Knitting Belt and Wires

Finally found my knitting belt (in a box on top of the of many!).  This is a shetland belt made in leather and stuffed with horse hair.  The rows of holes are to insert the needle in a suitable position.  I have seen a video of a shetland knitter using such a belt.  She averaged an incredible 300 stitches a minute!T while maintaining her pattern and talking to the interviewer all the while. She also managed to use only three needles to work a round - I'm not sure how as four seem to be the usual minimum. 

The 'wires' are from Guernsey (so from one of the northern-most of the isles to the southern-most).  These 'wires's, there are 8) are 18" (46cms) long and an old UK size 13 but they don't vary much across the UK.  These are steel and extremely uncomfortable to work with.  Often they bent themselves in to a curve. Thank goodness for Addi Turbo.

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drmel94's picture

As I understand it, Shetland jumpers are traditionally held on two needles while the third is used to work the new stitches, meaning you're essentially working two connected sides in the flat. Presumably the "bendiness" of the needles would help with the process by providing a little give in those areas where it would otherwise be a bit too snug to work comfortably, though it seems to me that it would still tend to get a bit awkward near the ends of each wire.

"Hatred does not end by hatred; hatred ends by love. This is the eternal law." - Buddha

That's what I understood.  The knitter I saw was using regular, but very long needles and didn't seem to bend at all.  Unfortunately, the filming was not done buy someone interested in the art so didn't focus too much on her technique and the interviwer was crap as well and didn't understand her Shetland accent and misunderstood much of what she was saying.  Still, it was facinating to see the speed at which she was working.  It was actually too fast to watch. The knitters were turning out a fully finished patterned sweater a week. Amazing!  

kiwiknitter's picture

I knew I could depend on you, Simon, for the picture of the belt!  Thanks for finding and sharing it with us.  I'm with you in singing the praises of Addi Turbos! 

I've got knitting fever in the worsted way.

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on.  ~Billy Connolly

Hi Jesse - Have been hours hunting for this - the upshot being a well deserved spring-clean and de-cluttering exercise.  And there is still the cellar to broach...

Ganseys (Guernseys) are worked on three or four needles with another needle doing the knit. An expert might use two with a third but she would indeed  be a master knitter. The curves in the needles would facilitate access to the stitches. Of course, would be a lot easier to use a circular (if one was available). The old island knitters were commercial and looked for speed above all else, so the fast knitting and as few needles as possible make sense. Fortunately, knitting as a hobby means speed isn't nearly as essential. I can afford to try new techniques instead of remaking the same sweater over and over. And I can relax and enjoy my knitting instead of pushing to ensure I have a new sweater, washed and blocked, ready to go to the trader's shop every Friday.

The gansey patterns are fantastic, though. One of the first books in my library was Gladys Thompson's Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans. I refer to it whenever I have a gansey in mind. Her comments on needles are:

      "They (ganseys) are made without a seam, on a set of five 18 in. steel needles, but these sets are almost unobtainable now, and long sock, or round needles can be used instead, size 12 to 14 (British sizes), according to the type of wool used."

Her description of the typical gansey is, knit two garter stitch borders, 1 1/2 - 2 inches long, join in the round, knit to armhole. Two methods for armhole and shoulders,  one is to knit in round and cut seam stitch. The other is to knit chest and back separately, in a back and forth style. I made ganseys in both styles, simple and with lots of patterns. Still one of my favorite sweaters to do.

Luck and have lots of fun,


Yep, Guernsey's are great fun.  I have made almost a dozen or so over the years.  My mother lives in Devon and these are still working garments down there although many people wear machine-made versions these days, although I love the cashe of sporting a hand-made one! They are still widely worn by almost everyone who yachts (or has aspiration to).  Mum's wool shop stocks the yarn in blue, red and natural although blue is the traditional colour, with the original dye being unaffected by sea water.  Red is mainly for children as the bright colour clearly marks them out on board. Interestingly,  Guernsey's are not local to the island of Guernsey nor indigenous to the UK. Variations are found along the North Sea coasts up to the Baltic States.  The Dutch wear very similar patterns to the UK but are far less patterned.  The fishing trade was/is centered on Herrings and the fishermen followed the shoals up and down the coast with the women salting and barrelling the catch.  While waiting for the fish to land they knitted. I often visit a small coastal town in Suffolk - Southwold - and haunt the tiny Fishermen's Reading Room which is now a fishing museum - as they have masses of photographs of sailors wearing the local patterns.  I love them!

Love the tesselated, two-color versions of the gansey. The all-over, repeated eight-pointed rose in white on blue background is one of my favorites. Found some lovely, inexpensive yarns that I think would make some outstanding ganseys. Now to get the projects list down enough to plan and knit a few sweaters.

My current project is a Shetland shawl. Since I have not done one before, it is indeed a learning experience. But it is going along well and I will post a picture when done.

I'm glad to hear that the fisherman's sweater is doing well in Devon. It would be a shame to not have anyone making the sweater in the old way and for the old purposes. 

Have fun,