Dorset Feather Stitch

Image - Elegant sufficiency blogspot

I think that defining this embroidery technique as a traditional, regional craft is stretching the definition somewhat, as it was invented at the beginning of the twentieth century by members of the Dorset Women’s Institute.  But at the end of the day, it involves many traditional stitches and it can be traced back to a particular region so why not!  Some would give credit solely to a lady called Olivia Pass, one of the members of the WI, who wrote a book all about the stitch.  However in the foreword of the book Mrs Pass refers to ‘we’ and says;

“This happy easy work is a revival, by Dorset Women’s Institutes, of some old stitches in modern form.”

so it seems to me, it was more of a group effort than the invention of just one member.

Dorset Feather Stitchery is really a reinvention of various well known, basic embroidery stitches – Feather, Buttonhole, Chain and Fly stitch, working them together to form a distinctive design.  Why I think that it clasifies to be here amoungst much older traditional crafts is because it is an evolution of older techniques.  To quote Mrs Pass again

“In evolving this work, Dorset has drawn on traditions from many sources, notably a book of designs taken off nineteenth century smocks…… (and) a beautiful Balkan apron.”

Do you know, I feel a tutorial coming on!

Posted in Dorset, Heritage Crafts, Textiles, Traditional Crafts | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

North Country Quilts (that’s not the same as Welsh Quilts)

Durham Quilt image from Welsh Quilts blogspot

As the nights draw in, I have started to grumble about the cold.  I have decided it would be nice to have a good old fashioned eiderdown or quilt to put on my bed.  Obviously, this got me thinking about where the different types of quilts come from.  So I am off again, heading up north to look at North Country quilts.  Also known as Durham quilts, but they have always been made across the whole of Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire.

Durham quilter. Note the fabric here is sateen

North Country quilts are whole cloth quilts, which means instead of being made from scraps of fabric to make the more familiar patchwork quilts, they are made from a continuous piece of fabric.  Like most historic crafts this would traditionally be a cheap, readily available fabric, usually cotton, but sometimes a sateen type fabric.  The exception to this rule was a ‘stripy’, which was a utility quilt that used strips of fabric, which was easier to construct and cheaper.

by Lilian Hedley

 

North Country quilts are often confused with Welsh quilts and this is not surprising, as to the uninitiated they do look similar.  The main differences between the two are;  Firstly, each have different ways of creating the stitched patterns.  North Country quilts have a central motif surrounded by an area of infill patterns, often based around a specific design called the running Durham feather stitch, with a decorated border around the edge.  Welsh quilts also have a central motif which is then framed by two or three squares which are then infilled with patterns, often a spiral motif.  The second way of differentiating between the two regional quilts is the way the edges are finished.  Welsh quilts tend to be finished with a butt edge, secured with a couple of rows of running stitches and North Country quilts tend to be finished with a couple of rows of machine stitching.  Thirdly, North Country quilts are generally padded with cotton, presumably from the local mills and Welsh quilts are padded with wool, from the local sheep.  Last but not least is that although both North Country and Welsh quiltmakers  sometimes made the ‘Stripy’ quilts, the North Country quilts incorporated the strip into the design, with the patterns following the stripes whereas the Welsh quilts ignored the stripes and the patterns remained the same as whole cloth quilts.

I found a really interesting post on the difference between Welsh quilts and Durham quilts on Pippa Moss’s blog.  Pippa goes into great detail on the differences and has some great images of her amazing collection of quilts.  I must say, having looked at all her lovely examples, I really think a nice antique Durham quilt is just what I need for my bed.  I will have to look out for one on ebay as there is not even the smallest chance I am going to make a full size quilt for myself.  I know this for an absolute fact, as I just don’t have the stamina.  I am in the process of making some samples of English quilting for the Design and Stitched Fabric course I have rashly signed up for and it is going to take me a month to make a cushion cover.  But I digress….

I want this one for my bed, but it is at Nunnington Hall. North Yorkshire!

