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Two knitters in traditional costume In the 18th century, knitting became so important in the Dales that knitting schools were set up in the larger farmhouses. In Dent, there were 4 knitting schools of which Cage Farm (see photo on opening page) was one. Robert Southey in his book The Doctor tells us what conditions in one of these schools were like. Betty Yewdale and her friend Sally were sent by their parents from their home near Kendal to Dent to learn to knit. Betty tells us that the knitting master wound 3 or 4 skeins of yarn and mingled the ends. 3 or 4 children were each given an end to knit. They all had to knit at the same pace. If they did n't, "the slowest raffled the others' yarn and got weel thumped" (beaten). They knitted coarse worsted stockings, gloves, caps, waistcoat breasts and petticoats. Betty knitted a stocking in 6 hours, Sally in 7 and "the woman's daughter" in 8 and she was older than they were. The master sent a note to their parents to report on their progress. Betty and Sally hated the school and eventually ran away back to their home near Kendal. In the early part of the 19th century, there developed in the Dales a tradition of knitting exquisite Fair Isle gloves which were as fine and as expertly done as any done elsewhere in the UK. There are examples in Hawes Museum. The Kaye -Shuttleworth family from Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley, had Barbon Manor near Dent as their country house. The Hon. Rachel Kaye- Shuttleworth was a wonderful embroiderer and was so interested in textile crafts that she built up a collection of the finest she could find and this is now housed at Gawthorpe Hall. During the late 1970s, I had the good fortune to study the knitting section. Imagine my delight when I discovered 3 gloves from the Dales knitting tradition! Rachel's notes on the items were most detailed. The odd glove was Sir Ughtred's, Rachel's father, and had been well worn because there was a hole in the palm. Rachel must have put hers straight into the collection. Though they were knitted in 1910, and had her initials worked into the cuff in the manner of all Dales gloves, the gloves were as new. I think she must have known how valuable these would be as time went on, for her notes read "the craft died out soon afterwards". These gloves were knitted in black and white in a small Fair Isle pattern and on very fine needles indeed.

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(text, © Kathleen Kinder 1997. photos, © Kathleen Kinder/Bill Mitchell 1997 k.kinder@daelnet.co.uk)

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