yarns.

The section on crochet is largely the same, this book is in UK terms and it's not until you're into the stitch techniques portion of the section that you find this out and find the difference! There are some minor differences in the chapters, Wire crochet is included.

The end of the book has a chapter on needlework care, the patterns for the knitted monkey and crocheted dog are included on pages 388-389 at the back of the book, while I understand why this is I think it would have been better to include the patterns nearer the projects. Ravelry and some other useful sites are included as well under useful websites.

Sally Harding provides the text for the Knitting and Crochet chapters.

Buy/Borrow: for me I have everything in it but it would be a good book for someone looking to get into various needlework, the pictures are clear and well done.

Where found: Dublin City Public Libraries has several copies.