Ne’er cast a clout till May be out

Pattern for dolls Victorian drawers
© F H Powell 2014

Though this English saying appeared in writing in 1732 its origin is almost certainly much earlier. Dr. Thomas Fuller used the term “Leave not off a Clout Till May be out” as quote number 6,193 in his book ‘Gnomologia: adagies and proverbs’. The book extends to 6,496 sayings or proverbs and is a lengthy read for anyone interested in completing it!

The meaning of “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out” revolves around the word Clout. The word has held a number of meanings since coming into use in the 1400’s. Today it is still know as a blow or to hit. But other meanings are a clod of earth, cream (as in clotted) and a small garment or material. It is the final definition that is relevant here. To cast, as in angling terms is to throw, so the saying advises against casting off or removing clothing, particularly warm clothing. But the reference to May cannot automatically be assumed to refer to the month. The Hawthorne tree is a common site in the UK especially as hedging. The white blossom appears in late April or early May. This tree is also known as the May tree and it’s blossom as May blossom. The saying could therefore refer to the May blossom being out or in bloom. Shakespeare wrote “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May” again referring to the Hawthorne. The earlier references then do point to a likelihood that it was the May blossom rather than the month that was being referred to which seems to fit better with the end of the colder weather.

So ensure that your dolls house is prepared for any late cold snaps by making sure they have some snug knitted underwear, we have several knitting patterns for this in 1:12th scale from Victorian long drawers to 1940’s underwear sets