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S/3350 Antique Treen 18th Century Mahogany Cumbrian Knitting Sheath

A rare 18th century mahogany Cumbrian knitting sheath, signed Hannah Hunt er (Hunter) and dated 1780. It has chip carving on three sides, with a carved hand pointing to the raised hole at the end for the string attachment. It has a most unusual needle head with six holes and a cut out angled channel for the cow band. This fine example is a lovely item for the collector, and is in good condition, has a lovely rich colour and excellent patination.

The carved hand, as carved on this sheath, represents the Hand of God, a symbol used from the earliest periods of Christianity. The hand, as in this instance, may have the index finger pointing symbolically to heaven.

An almost identical example is illustrated on page 26, number one, with relevant text on pages 24-25 in The Knitting Sheath by Peter Brears. This example is the earliest yet recorded, inscribed Ann Read, born 1773 and is in the Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley. The hand symbol is also found on other artefacts from Cumberland (now part of the county of Cumbria).

For reference: see Hands on page 11 and 12 in North Country Folk Art by Peter Brears.

Sold 5 in. (14.5 cm.) Wide
1 in. (2.5 cm.) Deep
in. (2 cm.) High
English Circa 1780