Gold Knitting Needles

IBlack and white photograph of Mary T. Hill with her daughters, c.1900. have used many different types of knitting needles. Some of my favorites include bamboo, steel, square, double pointed, and circular. Using needles made of gold had never occurred to me, until yesterday.

With family visiting from out of town we decided to tour the James J Hill house. It is a 36,000 square foot mansion built in the late 1800’s for a little under $1,000,000.00. James and Mary Hill had 10 children. The picture is of Mary, seated in the center, and 6 of her daughters. The 7th daughter Katy died at about 1 year of age. I wonder what the photographer told the ladies before he snapped the picture…apparently not “look at me and say cheese!”

Among the families belongings, one stole my attention more than anything else. Mrs. Hill had a pair of double pointed needles made of gold. Yes, made of gold! The display had a glass door, to prevent people like me from touching the golden needles. I want to go back. Maybe they would let me hold them if I wore gloves?


I wondered what I would knit on a pair of needles made of gold. I wonder if I would sit up straighter in my knitting chair with a pair of gold needles in my hands.

In the case there are also 3 double pointed needles made of something other than gold. Mrs. Hill and I both seem to have a problem keeping all of the needles straight! I wonder if one of her 10 children was to blame for the bent one?

This bedspread was crocheted by Mrs. Hill. Apparently, she would work on it when she was angry, so it is known as the angry quilt. The work is beautiful.

I wanted to know more about Mrs. Hill and her knitting. I found some mentions of her knitting in the bio found on the James J. Hill website.

Her daughter Clara later wrote, “In youth she worked for her home and children, in old age she was knitting for the poor.”

During World War I she participated in the war effort by purchasing Liberty Bonds in significant amounts, and knitting wool socks, sweaters, and helmet liners for the Red Cross and delivering these to Fort Snelling.

In the fall of 1919 Mary became seriously ill, and although she recovered, her health remained fragile. She still enjoyed automobile rides, visits from friends and family, reading, and knitting, but no longer traveled.

Mary Theresa Hill went from working as a waitress in a St. Paul restaurant, to hosting dinners at her 36,000 square foot home for people like president McKinley! Below is a picture of the dinning room. The gold leaf ceiling is magnificent.

Large dining room with a long dining table

And from her youth until her retirement she knit, sometimes on golden needles.




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