Tuesday 9 February 2010

Long Stitch Ships

You already know that my father was a navy man, so I won't bore you with more. He was a great cook and a great believer in keeping everything ship-shape-and-Bristol-fashion. However, I have no recollection that he ever did, or could, ply a needle. Maybe because my mother would always have beaten him hands down. But just as men would knit, men stitched. They had to. Not all men had the luxury of a wife, and clothes could not be simply bought off the peg before the late 1800s. Certainly not sailors' slops. These had to be cobbled together from whatever was available - even sail canvas and tarpaulin.
But one thing I do remember about my father - he was a rigging fanatic and I was taught the ropes (and morse code) instead of being read bed-time stories. Sailors love ropes and knots - and here you can see the detailed evidence of this fact. You can also see the length of the stitches. Was it so the work could be quickly completed? I wouldn't have thought so, I would have thought their ship would have been lovingly and painstakingly laboured upon whether in the long hours at sea, or the dull days on shore. Perhaps it was the better to conserve the wool.

And it would be mistaken to believe that only sailors stitched images such as these. I have seen soldiers' wool work pictures of tanks. However, this submarine is the first I have seen.


  1. Very nice!

    My dad was a navy man, too.... though a different navy, I suppose!

  2. Great pictures Jacqueline, especially the top one. It is beautifully composed. Do you suppose the stitcher made it up or was copying a picture or pattern?
    My dad was also a sailor and navy man. I well remember his frustration when trying to teach me to tie knots. I was completely inept with anything more challenging than a square knot. Sounds like you were a better,and more willing, student.
    Thanks for an interesting post.

  3. I would so love to know if there were patterns or paintings from which these designs were taken - I can see I shall have to make a trip to the War Museum and Greenwich to find out some more!