KNITWEAR: Chanel to Westwood

In Autumn 2022, ‘KNITWEAR Chanel to Westwood’ comes to Dovecot Studios, the tapestry studio and contemporary arts venue in Edinburgh. This important exhibition draws insight on how socio-political and art movements have inspired and advanced knitwear and the development of knitting technology, with a focus on the work of significant designers throughout the twentieth century. The display is a very personal choice, featuring more than 150 items from the extensive and varied collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield of C20 Vintage Fashion. Though previously shown at the Fashion and Textile Museum, as Knitting History reported in 2014, this is the first time the exhibition has been mounted in Scotland, so as well as a wonderful opportunity for those unable to attend the London showing, this is also a chance to see the pieces in a fresh context. ‘KNITWEAR Chanel to Westwood’ will run from 15 October 2022 to 11 March 2023. More details at the Dovecot Studios website https://shop.dovecotstudios.com/products/knitwear-chanel-to-westwood

Framework Knitters Museum Tour 19 March 2022

In view of a more hopeful start to 2022, the Knitting History Forum has organised a tour of the Framework Knitters Museum at Ruddington near Nottingham on Saturday 19th March 2022.

We will meet in the cafe at 11am ready for our tour at 11.30am. After the tour we will adjourn to the village for a late lunch at a venue yet to be confirmed.

We still have some spaces available, an opportunity to tour this gem of a museum with like-minded company. Ruddington is a working museum, with original knitting frames (the precursors of modern knitting machines) still in working order as well as a collection of early knitted items. They also portray the lives of framework knitters and their families, an aspect of textile history often neglected.

Our tireless Membership Secretary, Tricia Basham, will need to inform the museum of numbers and make lunch arrangements, so please email Tricia by Friday 18th February 2022 if you wish to take this special tour and afterwards join us for lunch.

We hope to arrange other events for later in the year, so please look out for more announcements here on the Knitting History Forum website, follow us on KHF social media or email Tricia to sign up for our email list.

Grand Textiles from Small Islands

Journal for Weavers Spinners and Dyers Winter 2021The current edition of the Journal for Weavers, Spinners & Dyers includes a short piece by Carol Christiansen, Curator at the Shetland Museum and Archives and a previous speaker at the Knitting History Forum Conference. Issue #280 Winter 2021 of the Journal contains her article ‘Grand Textiles from Small Islands’, a reminder of how important both local collections and specialist national textile collections are both as historical record and inspiration for the future. The Shetland Museum and Archives collection is particularly well-stocked in knitted items because of the rich heritage of knitting in the Shetland Isles, from characterful colourwork to utilitarian garments to exquisite Shetland lace.

The Journal is the quarterly magazine of the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers in the UK. Available in print and digital formats, issues are available by subscription or one-off purchase at the Journal website https://journalwsd.org.uk/shop.

2019 Knitting History Forum Conference Report

Knitting History Symposium
Conference organised by the TRC Leiden and the Knitting History Forum
Leiden, November 2, 2019

Or

A Knitting Weekend in Leiden

Almost a year ago I spent a fantastic weekend all about knitting in Leiden, taking part in the Knitting History Symposium on the 17th century “Texel Silk Stocking” on Saturday and visiting the TRC Leiden where the KHF AGM was held on Sunday, as well as some of the sights of Leiden. I was so busy taking notes I did not take any pictures at the conference itself but I did in the exhibition on Sunday, which showcased most of the samples and reproduction stockings of the project.

The keynote lecture of the symposium was about the reconstruction of the 17th century Texel stocking finds by a citizen science community, under Chrystel Brandenburgh.

The stockings came from wreck number BZN17, and we now know it was an armed Dutch merchant ship that sank about 1645-1660.

The two goals for the project were to involve people who are not normally part of archaeological research but have the expertise needed for a reproduction, in this case experienced knitters, and to be able to repeat the experiment. More than a hundred people volunteered!

The original stocking was made from reeled, not spun, silk, and knitted in the round. It was examined with a Dino-Lite microscope. All information was gained from that examination, the stocking was not turned or otherwise disturbed.

