In a recent Countryman magazine, a reader asked if anyone could identify an object found in Norfolk.
It was a knitting belt.
I have always wondered how widespread the use of the knitting belt was.
Prior to the commercially produced knitting belt, a straw version, a wisp, was used by tucking it into the waistband, and knitting needles could then be stuck into the end.
These and wooden versions were used in many areas of the UK.
Apparently, it is thought that although other devices were once used to support the right needle in the UK and elsewhere, the knitting belt is perhaps unique to Shetland, where they are called “makkin belts”.
However, they were possibly also used in the north east of Scotland. I know I have seen one in a museum in Nairn, near Inverness.
Knitters in Shetland wore their belts everywhere, walking home with a “kishie” full of peat, gathered with other knitters around the fire, the belt would still be in use because there was still knitting to be done.
The “makkin belt” consisted of a leather pad stuffed with horsehair and attached to a belt. The technique requires the use of double point needles.
Shetlanders still use them.
So, how did a knitting belt come to be found in Norfolk?
I wonder if gutter girls from Shetland, who followed the herring all down the Scottish coast and as far as Great Yarmouth, gutting the herring, (taking their knitting with them to work on when off duty) introduced the knitting belt to others as they traveled.
If anyone has any information about knitting belts used elsewhere, I would love to know!