Tag Archives: textiles

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!

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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

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

In The Loop 3 – Knitting Conference

In the Loop 3: the Voices of Knitting

Discovery Centre, University of Southampton, Winchester

Wednesday 5 – Friday 7 September 2012.

The themes of this third international, interdisciplinary conference focusing broadly on knitting will include adornment, discovery and exploration, representation in all types of media, and sport and well-being from voices across the world.

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Yorkshire Buttons

This is going to be short!  I have been searching for information on Yorkshire buttons and they are proving elusive.  There is a type of button which goes by the name of ‘Yorkshire button’ and I have found references to them here and there, but I can find no historical proof that they were linked exclusively to Yorkshire.  I have a sneaking suspicion they might be a relatively recent invention but I remain unsure.

Anyway, for now all I can say is that they are a type of hand stitched button.  Made by creating a circular woven wheel, traditionally from woollen yarn and stuffing it to form a sphere.  You can find more detailed instructions on how to make them here, as for no particular reason the Yorkshire Button is the subject of my very first tutorial found on my How to….page.  So, even if its own history is a bit hazy, it now has a place in the history of Potter Wright and Webb!

If, by any chance, you can shed light on the history of this humble button then please let me know.

Posted in Textiles, Uncategorized, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Proggy, Proddy, Peggy, Clippie and Hooky Too!

Lovely proggy cushion by Debbie Siniska

All these names refer to the humble rag rug!  Before anyone had even thought of the term recycling, people were cutting up their worn out clothes and recreating them as cosy rugs to keep their toes toasty in the days before central heating.  Known as tab or peg rugs in Yorkshire, Clootie Basses in North East Scotland, proggy mats in County Durham and Northumberland and going by the name of proddy, clippie and peggy mats in other regions.  All are a variation on a similar theme.

Nowadays the method of proggy and hooky rug making is very much associated with the Northern counties of England, especially Northumberland and County Durham, but rag rug making was once common throughout the whole of Britain.  I remember my Nan used to make them and she was born and bred in Sussex, down south we simply called them rag rugs.  But, as I meander around the counties of Britain looking at traditional crafts associated with different regions, I thought I would stop at Northumberland and feature their version;  the proggy mat.

image from Beamish Museum Peoples Collection

But what is a proggy mat? And what has proddy, peggy, clippie, tab and hooky got to do with anything?  Basically proggy, proddy, peggy, tab, clippie and clootie mats are all regional names for the same thing.  Hooky mats are slightly different, but all the names refer to how the mats are made or the tool used to make them.

This is a lady making a proggy mat – note – they are made stretched on a frame and worked with the wrong side facing up.  (Image from Beamish museum)

Proggy mats are made by taking a old burlap, jute or hessian sack and prodding lots of small strips or clips of material through the sacking to form a pile.  This is done with a wooden tool called a progger or simply with a sharpened clothes peg.  Hooky mats are slightly different and are made with longer strips of material which are pulled through the sacking with a hooked tools to create lines of small loops.  The image below is a selection of very simple progger tools which are all you need to get started in rag rug making.

The craft of proddy mat making is still very much alive and well.  It is both a hobby craft – where mats are created by many for the pure joy of it and it has also been elevated into an art form by some textile artists.

There are oodles of resources out there for those who wish to learn more. Courses and online tutorials are also available.

www.makings.co.uk - For all your rag making needs

www.beamish.org.uk - large collection of proggy mats and run workshops and demonstrations.

 www.oldandinteresting.com  –  This website is great!! It is my new favourite

www.fishingarts.co.uk - This had some interesting info on regional variations and traditional patterns.

woolshed1.blogspot.com - Describes how the proggy mats used to be made in Northumberland.

 

 

 

 

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Suffolk Puffs or as some may say – YoYo’s

image courtesy of raitantiques.com

To state the blatantly obvious, Suffolk puffs are traditionally associated with the county of Suffolk.  American’s call these little gathered circles yoyo’s and may never of heard of Suffolk, a county to the east of London, which is famous for lovely beaches and low rainfall but in the UK they are Suffolk puff’s. A puff is simply a circle of material gathered in on itself to form a smaller double thickness circle.  The gathers make it look rather puffy – hence it’s name.  The puff’s can also be stuffed for extra puffiness.  (Over use of the word puff/puffy in this paragraph me thinks!)

Ruth Singer - Suffolk Puff Queen

The history of the Suffolk puff is unclear.  There is mention of puff’s as early as 1601 and the technique of making little gathered circles has cropped up all over the place since before the Victorian era.  I have read that the practice of using puffs made from scraps of fabric and sewing them together to make quilts developed in Suffolk during the 19th century and it was a method of reusing old material and creating something useful and decorative, popular with the rural poor of the county.  I have also read the technique may have been named after the fact that the puffs were often stuffed with Suffolk sheep’s wool.  I guess if the latter is true then the chances are those sheep were in Suffolk somewhere.  Whichever version you prefer, by the beginning of the twentieth century the technique had become well established and was known as Suffolk puff patchwork quilting.

