Tag Archives: traditional crafts

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

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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Museums

St Fagans: National History Museum -   Cardiff, Wales

St Fagans explores all aspects of how people in Wales have lived, worked and spent their leisure time

Museum of English Rural Life – Reading, England

The most comprehensive national collection of objects, books and archives relating to the history of food, farming and the countryside.

Weald and Downland Open Air Museum 

Experience six centuries of our rural heritage.  Run brilliant courses


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Back to the Blog

I’m back!!  Having realised I’ve not been very good at getting my blog posts out on a regular basis recently, I have given myself a bit of a talking too.  Apparently this happens quite often with new bloggers.  People start off all enthusiastic, then get bored and go and do something else.  Now, if you know me in the real world you will know – I am very good at starting things, doing it for a while and then getting bored and going off to do something else.   Well, you will be pleased to know this is not such an example.  I have just been busy sorting out other stuff.

This lovely blog was started as the precursor for Potter Wright and Webb’s  online shop, specialising in the traditional regional crafts of the British Isles.   The blog was meant to focus my mind on getting the shop up and running.  The plan was I would do one post a week, featuring a traditional craft object, which I would then sell in the shop.  But I have discovered I am far more interested in finding out about all the amazing regional crafts from around the country than actually starting a shop.  Having to worry about stock levels, wholesale prices, advertising, featured products and profit makes me go all of a quiver!

I have also discovered most of our traditional Heritage Crafts are in a precarious position.  Often only a handful of craftspeople operate commercially and many of these are simply unable to offer wholesale prices.  So I have slightly shifted my focus.  I’ve decided to put off opening the shop (at least until Angela Merkel and friends have worked out where all the money has gone).  Instead I shall concentrate solely on making this blog the home of all things to do with traditional regional crafts.  I shall continue on my journey around the British Isles featuring all the lovely things I come across, linking to the websites of  the individual craftspeople as I go. Who knows where my meandering will end up!  It has already lead to me writing a post for the November issue of Dulwich OnView about Lambeth pottery, so that is pretty exciting, in fact I had better stop writing this and start writing the article for them!

 

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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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