Both the Welsh and the North Country quilts have very intricate designs and patterns, and these patterns could vary, not just from area to area but also within the same village where individuals would have their own distinctive style.  Kate Trusson is a quilter from Swaledale and in an interview for Popular Patchwork she describes how North Country patterns were flowing, using running feathers, leaves, twisted chains, curlicues and spirals.  Julie still uses patterns which are linked to her own locality, Swaledale in the Northern Dales.  These unique patterns have an openness and a primitive quality about them.

Interestingly, Welsh patterns were called ‘string and teacup’ because they used household objects to draw round and used string as a compass and also to mark out straight lines.  There were many ways the patterns were marked out and North Country quilter’s sometimes sent their quilts off to a stamper who printed the chosen pattern onto the fabric to give the quilter a guide to work from.  This method does explain the complexity and symmetry of some examples of whole cloth quilts from the late nineteenth century.

I Love Feathers by Sheila Curtis of Ledbury.

Quilt making both in the UK and America is very much alive and kicking and the traditional patterns are still known and used.  There are also many contemporary quilt makers who push the boundaries of this traditional skill.  You only have to search the internet for Durham quilt making workshops to find a whole host of resources.  If you want to see exquisite examples of both antique and contemporary quilts then I suggest you check out some of the websites below.  Right now I am off to draw up an example of Durham running feather stitch for my course samples and I better order some cotton batting too if I want it to be authentic!

 

 

 www.lilian-hedley-quilter.com - Queen of North Country quilts who runs courses on how to do Durham running feather stitch and also how to mark out your pattern

www.welshquilts.blogspot.co.uk - beautiful images of Pippa’s collection of vintage welsh and North Country quilts.

www.beamish.org.uk - large collection of quilts

www.quiltmuseum.org.uk - All things to do with quilts

www.stensource.com –  Inspired to make your own quilt?  Here is a source of designs if you aren’t confident in designing your own

Posted in County Durham, Heritage Crafts, Northumberland, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Southport Boat Basket

 

Ok, I know – I haven’t managed to blog for a while.  I don’t know how these people keep their virtual worlds going – week in, week out.  It seems to me that every time I think I have the time to blog a bit, real life gets in the way and I have to postpone my virtual journey.  But today is the day, it is almost a year since I first started this lovely traditional crafts road trip and I am back on the fibre optic track.

Today I am in Southport to look at the Southport boat basket and before I even begin to look at the boat, which is not a boat by the way, I need to work out where I am.  I have found over the course of this trip, regional traditional crafts don’t usually stick to modern county boundaries, instead they follow the geography of the land and local industry.  However, as I like things nice and tidy, I usually list things under the modern county boundaries, but that was before I looked up Southport!   It seems Southport hasn’t quite decided where it should be, it used to be in Lancashire and is now in Merseyside, but many people who live there would like to move back to Lancashire.

Anyway I am not to discuss local county boundaries,  I am here to look at local baskets.  I found out about the Southport boat through a friend of mine, Greta Bertram, who works at the Museum of English Rural Life.  We had been discussing Historypin and Greta wrote a great post on their blog, A Sense of Place about how Historypin was evolving and she mentioned the Southport boat within her post.  So I absolutely had to trot off to Southport to go and find the basket.

This basket has proved rather elusive.  It is known locally and amongst basket makers, but there is very little information out there about it.   The first thing I did find out was it doesn’t come from Southport at all but from a small village nearby called Mawdesley, which incidentally is still in Lancashire.  It is said the name Mawdesley originated way back, when a certain Matilda-Mawde married a local lad and the town was named after her as part of her dowry.  The Mawdesley family were the local ‘lord of the manor’ type and have lived in Mawdesley Hall, built by William Mawdesley in 1625, pretty much ever since.

Over time the town became famous for its basket making and the baskets were known for their strength, mainly due to local growing conditions which resulted in nice strong willow.  By 1862 there were eleven basket making businesses in the village and this rose to twenty in 1874.  Even the Mawdesley family established themselves as basket manufacturers and ran one of the larger businesses at Towngate Basket Works which remained open until the 1960’s.

