A Featherstone knitter who shot to fame when she became the world’s fastest has died aged 86.
Gwen Matthewman held two world records: the fastest hand knitter at 111 stitches a minute; and the most prolific hand knitter after churning out 915 garments from 11,000 ounces of wool in a year.
The mum-of-four’s super-human talent saw her first appear on TV in 1968, when the Japanese requested her presence in Tokyo so she could be studied by their professors of knitting.
Son Roger said: “When she appeared on their live TV, they examined her body for electric motors because they couldn’t believe her speed, which was just basically a blur.”
Mrs Matthewman, who took up knitting at a young age, went on to appear on TV shows around the world, including the David Letterman Show in the US, Blue Peter, Record Breakers with Roy Castle, David Frost and Game for a Laugh, when she had to knit pink leg warmers and a trunk warmer for an elephant.
She really rocketed into stardom when she knitted a sweater for astronaut Neil Armstrong just before the lunar landings.
Mr Matthewman added: “NASA were good enough to send her signed photographs of all the Apollo astronauts together with an historical letter from the director of NASA thanking her for her efforts. Neil Armstrong wore the sweater, which featured a rocket, for photo shoots.”
The Dutch royal family were among her biggest fans and Mrs Matthewman would often visit them and knit things for them.
Mrs Matthewman was born in Streethouse in 1927 to a poor mining family.
She moved to Featherstone in the early 1960s after she married her husband. They had four children – David, Kevin, Wendy and Roger – 12 grand children and ten great-grandchildren.
Mr Matthewman added: “Mum retired from knitting many moons ago to spend more time with her family and to pursue other interests such as bingo, darts and dominoes and spent more time going on holiday with her husband Gordon and her good friends Dorothy and Ken Auty.
“She passed away peacefully last Thursday and will be sadly missed by all who knew her. Mum was a fantastic ambassador for the craft of knitting and also a fantastic ambassador for life, too.”
Mrs Matthewman’s funeral will take place at St Thomas’ Church in Featherstone tomorrow (Friday) at 11.45am.
Donations to Cancer Research in lieu of flowers.