Braiding in the front room

After my mother died when I was 2 years old, my father married again and raised 2 more children.  My sister and I were somewhat surplus to requirements, and it was eventually agreed that my grandmother should raise us.  Having brought up 4 children herself, she now had to do it all over again with her youngest daughter's 2 children.

She supported her second family by making nets for fishing boats in the front room of our small house, a room only used otherwise for receiving visitors.  The activity was called braiding and involved using a wooden netting needle about 6 inches long by just over 1 inch wide onto which rough twine was threaded.  My grandmother would make a sort of knitting motion, working at speed to produce fishing nets with square holes about 2.5 inches wide.  She would work from a net hanging onto the wall.

It was a job quite common among young women at the time because we were right next to the fishing port of Grimsby with its trawler fleet.  Some worked from home like my grandmother, but others worked in braiding factories, sitting in a line working their nets while they chatted, joked and gossiped with each other.  My aunt worked in one of these and would show me off to her friends when I occasionally visited her there.

My grandmother was quite skilled.  The herring nets were easy because they were made in great sheets.  A cod net was made as a bag, however, and the "cod end" as it was called had to be rounded.  It commanded more money.  The house was always stocked with bales of twine and the wooden netting needles.

I would sometimes sit on a small stool alongside her as she worked, winding twine onto the needles for when she next needed them.  She was happy, singing in a clear voice as she worked, from a repertoire of sentimental songs of her youth.  Her hands were roughened by years of working with coarse twine, as were those of my aunt, but the work brought in enough money to bring up her late daughter's children.