The industry supported many people, some working full time and some working at home to supplies the frames of the basket lids.  Plus, there were many farmers who grew the willow, dependant on the industry too.  In 1914 there were 200 acres of willow around about the village and all those twigs had to be cut by hand and then sorted, dried and peeled.  The local industries mean there was no shortage of demand for the baskets.  Supplies were made for coal mining, shipping, fishing, agriculture and mills.

Cobham Basket Works

So, the Southport boat was one of many baskets made in the basket making village of Mawdesley.  What made the basket special was that the design can be put down to one man, Mr Cobham of Mawdesley, who reportedly came up with the design in 1830.  The boat basket was invented to carry eggs and butter to Southport market and the design combined the Morecombe Bay cockle basket and other gipsy baskets.  Once Mr Cobham had come up with the design, the manufacture was developed by Thomas Cowley, who owned a local basketmaking firm and then adopted by other basket making firms.

However, I tentatively suggest it is more probable that Mr Cobham actually refined and commercialised existing traditional baskets rather than actually invented a new one.  I say this as the development of the Southport boat is similar to the Sussex trug and although not familiar with the Southport boat, I know in great detail how people in Sussex dispute whether the trug was invented or whether it was ‘refined’ from earlier spale baskets.  I would love to know more if anyone can add to the Southport boat story, please let me know!

Whatever its origins, the Southport boat was a very successful design and was soon made by many basket makers.  The boat is a type of frame basket (a basket made around a frame, rather than self supporting).  It’s rim and handle are made from hoops of split ash and it has ribs which fan out, radiating from the handle.  These ribs are not attached to the rim but added  as the basket is woven.  Interestingly, like the Welsh Cyntell basket, the Southport boat is woven from the top down as opposed to bottom up, as most baskets are.

The basket making industry in Mawdesley began to decline, like many other traditional crafts, during the twentieth century due to all to familiar reasons;  the migration of workers to the cotton mills and rubber works, the invention of plastic, cheap imports and the effect the over extraction of water and river pollution had on the osier beds.

Nowadays, although the shape of the Southport boat will be very familiar to many people,  I have not been able to find any basket makers which list the basket as one of their products.  So please, please – if you know of anyone who still makes Southport boats then get in touch so I can list their details in this post – thank you very much.

www.mawdesley-village.org.uk

www.lancashire.gov.uk – libraries services

www.lancashire.gov.uk – image archive

www.reading.ac.uk

www.ribblelife.org

 

Baskets in Europe  - Maurice Bichard

Complete Book of Basketry – Dorothy Wright

Traditional Country Craftsmen – J. Geraint Jenkins

 

 

Posted in Basketry, Endangered Crafts, Lancashire, Merseyside, Traditional Crafts | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Traditional Crafts Map of the British Isles

For a while now I have been thinking that it would be great if I could add a Traditional Crafts Map to this blog.  Somewhere I could pin all crafts from all the different places that I visit.  I have also been thinking it would be great to find a way for other people to interact with the site more.

Whilst I am having a great time on my virtual journey, it’s going to me a very long time to meander my way around the British Isles, hunting down all the different regional traditional crafts.  If other people could add their own local crafts to a map as well it would be fantastic and I am sure that some obscure regional crafts will be uncovered.

Now such a map is way beyond me in computer terms, so it’s lucky that I have found some clever people who have done it already.  Historypin is a place where people can pin images, video and audio on a map.  Anyone can upload images and so a huge historical database is being created.

I have created a Potter Wright and Webb channel with a traditional crafts map of the British Isles where I shall be pinning all the regional crafts.  If you have images of regional crafts, please go ahead and get pinning too.  Go to Historypin and create a channel and then pin away.  Images from different channels can be gathered together into a collection.  So let me know and I will add them to the Potter Wright and Webb Regional Crafts Collection.  Any images of craft objects associated with a particular region welcome.

Please visit – A Traditional Crafts Map of the British Isles.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Lots of Lovely Dorset Buttons

Finally finished my second tutorial on Dorset Buttons.  Had lots of images of all the samples I made and so I thought I would share them with you all.

Got a bit carried away and kept making more!

