Month: April 2016

Hand Knitted Socks

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sock 2

My favourite item that we have in the museum is a sock that belonged to Robert Burns himself. They are hand knitted and all this hard work is thought to have been done by a member of his family, they have also been lovingly embroidered with his initials which is a very nice personal touch. What is interesting about the socks is that we can tell from them that Burns would have worn a size 8 shoe.


Knitting socks is very difficult but if you fancy a challenge and like the idea of your handy work potentially being in a museum in about 200 years then maybe you could have a go at knitting your own loved one some socks using the knitting pattern below.

26.5 cm (10-1/2 ins)

You need:

  • 2 balls (100 g) Sock Wool
  • Set of four 4 mm double-pointed needles
  • Stitch holder
  • Scrap of contrasting colour yarn
  • Tapestry needle

cm = centimetre(s)
g = gram(s)
in(s) = inch(es)
k = knit
mm = millimetre(s)
p = purl
psso = pass slipped stitch over
rem = remain(s)(ing)
rep = repeat
rnd(s) = round(s)
sl = slip
st(s) = stitch(es)
tog = together

20 sts and 28 rows = 10 cm/4 ins in stocking stitch using 4 mm needles.

With the exception of the heel, which is worked back and forth on 2 needles, these socks are worked “in the round,” to avoid a bumpy seam, using 4 double-pointed needles. The stitches are evenly distributed on 3 needles which form a triangle; the remaining needle is the working needle. When you work in the round, the right side is always facing you.

To make:
Loosely cast on 44 sts. Divide so 14 sts are on each of first 2 needles and 16 sts are on third needle. Being careful not to twist sts, join in rnd, pulling yarn firmly to prevent a gap.

Round 1 (right side): [K1,p1] to end of rnd. Mark end of rnd by threading short length of contrasting colour yarn through work between first and last st.
Rounds 2 to 6: Continue in [k1,p1] ribbing.
Next: Knit in rnds until work from end of ribbing measures 18 cm/7 ins, ending at marker. Break yarn.

Slip last 11 sts from 3rd needle, then first 11sts from first needle onto single needle (for heel), thus having marker at centre. Slip rem 22sts onto st holder (for instep). 22 sts now on needle.

With wrong side of heel sts facing, join yarn and work back and forth as follows:
Row 1 (wrong side): Sl1, purl to end of row.
Row 2: [Sl1,k1] to end of row.

Rep last 2 rows until heel measures 5 cm/2-1/4 ins, ending with wrong side facing for next row.

Row 1: P14 p2tog, p1. Turn.
Row 2: SI1, k7, sl1, k1, psso, k1. Turn.
Row 3: Sl1, p8, p2tog, p1. Turn.
Row 4: Sl1, k9, sl1, k1, psso, k1. Turn.
Row 5: Sl1, p10, p2 tog, p1. Turn.
Row 6 (right side): Sl1, k11, Sl1, k1, psso, k1. 16 sts now on needle(s).
Large and extra-large size only: Turn.
Row 7: Sl1, p12, p2tog. Turn.
Row 8 (right side): Sl1,k12, sl1, k1, psso. 14 sts now on needle.

All sizes: With right side of work facing, pick up and knit 11sts up left side of heel. With 2nd needle, knit across 22)sts on st holder (instep). With 3rd needle, pick up and knit 11sts down right side of heel. Knit first 7 sts of heel onto end of 3rd needle. Slip rem 7 sts of heel onto beg of first needle. 58 sts now on needles. 18 sts are on first needle, 22 sts are on 2nd needle and 18 sts are on 3rd needle.

Continue, working rnds as follows:
Rnd 1: First needle: Knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. 2nd needle: Knit to end of needle. 3rd needle: K1, sl1, k1, psso, knit to end of needle.
Rnd 2: Knit.

Rep last 2 rnds 6 times more. 11sts now on first needle, 22 sts now on 2nd needle and 11 sts now on 3rd needle, for a total of 44 sts.

Knit even in rnds until foot from picked-up sts at heel measures 18 cm/7 ins, ending with completion of 3rd needle.

Rnd 1: First needle: Knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. 2nd needle: K1, sl1, k1, psso, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. 3rd needle: K1, sl1, k1, psso, knit to end of needle. Knit.

Rnd 2: Rep last 2 rnds 4(4,5,5) times more. 5 sts now on first needle, 10 sts now on 2nd needle, 5 sts now on 3rd needle. Knit sts from first needle onto 3rd needle. Break yarn approx 30 cm/11-3/4 ins from last st.

With tapestry needle and yarn end, graft rem 2 sets of 10 sts tog to close toe. Remove marker.

Repeat for second sock.

Rag Rug Making

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Volunteers Alison, Myra and Lynne

Recent visitors to Burns cottage may have noticed something new.  Our volunteers have been spending time demonstrating different 18th Century crafts inside the cottage. These crafts are all skills women in the 18th century would have been very familiar with and it is easy to imagine Agnes Burnes (Robert Burns’ mother) toiling away at these chores over the course of the day in the cottage.


One of the crafts underway is a project to make new rag rugs for the cottage. A group of volunteers have been busy starting this process over the winter and have just begun to demonstrate their new skills to visitors.

Rag rugs were popular because they were easy to make and materials were cheap. All you need to make your own is some hessian and lots of scrap material. Our volunteers started with a large hessian lining which would make up the back of the rug. Their first task was to draw a border which they wanted to fill with black material. Using old clothes kindly donated to us, our volunteers cut the material into strips to add to the rug.

Our Volunteers staring the project in December last year

The process is very simple: the material is simply pushed through the hessian using wooden pegs and because the material is tightly packed together it will stay in place.

The volunteers have now finished the black border and have been adding the colourful material to the centre of the rug. The material used for the rugs needs to be quite hard wearing and wool cloth is best; this makes the rugs heavy and warm.

Wooden pegs are used to push the material through the hessian

The rag rug team will be demonstrating their crafts on Monday afternoon and we recommend popping in to watch them in action!

Volunteers demonstrating the rag rug making in the Spence