18th Century Knitting Sheaths

Last updated: Jan 5, 2024

Antique Collecting provides a good description of knitting sheaths and their use:

Sheaths were used to mend and darn socks, gloves, hats and wool items; more importantly they were used to supplement their incomes by making and selling socks. These sewing tools were found mainly in rural areas in Wales, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Scotland and Northumberland, the majority were made in wood; other materials included leather, metal, bone, straw and quills.

They were used by placing the end of the stick against the right hand hip, tucked into the waistband, or belt, at an angle, so a double ended knitting stick could be placed in the ‘haft’ – hole, at the opposite end, which was about 1" deep. This therefore secured the knitting stick, and freed the right hand so the knitter could knit at speed, also whilst standing or walking.

Opus Antiques further describes how to use a knitting sheath:

An antique knitting sheath was a holder where one end of a needle was placed and then the sheath was tucked into a belt worn around the waist. Some of the knitting sheaths have a diagonal slot in them where apron strings/ribbons could hold them in place. The needle is held in position by the antique knitting sheath and allows one hand to be freed up. A knitting sheath made knitting quicker and enabled people to knit on the move.
  • V&A 774-1907, a carved boxwood knitting sheath with a brass lining, with the initials AT and the inscription, ‘I am box and brass within, my place is on your apron string’
  • Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery 1965T718, a boxwood knitting sheath made c. 1600-1750, probably in France or Italy
  • V&A 129-1908, a knitting sheath inscribed with the date 1740 and the name ‘Thomos Smith’ and the initials EP
  • DAR Museum, a silver heart-shaped knitting sheath engraved with the initials S.S. and the year 1740
  • Opus Antiques SA399547, a dated knitting sheath 1746, with some chip carving and the initials TE
  • Call-me-naive.com 18th century knitting sheath inscribed with the letter P
  • W A Pinn & Sons Antiques, 18th century chip carved knitting sheath with initials and dated 1768. Two captive balls, one of which has a protrusion out of the end. This appears ot be broken and may have had a loop on the end.
  • Christie’s Sale 4472, Lot 31, a late 18th century boxwood knitting sheath, finely incised and chip carved, with owner's initials EP, and dated 1771
  • Laidlaw Apr 8 2016, Lot 396, a late 18th century oak knitting sheath, chip carve with a saltire design and engraved ‘A.R Feb th 21’
  • Tennants 10 May 2014, Lot 1059, an 18th century carved knitting sheath inscribed ‘JANE WRIGHT / FOR THIS GIFT/ Decbr 4th 1799 / knit me A PAIR of GLOVES’
  • Opus Antiques: “A rare 18th century knitting sheath all carved from one piece of fruitwood. Fabulously made chain with hook to bottom for supporting the knitting, two balls and cages, chip carved work, moving ring. The top has a small hole for fine knitting.”
  • W A Pinn & Sons Antiques, a selection of knitting sheaths of carved and turned wood. Some named and dated 18/19th century.