Friday 9 November 2018

Wool from Wenlock Edge: The Shawl

Thelma Thompson, who keeps sheep under Wenlock Edge, had a wonderful stall full of information, and items to see, at the Textile Stories Study Day in April 2018 at University Centre Shrewsbury. Among the items on sale were some skeins of wool from her flock of rare Badger Face Sheep. I decided to buy 3 skeins of the wool, despite the fact that I wasn't sure what I would knit with them.

Thelma at her stall

The wool arrived, beautifully packaged under Thelma's label 'Meadowsweet Wools', and was lovely to the touch. I was inspired, and decided to try my hand at knitting a shawl. Having seen in costume dramas such as Larkrise to Candleford and North and South that the working women characters often wear homespun, home-knit shawls, I thought I would try to recreate one for myself. The problem was I had no pattern and couldn't find one to download on the internet. So I decided to improvise by knitting a large square and then create the tapered side panels later. Recently I discovered the joys of moss stitch, but wondered if a more simple stich would bring out the texture of the wool more clearly. I decided in the end to use garter stich and am very pleased with the knobbly effect it produced.

Once I had the square knitted, the measurements of which I had guessed, I began to work on the first tapered side piece, which was easy to do. I simply kept one side straight and decreased a stitch at a time (firstly on every alternate row and later on every row) until I reached one stitch to cast off, and I had my pointed end. I repeated with the matching side until the shawl was completed.

Here is the finished result:

Wearing the shawl it became clear just how warm the wool is and why working women in the poorly heated homes of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries needed their shawls. My shawl is now emerging from storage for the autumn and winter and I look forward to knitting something else with wool from Thelmas's flock. In fact, Thelma tells me she can supply me with white Welsh Mountain wool for my next project.

If you'd like to contact Thelma about buying wool from her flock, then email:

Professor Deborah Wynne

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