One great big Shirt Waister (yes, I know it’s off centre)

Open Weave around a Curtain Ring, a Christmas tree decoration perhaps

I like these ones – On a nice cardigan or maybe a brooch.

I think I have got the Dorset button bug now.  I may even branch out and do some colourful ones.  I found a really nice booklet which gives intricate details of how to make many of the traditional dorset buttons including the High Tops and Singletons.

I am planning on integrating some big ones into some of my embroidery pieces next.  Have a look here.

 ’How to Make Dorset Buttons Booklet’ by Marion Howitt is available from

www.dorsetbuttons.co.uk

Posted in Dorset, Textiles | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to Make a Dorset Button

How to make a Crosswheel Dorset Button

Let’s get one thing straight from the start.   Dorset buttons are not hard.  A bit fiddly perhaps but not hard, so don’t you go giving up before you have even started.  Plus, I have written these instructions assuming that you know nothing, so each and every stage is covered. Those people who know a little bit more than nothing can ignore what is written in italics, these bits are for complete beginners.

NB I am left handed so if you are right you may find it easier to work in the opposite direction to me.

 

You will need

A curtain ring

Fine (2 ply or crewel) wool

crochet cotton or 2 ply wool (size 10 works for me)

Short large eyed blunt needle

Short large eyed sharp needle (this is for casting off if you need to)

 

Casting or covering the ring

1. Thread your needle with about 2.5 metres of your chosen wool or cotton.  You need it this long to cover the whole of the ring and create the spokes of the wheel without having to cast on again

2. Loop thread around ring a couple of times to hold it steady whilst you start off and then blanket stitch* all around the ring.

 

4.  Keep stitches fairly tight and evenly pushed together to cover the ring.  Use the loose end to help hold ring steady.

5.   When you have almost gone around the ring you need to tie in the loose end.  Lie it flat along the ring and blanket stitch over top of it.  Finish blanket stitching and slip needle through the first stitch to finish off.  Then pull the loose end tight and trim (Don’t cut main thread, you haven’t finished yet)

 

Slicking or pushing ridge of the stitch to the inside

Twist the stitches so the ridge is facing inwards.  You can do it gradually and a thumb nail is the perfect implement for this job.

Laying or making the spokes

1.    Have the thread to the front of the ring at 12.00, bring it down to the bottom and bring it back up the back in exactly the middle.  Try and make the blanket stitches part slightly so that your spokes lie flat next to them.

 

2.   Turn the ring ever so slightly and continue to wind over and over to create the spokes.  Aim for eight or twelve spokes for the first button and definitely only eight if you are using wool.  Don’t worry if the spokes look off centre at this stage.

See how the spokes of the wheel are not centred until you have secured them with holding stitch

3.   When you have got back to your first spoke end by taking needle through stitches in the centre from front to back.  Gently nudge the spokes with the needle, so they all cross over each other at the centre.

 

4.    Then bring the needle back up through the stitches and wiggle threads again to ensure the spokes are definitely centred and then do another stitch to secure spokes and to make sure they stay centred.  Make theses two stitches a neat cross as they will show.

Rounding or filling in the gaps

You should still have enough thread left to carry on without casting on or you may wish to change colour at this stage.

1.   Starting in the centre, use back stitch* to loop around each spoke in turn.  Use the needle to nudge each stitch towards the middle.

2.   When you have gone around the wheel once, take a good look at the spokes and make sure they are centred, if they are slightly off then push to the middle with your needle.  This is the last chance to wiggle them and its really easy to forget to do this bit.

2.   After a couple of circuits you will start to see the ridges forming around the spokes.  Fill in the whole wheel or stop whenever it tickles your fancy.

3.   If you need to change thread during this stage. Cast on or off by running thread up or down one of the spokes.

Top tip – there is no need to pull all the thread to the front of the button and then pull it all back to the back.  Bring the needle to the front pull a little thread through, take your stitch back down and then pull all the thread through at once.

4.  Keep pushing the stitches towards the centre of the button to keep everything tight and tidy.

 

And there you go!  Once you have made a basic button it is time to start experimenting.  See my next post for some buttons that I have been making.