The citizen science project involved knitting test swatches with different types of silk (some already de-gummed, some still containing the sericin, and different size needles, 0.7mm and 1mm, to find the right material and gauge for the reconstruction. The original measured 83 stitches and 100 rows for a 10cm square! The test pieces measured 5x5cm and took on average 5 hours to complete, and required 15m of silk, which means a stocking would need 1080m.

After the test swatch stage, about 40 people continued with the experiment by knitting a complete stockings, and as of the date of the conference 27 stockings were finished. Knitting with the silk that still contained the sericin proved easiest and quickest, and blocking the stocking after removing the gum also brought the most uniform result.

Using a wooden former to shape the stockings after washing (and de-gumming) was based on the existence of an extant example of the period in Denmark, and English records mentioning wooden stocking formers. Uneven knitting and a certain amount of difference in gauge did not matter after removing the sericin and blocking the stocking.

It is impossible to tell how long it would take to knit a stocking in period. Those knitters that knitted more than one stocking reported that the time it took to knit the second one was almost half of the first, showing how much familiarity with the material and the way to knit speeded up the process.

The papers in the Knitting History conference itself were all connected to the Texel Stocking project. The first section was about stocking production in Europe, showcasing current research in knitting history:

  • Lesley O’Connell Edwards’ “A hidden workforce: hand knitters in 17th century England” focused on evidence of who was knitting and what was being produced, and the research is centred on Norfolk and Suffolk. There is less information available on this topic for the 17th century than for the 16th century, and council and probate records are so far the best sources. Items produced by knitting included caps, gloves, petticoats (short jackets), stockings or hose, and waistcoats. There was no guild for knitters, but knitting was something taught, not necessarily learned in the family. Interestingly, although men were listed as teachers, very few men were listed as being taught. Silk hand knitters are mentioned in 1619 but there is not much more information about this aspect of knitting.
  • Sylvie Odstrcilova’s paper “Early modern stockings from the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries: The story continues” offered a fascinating glimpse into the variety of extant stockings in this area, and built on her research published in NESAT and ATR. Her findings of the similarity of the stockings of Imrich Thurzo in Orava Castle to the Texel stocking opened questions regarding manufacture and import of silk stockings throughout Europe.
  • Hanna Backstrom’s paper “The earliest printed knitting patterns” compared what the printed patterns looked like and who they were made for, to a hand written 17th century notebook, possibly from a knitter’s workshop. This was one of the highlights of the conference for me. It raised lots of interesting questions as to how they used the charts, diagrams and sketches contained in this book, especially in contrast to the printed books which seem to have been designed for a different audience.

The first afternoon section was dedicated to projects inspired by the Texel Stocking project:

  • Art Ness Proano Gaibor’s “Dye experiments on the Texel Stocking” was an interesting paper on how period dye recipes can have an impact on our modern lives, and how diverse the period recipes for dyeing black were – some doing more harm to the fabric than others.
  • Geeske Kruseman’s findings of her report “wearing 17th century knitted silk stockings” really surprised me. Two people wore two pairs of the stockings produced by the citizen science project with period reproduction shoes in everyday life and recorded their subjective and objective observations. Although the experiment was cut short, they still got some data. The stockings showed no signs of wear after an accumulated 139 hours of wear, kept their shape after washing, and were comfortable to wear in hot and cold weather. Afterwards everyone with the right foot size (European 38) got a chance to try the stockings , and I personally loved the experience! The stocking is very light and smooth to wear, you sort of forget you have it on, and the lack of stretch that we have come to expect from wool stockings wasn’t missed due to the garter holding the stocking up, and the fact that the stocking fitted me perfectly. It would be interesting to repeat this experiment with a wider range of participants.
  • Sally Pointer reported on her experience of making a replica for the re-enactment market based on the Texel stocking and using a 19th century knitting machine. She started with a wool version to test the design and then made a version with spun silk. She had to alter the key features to work with the much lower stitch count possible with the knitting machine, reducing the patterns produced by the purl stitches by about one third, and producing a stocking with a similar pattern but clearly different to the original. key question: “Though we can do it, should we?” The stocking she produced is much quicker to produce than the hand knitted ones, but still took a considerable time to make and it leaves the question how it would compare being worn to a non-patterned, machine-knit silk stocking and the replica hand knitted ones.

