Tag Archives: Yorkshire

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

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

How to Make a Yorkshire Button


Yorkshire Buttons are basically an extension of an embroidery stitch called a ribbed wheel.  (Also known as ribbed spider’s web, back stitched spider’s web, woven wheel or woven spot).  Somewhere in Yorkshire, someone had the bright idea of taking this stitch and weaving it free of any backing material.  Instead the stitch is woven onto a circular template, thus they were able to take the finished circle off the template and gather and stuff it to form a little sphere and hey presto a new button was invented.

To make a Yorkshire button follow the instructions below.  Anything in italics is details which some people might not need or want.  Note that I am left handed so the photos show me sewing clockwise.  Right handers will probably want to go the other way!


1.    Make your template.  Cut a circle out of strong cardboard or plastic.  No bigger than 5cm (2″) if this is your first one.

a)  Use a compass or draw round something the right size.

b)  Cut 12 V shaped notched around the edge of the circle, big enough to hold the thread.  These should be evenly spaced like a clock face – that is at 30° intervals.  Best way to do this is to divide into quarters and then divide the quarters, this way the notches stay even. Imagine or mark the notches as a clock face

c)  Pierce hole through the centre.

Bear in mind that the diameter of this circle will end up as the circumference of your finished button.  If you want your button to be a certain size and don’t remember all those complicated formulae from school then take the buttonhole measurement and double it and then add about 3mm.  You can pull it tighter if it is a tad too big.

2.    Thread a blunt darning needle with about 2.5m of thread, this seems alot but it is best to do the whole button without needing more thread.  Wool would be the traditional choice in lace weight but I like to use cotton crochet thread (no 8 is good).  Bring your needle up through the centre hole of the template, pull the thread to the front leaving about 10cm at the back to hold on to.

3.    Next you need to form the spokes to weave the button onto.  This sounds more complicated than it is but follow the instructions as two threads must form each spoke and you do need to end up in the right place.

Start by taking the thread from the centre to notch 1, go around the back to notch 12, come to the front and go down to notch 6, go round the back to notch 7, come to the front and up to notch 1,  continue in this way in the following order

b = thread at the back,  f = thread at the front

1  b 12  f 6 b 7 f 1 b 2 f 8 b 9 f 3 b 4 f 10 b 11 f 5 b 6 f 12 b 11 f  5 b 4 f 10 b 9 f 3 b 2 f 8 b 7

4.    From 7 come to centre, take needle UNDER all spokes and come up between 12 and 1, loop over the centre between 6 and 7 and back to form a little anchor stitch.  Check that the spokes are sitting centrally before pulling the stitch tight.  This will show so it needs to be neat!

5.    You are now ready to weave the stitch.  It is basically a spiral of back stitches over the spokes, working from the centre outwards.  Work as follows – take thread back over a spoke (should be spoke 12 if you came up between 12 and 1).  Take needle under this spoke and the next (12 and 1). Pull thread through.  Repeat – back over spoke 1 down and under spoke 1 and 2. (basically it is one spoke back two spokes forward).  After a couple of stitches the ridges will start to appear and it is clear how the button is formed. Continue in a spiral until the whole template is filled.  Neaten the stitches as you go, pushing them together so the spokes do not show and the template is tightly packed.

 

6.    When you can fit no more stitches onto the template the button, turn the template over and run a running stitch through each of the loops on the back.  Then slide each of the loops off the template and pull the thread to start to form the spherical shape.  Cut off your loose starting thread at this stage, leaving about 1cm inside the button so it doesn’t unravel. Stuff your button with small amount of wadding.  Alternatively a spherical bead which is the right size.  Draw the loops tight.  Lastly make a few stitches at the back to neaten the button up and then leave the thread to sew on to garment.

There you go – a Yorkshire Button, easy to make and can be made to compliment a special garment or when you just can’t find anything in the right colour.

NB  This is the first of many tutorials.  If you use this and find I have made an error or there is part of the instructions that really don’t make sense to you – Please let me know so that I can correct them. Thank you.

 

 

Posted in How to Make, Textiles, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a 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