 

*Blanket stitch

a. Start with your thread coming through ring from the back to the front at the top.

b.  Pass needle through centre of ring from behind.

c.  You will have created a loop.  Pass needle through this loop

d.  Pull all your thread through loop and pull stitch tight.

e. Repeat stages b-d over and over again!

 

 

 *Back Stitch Weave

a.  Bring needle up through the button on the left of top spoke.

b.  Go down through the button to the right of that spoke.

NB -the button is slightly wonky in this photo.  

c.  Pull tight.

d. Working anticlockwise, bring needle back up through to the left of the next spoke (i.e 11 o’clock)

e. Go down through the button to the right of that spoke.  You can hardly see the first few stitches but it becomes clearer as you go on.

f. Repeat over and over.  Remember; up on the left, down on the right. Working anticlockwise around the button.

 

Is this tutorial clear?  Is there a glaring error?  Please let me know and give me a pat on the back if it’s useful!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dorset, Heritage Crafts, How to Make, Textiles, Traditional Crafts, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Orkney Chair

For those who don’t know,  the Orkney Islands are a series of about seventy islands which are just off the north east coast of Scotland, only sixteen of them are inhabited and it is to here I am journeying today in my virtual jaunt around British Isles.

Relief map of Scotland

The islands lie in the path of the Gulf Stream and so enjoy a climate milder than would be expected so far north. Being a very flat series of islands they are a tad windy, to say the least, and for this reason the islands are almost totally treeless.  Life in the Orkney Islands has always been mainly based around traditional crofting system of farming, which is a system of subsistence farming common in Scotland.

The Orkney Chair has evolved over time as a response to its locality and it is a really good example of how regional craft objects represent the culture, geography and social and economic history of an area.  Like many other regional crafts it is impossible to pinpoint when Orkney chairs were first made, but it is possible to chart how they evolved from simple stools to the full blown chair associated with the islands today.

Early Orkney Chair

Way back when, Orkney chairs were no more than stools and made almost entirely of straw, only the feet of the chair were wooden.  Now, this was because wood was in scarce supply on an island where there were no indigenous trees and it was sensible to make your furniture from material freely available locally and there was plenty of left over straw from the Black Oats, grown to feed the livestock.   This straw was used to make all manner of household items, not only on the Orkney Islands but in many rural areas across the country.  Referred to as lip work the straw was coiled into baskets (known as cubbies and lubbies on the Orkney Islands), twisted in rope known (simmens), formed into mats and used to create beds.

Orkney Chair Makers

As time went by people began to use driftwood, often from ship wrecks, to form the base of the chair, yet it was still no more than a stool covered in straw.  It will never be known who first had the bright idea of adding a low woven straw back, but someone, at some stage, got fed up of crouching on his stool and updated the design to include a back about two feet tall.  The chair was still kept low so people were able to sit close to the ground and avoid the smoke from the open fires burning in the centre of the room.

Cosy old chair

Later still people began to add hoods to the chairs to keep out the draughts and sometimes added a drawer under the seat.  Apparently this was for the man of the house to keep his ‘things’.  (This makes me wonder if the man in my house has Orkney roots as we currently have four ‘man drawers’ full of ‘man things’).

So the Orkney Chair evolved into chair fit for purpose, it is the perfect shape to keep the heat in and the draughts out and used throughout the centuries to provide a comfy seat.  They were made very upright though as nobody just sat they would be sewing, spinning, whittling or doing something.

Of course nothing ever stays the same and in the 1890s there was a bit of  a shake up in the Orkney chair world.  Up until this point the traditional Orkney chair had been made for use by the maker’s own family or to be sold within a small local market, but in the late 1880′s things started to change.

Countess of Rosebery

Firstly, in the later half of the the 1800′s the Arts and Crafts movement had gained in popularity both in England and Scotland and there was an increase in interest in hand made crafts as opposed to factory goods.  In 1889 The Scottish Home Industries Association was founded by the Countess of Rosebery.  Its aim was to promote and ensure a fair payment of, household crafts in Scotland.   It was probable she was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, which was well established in Scotland.  The Association took the traditional crafts of Scotland and sold them to the great and the good ‘down south’.

