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KNITTING

knitted stockings, Anne Pilipes

In some rural parts of Ceredigion at times of hardship in the nineteenth Century whole families could be found to be supplementing any income by knitting stockings. This activity can not be underestimated. Although believed to be a female dominated skill often the boys and men were taught so they could earn a few pence to relieve the hardship. Tregaron Market became well known for its woollen stockings. As late as 1851 it was reported that there were 176 hosiers in the district. In the later part of the nineteenth century two well known characters from the Bronant area, near Tregaron, Morgan Parry and Thomas George (Tomos Siors) were known for attending the Tregaron Market and buying woollen stockings to sell later in the week in south Wales, after walking across the Brecon Beacons. Known as "GWLANA" (wool gathering) the poorer people of a district were permitted to gather small quantities of wool from richer farms after the shearing season. Female parties walked from the coastal villages of New Quay, Llanarth, Llanon, and Llanrhystud towards Tregaron collecting wool. Six to eight women would spend a week or more gathering wool taking with them the necessary provisions and sleeping in mountain farnhouses or barns. In Ceredigion it was a regular practice to knit the welt and toe of a sock in natural white yarn while the bulk was blue-grey. Some said it was harder wearing, others said the lanolin in the natural wool kept the feet warmer.

KNITTING YARN

If the yarn is intended for knitting, two or three single yarns are twisted together on the spinning-wheel to make two or three-ply yarn. This is then wound into skeins and washed and dyed.

Detail from Welsh Fashions Taken on a Market-Day in Wales, 1851, Drawn by R Griffiths, Carnarvon

It's raining outside
it is dry in the house
and the girls of Tregaron
Picking black wool.

In Ceredigion it was a regular practice to knit the welt and toe of a sock in natural white yarn while the bulk was blue-grey. Some said it was harder wearing, others said the lanolin in the natural wool kept the feet warmer.

Tibbot, S.M., (1978), Knitting Stockings in Wales, Folk Life, vol 16

A woman may card, spin and knit four pairs of stockings each week, one pair of stockings weighs nearly half a pound, which at 10d a pound is 5d out of the 8d for which they are cold at market. ... hence the woman has only 3d for carding, spinning and knitting these stockings or 1/- a week.

Davies, Walter, (1815), General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of South Wales, Vol 2., (London, 1815), pp. 442-43

[Visited Parson's Bridge guided] by a poor Welsh peasant girl of a very simple appearance, she could speak English a little and we learnt from her that she was engaged to knit stockings in the village of Spitty Kenwyn [Yspyty Cynfyn] for six pence a day, a very small amount but one which she seemed perfectly contented and satisfied.

Horace, Francis, Journal of a tour 1837, NLW MSS 11596-7B

Thomas George (Tomos Siors) sold stocking at the Tuesday market at Tregaron then walked to Abergwesyn fair, (12 miles); Llanwrtyd Wells (4 miles), where he stayed the night; to Brecon (over 12 miles) where he stayed the night and to Merthyr where he would sell what he could, then walk back in time for the Tregaron fair the following Tuesday.

Jones, Evans, (1972), Cerdded Hen Ffeiriau, (Aberystwyth, 1972), pp. 35, 37

Sarnicol wrote a poem which described the route of the stocking sellers. Of Merthyr he wrote: Gwisgwyr sane'r greadigaeth, A ddaw yna 'nghyd, Sane glas a gwyn y Cardi, Geir ar goesau'r byd. (Stocking wearers of all creation, Here are found, The blue and white stockings of the Cardi, On the world's legs are found).

Thomas, J.T., (Sarnicol)

I have a hundred times seen a woman carrying a pitcher of water on her head, a child or loaf in this wrapper [a long piece of woollen cloth wrapped around the waist] and knitting as she walked along.

Catherine Hutton's letters to her brother when visiting Aberystwyth in July and August, 1787

FUNERAL STOCKINGS

KNITTING SHEATHS

CARDING, SPINNING AND WEAVING WOOL

CRAFTS