Beamish, the North of England Open Air Museum, Durham
1800 – 1899
This is a practical item that has become an iconic example of local folk art.
Knitting sheaths enabled knitters to knit with only one hand, enabling them to carry out household jobs whilst continuing to knit. The sheath was tucked into the knitter's waistband or belt, or even stitched onto an apron.
The name of the sheaths varied from region to region. In Yorkshire they were called knitting sticks and sheaths in Northumberland and Durham. They had a short tubular opening for the end of a double-pointed needle. They also varied in design and decoration, many covered in decorative carving which could vary between counties or even villages.
Whatever the design, the sheath had to have both a slot for the end of the needle and a way of attaching it to clothing. Knitting sheaths were especially important to women who had to produce hand-knitted goods for sale, as the fixed needle helped them work faster and more evenly.
On display in the colliery cottages of Beamish, The Living Museum of the North.
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