Wovember Words: Cats and Wool

For this last WOVEMBER WORDS post of 2014 we celebrate our feline friends.

The strong association of wool with cats is indicated every year in the wondrous photos that you submit to our photo competition. Every wool worker I know with a cat attests to the special affinity that this beast feels for the following items: raw sheepy fleece; perfectly prepared fibres, ready for spinning; heirloom hand knits; balls of yarn; and anything made of WOOL that is precious to the cat owner. Cats love WOOL for its warming, insulating properties, and seemingly cannot wait to nap on/play with it. I was reminded of this association while reading the highly recommended book “Guddicks – Traditional Riddles from Shetland” by Amy Lightfoot and Laurie Goodlad, for several guddicks (riddles) in this wondrous tome use Shetland dialect words for WOOL to allude to marvelous CATS!

“Guddicks – Traditional Riddles from Shetland” is a wonderful book containing many guddicks (riddles) from Shetland. Guddicks were once an important part of the evening’s entertainment on long nights on Shetland crofts; household members would make up riddles for each other to guess. Shetland riddles give insights into all aspects of Shetland life. As in well-crafted Cryptic Crossword puzzles, in Shetland Guddicks, care seems to be taken when playing with associations between the clues given in a riddle and the answer to that riddle. The construction of guddicks is playful, inventive, poetic, rich. In the examples below, WOOL words are used as riddles for which the answer is CATS. I cannot help but wonder if the Shetlanders of the past who invented these beautiful guddicks had naughty wool loving cats which gave them the idea to use wool words to describe their feline friends?

To WOOL WORDS, lovers of WOOL, lovers of CATS and the beauty of embedding wool in the stories and entertainment of cultures everywhere, that’s it for WOVEMBER WORDS until 2015! All the photos used here have been contributed by WOVEMBERISTS and celebrate the links between WOOL and CATS.

The riddles are given with links to word definitions in John J Graham’s Shetland Dictionary.

YOURS IN WOOL! Fx

A head laek a hedder clew
A boady laek a buggie o’ oo
A tail laek a rower

(a head like a fluffy/heathery ball of wool
a body like a sheepskin bag of wool
a tail like a rolag)

"To make a matching hat, I’m spinning my cat! Preparing fiber from my little herd of Swedish finewool sheep; blending natural black with some dyed yellowish colours (from apple bark, yellow onion and birch leaves)" – Emma Styhr

“To make a matching hat, I’m spinning my cat! Preparing fiber from my little herd of Swedish finewool sheep; blending natural black with some dyed yellowish colours (from apple bark, yellow onion and birch leaves)” – Emma Styhr

A boady lik a buggy o oo
A head lik a simmond clew,
Four feet an twenty nails
An’ a tail lik a teengs

(a body like a sheepskin bag of wool
a head like a ball of rope,
four feet and twenty nails
and a tail like one side of a set of tongs)

“Lucy ‘catches’ a mouse.” Jacqui says: “the mouse and the bed are felted. The cat, however, is not.” - Jacqui Whitemore

“Lucy ‘catches’ a mouse.” Jacqui says: “the mouse and the bed are felted. The cat, however, is not.” – Jacqui Whitemore

A body like a sock o oo
A head like a waaftie clue
A tail like a rower

(a body like a piece of knitting
a head like a ball of yarn
a tail like a rolag)

‘This is how my cat Ukkie prevents me from working with wool; she looks so happy sleeping on my WIP, I can’t take it away from her, so have to work on something else instead" – Anja Vos.

‘This is how my cat Ukkie prevents me from working with wool; she looks so happy sleeping on my WIP, I can’t take it away from her, so have to work on something else instead” – Anja Vos.

(this one isn’t so specifically woolly but it speaks so perfectly of the regal nature of cats that we felt it must be included).

I’m penniless and poor as Job
Such is my tribe by nature
And yet, I wear a kingly robe
Though an independent creature

"‘Cat heaven. If you ever want to make a cat happy, just leave some fleece or knitting sitting out." – Jeni Reid

“‘Cat heaven. If you ever want to make a cat happy, just leave some fleece or knitting sitting out.” – Jeni Reid

– Laurie Goodlad and Amy Lightfoot, Guddicks, Traditional Riddles from Shetland, published by The Shetland Times Limited, 2013, and available to buy here.

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This entry was posted by Felicity Ford.

8 thoughts on “Wovember Words: Cats and Wool

  1. Congratulations, again, Wovemberists on an exciting month filled with great posts, pictures and thoughts for all of us to ponder. You do a great job at portraying what we all love and I really appreciate it.

  2. What a wonderful post on which to end this Wovember celebration! Perhaps it was the availability of WOOL from herded sheep flocks which induced cats to intertwine their lives with humans. I can just imagine some Mesolithic lady laying her freshly-washed, roo’ed locks out to dry and finding a cat curled up in the same the next morning.

  3. Reblogged this on Anti-Quotidian and commented:
    This post made me smile because it is so spot on. I was surprised that the Wovember contributors did not have pictures of their cats attempting to catch yarn as it is being knitted: even more than to making nests and sleeping on WIPs, that is the KITTENS’ favorite way to enjoy wool!

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