Making a Peg
Clothes pegs are needed for drying clothes. In the past, these were hand-crafted out of wood. They were one of the many useful items made and sold door to door by “the Tinkers”, the name that the people of the township had for the Gypsy-Travellers. Each peg takes about 40 minutes to make, but they can last for more than ten years.
Pegs are made from freshly-cut branches of willow or ash, two or three centimetres thick. The bark is stripped off, using a hooked knife (made by heating a normal knife blade in a fire and then bending the blade). The stripped branch is then cut into peg-length pieces. A slot, wider at the open end, is cut down the middle of the piece of branch, from one end to just beyond the midpoint. The ends either side of the slot are rounded off, and the edges smoothed down with sandpaper. Some makers cut a groove just below the top, making a head. Finally, a strip of thin steel is wrapped around the top of the peg and fixed in place with a small nail, helping to prevent the wood from splitting.
Pegs were made in different sizes, depending on their use. Large ones were needed to hold up heavy items like blankets, smaller ones for socks or underclothes. Made by hand, for hands, wooden pegs are pleasingly tactile objects, modelled to the individual’s grip. The museum shop sometimes sells pegs, hand made in the old way by members of the local Gypsy-Traveller community.