Textile Terms: On Tenterhooks

It’s been so long since anyone has seen either a tenter, or the hooks on one, that the word and the idea behind it are now quite mysterious, but at one time, the phrase on tenterhooks would have evoked an image that was immediately understandable.
Tenter hooks were L-shaped staples, much like a bent nail, placed at regular intervals on a rectangular wooden tenter frame. When cloth emerged wet from the fulling process it was stretched out on these hooks, preventing it from shrinking as it dried – hence the phrase ‘being on tenterhooks’.

  • What may be the last remaining 18th century tenter frames in the world, at Otterburn Mill, Northamptonshire, England.

It comes from one of the processes of making woolen cloth. After it had been woven, the cloth still contained oil and dirt from the fleece.  It needed to be fulled and blocked, much like handknitters treat their finished garments today. After  fulling, the cloth was stretched taut on frames, or  tenters, and the tenter hooks were the metal hooks used to attach the cloth to the frame. At one time, it would have been common in manufacturing areas to see fields full of these frames (older English maps sometimes marked an area as a tenter-field). So it was not a huge leap of the imagination to think of somebody on tenterhooks as being in an state of anxious suspense, stretched like the cloth on the tenter. The tenters have gone, but the meaning has survived.

 

Tenter comes from the Latin tendere, to stretch, via a French intermediate. The word has been in the language since the fourteenth century, andon tenters soon after became a phrase meaning painful anxiety. According to the folks at historicjamestown.org, where this photo appears, the figurative use of tenterhooks to describe someone’s suffering or suspense goes back centuries. For example, in 1601 Robert Chester wrote in Love’s Martyr or Rosalin’s Complaint: “Rack on the tenter-hooks of foule disgrace.”)

(information from World Wide Words, Exeter City Council Time Trails, and Historic Jamestowne)

 

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Knitting Books: Folk Socks, by Nancy Bush

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More than just a book of patterns, Folk Socks opens with a useful series of concise articles on the history of stockings, beginning with ancient examples made with cloth or leather, the transition to naalbinding and then knitting, the growth of the stocking as fashion accessory, and the transition from hand to machine production. There are also brief sections on knitting tools and knitted stocking traditions in countries throughout Europe. This is one of the best short accounts I’ve seen. Nancy Bush knows her stuff and how to present info in an interesting way. She also provides a good tutorial of the “anatomy” of socks and the various techniques used to knit the individual parts, including “clock” designs.

The rest of the volume contains patterns designed to represent traditional socks/stockings from 18 different countries. These patterns are beautiful, but many are quite complex, requiring sophisticated knitting skills and experience. I would be able to make most of them, and if planning to use them for display purposes, might give them a try. All but a few would be very time consuming to produce, however, and nice as they are to admire, I’d never wear them. I enjoyed reading Folk Socks, and have referred back to it many times in my work as amateur textile historian.

An updated edition of this book is now available.

Ideas for Small but Special Christmas Gifts: Little Felted Snowman

Over the years I’ve occasionally added felting articles to Dances with Wools, but except for mittens, not very many actual patterns. Several years back, I subscribed to another fiber arts blog, Crafts n Coffee, and while I enjoyed my explorations over there, the site appears to be no longer active. This adorable needle felted snowman made its appearance, and it looked like so much fun to make that I saved the photo for future crafting. It’s simple enough to make without a pattern, and if you’re not into needle felting, the two balls that make up this little guy could be made by wet felting some fleece (rolling it around between the hands like making dryer balls or cat toys.)  My granddaughter wants to call him, what else, Frosty!

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Glam Knitters: Catherine Zeta-Jones

 

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Though I’ve been a fan of Catherine Zeta-Jones since seeing her amazing performance in Chicago, I never knew she’s Welsh until today while reading about her knitting in one of my email sites. In this photo, CZJ was captured knitting behind the scenes on the movie set of  Mask of Zorro. Further, she’s rumored to have taught costar Antonio Banderas to knit .  And apparently, in 2004 she knitted ponchos for her entire family!  Hmm… Michael Douglas in a poncho?

 

 

 

Ideas for Small but Special Christmas Gifts: Pipsqueak Polar Bear Hat

imageThe most adorable hat pattern I’ve seen all year! Requires only one skein of Bernat’s Pipsqueak yarn, which is light and soft as a cloud. And it knits up fast on size  10 (US) needles. I’ve made several of these charmers and they’re always a hit. What a cool gift for any little person living where it gets cold in winter.

Find the free pattern at:

Michaels.com .

 

Ideas for Small but Special Christmas gifts

 

Not just for Christmas, but for any occasion. Today I found this pretty pattern for mitts on garnstudio.com’s collection of Halloween items to knit. What attracted me to them is the simple yet elegant pattern, knitted in garter stitch with a pretty picot edge. The pair in the photo is made in fingering weight on size 2.5 mm/1.5 US straight needles. This is a great site with lots of helpful features. There is, for example, a conversion chart for changing between mm and inches, another for adapting the pattern for different weight yarns, and there are nine tutorials for this pattern alone. Drops Delight is the yarn used, and as the mitts require only one 50 gram skein, they can be made for less than $5.00!

I’m going to whip up several pairs to have on hand for last minute gifts. Starting tonight while watching the World Series. Go, Red Sox!

Link to the pattern:


https://www.garnstudio.com/pattern.php?id=6368&cid=17