Monday, December 26, 2011

Terrible Knitters

Whilst reading "Knit One, Purl a Prayer: A Spirituality of Knitting" I was intrigued by the following activity described in a section entitled Knitting Along the Lines. 

Activity
Choose a single line or phrase from a sacred text or scripture and read it aloud slowly.  Hold these words in your heart as you knit along the row, saying the words silently as a mantra.

Thinking about this brought the Terrible Knitters of Dent to mind who I recall hearing about some years ago.  My curiosity aroused I googled.  The Terrible Knitters of Dent were not called terrible because they were lousy knitters; no quite the opposite.  Terrible referred to the incredible speed at which they moved the wool and needles.  The knitters were so accomplished in their dexterity that they could knit whilst undertaking other activities such as churning butter or wrapping cheese; true multi-taskers.  And it wasn't just women who were multi-tasking!  Shepherds, carters, navvies and quarrymen would all knit on their way to work. 

Mike Bagshaw in his travel guide "Slow North Yorkshire" describes how an 18th century traveller peering through a Dent cottage window on a winter's eve would see an eerie and disturbing sight.  Reading his guide got me musing and knitting together some words of my own.....

The Knitters of Dent

Let me tell you traveller of a terrible fright
my eyes beheld, in Dent, one winter's night

Portrayed upon a wall in black
eerie shadows danced, swaying front and back

They danced to a strange chanting and singing
and a continuous rhythm of click, click clicking

But when I faced my fears I found no coven of witches
just a mere circle of men and women, with needles and stitches

Swaying gently like trees in a breeze
they knitted with truly astonishing ease

Farmers, quarrymen, navvies and wives
each knitted patterns that shaped their lives

And helping them achieve all that was tasked
one carved hollow goose quill, to the waist was clasped

There's but one thing I'll add about those knitters in Dent
they knit with unrivalled dexterity and sheer fearsome intent

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