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Meet the dolls 4 – The Coal Miner

The final doll in my final university project. I planned on seven, but really, when it came down to it, my obsession to the little details just took the time and I think I’d rather do four dolls really well, than rush seven.


The coal miner is more modern and I’ve named him not after a Yorkshire coal miner, but one from Spennymoor in County Durham. Norman Cornish, a coal miner from the age of 14, who took advantage of art classes for miners and became an artist in his 40s. (

I’ve even used some modern technologies, sewable electronics to make a working head lamp.


I’m sure many folk are thinking why have I made a coal miner when I’m making dolls that represent traditional crafts, and at first the coal miner was the doll I was going to leave until last. Then a few weeks ago I was with my parents and a programme was on the TV which showed a clip about the Lofthouse colliery disaster from 1973, I’d have been 1 years old (yep, I’m sticking with 35 being my current age). My mum looked up and said, ‘oh, your dad was there’.

No, my dad wasn’t a coal miner, although he was a Bevin boy in the war. He was a Salvation Army officer and spent a lot of time providing support to the men during the search for survivors. It reminded me also of a time when years later, as a young Salvation Army member I was collecting money door to door in a nice middle class Lancashire area. It was during the time of the miners strikes. I remember one door opening and a man telling me he wouldn’t give to the Army because we gave to the miners. I didn’t get it being so young, but as I remember the story I decided the miner had to be made.

The dolls represent traditions that are dying out or how I sometimes feel about knitting, becoming only for the privileged. When I was young, people made their own clothes because they couldn’t afford to buy ready made. Now we’re in a place where poorer folk shop at Primark and the wealthy go on sewing classes or extravagant knitting holidays.

I was talking to a lady in the cafe at the National Coal Mining museum a few days ago about crafting. She told me she was a quilter and began quilting to use up all the scraps that she had left over from dress making. But then her husband spoke – describing what she does. He said she buys a yard of fabric, cuts it into pieces and sews the pieces back together to make a quilt. Quilting was once, using up your left over fabric, doll making was using up your left over wool. Now though, there is a worry that crafting is moving from the working classes to an expensive and privileged hobby.

It’s not wrong though (to be a wealthy crafter) and perhaps my gripes should be for another post.

The coal mining industry is another craft (because it is incredibly skilled) that has been lost and although the dolls have been made as a celebration of Yorkshire life and craftsmanship, I wonder if, in the future they’ll be seen as a look into a forgotten past.


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Meet the dolls 3 – The Knitter

Betty, our knitting doll has been named after Betty Yewdale who, with her friend Sally, were sent to a knitting school in Dent to learn to knit. They hated the school and ran away. Their story is well told here Betty’s tale


The knitters were often known as the terrible knitters of Dent and like me, they knitted during church services (Hooray!) but unlike me they knitted very fast.

One of the many items knitted in Dent are the fine gloves, knitted similarly to Sanquhar gloves in a fair isle style pattern.


So, my doll had to have her own knitting and is currently up to the fingers of her second glove. The first one (which took me 6 hours knitted on five 1.5mm double pointed needles) is in her basket along with her balls of wool.

She has a hand knitted plain shawl and a hand carved knitting sheath tucked into her leather belt.


I think the hardest part of making this doll was remembering to stop making the second glove so Betty could hold the knitting.

Betty has been made after visiting the Dent Village museum and falling a wee bit in love with the people in the museum. Dent Museum

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Purses and Pence Jugs

I know… My posts are like buses, none for ages then several at once. I promise though, I’ve been working hard and doing some interesting things.

One very interesting project I’ve been working on is with the Knitting and Crochet Guilds archives near Holmfirth (check out “last of the Summer wine to see how beautiful this place is).

The archives are a huge collection of knitted and crocheted items, books, needles, hooks, yarn, patterns… If it’s yarn related it’s probably found here and I was totally in heaven.

Way back in August I was at the ‘In the loop’ conference in Glasgow and heard a talk by Barbara Burnam about miser purses, then in November I wrote a blog post called ‘Thinking the future through the past’ It talked about Miser purses and how I saw a future in the simple design of the purses.

I’d been carrying around the Crochet Traditions 2011 edition (available from Interweave) fr many years. It had an article by Gwen Blakley Kinsler about the miser purse and a pattern t make your own. It was one of those patterns we keep in the hope that one day, we’ll get around to it.

For years, that pattern and article had been my only link to a miser purse and it’s history. The In the loop conference allowed me to see a miser purse up close, although in a sealed box and as it was passed around the room I felt it was more a glance than a good look.

It was a few weeks ago, while at the KAC archives that I came across a small box labelled netted purses. Inside the box were 3 small netted miser purses. Here, at last, was my chance to look up close to a miser purse.

Through the sorting at the archives I’ve since found other boxes with old handmade purses and also come across another great purse idea, the pence jug.

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These tiny purses look like flat jugs with a ring on the handle, pennies were put inside the jug and the ring pulled over the top of the ‘jug’ securing the opening.

My response to the archives has been to make some purses inspired by what I’ve found. The purses from the archives and my own inspirations from them will be on display in a small exhibition in the Quayside building at Huddersfield University starting the 11th April.

But for those who can’t be there, here’s a sneak preview of my own attempt at a pence jug.


I didn’t write down the pattern, although I could do. I used a 1.60mm hook and size 20 cotton. Made a double crochet base (single crochet – USA) then beaded the edge. The top is a crochet fan and back post triple crochet, double crochet handle with a beaded ring. Finally I made a tassel for the base.