The last section consisted of papers based on Citizen Science Projects:

  • In “How not to knit: Sourcing silk, research and reconstructions reviewed” Susan North shared with us her insights into the problems encountered and mistakes made when making reconstruction silk stockings for the Original Practice at the Globe Theatre, and how difficult it was to find any information on tools, materials, and methods.
  • Jane Malcolm-Davies’ paper “Modern Slavery and the early modern work ethic: Lessons learned from volunteer participation in knitting in early modern Europe” gave insights into the experiences made by her and the volunteers in the Knitting in Early Modern Europe (KEME) project. She discussed how using volunteers in knitting (a notoriously underpaid work activity) raises the question to what extent Citizen Science is exploitative, and how much can be learned from the knitwork produced, and the process of knitting it. The focus has to be on what the benefits for the volunteers are as well as the researcher/scientist, and it is interesting that the KEME volunteers listed a similar range of benefits as the Texel stocking project participants.

The following panel discussion followed along similar lines, and I loved the new-to-me emphasis on the social aspect of taking part in a Citizen Science project, and the emphasis on being mindful of the nature of these experiments versus lab experiments, and that there have to be mutual benefits for the researcher and scientist as well as the volunteer.

My stay extended to Sunday for the Knitting History Forum AGM, and so I had a chance to visit the exhibition about the stockings in the Textile Research Centre, showcasing all the finished stockings, the former, all the samples and the ingenious holders some of the knitters had come up with to keep the cone of silk from unravelling while being able to knit off it easily. Also part of the exhibition was a treasure trove of patterned socks and stockings, and sample boards of different heel and toe varieties, as well as other knitting samples. I came away with so much inspiration!

We also were given a short tour of the facilities, making me want to come back to study some of the beautiful knitted and crocheted items in the collection. In the afternoon we visited the weaver’s house and the Laakenhal museum, all places I am looking forward to visiting again!

Christine Carnie

Socks & Stockings Knitting Exhibition

A new exhibition, ‘Socks & Stockings: A world full of surprises’, has opened at the Textile Research Centre in Leiden , tying in with the Texel Stockings Project and our 2019 Knitting History Forum conference. On display are the original seventeenth century Texel silk stockings, the hand-knitted reconstructions made by the team of volunteers for the project as well as many socks from around the world in knitting and nalbinding, including some from Annemor Sundbø’s “Ragpile-collection”, in an informative and fascinating array of techniques, patterns and colours as inspirational to knitters as scholars and students of knitting history. The exhibition runs until 19 December 2019 but is also opening especially for us on Friday 1 November from 12.30pm to 2pm and again on Sunday 3 November from 10pm to 12.30pm, so Knitting History conference delegates may enjoy viewing at leisure.

The text boards accompanying the exhibits are also available to read in PDF format, English language and Dutch language formats. More information and images of some of the items are available on the TRC Leiden website.

Early Modern Knitting in Denmark

This knitted item, found in a crypt in a Danish manor church, was photographed on the day it was recognised as an Early Modern cap by Jane Malcolm-Davies during examination at the National Museum of Denmark’s store in Brede in May 2014. It is recorded in detail in the forthcoming Archaeological Textiles Review issue no. 60 by Maj Ringgaard, together with another cap found in Copenhagen. Click on the image for a larger view.

Early Modern knitted cap, National Museum of Denmark, photo by Jane Malcolm-Davies
Early Modern knitted cap, National Museum of Denmark, photo by Jane Malcolm-Davies

Available by subscription, the 2018 volume of Archaeological Textiles Review will focus on knitting in the Early Modern period, with 99 pages devoted to knitted fragments and garments with many colour photographs and detailed specifications. Collaborating authors and articles are as follows:

