Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yorkshire Goose Wings

The first time I made and tried knitting with a Yorkshire "goose wing" knitting sheath, I was just amazed at the perfection of the concept. They tuck into apron strings and sit on the point of the right hip and hold a knitting needle in just the right spot for good knitting. Over the last few years, I have made a bunch of them.

When I did not want to wear an apron to knit with them, I would just tie sash around my waist and tuck the goose wing into the sash.

However, goose wings do not work so well with the wide leather belts I tend to wear with jeans around the house. The Cornish "knitting fish" have always worked better wide belts. And, the goose wings tend poke the leather easy chair that my wife made me buy to be my "knitting chair" in the living room. (During the day, when she is not home, I like to knit seated in a folding chair in the kitchen.) Think about how many of the old drawings show knitters seated on stools or benches rather than seated in chairs.

The other day, everywhere I went seemed to have nice work aprons on sale. I took it as a sign that should do something with goose wings. Then Abbot, my favorite Smith, asked about goose wings and I knew it was time to revisit goose wings. He also likes to wear wide leather belts.

They poke, so grind off the "pokey" tips. Done!

Now grind groves so the apron strings stay in place and anchor the sheath firmly in place. DONE!

[With goose wings in apron strings the resistance of the knitter's abdominal tissue provides some spring action allowing fast, low effort knitting even with ridgid (brass & aluminium), or weak (wood) needles. This is particularly useful for lace which is too loose a fabric to use the fabric as a spring to assist the knitting. The goose wing really is a brilliant tool design. ]

Cut the "blade" thin enough to slip under a leather belt. Grind an offset tab at the end of the blade to catch on the lower edge of a leather belt to anchor the goose wing under a leather belt. Done!

They work exceptionally well with steel needles from ~6" to 12" long, but last night I was using them with 18" gansey needles and they worked very well indeed! A heavy leather belt was worn very low around my hips and the sheath was tucked in over my right buttock. Close to perfect performance (in my folding chair -I do not use the gansey needles in the leather chairs. The arm rests impair needle movement.)

Sometimes, I live in a bent world.


paisleyapron said...

Thanks for posting this. I would love to see a picture/video of you knitting with these. I can't quite get my brain around how these fit into the apron strings.

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

LOVE this discussion, love the beautiful knitting sheaths. I'm mad about the history and ergonomics of old time knitting too. Think I'll have to get one of these, even though I habitually use circulars. Can't resist another traditional knitting tool.

Aaron said...

Look back through the Blog there is a pix at and more videos toward the beginnning of 2008

Anonymous said...

Found your blog today after trying to figure out what a knitting sheath was used for. Terrific info, thanks!

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catballoo said...

My mother-in-law used to have one of these but told me she held it under her arm. Does anyone know where you can purchase goosewings? My sister has had a stoke but has retained the use of her right arm and as a knitter would love to be able to knit again, this appears to be the only possible solution. Unfortunately the family one must have been thrown out when her house was cleared, very sad but I did manage to save some of her very old sewing accessories.
Thank you, Pat

catballoo said...

My mother-in-law had a goosewing that she held under her arm but it must have been thrown out when she died. My sister has had a stroke and I think this could enable her to continue knitting. Does anyone know where you can purchase goosewings? I do hope so.

Thank you, Pat

Aaron said...

I have a few around, for what size needles? Let's talk about what she needs.


catballoo said...

Thank you Aaron, I won't be going to see her over the weekend so as to leave visiting places to her children and their families but I will check needle size with her on Monday. She will be thrilled at the chance to knit again, I really appreciate your reply,
Thank you, Pat

catballoo said...

Hi Aaron, she uses UK size 10 needles which I believe are US size 3 (or metric 3.75mm.
I have been trying to think of other crafts she can do one handed but nothing as yet.
Thank you,
regards Pat