knitting

This page includes:

  • Introduction
  • The evidence
  • Carding
  • Spinning
  • Men knitting
  • Quality
  • The Market for Stockings
  • The cost of producing stockings and numbers sold
  • Tourists’ references to knitting

For more, see Stockings

Introduction
Knitting was an important occupation of the women of Wales. Many farm women gathered wool from the hedges, or bought it, then carded and spun it at home and knitted when they had nothing else to do with their hands, and this included when walking to market or on their way to London to work in the fruit fields. Children, particularly girls also knitted, as did some men, including drovers.

This was apparently not something the tourists saw in England especially when a woman was seen knitting while carrying a large vessel on their heads, and occasionally a baby in their nursing shawl.

The evidence
There are many drawings and photographs of people knitting, but most of these are staged by the photographer who may well have provided the knitting and the costumes. However, some sketches and early prints and photographs may be of women whose daily lives involved a lot of knitting.

There are many descriptions and references to women knitting (mostly on the road to and from market where they would have been seen by visitors to Wales). Many of these relate to Bala which was famous for the number of women who knitted, especially on the remains of the Norman earth and timber castle, but the craft was not restricted to that place. To save money, women used to go to each other’s houses in turn to share the candle and heat, and knit together, (Cymmortheu Gwau) and even held knitting competitions.

‘In this country there is no particular manufacture, each family making their own apparel, except that of knitting, in which they are so expert, that it has been observed they can knit a stocking while a goose is roasting or a pot boiling : however, they will knit more than a pair in a day. The custom we observed on North Wales of meeting in each other’s houses from a view of sociality and economy, is observed here.
They frequently knit what they call guird for no other wager but honour ; they let loose from bottoms or balls equal lengths of yarn tied together, and the first that knits up to the knots becomes the conqueror and receives the praise. Large quantities are got up and sent to the English markets.’
Evans, J, South Wales, pp. 357-8

Carding
Carding involved combing wool fibres so that all lay in the same direction. There is almost no evidence of carding by hand during the 18th and 19th centuries, but museum collections include carding combs which probably date to this period and later.

Spinning
The practice of spinning with a spindle and whorl had died out almost completely by the 18th century.
There are very few illustrations or references to spinning on wheels after mechanisation had replaced most of the spinning wheels, but it is possible that the use of spinning wheels continued in Wales for longer than in other parts of Britain.  A few tourists noted seeing spinning wheels in use, but since this was normally done indoors, tourists would not normally see it being practiced. After about 1880, old spinning wheels were brought out to act as props for staged photographs of women in Welsh costume.

Men knitting
There are a few references to men knitting in Wales. In Scotland, Archibald Grant of Monymusk was critical of ‘strong lubberly fellows … knitting stockings’ (James Handley, Scottish Farming in the Eighteenth Century (1953), pp. 132-133)

Drawing of a man knitting
Anon, An Account of a tour through certain counties of England and Wales, with illustrations, 1831, NLW MS 558, p. 338

Quality
It is said that stockings made from Welsh wool were hard wearing, but it was necessary to select the right wool and treat it correctly for the best quality stockings.
In Ceredigion it was a regular practice to knit the welt and toe of a sock in natural white yarn while the bulk was blue-grey. Some said it was harder wearing, others said the lanolin in the natural wool kept the feet warmer.
Tibbot, S.M., Knitting Stockings in Wales, Folk Life, vol 16, (1978), pp. 61-73, reprinted in Tibbot, S.M., Domestic Life in Wales, (2002), pp. 140-157

The market for stockings
It appears that most of the stockings were sold to dealers at Welsh markets, especially at Bala and Tregaron, who took them to England and further afield.

Thomas George (Tomos Siors) sold stocking at the Tuesday market at Tregaron then walked to Abergwesyn fair, (12 miles); Llanwrtyd Wells (4 miles), where he stayed the night; to Brecon (over 12 miles) where he stayed the night and to Merthyr where he would sell what he could, then walk back in time for the Tregaron fair the following Tuesday.
Jones, Evans, (1972), Cerdded Hen Ffeiriau, (Aberystwyth, 1972), pp. 35, 37

Thomas Jacob Thomas (Sarnicol, 1873-1945) wrote a poem which described the route of the stocking sellers. Of Merthyr he wrote:
Gwisgwyr sane’r greadigaeth,
A ddaw yna ‘nghyd,
Sane glas a gwyn y Cardi,
Geir ar goesau’r byd.
(Stocking wearers of all creation, Here are found, The blue and white stockings of the Cardi, On the world’s legs are found).

The cost of producing stockings and numbers sold.

