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Collection of Treen Knitting Sheaths, 19th Century
Knitting sheaths were a significant feature of early knitting accessories and were very much a part of wood carving and folk art. They were placed behind a belt or over a waistband and had a specific hole at the top into which was inserted one end of a knitting needle. This made it unnecessary to hold one of the needles with the sheath taking the weight of the knitting and also protecting the clothing from the needle. Apparently this added significantly to the speed of knitting which was a significant attribute to save time in creating garments. They were made in many countries but are particularly known from Wales, some English counties, Holland and other Continental countries. Treen examples could also have messages engraved into them, and dates. This collection of four treen knitting sheaths shows some of the variety that is available and of particular note is the one with carved window and two carved balls, and another with inlay which includes diamonds and hearts on the side, a groove probably to hold the sheath in position with a cord, and brass reinforcement for the needle. Another has a bone top with small hole for the needle and another is chip-carved with a deep slot to go over the waistband. These four examples would provide a most interesting start to a collection of these fascinating items. There is tiny loss of the inlay on one piece and some cracking of the bone end in another – but otherwise the condition of all is very good for age. Length of sheath with cage and balls 8.75 ins (22cm). Combined weight 94 grams.
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Genevieve Cummins, Sydney, Australia
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