Before we get into it - These guys are made out of maple wood and are all under an inch and packed with detail! All of our markers are made in house and come with circular leverback attachments, so they're perfect for both knitting and crochet!
Now on to the goods!
January is definitely getting into deep cuts territory here at Dye Mad. National Squirrel Day is Jan. 21st, and if you’ve been paying attention to the shop lore, you know that Chelsea can’t imagine a medieval person seeing a squirrel in their everyday life.
*If you don’t want to read the entire history of my research into squirrels (boo!), there is a TLDR version at the bottom 😛
So, I did what I do best and hyperfixated straight into the medieval rabbit (squirrel?) hole. I even attempted pulling research papers XD So buckle up buttercup!
We’re sticking to London in the middle ages (which apparently spans the entire existence of humans between the fall of the Roman empire all the way to the Renaissance (1000+ years!) - which we personally find silly. Due to our setting, we’re dealing with Red Squirrels - the cuties with the floofy ears - they are native to the area and are prized as “exotic” pets for the wealthy and for their pelts…seems real tedious to us, but we’re also yarn enthusiasts, so, we really can’t judge. Our friends in the middle ages were largely illiterate, and focused mostly on things that allowed them to survive, so they weren’t often writing about the cute fuzzy friends outside. Most accounts deal with livestock or animals that often “broke into” the cities to scavenge on “deadstock” and other leftovers from obtaining meat and farming. By broke into, we mean they just sauntered in after the smell of food. Humans weren’t necessarily known for being clean in this time (extra fact - castles were often so dirty that they had to be EVACUATED to be cleaned), so there was plenty to keep them coming around for a while.
We do know that we had a variety of woodland creatures - including voles, mice, rats, weasels, shrews, hedgehogs, and badgers. I could only find a handful of references to creatures we know exist, but TONS of information on dragons, unicorns, ogres, trolls, manticore and griffins. Annoying for this purpose, but delightful in general.
The Tower of London (where they also tortured people and imprisoned them) did have a rather impressive (though cruel) menagerie that held the animals gifted to the Royal family. It started with lions, then, in 1252, a polar bear was added, then an african elephant. Many other, actually exotic, animals were added throughout the ages until it was closed in 1835.
Enter the Victorians! (what weren’t they somehow involved in?!)
At some point our friends in the Victorian Era let loose two American Gray Squirrels in a park in London. Victorians, unlike their middle ages counterparts, did write all kinds of everyday and “silly” details about their lives. So we know that that act did end up causing the decimation of the Red Squirrel population in London. Grey squirrels are better at existing in general, but also carry Squirrel Pox - which they are immune to. With this unfair advantage, they quickly took over and the last naturally occurring red squirrel in London parks was found in the 1920s.
* The TLDR that I promised
Squirrels did exist in the middle ages and it’s actually pretty unclear how likely an average person was to see one. They were local and hunted, so I’d imagine at least a little easy to find, but, it might have actually been easier to spot a polar bear wandering around the Tower of London.