Concurrently, or maybe as a result of this, a Mr David Kirkness, a joiner of Kirkwall, began to produce four standardised versions of the traditional Orkney chair.  By doing standard versions he was able to increase his output.  The straw backs were all stitched by outworkers, often fishermen and farmers who stitched in the evenings, or whenever they could.  It is estimated he made about 400 chairs per year, far more than other makers.

Orkney Chair with 'man drawer' by Orkney Furniture.co.uk

This new publicity and increased output meant Orkney Chairs became a must have item for the upper classes, Liberty’s of London stocked them, Queen Victoria had one and apparently even the Queen Mother was very keen to and had some too.  This definitely helped the long time survival of a vernacular design classic and Orkney Chairs are still very much in production today.

One very important feature, which has remained unchanged throughout, is the way in which the Orkney chair is constructed. Locally grown straw is used to make the backs which still have to be stitched by hand.  The chair frames, originally made from driftwood, are now more often made from the best quality wood available and beautifully finished by hand.  It is interesting that the chairs are still evolving.  Benches are now made as well as rocking Orkney chairs and fan backed chairs, all of which reflect a modern phenomena we are able to enjoy in this country – just sitting and relaxing!

Cosy Corner Bench by Orkney Furniture.co.uk

 

Buy an Orkney Chair from one of these lovely people;

www.orkneyfurniture.co.uk

www.scapacrafts.co.uk

www.orkneyhandcraftedfurniture.co.uk

www.orkney-chair.co.uk

 

Find out more about Orkney here; 

www.orkneyjar.com

Relax in Orkney here;

www.orkneyretreat.co.uk

Posted in Basketry, Heritage Crafts, Orkney Islands, Traditional Crafts, Wood | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wood Colliers (or charcoal burners to you and me)

With the sun occasionally showing its face and gardens coming to life, many people will be dusting down their barbecue.  So I think it is time to take a visit down to the woods and seek out a charcoal maker or two.

Top Dog's hot dogs

If we are honest, most people don’t give charcoal much thought;  it’s black and messy, it comes in a bag and it impresses people if you can light it.  Even more impressive if you have thought ahead and got it going early enough so people aren’t waiting half the afternoon before you sizzle a sausage.  Plus if you keep it burning long enough to cook all the burgers then you really are a barbecue top dog

However, charcoal has been around a lot longer than our modern obsession with burnt sausages.  Charcoal burners and their apprentices, known as wood colliers, have been part of British woodlands since before the Bronze Age.  In fact, it was charcoal that enabled tin and copper to be smelted together to create the bronze which defined the age.

Charcoal burners were not confined to any one area of the UK, so it is not a traditional regional craft but it would have been one of the essential crafts in most areas in the same way as blacksmiths and wheelwrights.  So, although it is officially outside the remit of this blog about traditional regional crafts, I am including it anyway!

Charcoal burner outside his hut

This image was taken in the Wyre Forest, it caught my eye as you can see an oak spade basket lying next to the hut.  (Image courtesy of www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk)   

Charcoal ceased to be important in the process of metal smelting when people worked out how to make coke in the seventeenth century.  But it has continued to have many uses and at the beginning of the twentieth century it was still in use, predominantly in the production of artificial silk.  It is still essential in water purification – did you know you can turn red wine into white wine by pouring it through charcoal?  Shame it can’t do the same to water.  I have also learnt through investigating for this post that charcoal tablets are good for relieving wind and indigestion.  I might get some for someone I know!

Image courtesy of www.charcoalburners.co.uk

By 1980 production in the UK was down to a few thousand tonnes a year and things were not looking good for the wood colliers.   It is only very recently things have started to pick up.  Over the last twenty years there has been a massive increase in demand for charcoal for the domestic barbecue market.  But as we live in a topsy turvy world, instead of sourcing the charcoal from UK suppliers, 90% of the stuff sold in the UK is produced by chopping down the endangered rainforest and mangrove habitats of South America, West Africa and South East Asia.  It is then transporting half way around the world just so we can sizzle our sausages on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  You can find a fantastically detailed post on Aaron Price‘s blog describing charcoal production in Namibia.  Read it and see if you still enjoy your sausage cooked on imported charcoal.