Lovely use of Suffolk puffs from Knit Purl and Stitch

Suffolk puffs are very easy to make, simply cut out a circle from a piece of fabric, approximately double the diameter you require and then run a running or gathering stitch all around the circle, about 4mm in from the edge.  When you have done this, gently pull the thread, the circle will come together to create a sphere, or puff!  Here is a full tutorial if you would like further instructions or suggestions with what to do with your puffs.

As you can see I like to use my puffs to decorate clutch purse’s

Quilt Museum  –  examples of Suffolk Quilts

Planet Suffolk -  All things Suffolk related

Ruth Singer –   My favourite Suffolk puff’s

RachelClare – More on Suffolk Puffs and what to do with them

 

Posted in Heritage Crafts, How to Make, Suffolk, Textiles, Traditional Crafts | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Weird Wizards of the Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire really is enormous!  Well, in British terms it’s enormous.  If you are used to the open plains of America or the Sahara Desert it is actually quite tiny, but as far as the counties of Britain are concerned – it’s huge.  So it follows that within the Ridings of Yorkshire there are many interesting traditional craft stories to tell, one huge story, which I will only be able to scratch the surface of here, is the story of the hand knitters of the Yorkshire Dales.

The Costume of Yorkshire Illustrated By A Series of Forty Engravings - George Walker, 1814

Hand knitting was an important cottage industry across the Yorkshire Dales from the end of the sixteenth century right through to the beginning of the twentieth century.  Sheep had been an important part of the local economy since way back when, and it followed that spinning, weaving and knitting industries developed in the area. Yet, it wasn’t just in Yorkshire that hand knitting was an important cottage industry.  During the seventeenth century, hand knitting had been a major source of income for the pauper classes throughout the United Kingdom.  Up to 13% of the very lowest earners across the country scrapped a living by knitting stockings. Thinking about it, it’s not surprising really, as everyone wore stockings back then and someone had to make them. However, by the beginning of the eighteenth century hand knitting as a cottage industry on any scale had already begun to decline due to mechanisation.  But hand knitting continued in the Dales of Yorkshire, because it was a poor, isolated area with little other options and people were able to combine it with farming.

Knitting in the Yorkshire Dales developed in a very distinctive style.  Descriptions from the 1840′s stated that knitters sat rocking to and fro like weird wizards!  On each rock of the body, both hands engaged in a variety of little motions which together formed a uniform tossing action.  Needles were pricks and crooked, with one attached to a knitting stick tucked into the belt called a cow band.  The technique was known as swaving and it enabled the knitter not only to knit very fast but also to knit one handed and this was vitally important as to scrape a living the knitters had to work day and night to make it worth while.

bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld

Knitting stick - often carved by young men for their sweet hearts.

All members of the family would be required to knit, children started as young as three or four and they would have to knit practically all the time.  Men would knit as they milked the cows and drove the wagons and once the days work was done, families would gather at each others houses, taking it in turn to host their neighbours.  Knitting throughout the evening by the light of the peat fires rather than waste candles, telling stories and singing to pass the time.   The Vicar at Dent even complained the women were knitting during the Sunday church service.

The items that were knitted varied greatly.  Stockings were the most important item but bonnets, hats, gloves and undershirts were also produced.  The wool, called bump, was thick and greasy.  As the industry developed a ‘bump’ master transported the wool to the villagers and took the finished articles either to market or back to the mill to be dyed.  Gloves and stocking made of finer wools were also made and it was these that displayed the distinctive Dales patterns.

By the beginning of the twentieth century the hand knitting tradition of the Dales had waned as a cottage industry but knitting for domestic use continued and luckily the traditional patterns and styles are well documented.  To be honest, whilst it is fascinating to read about a craft so strongly linked to an area, it is easy to understand why it’s not really a career choice today.  Hand knitted clothes are now reassuringly expensive to reflect the amount of time it takes to knit a jumper or even a pair of socks!  It is still not easy to make a living from this traditional craft in Britain but easier than it was.

image from Dent Village Heritage Centre

And here are lots of links if you want to know more,

Click’n’knit   -   Sue Carne knits tradition Yorkshire Dales gloves so if you need a pair she is your woman!

 www.vam.ac.uk

theknittinggenealogist.wordpress.com  - soon to release a book on the history of Yorkshire knitting!

 www.daelnet.co.uk

www.outofoblivion.org.uk

www.yorkshiredales.org.uk

Lesley O’Connell Edwards –  Working Hand Knitters in England from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries, Textile History, Volume 41, Number 1, May 2010 , pp. 70-85(16) (accessed online via ingentaconnect.com)

