Laundry: how would you score?

This is my grandmother’s school certificate for Domestic Subjects for the school year 1928-29. She was 13. I’m particularly interested in the laundrywork aspect. Until I thought about it, I had no idea that you would learn that in particular at school. I knew about the cookery and general housekeeping parts, but had imagined that you would learn about washing clothes at home. But of course, Monday was traditionally wash day and girls would have been at school for much of it.

I dread to think how I would have scored in these subjects, aged 13. How about you?

Sewing Stories: Pride in your Work

Diane was one of my subjects for a piece of research on learning to sew at school in the 1940s and ’50s. A lifelong devotee, she still sews her clothes today and is pleased that her eyesight is still good enough at 79 to handsew invisible stitches.

Needlework - RPGiles


Diane: Gradually at school… we… did all sorts of sewing. Samplers and antimacassars and then… as we… progressed [gestures upwards here] to the senior school we made aprons to use in cookery there and [trails off] In the first year of school we made clothes for ourselves [4 second pause, gestures movements of using a hand cranked sewing machine] and that set me really for life.

Ingrid: Did you get taught to do that [sew from a pattern] at school? Is that

Diane: [both speak at same time] Well, I was taught…

Ingrid: …the basis of…

Diane: Well I was taught how to cut out… how to cut out, um, patterns at school. And… we sewed blouses and things like that… but it was in me somehow [emphasises words and concurrently clasps hands to her heart]

Diane: When I was about…I suppose I must have been about thirteen, our teacher, was getting married. And that was…[quieter voice] thirteen, so that’s, thirty, forty, what do you think…forty-nine, something like that… just after the war.

[louder once more] she brought in her trou- trousseau to be, um, sewn. [proudly] So I was the one who sewed all of the seams, by hand. She, uh, must of thought that I was good enough to do it, because… well my little hemming stitches were perfect [huge, beaming smile]

Technical Stuff: Yarn Weights

Holly Handspun Yarn by Marlana. Used under Creative Commons License.

Just when you thought that you were on top of your knitting lingo, along comes something else to learn. As a beginner knitter, you might just grab whatever yarn and needles come your way, but soon enough you will come to realise that there are differences in yarn weights and indeed in what they are called. For instance you might be using an American pattern, but be based in the UK and wonder what on earth sportweight yarn is in the first place …let alone where you find it, and why aran weight yarn won’t do instead.

The basic reason for needing to use the right weight of yarn is for sizing. If your yarn is too thick or too thin, you can’t get the right tension and your sizing will be out. Because of this, it is important to know about the differences in yarn weights, and what they are variously called.

Here are some general guidelines:

UK – 2-ply/ Lace
US – Baby / Laceweight
UK – 3-ply
US – Light Fingering

UK – 4-ply
US – Fingering

UK – (light-ish DK)
US – Sport weight

UK- Double Knitting
US – Double Knitting / Worsted

UK – (light-ish Aran weight)
US – Worsted

UK – Aran
US – Aran / Fisherman

UK – Bulky
US – Chunky

UK – Superbulky
US – Superchunky

As you can see, sometimes there isn’t a direct equivalent for the yarns, but you can generally make a near- match. Another useful thing to know is that sock weight yarn will be either 3-ply or 4-ply, depending on the manufacturer, but due to its need to wear well, it will often have nylon content or be a superwash wool, which withstands machine washing.