1794 north Breconshire
The only branch of manufactory carried on in this place is the working of stockings. These are sold at the markets around, at 8d a pair. A woman … may card, spin and knit four pairs of stockings each week; one pair of these stockings weighs near half a pound, which at 10d a pound is 5d out of the 8d, some pairs, however, weigh only 7 ounces, but as there is 1d of oil requisite for every pound of wool, we may fairly state the raw materials of each pair of stockings to be worth 5d.; hence the woman has only 3d for carding, spinning and knitting these stockings or 1/- a week.
Clark, John, General view of the agriculture of the county of Brecknock, with observations on the means of its improvement. (1794), p. 45-46  quoted in Davies, Walter, General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of South Wales, Vol 2., (London, 1815), pp. 442-43

1796 Bala
Bala is the staple for knit woollen stockings, of which every woman in the country, whether sitting, standing, or walking is a manufacturer. In this land of knitting, the women knit mechanically without trouble or attention, and so quick that one of them will make a stocking [a pair?] in a day worth half-a-crown. This, after deducting a shilling, the value of the yarn, would make her daily earnings eighteen pence, if it were not for the profit of the Bala merchant. I saw, however, good coarse knit stockings, in a shop at Bala, at fifteen pence a pair; and was told they were to be had as low as nine pence.’
Catherine Hutton, Letters written during a Tour in North Wales by Miss Hutton, of Bennett’s Hill, near Birmingham, The Monthly Magazine, 1796, letter 7

1798 Bala
It has a very considerable manufactory of knit woollen goods such as stockings, gloves, etc. Knitting being the common employment of the neighbourhood, for both sexes and all ages: even the men frequently take up the needles and assist the females in the labour … You see none idle, going out or returning home; riding or walking they are occupied in this portable employment.’
The stockings are of all colours; white, red, blue, native black and greys of every variety of shade: price from six to nine shillings per dozen. … two to five hundred pounds worth are sold every market day. 
Rev John Evans, A tour through part of North Wales, in the year 1798, and at other times, (1800) p. 68

1803, Llanddewi Brefi
In this country there is no particular manufacture, each family making their own apparel, except that of knitting, in which they are so expert, that it has been observed they can knit a stocking while a goose is roasting, or a pot boiling: however they will knit more than a pair in a day. The custom we observed on North Wales of meeting in each other’s houses from a view of sociality and economy, is observed here. “Guirden or knitting machines” in summary. They frequently knit what they call guird for no other wager but honour ; they let loose from bottoms or balls equal lengths of yarn tied together, and the first that knits up to the knots becomes the conqueror and receives the praise. Large quantities [of stockings] are got up and sent to the English markets.
Evans, John, B.A., 1768-1812 (Jesus College, Oxford), Letters written during a tour through South Wales, in the year 1803, and at other times : containing views of the history, antiquities, and customs of that part of the principality; and interspersed with observations on its scenery, agriculture, botany, mineralogy, trade and manufactures, (London, 1804), p. 357

1806, Llanrwst Market
I heard it said that about three hundred pounds [weight or value?] of stockings are sold in the morning before the market begins. These are not bought from a second hand, but from the people that knitted them the preceding week, and that at their leisure hours without neglecting their necessary occupation. …’
Williams, William, ‘A Survey of the Ancient and Present State of the County of Caernarvon by a Landsurveyor [William Williams] pp. 85-86

1810 north Wales
Knit stockings and socks, constitute the third article of Welsh woollen manufacture. Bala is the chief market for them, as well as the centre of the circuit in which they are made; the boundary of it extending from Corwen to Bettws, Ysbyty, Llanrwst, Penmachno, Ffestiniog, Llanuwchllyn, Bwlch y Groes— and from thence, along the northern side of the Berwyn hills, down again to Corwen; and including a most mountainous tract of about 18 miles in length, and 12 in breadth. They are of all sizes, and of various degrees of fineness; consequently of all prices from 6s. to six guineas a dozen. Some pairs have been actually sold for half-a-guinea each, and 8s. is a common price. When M. Lewis Morris, in the year 1747, estimated the weekly sale of stockings at Bala at £200, they were but of low price compared with the present: 2s. 6d. a pair was then reckoned high; but now a much higher price constitutes by far the greater part of the total amount.
Thirty-four years after the date of Mr Lewis Morris’s estimate, Mr Pennant published his Snowdonia; wherein he calculated the average value of stockings sold at Bala, at £350 per week. This will produce £18,200 per annum; which tallies pretty well with the information now collected. From £17,000 to £19,000 a year, is the account given in by the principal hosiers themselves; and there is no reason to suspect the truth of the report. The proportions of the different prices may be nearly as here stated.
12,000 pair, at the average price of 5s. £3000
60,000 at 3s £9000
60,000 at 1s. 4d £4000
60,000 pair of children’s hose, and socks, at 8d. £2000
192,000 £18000
Out of 18 ounces avoirdupois of wool of the value of 2s., three pair are generally knit of fine stockings; and out of 16 ounces, of the value of 14d., two pair are made of a coarser sort. The average value of the raw material may be stated thus:
72,000 pair at 8d. £2400
60,000 at 7d £1750
60,000 at 3d £ 750
The amount is £4900
And the remaining sum of £13,100 is the wages of industry; excepting some small deduction for indigo. In the light-grey stockings, which is the general colour, the proportion of blue wool to white is as 1 to 15; and the dying may be rated at 1s. per dozen pair.
It might be expected, that the difference between the whole amount of the wool and the wages of knitting, would have been much greater; when it is considered that, in fine stockings every pennyworth of wool is converted into a shilling; but the great drawback lies in the coarser sort, where the profit of manufacture is a mere trifle, and would never answer, were not the knitting of such, the occupation of their leisure hours, in walking, or by the fire side in a long winter’s night, without expense of candle, and the means of instructing children.
Davies, Walter, General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of North Wales, (London, 1810), pp. 403-405

1827 Llanrwst
‘At Llanrwst the street seemed uninhabited except for the females who sat in their doorways knitting stockings (they will knit a pair in a day and a half). They knit for Welsh shopkeepers who sell them elsewhere wholesale. These stockings are thin and very different from those they knit for their own wear.’
Mrs Judith Beecroft, Tour of Wales, June and July, 1827, Cardiff Central Library, 2.325

It is said that at least 20,000 pairs of stockings were sold for £18,000 a year in Bala and Llanrwst to Charleston (USA), the West Indies, the Gulf of Mexico through Barmouth.
Source quoted by Gwyn A Williams, ‘Locating a Welsh Working Class: the Frontier years’, in David Smith, (ed.), A People and a Proletariat, (1980), p. 20.

References to knitting

1769, Bala
Bala not remarkable except for stocking manufactory.
Grimston, James Bucknall, Sir, (Third Viscount Grimston, 1749-1809), A Tour in Wales, 1769, [Wednesday] 27 September, 1769

 1774, Llanberis,
… the matron clad in a beaver hat, and a blue gown, Handkerchief and apron, …. Ironing a shift of not the finest cloth’ ‘their wearing Shoes at all on Week, days was, I believe, an extraordinary degree of refinement’. On Sundays ‘the females [wore] their stays’ and at church ‘the women were all dressed, as in a uniform, with their beaver hats, and long blue Flannel Cloaks: they also had good shoes and stockings on …
Cullum, John, Sir, Tour Through Several Counties of England and Part of North Wales, 1774, Bury St Edmunds and West Suffolk Record Office, E2/44/2.1-2.3

1777 Caerphilly
A fair at the village for cattle, yarn stockings, most sold to factors from London, the finest here at 2d a pair.
Hervey, William, Journals, Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds Branch, 941/53/5-9; Hervey, S.A.H., Journals of the Hon William Hervey, (1906), p. 273

1781 Bala
Reach Bala, a small town in the parish of Llanyckil, [Lanycil] noted for its vast trade in woollen stockings, and its great markets every Saturday mornings, when from two to five hundred pounds worth are sold each day, according to the demand. Round the place, women and children are in full employ, knitting along the roads; and mixed with them Herculean figures appear, assisting their Omphales in this effeminate employ. During winter the females, through love of society, often assemble at one another’s houses to knit; sit round a fire, and listen to some old tale, or to some ancient song, or the sound of the harp; and this is called Cymmorth Gwau, or, the knitting assembly.
Much of the wool is bought at the great fairs at Llanrwst, in Denbighshire.
Pennant, Thomas, The Journey to Snowdon, (1781), p. 67
Tours in Wales, by Thomas Pennant, Esq; 1778-1781 by the Editor, John Rhys, (1883), Volume 2, p. 204

1784, Bala
Small manufactory of stockings
Byng, John, Right Hon, (later Viscount Torrington), Andrews, C Bruyn. (Editor). The Torrington diaries: Containing the tours through England and Wales of the Hon. John Byng between the years 1781 and 1794, (London, 1934), vol 1, p. 146

1791, Wales
‘The employments of the women are within doors. They knit their husband’s stockings and likewise others for sale;
Morgan, Mary, Mrs, A Tour to Milford Haven, in the Year 1791, (London, 1795)

1793, Near Capel Curig
An old woman offered herself as a guide … [she] lost none of her time; for other Welsh women she knitted all the way; and a pair of stockings may be finished quickly, the feet being omitted, as unnecessary.
Byng, John, Right Hon, (later Viscount Torrington), Andrews, C Bruyn. (Editor). The Torrington diaries: Containing the tours through England and Wales of the Hon. John Byng between the years 1781 and 1794, (London, 1934), vol 3, p. 269

1793, Bala
… remarkable for its great trade in woollen stockings and its large markets every Saturday morning ; when from two to five hundred pound’s worth are said to be sold each day, according to the demand. About the place women and children are employed, knitting along the roads, and mixed with them, says Mr Pennant, Herculean figures appear, assisting their omphales in this effeminate employ. {knitting assemblies indoors during the winter}
The Tomen y Bala … in the summer time is usually covered in a picturesque manner with knitters of both sexes and all ages. …
Anon, A short Journal of a tour through the counties of Denbigh, Merioneth, Cardigan and Caernarfon, and the Island of Anglesey in 1793, NLW 9854A, pp. 11-12

1793, Barmouth
Trade and export of webs (£30,000 worth of webs and £10,000 of stockings exported in a year a few years ago). [ source: Pennant?]
Anon, A short Journal of a tour through the counties of Denbigh, Merioneth, Cardigan and Caernarfon, and the Island of Anglesey in 1793, NLW 9854A, pp. 11-12, p. 24

1793 near Barmouth
‘Their industry is surprising. The Women have always knitting in their hands, even in going and returning from market ; and you seldom or never see either a Welshman or Welsh woman but in employ.’
Anon, A short Journal of a tour through the counties of Denbigh, Merioneth, Cardigan and Caernarfon, and the Island of Anglesey in 1793, NLW 9854A, p. 45

1793, Boldre church
Mr Gilpin … has built and endow’d a Free School for the cottagers children…in one Boys are taught by a master reading, writing, Accompts & knitting; in the other Room Girls learn from a mistress reading, knitting & plan work…
Sarah Wilmot (nee Haslam), National Museum of Wales, MS179554, (25 August)

1794, North Wales
Hints for the Improvement of North Wales. With regard to stocking manufactured in North Wales, it appeared to me that the worsted thread was spun too hard. They had not the soft feel of those made in Shetland with which I compared them and I thought them higher priced. The Shetland stockings, which were as fine, and much softer, cost only 3s per pair, and the price of those in Wales was 4s though of the same quality or nearly so. Both were made of lambs wool.  
Kay, G., (from Leith)  General View of the Agriculture of North Wales, (Edinburgh 1794)

1795, Barmouth
‘the great trade of this country is woollen manufactory. You see no women nor children who are not knitting & it seems the men knit very much too, but I cannot say I saw more than one man employing himself so, & we all remarked it as a singularity…
Frances Anne Crewe, diary, British Library, Add. 37926. Quarto f.131 Wyndham papers vol. 85 p. 137-138

1795, Bala
I got a pair of men’s stockings for 10 pence which I shall keep as a curiosity’
Frances Anne Crewe, diary, British Library, Add. 37926. Quarto f.131 Wyndham papers vol. 85 p. 137-138

1796, Mallwyd
With garments of flannel and woollen, and this load on the head, shoes and stockings are a superfluity. They trudge along, bare-footed, and bare-legged, with as little inconvenience as the sheep that formerly carried the burden. The female who fills the several offices of waiting [waiter] and chamber-maid at the inn, is distinguished by shoes and stockings, and a mob cap.
Hutton, Catherine, Letters written during a Tour in North Wales by Miss Hutton, of Bennett’s Hill, near Birmingham. Published in: Hutton Beale, Catherine, Reminiscences of a gentlewoman of the last century; letters of Catherine Hutton (Birmingham, Cornish Brothers, 1891), (which is a heavily edited version of the letters published in the Monthly Magazine in 1816), Letter 2

1796, Bala
Bala is the staple for knit woollen stockings, of which every woman in the country, whether sitting, standing, or walking is a manufacturer. In this land of knitting, the women knit mechanically without trouble or attention, and so quick that one of them will make a stocking [a pair?] in a day worth half-a-crown. This, after deducting a shilling, the value of the yarn, would make her daily earnings eighteen pence, if it were not for the profit of the Bala merchant. I saw, however, good coarse knit stockings, in a shop at Bala, at fifteen pence a pair; and was told they were to be had as low as nine pence.
Hutton, Catherine, Letters written during a Tour in North Wales by Miss Hutton, of Bennett’s Hill, near Birmingham. Published in: Hutton Beale, Catherine, Reminiscences of a gentlewoman of the last century; letters of Catherine Hutton (Birmingham, Cornish Brothers, 1891), (which is a heavily edited version of the letters published in the Monthly Magazine in 1816), Letter 7

1796 Bala
… women everlasting knitters of stockings
Hutton, W., Remarks upon North Wales: being the Result of Sixteen Tours Through that part of the Principality, (Birmingham, 1803), p. 37

1796, Whiteford and Holywell
The sheep are numerous. … As may be imagined, they produce little wool. Their fleeces are coarse, yet of that a small quantity is sold into Merionethshire, and the rest manufactured at home, and made either into cloth for the country people, or into flannel for the women, or knit into stockings, all for home consumption.
Pennant, Thomas, The History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell, 1796, p. 158

1796
Stockings, wigs, socks, gloves, and other small knit articles, are sold chiefly at Bala, [NOTE The market here is every Saturday, when from two to five hundred pounds worth of stockings are sold each day, according to the demand. Pennant’s Snowdonia, p.67] being made in the town and neighbourhood; they are generally purchased by Welsh hosiers, who travel through the adjoining English counties, and supply the shops and warehouses; from the latter they are dispersed through the island. Stockings are of all colours, greys of a thousand shades, white, blue, red, &c. from six to nine shillings per dozen.
Aikin, Arthur, (1773-1854), Journal of a Tour through North Wales and a part of Shropshire with observations of Mineralogy and other branches of natural History [1796], (London, 1797), p. 82

1796, Bala
Here, as in all parts of Merionethshire, the women employ their time chiefly in knitting stockings. Tis pleasing to see with what dexterity and expedition they can knit while carrying their butter and eggs to market. You will sometimes meet whole groups exercising at the same time the threefold employ of carrying their commodities to market, knitting and spluttering scandal by the way. [in a different hand] Near the town is a mount called Tomen y Bala the resort of knitters of both sexes and all ages.
Williams, William, (1774-1839) and Burgess, James, Rev (1774-1839), J.B. jnr and W. W., A Pedestrian Tour thro Wales in 1796 , NLW MS 23253 C, p. 113

1797, Bala
The chief trade of this place as well as of the adjoining villages is woollen; stockings and gloves are made in great perfection and very cheap.
Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare through England and Wales, 1793-1810, (1983), p. 68

1799, Bala
Bala – a considerable town and famous for its knit stockings which are made and brought here in vast quantities by the poor of the town and its neighbourhood – a good knitter may earn a week and it is very common to see men, women and children employed at it, even when riding and walking to market – a striking picture of industry.
Robertson, NLW MS 11790A, p. 31

1799, Dolgellau
Dolgellau famous for its manufactory of gloves and leather breeches also for its woollen manufactory of broadcloth and stockings. We bought good stockings as 3/6d per pair and gloves at 1 shilling.
Ousby, Ian, James Plumptre’s Britain, The Journals of a Tourist in the 1790s, (London, 1992), 27.8.1799

1800 Bala Stocking manufactory
It has a very considerable manufactory of knit woollen goods such as stockings, gloves, etc. Knitting being the common employment of the neighbourhood, for both sexes and all ages: even the men frequently take up the needles and assist the females in the labour … You see none idle, going out or returning home; riding or walking they are occupied in this portable employment.’
The stockings are of all colours; white, red, blue, native black and greys of every variety of shade: price from six to nine shillings per dozen. … two to five hundred pounds worth are sold every market day. Vid Pennant.’
Rev John Evans, A tour through part of North Wales, in the year 1798, and at other times, (1800) p. 68

1800, Bala
Stocking manufactory
It has a very considerable manufactory of knit woollen goods such as stockings, gloves, etc. Knitting being the common employment of the neighbourhood, for both sexes and all ages: even the men frequently take up the needles and assist the females in the labour whence the chief support of the family is derived.  You see none idle, going out or returning home; riding or walking they are occupied in this portable employment. During the long winter nights, from the dearness of candles and a social disposition they form what they call Cymmortheu Gwlân: numbers assemble at each others dwellings in rotation and sitting around a turf fire pursue their wonted task; while tales of other times beguile the hours, or the village harper thrums his dulcet notes of harmony. The hills in this vicinity are covered with these people in the summer months spinning and knitting the woollen yarn. The wool is principally of one or at most two plies; and is chiefly bought at Llanrwst, except what is afforded by the neighbouring towns. The staple articles are woollen stockings, gloves, wigs, socks and other small knit articles. These are purchased by Welsh hosiers, who travel through the adjoining English counties, whence they are distributed through the Island. The stockings are of all colours; white, red, blue, native black and greys of every variety of shade: price from six to nine shillings per dozen. [the newspaper version is price from 20 to 60 shillings per doz.] … two to five hundred pounds worth are sold every market day. Vide Pennant.’
Evans, John, Rev., (1768-1812) A tour through part of North Wales, in the year 1798, and at other times : principally undertaken with a view to botanical researches in that Alpine country: interspersed with observations on its scenery, agriculture, manufactures, customs, history, and antiquities. London, 1800, p. 67-68. [This section was also published in a newspaper – in NLW ms. Paton 130, TI 65, no date].

1800, Bala
Bala carries on a considerable stocking and woollen trade and as we passed through the principal street yesterday the women sat in parties knitting before their houses.
Trevenen, John (of Cornwall) (1781-1829), Journal of a Walk Through Wales in the Autumn of 1800, NLW facs 501, p. 19

1800, Caernarfon
Having climbed the rock behind the town [Caernarfon], which, it being a sunny day was covered with men and women knitting.
Trevenen, John (of Cornwall) (1781-1829), Journal of a Walk Through Wales in the Autumn of 1800, NLW facs 501, p. 28

1801, near Pontypool
I cannot speak too highly of the industry of the Welch women nor of the Idleness of the Men, the former always knitting as they walk along even with heavy loads upon their heads, they must make a number of stockings which I suppose they sell, for they all go bare foot and bare skin as they themselves term it.
Martyn, T., A Tour of South Wales, [1801], NLW MS 1340C, p. 150, p. 63

1801, Newtown
… linen, a course kind of which is sold at the stalls, as are shoes and stockings, turnery and crockery wares. … The women who stand with their baskets of spun wool along the street, and in every house the spinning wheel rattles incessantly.
Martyn, T., A Tour of South Wales, [1801], NLW MS 1340C, p. 150

1802, Snowdon
SPINNING AND WEAVING
The employ of the mountain people in summer and in winter besides feeding their cattle and dairy work, is that of carding and spinning their wool, of which they make cloth for their own wearing, and for sale in the neighbouring fairs and markets. Vast quantities of this and of excellent woollen stockings are carried to Llanrwst, Caernarfon and other markets, far and near. They also make great quantities of linsey-woolsey of different patterns, which they call stuff, for women’s gowns etc. and where there is more wool than the family can manufacture, it is sold at neighbouring fairs. Llanrwst fair, held on the 21st June, is their principal mart for wool; English buyers come there for it; and the price which it fetches at that fair is usually the standard for the year.
They also spin a good quantity of coarse linen cloth for their own use, and a great part of it is sold. They do not use much linen for their own wearing; they wear chiefly flannel shirts, and sleep between blankets.
The spinners and weavers of these hills have a measure peculiar to themselves. The yard they use is called the Welsh yard, which is 40 inches in length; by this, all their milled cloth, flannels, linseys and linen are sold.
Williams, William, (1738-1817), Observations on the Snowdon Mountains with some account of the customs and manners of the inhabitants. (1802), pp. 25-26

1802 Between Bala and Ffestiniog
Sketched a girl who we passed on the road with a bundle of heather on her back, knitting a stocking as she walked along … Here it may not be amiss to notice the industry of the Welsh females : we have not only observed them engaged in the more robust employments of the fields, but within doors they are never idle, being continually occupied either in spinning wool for their clothing or in knitting stockings for their children … some of the more skilful will complete one entirely in a day.
Skinner, John, Tour into South and North Wales, 1802, Cardiff Central Library, 1.497, p. 41

1803, Wales
In the interior parts of South Wales, almost every female is acquainted with the arts of carding and spinning wool, which they knit into stockings, wigs, caps etc. A woman will, by close application, card, spin and knit about four pairs of full sized stockings per week. These will take two pounds of wool, of such as the dealers refuse, and four ounces of oil. When brought to market, they will sell for about ten pence a pair. The account will stand thus – wool, 1s 8d. – oil 4d, sale of stockings 3s 4d gain 1s 4d. …
Of a family near Ystrad Meurig he wrote: ‘Her work was knitting, at which, with the assistance of her two eldest girls, one five and the other seven, if not interrupted, they could earn five pence a day …’
John Evans, Letters written during a tour through South Wales, in the year 1803, (1804), p. 349-350; 434

1802, near Llanelli
In this ride we proceeded at an uncertainty, till we were fortunately assisted by an agreeable matron, who was churning at the door of her cottage. Now, as the noise of her employment prevented our hearing each other, she was obliged to leave off; but, that the interval of a few moments from labour might not pass unproductively, she caught up her knitting needles at the same instant, and advanced the fabric of a stocking while she gave us our directions. Such instances of persevering industry were frequent throughout the principality; but more particularly so from hence westward, where not a female was to be seen unemployed in knitting, however she might be otherwise at work, in carrying loads or driving cattle.
Barber, J.T., Tour Throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire…, (1803), p. 32

1804 (about), Aberystwyth,
Aberystwyth is a place of considerable trade, and has a harbour, deep enough to receive the common Welch [sic] coasting vessels. It exports lead, calamine and some manufactured articles such as flannels and stockings, chiefly to Liverpool and Bristol
Feltham, John, A guide to all the watering and sea-bathing places: with a description of the Lakes, a sketch of a tour in Wales, and various itineraries … 1804 (and possibly earlier)

1804, Llanddewi Brefi (Cardiganshire)
In this country there is no particular manufacture, each family making their own apparel, except that of knitting, in which they are so expert, that it has been observed they can knit a stocking while a goose is roasting or a pot boiling : however, they will knit more than a pair in a day. The custom we observed on North Wales of meeting in each other’s houses from a view of sociality and economy, is observed here. They frequently knit what they call guird for no other wager but honour ; they let loose from bottoms or balls equal lengths of yarn tied together, and the first that knits up to the knots becomes the conqueror and receives the praise. Large quantities are got up and sent to the English markets. … In the interior parts of South Wales, almost every female is acquainted with the arts of carding and spinning wool, which they knit into stockings, wigs, caps etc. A woman will, by close application, card, spin and knit about four pairs of full sized stockings per week. These will take two pounds of wool, of such as the dealers refuse, and four ounces of oil. When brought to market, they will sell for about ten pence a pair. The account will stand thus – wool, 1s 8d. – oil 4d, sale of stockings 3s 4d gain 1s 4d. …
Evans, J, Letters written during a tour through South Wales, in the year 1803, and at other times : containing views of the history, antiquities, and customs of that part of the principality; and interspersed with observations on its scenery, agriculture, botany, mineralogy, trade and manufactures. pp. 357-8, 434