William Howitt - The Rural Life of England in Two Volumes, 1840, p307  (accessed online via google ebooks)

Posted in Heritage Crafts, Textiles, Traditional Crafts, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dorset Buttons

Ok I am back!  Been on holiday but now itching to get back to my journey round the British Isles and right now we are in lovely Dorset, looking at Dorset buttons.  The Dorset button industry started when a man called Abraham Case moved to Shaftesbury, Dorset.  (The other thing Shaftesbury is famous for is the Hovis advert, the one where the boy pushes his bike up the hill.  I always thought that advert was filmed in Yorkshire.  I was wrong, it was filmed in Shaftesbury by Ridley Scott no less).

Hovis boy pushing bike up Gold Hill in Shaftesbury

Anyway, back to buttons.  Abraham Case came to Shaftesbury after a career as a soldier, during which time he travelled in France and Belgium and admired the European Buttoner’s art.  After leaving the army, he found himself in need of employment.  It seems he was in the right place at the right time for button’s in the 17th century were very much a status symbol and there was a high demand for intricate and ornate buttons for gentlemen’s waistcoats.  Having seen the buttoner’s art in Europe and finding himself in an area where buttons were already made on a small scale,  Abraham Case saw the opportunity to develop a Buttony industry in Dorset.

image from This is Dorset 

The earliest buttons produced by Case were High Tops, conical in shape and Dorset Knobs, similar but flatter (the famous Dorset Knob biscuit is named after a button!).  Disc’s of horn from Dorset rams were covered with linen and worked over with fine linen thread forming the distinct cone.  It seems likely the technique he adopted combined the techniques he had seen on the Continent with the techniques which had existed in Dorset for centuries.

Abraham Case’s business quickly grew and by the early eighteenth century buttony had become a cottage industry employing thousands of people and bringing in a revenue of twelve thousand pounds per annum, which I must say was a great deal of money back then.  When Abraham Cash died, his sons Abraham Jr and Elias took over. Production grew and grew and the family managed to keep much of the business in their own hands by paying their workers in goods not money to stop them branching out on their own. By the beginning of the nineteenth century there were depots in many Dorset towns for the outworkers to collect the materials from and sell their finished buttons to.

image from 50 Heirloom Buttons to Make by Nancy Nehring

One of the most important developments in Dorset Buttony history occurred during the reign of George II (around 1750 for those of you who can’t remember your kings and queens).  Buttons based around a wire ring, rather than the disc of horn, were introduced and quickly developed into many different styles.  Blandford Cartwheels, Ten-Spoke Yarrels, Basket Weave Honeycomb Cross Wheel of Spiders Webs, Spangles, Birds Eye and Mites to name but a few. These wire based buttons are the ones that are now more well known than the original High Tops and Knobs.

image from Aquarius blog

Production of the Dorset Buttons continued apace.  It was a popular source of income among the rural poor of Dorset, a good Buttoner made between six and seven dozen buttons a day and could earn up to 3 shillings  as opposed to the 9d that could be earned as a farm worker and it had the advantage of being a home based activity, which was more attractive than being outside in all weathers.

Unfortunately all this ended abruptly in 1851, almost over night the Dorset button industry collapsed and the thousands who relied on the industry were suddenly penniless and on the brink of starvation.  All this happened because of a button making machine which made handmade buttons redundant – they just couldn’t compete.  The inventor was a man called Mr John Ashton and he exhibited his machine at The Great Exhibition.  And here is a funny thing, those of you following my blog will recall that a Trug maker from Sussex called Mr Thomas Smith had a very different experience of the Great Exhibition.  Queen Victoria brought his trugs at the Exhibition and he went home a very happy bunny.  Yet in Dorset an exhibit at the same exhibition caused misery and starvation, three hundred and fifty families from Shaftesbury alone were forced to emigrate to the Americas and Australia as a result.

image from downunderdale.blogspot.com

(I absolutely love this button, I have searched the web and decided – this is the best!)

So the Dorset Button industry ceased to exist.  It went through a brief revival at the beginning of the twentieth century initiated by Lady Lees but the outbreak of the First World War put paid to her attempts to put the buttons back into production.  Nowadays the tradition is kept alive by the Verwood branch of the WI and by the many courses being offered to teach the art of buttony.

I am very pleased to say, I shall be attending one of these courses myself.  Fibrefest in Devon is running a workshop on Dorset and Yorkshire buttons which I am very excited about.  I shall keep you posted on how I get on.  And I have decided I am going to develop a Dorset Button brooch for the Potter, Wright and Webb range.  By the way – the website is coming along nicely – still aiming to have all these lovely things available to buy from October!!



Posted in Dorset, Heritage Crafts, Textiles, Traditional Crafts | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments