Alarming cross-dressing, traditional costume – and knitting…

I was at a friend’s house earlier, enjoying a cuppa and a biscuit, when she pulled out a small book. ‘Take a look at this,’ she said, putting the book on my lap and carefully avoiding the sadly starving collie who was begging for gingernuts. ‘It should interest you, there’s knitting.’

When you have any links to Wales, you do get used to the jokes. A friend of mine was a stand up comic in London during the early 90s and regularly came on stage to a chorus of bleating, and there are whole websites devoted to sheep jokes and the Welsh. It’s all crap, of course, but sometimes… well, let’s just say the cause of high Cymric seriousness is undermined from within.

what the?

This is the sort of thing that went on before people had televisions to accompany their knitting. And there are some who think their introduction was a bad thing.

All the caption (in Welsh) does is identify the people involved, and I shall spare any existing relatives full identification; anyway, there are no ‘surnames’ as such, just last names formed by where they lived, as is quite usual. We have Jack, Howell, Richard and Tom, Tom being the one sock knitting in the front (I think). They look like a lively group of lads, and not unlike some of my friends from round here today. Why two of them should have succumbed to the call of their feminine sides I have no idea, but I reckon this is the best use of traditional dress I’ve seen in a long time. I should really have saved it for Gwyl Dewi Sant (St David’s Day)…

On a more serious note, this is before World War One. I must check the names on the war memorial; far too many young men from round here died on the Western Front. I do hope Jack, Howell, Richard and Tom were not among them.

(Photograph from Hên Dref Harlech a Phentre Llanfair, by Dr Lewis Lloyd and Martin Eckley)


6 thoughts on “Alarming cross-dressing, traditional costume – and knitting…

    1. kate Post author

      I’m still a fan of Mr Sock-Knitter…

      I really would love to know what they were up to. I shall have to talk to some of the older people around and see if they can throw any light on it. Of course, they might prefer to keep quiet…

  1. Lydia

    Interesting…. fancy dress parties were common for young people growing up in Caernarfon back in the late 19th early 20th century – complicated costumes were made too. I have a photo of my Father in a fantastic Micky Mouse costume in around 1930 and his father in turn used to go to lavish fancy dress does with all his sisters and brothers in the 1890’s….. so perhaps that explains the photo…..

    1. kate Post author

      Sounds about right, Caernarfon isn’t that far away. But why the posh togs combined with sock knitting?

      Old photos often leave you with so many unanswerable questions. Sigh.

    1. kate Post author

      and so they should… Sometimes the people in old photos look as though they’re from a vanished world (as indeed they are to some extent) and sometimes they look startlingly contemporary, like the sock knitter. Lovely.


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