Do you know who is making your charcoal?

To counter the issue of imported charcoal, there has been a massive push in recent years to reestablish viable charcoal production in the UK, so that our barbecue habit can be sustained in a more responsible manner.  By buying from a British supplier the carbon emissions from your bag of charcoal can be cut by up to 85% due to the transportation costs being so dramatically reduced.  The local product is also far more suitable for use on a barbecue as it is also less dense than imported charcoal and so is easier to light and it reaches cooking temperature much quicker.  Plus, it has a carbon content as high as 90% compared to only 60% in many imported varieties which means a better burning experience.

Brand new charcoal kiln - Hand made in Wales

All this can only mean one thing – If you use British charcoal you will find it easier to impress your friends with your barbecue skills whilst also collecting brownie points for not destroying the planet for the sake of a sausage.  It’s a win win situation.

You could go even further and buy your own kiln and make your own charcoal but I personally will leave that to the experts and concentrate on not burning the sausages.

 

 

Below I have gathered together some links to local producers of charcoal and related products so you can find local suppliers.  If you can’t find a local supplier then the large supermarkets and home stores do now stock British charcoal – impressing  Sunday luncheon guests is now within everyone’s reach!

www.bmwilson.co.uk  –  Blacksmith who makes charcoal kilns

Charcoal Suppliers

www.forestryfuels.com – Beds, Herts, Bucks, Northants and Cambridge

www.croydoncoppice.co.uk - South London

www.lakelandcoppiceproducts.co.uk - Cumbria

www.dorsetcharcoal.co.uk - Dorset

www.wildwoodcrafts.com - Malvern

www.nigelsecostore.com - online supplier of Sussex based WildWood Charcoal products

www.charcoalburners.co.uk - West Sussex.  Website has detailed description of the process of small scale UK charcoal production

www.fourseasonsfuel.co.uk - West sussex

www.englishcharcoal.co.uk     Great site extolling the benefits of buying British, plus has detailed timeline of the history of charcoal production

www.bioregionalhomegrown.co.uk      Supplier of British charcoal to Sainsbury’s etc

And finally……….

www.charcoal.uk.com      These people make charcoal tablets for help with flatulance etc

www.fao.org  Document on the future of charcoal production in Africa.

www.fao.org  Analysis of trends within Charcoal production industry in Namibia

 

NB – If you are a UK charcoal burner and would like a link through to your website then please drop me a line.

 

 

Posted in Cumbria, Dorset, Heritage Crafts, London, Sussex, Traditional Crafts, Wales, Wood | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Heritage Craft Association Spring Conference

Saturday 24 March 2012   –   Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The Heritage Craft Association second Spring Conference.  This year the focus is on “Evolving Craft Communities”.  Examining how traditional crafts are finding new ways to flourish in a digital age.  Details of the day can be found at heritagecrafts.org.uk.

 

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Sanquhar Gloves

Socks in The Dukes pattern

Ok, I have been to Wales and have wandered through England and now I thought I had better go north of the border before I have to take my passport to get in.

On this bitterly cold day I am featuring the world famous Sanguhar gloves, and believe you me – the claim to world fame is justified.  Try googling Sanquhar Gloves;  you will be amazed how famous they are, particularly in Japan.  Sanquhar, pronounced ”Sankhar” is in Dumfriesshire on the Scottish/English border and with its valleys and the river Nith nearby it has always been the perfect place for sheep and associated wool-based industries.

The craft of knitting came late to Scotland. The first knitters in Britain were highly paid craftsmen of the 16th and 17th centuries who tried to protect the secrets of their trade within corporations or guilds, but secrets will out and by the mid 1700s knitting had spread the length and breadth of England, Wales and Scotland  (better get my history correct – no Britain back then) and knitting had developed into an important industry.  Hotspots included the Yorkshire Dales, Dorset and Hampshire.