1805
Blue was the general colour, worn by both sexes, even down to the stockings.
Mavor, William Fordyce, 1758-1837, A tour in Wales, and through several counties of England: including both the universities ; performed in the summer of 1805, (London, 1806)

1805, Dolgellau to Tanybwlch
Went to see waterfalls … near 5th milestone on the turnpike from Dolgellau to Tanybwlch, Pistill y Cain. Difficult descent to it ‘but our astonishment was excited in beholding a woman who accompanied us from a house … going down the precipice with the utmost composure and knitting all the way as she went during the time that we, with the utmost difficulty, could keep on our feet.
Stephens, L., [Stephens, J.?], ‘Journey from Holyhead to Merionethshire and part of Montgomeryshire in October, 1805’ Cardiff Central Library, MS 1.179, p. 16

1806, Crickhowell
All their conduct discovers a surprising inertness, and there is little spirit of industry amongst them. The women do not seem to employ themselves either in knitting or spinning, therefore their poverty is extreme.
Spence, Elizabeth, (1768-1832), Summer Excursions through parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, and South Wales.

1806, Llanrwst
Trade in this district shews a becoming aspect, here it is carried on as it ought to be – not to excess as in England where it is worshipped as a god, body and soul sacrificed at its shrine. Here, everybody is in employ, Mines, Slates, Husbandry, Spinning, Weaving, Knitting, keep all hands agoing; life wears a smiling countenance, without the corroding cares and vexations attending the uncertain vicissitudes of commerce, the great Diana of the English nation; the swindler, the sharper and the thief, have no allurements to prey.
[The Market] ‘is always plentifully stored with all kinds of necessary articles, for the feeding and clothing of man. I heard it said that about three hundred pounds of stockings are sold in the morning before the market begins. These are not bought from a second hand, but from the people that knitted them the preceding week, and that at their leisure hours without neglecting their necessary occupation. …’
Williams, William, ‘A Survey of the Ancient and Present State of the County of Caernarvon by a Landsurveyor [William Williams] (1806) pp. 85-86, NLW Ms 821C, p. 84-5

1810 (about), near Cardigan
Manufactures and commerce: coarse stockings and flannel.
Rees, T., A Topographical and Historical Description of the Counties of South Wales, (London, 1815), For ‘The Beauties of England and Wales: or, original delineations, topographical, historical and descriptive of each country’. p. 414

1815 south Wales
In the mountainous parts of each [south Wales] county, women are industriously employed in knitting stockings; many of them coarse, which are brought to fairs, and bought for the use of the inferior military, &c. The Carmarthenshire Agricultural Society, whilst it lasted, encouraged both spinning and knitting by premiums, as employments congenial with the disposition of the female inhabitants. The domestic manufactures of flannels and stockings are now annually promoted by numerous premiums dispensed by the Cardiganshire Agricultural Society
Davies, Walter, General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of South Wales, (London, 1815), pp. 441-442

1817, Bala
Here is a considerable trade in worsted stockings and gloves, but should suppose it cannot be very flourishing as we se?thed more beggars at this place
Journal of Lieut Col George Brown’s tour of north Wales, National Library of Scotland, 2870, f. 36r – f. 37

1818, Bala
There is a good inn & it has a great trade for woollen stockings. We made several purchases. Most of the inhabitants appear constantly knitting. Close to the town is an artificial mound, which in summer is usually covered with knitters of both sexes.
Harriet Alderson, Gwynedd Record Office, XM/2600

1819, between Bettws y Coed and Llangollen
Faraday’s coach stopped in Snowdonia by a blind lady offering Welsh wigs (for 1/6d) and stockings at one shilling.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867) Dafydd Tomos, Michael Faraday in Wales : including Faraday’s journal of his tour through Wales in 1819 [1972] pp. 95-6

1824, near Bangor
… clambered up the hill at the back of the inn to a little cottage where a clean nice woman gave us some milk; and where we saw her mother spinning the yarn for worsted stocking.
Margaret Martineau, Hampshire Record Office, 83M93/21

1827, Llanrwst
… the street seems without inhabitants except the females who sit knitting on the thresholds of their doors. They will knit a pr of stockings in a day and a half. They knit for the Welsh shop keepers who sell them elsewhere by wholesale. These stockings are thin & very different from those they knit for their own wear.
Mrs Judith Beecroft, Tour of Wales, June and July, 1827 Cardiff Central Library, 2.325

