Saturday, 30 August 2014

The old laundry at Killerton

Figure 1
 This is not early modern but a nineteenth, stretching into early twentieth century laundry. It is a reminder that before electricity laundry techniques had changed little for centuries. The notes in the laundry indicate that on Mondays the laundry was collected, sorted, and entered into a laundry book. So they had a record of what had been laundered.

Figure 1: There is a wash copper heated from below, you can see were the coals were put in underneath to heat the water. To the right is a dolly tub with a dolly stick in it. Before the use of galvanised steel these tubs were made of wood. Garments were pounded using the dolly stick.

Figure 2
 Figure 2: This, according to the half vanished label, is a washing machine. A hand powered agitator would have fitted into the slot that can be seen at the back, and you can also see a drain tap at the bottom.

Figure 3
 Figure 3: Alternatively items could be washed in a sink using a washboard. Killerton sinks are distinctly up market as they have hot as well as cold taps.

Figure 4
Figure 4: After washing items could be mangled to get out the excess water. I have early memories of my mother and grandmother using one of these in the late 1950s, just before we purchased an electric washing machine with an integral mangle mounted on the top, so you could take the washing straight out of the water and put it through the mangle. 
Figure 5

Figure 5: Killerton being a grand house washing could be dried indoors in bad weather, in a drying cupboard. The drying racks pull in and out on runners, and the bottom of the cupboard has heated pipes to aid the drying.

Figure 6
Figure 6: Less up market families dried items on clothes horses in front of a fire.

 Figure 7: After drying comes ironing, and here is a selection of the flat and box irons, and a goffering iron on display at Killerton.

Figure 7

Several other stately homes have similar laundries which are on display to the public, for example Kingston Lacy in Dorset, Llanerchaeron in Ceredigion and Berrington Hall in Herefordshire

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Blandford Fashion Museum

Blandford Fashion Museum
Paid a visit to the Blandford Fashion Museum, housed in a mid 18th century house in the town of Blandford Forum, Dorset. The museum collection started life as the personal collection of the late Mrs Betty Penny. Mrs Penny used to go around the country with her collection holding catwalk fashion shows in which people wore the original garments she owned. Members of the museums community were horrified, but Mrs Penny over her lifetime raised over half a million pounds for charity by doing this. Late in her life Mrs Penny founded the museum, and in 2004 it received museum accreditation. The whole house, about 10 rooms, contains the collection, which has increased considerably since her death.
Blushing Brides

The garments are arranged sometimes by theme and sometimes by period. The collections start with the mid 18th century, in Room 2 done out as a Georgian parlour, and go up to the 1980s, Room 8 contains three Frank Usher outfits from the 1970s and 1980s. There are two rooms with exhibitions that change on a regular basis. At the moment there are two exhibitions, Blushing Brides (Room 3), and Passion for Pattern (Room 7). Blushing brides contains 19th century wedding dresses, some of which have original documentation including photographs of the dress being worn by its original owner. Passion for fashion covers the whole period of the collection, and all types of patterned garments. 
Passion for Pattern

The Dorset craft room contains specifically local items, and as well as the ubiquitous Dorset buttons, has examples of the local glove and lacemaking crafts. There are also examples of 19th century working women’s bonnets, and men’s smocks. 

The final room is a tea shop were one may purchase a reviving cream tea.

The website for further information is

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A Sixteenth Century Mitten from London – with pattern

Original mitten in Museum of London
Among the collection of sixteenth century knitted items in the Museum of London is a child's knitted mitten found at Finsbury. It looks as though it could have been bought from Marks and Spencer, but is over 400 years old.  A similar mitten of a similar date is in the Norwich and Norfolk Museums’ collection, and a pattern for this has been published. (Huggett & Mikhaila, 2013)

The Museum of London mitten is 13 centimetres (5 inches) long by 7 centimetres (2¾ inches) wide including the thumb, and therefore probably belonged to a child of about five years of age.  Unfortunately the MoL has not put a measure in the photographs of it, but from the known width it would appear to be knitted at around 12 stitches to 5 centimetres (6 stitches to the inch)

Finished reproduction
The mitten is knitted in pale brown wool, with a three row decoration at the wrist in black wool. Unlike the Norwich mitten and most modern mittens, it is knitted from the top of the fingers down to the cuff. Very little of the actual cuff exists but appears to be 6 rows of garter stitch.

I am not the world’s best knitter (understatement of the year), however I have had a go at producing an adult size pattern – several goes actually but this one seems to work.

I used double knitting wool on a set of four 4mm (UK size 8, and US size 6) needles, this knits up as a roughly 24 stitches by 30 rows to a 10 cm square. The colours I used were gold for the main colour and dark brown for the contrast. The size given here fits me; I am a UK size 7 in gloves. I have indicated below how it can be altered for larger or smaller hands. I am not a follow the pattern type knitter so the instructions may not be what you are used to.

Start the top of the thumb.
Cast on 7 stitches over three needles, leaving enough of a tail to finish off and close any hole at the end.
K round.
K1, increase 1, repeat to end of round (14 stitches on the needles – this is enough for my thumb, large thumbs may require more stitches, smaller thumbs less)
K until the thumb reaches the length of your thumb, as in the photo.
Put the stitches to keep on a length of yarn, or a stitch holder, leaving a long enough tail to graft one side of the thumb to the hand.

Start the top of the hand.
Cast on 12 stitches over three needles, leaving enough of a tail to finish off and close any hole at the end.
K round.
K1, increase 1, repeat to end of round. (18 stitches on the needles)
K round.
K1, increase 1, repeat to end of round. (27 stitches on needles)
K round
K1, increase 1, repeat to end of round. (40 stitches on needles)
K round
K9, increase 1, repeat to end of round. (44 stitches on needles - this is enough for my hand, larger hands may require more stitches, smaller hands less)
K to bottom of fingers, as in the photo

Now we need to add in the thumb and play with needles. Four stitches from the thumb and four stitches from the fingers need to be put on a length of yarn, or a stitch holder, to be grafted together later. In the photo you can see the green yarn is holding the stitches.
You may find it easier to graft together these stitches now, rather than at the end.
Split the remaining thumb stitches across two of the needles. This will form the outer edge of the mitten, where you will later decrease to the wrist.
You should now have 50 stitches on your needles.

K round, you may need to knit into the grafted stitches at either side of the thumb, or you will end up with a hole.
K round (you will probably have 52 stitches on your needles now), until you reach the point where the hand starts narrowing to the wrist.

Next round starting at the thumb edge. K 8, k2tog, k until 10 from end of round. k2tog, k to end of round
Next round k
Next round K 6, k2tog, k until 8 from end of round. k2tog, k to end of round
Next round k
Next round K 4, k2tog, k until 6 from end of round. k2tog, k to end of round
Next round k
Next round K 2, k2tog, k until 4 from end of round. k2tog, k to end of round (You should now have 42 stitches on your needles.
Knit until you reach the wrist bone.
Now to add in the decoration.
New round k in the contrast colour.
Next round k1 contrast, k1 main colour, repeat to end of round.
Next round knit in contrast colour. 
Next round return to main colour, and knit until just short of the length you want it to be.
For the cuff - First round p, 2nd round k, repeat these two rounds twice and cast off.

Sew up the hole at the top of the fingers and any holes at the top and bottom of the thumb.  Tidy in the ends of your contrast colour, and your cast off.


Huggett, J. & Mikhaila, N., 2013. The Tudor Child. Lightwater: Fat Goose