Hello again shibor12
After further research, I am confident that you must be thinking of a
knitting sheath, also known as a knitting stick. These were used for
keeping one needle static, although they were attached to the
knitter's clothing, not used in the hand. In fact, one of the reasons
they were so helpful is that they freed one hand to take more control
of the yarn, or perform other tasks.
The sheath was tucked into the knitter's waistband or belt, or even
stitched onto an apron. In Yorkshire (England) they were called
knitting sticks and had a short tubular opening for the end of a
double-pointed needle. A curved piece would hook in at the waist and
the whole thing might be covered in decorative carving.
Whatever the design, the sheath had to have both a slot for the end of
the needle and a way of attaching it to clothing. Knitting sheaths
were especially important to women who had to produce hand-knitted
goods for sale, as the fixed needle helped them work faster and more
"The knitters wore a belt into which was tucked on the right side, a
knitting sheath or stick. These sticks had a hole bored through the
centre in which the needle nearest on the right, fitted and was held
rigid. Most of the work was done by the left needle. Not only could
the knitters work faster this semi rigid way, the tension they
produced was tighter and the work more even than by the modern English
way of handknitting. Often a lad would carve as a betrothal token, a
knitting stick for his lass. In the Dales, the favourite type of
knitting stick was a shape known as the goose quill, which was curved
and elegant.. The yarn was held in [a] holder hooked on to the belt."
Knitting in the Yorkshire Dales
"Early knitting needles were made without knobs on the ends, and a
special tool, the knitting sheath, was made to support one needle in
the work. It was tucked under the arm or hooked on to the waistband of
a skirt or apron to enable the knitter to work more quickly and
The Tools of the Trade
"Professional production knitters all over Europe and England used
knitting sticks to hold the 'active' needle, which freed the right
hand to manipulate the yarn and needle tips for increased speed."
And here's the one picture I've found of someone using a knitting
Mrs. Clara Sedgwick
They were known in the USA too.
Gertrude L. Vanderbilt, writing about "the descendants of the Dutch
settlers" and "the traditions, customs, and manners of the Dutch"
"A knitting sheath was used by these old ladies, pinned at the waist,
and their method of holding their needles differed from that of the
knitting of the present time in the use of this knitting sheath."
The Social History of Flatbush
And knitting sheaths feature in this poem from Massachusetts:
"All the younger maids and matrons;
Put away their socks unfinished,
Their yarn and knitting-sheaths. . ."
The First Sewing-Circle
Here are some antique knitting sheaths:
19th century sheaths
1 - treen Knitting Sheath in elm carved heart and leafage branch,
spiral turned handle with metal ferrule 10 3/4in
2 - treen Knitting Sheath scratch carved with large heart motif,
turned and fluted handle, 11 3/4in
("treen" means wooden)
"A 19th Century "witches heart" knitting sheath in brass, pierced
round the edge to enable it to be sewn onto the dress or apron. The
knitting needle fits into a hole in the stem, overall length 5
Picture of the brass knitting sheath
Another heart-shaped knitting sheath, silver this time.
Picture of an ivory knitting stick
Picture of a fruitwood goosewing knitting sheath
"a picture of some Dentdale knitting sheaths, which you hooked into
your belt and and used as a holder for one of the knitting needles."
One company is offering modern reproductions of knitting sticks.
"Traditional Knitting Sticks [...]in Russian Olive ($35.00), Black
Walnut with Maple Inlay ($40.00) aromatic Red Cedar ($25.00). We also
have Hickory ($30.00) and White Pine ($23.00).
Also made just for us: a Suede Knitting Belt. . .strap it around your
hip and fit the dp [double pointed] needle into any of the holes. As
with the above Knitting Sticks, these are used for speed knitting.
I should point out that in some places "knitting sticks" was simply
the name for "knitting needles" so there is room for confusion.
Many thanks for a very interesting question. As soon as I saw it, I
remembered having heard of English sock-knitters fixing their knitting
onto a belt. Since then I have checked various websites on the history
of knitting including this very interesting collection of messages:
I also tried out a number of Google search strategies (see below)
without hearing of any other tool for holding a knitting needle still
while working with yarn.
I hope this is interesting and helpful for you. Please don't hesitate
to ask if I can clarify anything.
Regards - Leli
knitting history tool tools
also combinations of words like:
knit, knitting, needle, needles, static, steady, rigid
this search led me to the phrase "knitting sheath":
knitting needle tool waistband
history knitting sheath sheaths sticks
By the way, these are examples of "knitting thimbles" worn on the
index finger to control strands of different-colored wool:
Clarification of Answer by
15 May 2003 01:01 PDT
Thank *you* for the thank-yous!
Unfortunately I don't think there is any picture online of the
Schoolhouse Press knitting sticks. Perhaps you could ask them if
there's a picture in their printed mail-order catalogue?
"When you call Schoolhouse Press, you may reach Meg or Eleanor... or
part-time Michelle (Meg's daughter-in-law) or VERY part-time Tami.
Phones are staffed Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., CST.
Outside those hours, there is an answering machine to take your call.
We'll be pleased to help you with knitting difficulties or questions
if you call 715-884-2799 during our business hours. [..] Please call
if you need a description."
They don't have an online ordering system for first-time buyers and
ask you to call, fax or write.
"In addition to checks, Schoolhouse Press accepts Visa, Mastercard,
6899 Cary Bluff
Pittsville WI 54466
or, Call 1-800-YOU-KNIT (800-968-5648)
or, Fax (715) 884-2829"
If you choose to mail a check, you can print out the form on this page
to specify your order:
If you call them and give your credit card details, you can just use
email for any future orders.
There's more about the small family-run company here:
I searched for other stores, but this seems to be the only one with a
website selling knitting sticks. I do hope you'll be able to get all
the details you need from them and end up with exactly what you want.
Good luck with the knitting!