1829 Cardiganshire
The Cardiganshire Agricultural Society offered prizes for knitting and spinning by cottagers in 1829
The winners for knitting were:
1st prize           58 pairs stockings for £6/10/0            (2s 3d each)
2nd prize          41 pairs £4/3/6                                    (2s each)
3rd prize           39 pairs for £4                                     (2s each)
(Ceredigion Museum 1974.17.1)

1830, Llangollen to Bangor road
At every place we stopped at in Merionethshire, the coaches were always surrounded by persons with lamb’s wool gloves and Welch wigs to sell. … The Women I have remarked never appear to be idle. On their way to market, they will not even allow their hands to remain idle, and as they walk along, they are either knitting stockings or some other profitable work.
de Vega, Juan, Journal of a Tour made by Senor Juan de Vega, the Spanish Minstrel of 1828-9 through Great Britain and Ireland, A character assumed by and English Gentleman. p. 235-6

1830, Bala
The town is considerable and famous for the manufacture of stockings and woollens.
Anon, Bangor, UCNW, 13473, p. 41

1831, Aberystwyth
Descending into the town, it still wore a foreign aspect, the narrowness of the streets, roughly paved, the picturesque looking houses; the women sitting on little stools with their various marketable commodities before them, and knitting their worsted hose;
Marsh, John Henry, (Cicestra) ‘Tour through south and north Wales; in 1831’ Cardiff Central Library, MS 3.589, pp. 25-26

1833, Bangor area
in Wales, the whole business and pleasure of women, old or young, seems to consist in knitting; and they must certainly wear more stockings than any other race of people, if all we saw in progress are ever worn out. None are to be seen without their work, which, from constant habit, might almost be done in sleep. When walking along the high-roads, every peasant seems so intent on her stocking, that she might as well be blindfolded for any notice she takes of her path.
Sinclair, Catherine, (1800-1864), Hill and Valley, or Hours in England and Wales 1833, (1st edition, New York, 1838), pp. 114, 117, (2nd Edition, Whyte and Co, Edinburgh, 1839), p. 141, 144

1835 (about)
These hermaphrodite stockings-gaiters are made of black or grey worsted – mostly black – and in the north the occupation of knitting, even as they walk about, is, the all in all with the Welsh women.
Anon (PEDESTRES), A Pedestrian Tour of Thirteen Hundred and Forty Seven Miles through Wales and England, (1836), vol 2,

1836, Bala
The town of Bala … has considerable trade in the manufacture of flannels, stockings, woollen comfortables, and Welsh wigs, and has five fairs annually.
Roscoe, Thomas, (1791-1871), Wanderings and Excursions in North Wales with 51 engravings by W Radcliffe from drawings by Cattermole, Cox, Creswick etc. (1836), p. 312

1837, Tan-y-Bwlch
At the pretty inn we purchased some worsted stockings of a young girl who supported her mother by her knitting, and went on to Harlech to tea.
Elizabeth Bower, Dorset Record Office, D/BOW:kw 209, p. 129

1837 Parson’s Bridge
guided ‘by a poor Welsh peasant girl of a very simple appearance, she could speak English a little and we learnt from her that she was engaged to knit stockings in the village of Spitty Kenwyn [Yspyty Cynfyn] for six pence a day, a very small amount but one which she seemed perfectly contented and satisfied.’
Horace, Francis, Journal of a tour 1837, NLW MSS 11596-7B, pp. 260-261

1844, Bala.
Were quite struck with the pretty dress & head-dress of the women and did not pass one that was not knitting as fast as her fingers could go. The stockings for sale are wonderfully cheap & good & are the principal article of trade in the place. ….
Friday 19th: Spent a quiet day & only went out for ½ hour to the little mount above the town where the women sit in the summer with their knitting. Were quite delighted with the cheerful smiling countenances of the women and wished we could make the Monmouthshire cottagers as industrious with their knitting needles and as neat in their dress.
Elizabeth Rolls, Gwent Record Office, F/P4 57, p. 5-7

1861
Of the men – some are engaged in leading or driving the horse and cart; others are carrying across their shoulder long rods, from which is suspended a seemingly countless number of pairs of stockings, or are loaded with rolls of flannel of their own manufacture.
Hall, Mr and Mrs, The book of South Wales, the Wye, and the coast, (1861), p. 299-303

1953
I am thankful that [our mothers’] work was knitting not sewing; they had not to sit stooping over their work in dark rooms; they could knit while in the fields with the scent of the wild flowers in their nostrils. My grandmother and my mother could knit very rapidly while reading the Bible on the little round table by their side, and sometimes, as they read and knitted, they would sing of the promise of God.
Hugh Evans (1854-1934), The Gors Glen, (translated from the Welsh), Lloyd, D.M., and E.M., (editors) A Book of Wales, (1953), p. 154

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