By 1778 when a Mr. David Loch visited Sanquhar, knitting was already well established and the majority of the town used knitting to supplement the family income alongside their main employment.  It was an ideal way to earn additional income as it required no expensive equipment and was eminently transportable.  For these reasons, it is difficult to trace in historical records and it’s easy to overlook the importance of hand knitting to localised economy’s.

By the late 1700′s hand knitting in Sanquhar and the surronding areas had begun to decline.  Demand had been severely interrupted by revolutions and wars in America and Europe combined with competition from the newly invented and cheaper machine made garments.

Sanquhar Gloves - Future Museum

It was probably about now that the familiar two colour Sanquhar patterns were developed. It was unlikely that the earlier stockings and gloves were intricately patterned but by 1807 the stockings that were being produced were patterned.

As the industry was not documented, the origins of the traditional patterns are obscure.  Luckily for us, the development of these intricate patterns helped the hand knitting industry to survive, albeit on a much smaller scale.  As people were still willing to pay for a beautifully made and distinctive item and so Sanquhar knitters rose to the challenge and       developed their distinctive regional style.

As I have said, how the individual patterns developed is unclear but Sanquhar patterns are very similar to knitting from the same period from the Yorkshire Dales, Westmoreland and Aberdeen and they share more than a passing similarity to knitting styles from Scandinavia and Afganistan.  But it is impossible to know for sure if the patterns migrated into the area from somewhere else.  It is not impossible that the patterns travelled from Scandinavia and geographically Yorkshire, Dumfriesshire and Westmoreland are all near enough to share a common thread.  But it is also conceivable that the patterns developed in each region independently from each other.  I think any links between the different areas could conceivably be more to do with the actual construction of the glove.   More research on this is due I think!!

Riding of the Marches. Image courtesy of Future Museum

By the 1830s hand knitting had ceased to exist as a business in Sanquhar but the regional traditions survived in the homes of the locals.  The patterns were not written down but passed from generation to generation of knitters, still going under the original traditional names – The Duke, Rose, Trellis, Drum, Coronet, Glendyne, Midge and Flea, Shepherd’s Plaid and Prince of Wales or Fleur de Lyse.

A sense of pride in the local knitting developed and resulted in the custom of a pair of Sanquhar gloves being presented to visiting dignitaries and also to the town’s Cornet, or leading horse rider, of the annual ceremony of the Riding of the Marches.  A custom when all the horse riders of Sanquhar ride around the boundaries of the burgh, led by the Cornet.

Mid 20 century commercial pattern

 

 

Finally in the 1950′s people outside of the area begun to take an interest in regional variations of knitting and some patterns were written down and published by the Dundee magazine, The People’s Friend. The Duke pattern also appears in commercial knitting leaflets of this period and in the mid 1960s the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute published a series of four knitting leaflets detailing the surviving traditional patterns (these are still available today, see below).

Nowadays, Sanquhar gloves are not made on any commercial basis but knitting as a leisure activity is huge, and the good old wide world web has meant people the world over have been able to come together to share their passion for traditional knitting.  Ravelry is a great place to start if you want to find out more.  I bet the inventor of the internet never envisaged it would enable traditional crafts to be shared, adapted and kept alive!


SWRI pattern booklet

More info 

www.swri.org.uk

The Scottish Womens Rural Institute has long been selling a pamphlet which has the basic glove in various traditional patterns.  

www.patternfish.com

This is a link to buy a downloadable pattern for a pair of Sanquhar gloves (this is not a beginners project!)

www.vanishingscotland.com

Here you can buy a kit with all you need to knit your own Sanquhar gloves.

www.ravelry.com

This one is for the dedicated knitters out there.  Ravelry is an online knitters community.  Sanquhar knitting has its very own group on theie forum where people discuss Sanquhar gloves and other traditional regional knitting, including Dales knitting!

www.dumfriesmuseum.co.uk

Detailed history of the Sanquhar knitting tradition

futuremuseum.co.uk

Detailed history and large source of images 

 

knitting in the round

 

 

 

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