Ruth Gilbert – reviews published evidence for Early Modern knitting
Susanne Lervad – contributes to terminology for studying knitwork
Helena Lundin – reports knitted items from the c17th Kronan shipwreck
Jane Malcolm-Davies – introduces the issue and proposes a protocol for reporting Early Modern knitwork
Rosalind Mearns – discusses crowdsourcing for experimental archaeology to reconstruct knitted items
Lesley O’Connell Edwards – discusses c16th stockings in the Museum of London
Sylvie Odstrčilová – surveys c17th silk stockings in the Czech Republic
Maj Ringgaard – reveals the remains of two Early Modern knitted caps found in Denmark
Annemarieke Willemsen – reports mittens found in a c17th Dutch shipwreck
There will also be an article on Karen Finch, our late Honorary President, by her colleague, Rosalind Janssen.

Archaeological Textiles Review 2018 60th Issue Early Modern Knitting Special
Archaeological Textiles Review 2018 60th Issue

The print deadline has been extended, but only until after the weekend, so if you prefer a print copy, reserve yours soon. Subscriptions for the 2018 issue of Archaeological Textiles Review cost DKK250, approximately €34, £30 or US $38, and are available from the University of Copenhagen website http://www.webshophum-en.ku.dk/shop/2018-subscription-archaeological-2310p.html.

1930s Hand–Knitted Bathing Suits

Emmy Sale won the undergraduate student Design History Society Essay Prize with an essay based on her BA dissertation examining hand-knitted bathing suits in the 1930s, particularly how they were made and worn by young working women. She wrote a shorter essay, ‘The 1930s Hand-Knitted Bathing Suit: Cost, originality and adaptation’, based on the collection of Worthing Art Gallery and Museum, as part of their joint Objects Unwrapped research project with University of Brighton. A downloadable PDF is available on the Objects Unwrapped website https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/objectsunwrapped/essays/.

Knitting History Forum the international society for the history of knitting and crochet. Eight-pointed star, a common motif in knitting across many cultures.

Emmy has also written a post for the Association of Dress Historians, discussing her research and showing images of knitted bathing suits in other British museum collections. ‘Homemade Garments in Museum Collections: 1930s Hand–Knitted Bathing Suits’ is available on the ADH website https://www.dresshistorians.org/single-post/2018/10/23/Homemade-Garments-in-Museum-Collections-1930s-Hand%E2%80%93Knitted-Bathing-Suits.

Center for Knit and Crochet Collections Resource

The Center for Knit and Crochet (CKC) is a non-profit organisation whose aim is to preserve and promote the art, craft, and scholarship of knitting, crochet, and related arts. One result of this aim is the establishment of a digital repository of knitting and crochet. The new CKC Collections Resource is an online-only collection bringing together items from different sources such as museums, galleries, libraries, archives and other public and private entities.

More than 5000 items relating to knitting and crochet may now be browsed in the Library and Museum Collections. Currently in an experimental phase, the database is drawn from the Digital Public Library of America. Other contributions are to be found in the Crowdsourced Collection, which is being used to refine the design, features and functionality of the online interface before continuing expansion. The CKC are in search of further partner organisations willing to share their collections of knitting and crochet.

Visit the CKC Collections Resource to read more, browse the collections or, perhaps, contribute your own piece of history: http://digital.centerforknitandcrochet.org/.

The School of Textiles 2018 Events

The School of Textiles in Essex has announced new events for 2018. The talks, short courses, study days and workshops cover many topics including Tapestry, early Coptic and Peruvian textiles, Artist-designed Textiles 1900-1930, Orla Kiely and Images from Nature: Textile Art. Visit the School of Textile’s Events page to find out more http://www.schooloftextiles.co.uk/events-page.html.

The Historic Knit: Joyce Meader Open House 2017

Please mark your diaries for Wednesday 29th March 2017. Joyce Meader of The Historic Knit is holding another open house event at her home in Hampshire, UK.

'Knitskrieg: A Call to Yarns! A History of Military Knitting from 1800s to Present' by Joyce Meader
‘Knitskrieg: A Call to Yarns! A History of Military Knitting from 1800s to Present’ by Joyce Meader

Joyce is an expert on historical knitting and an historical and vintage hand knitter for film, television, museums and re-enactors. Her collection of original knitting patterns, books and knitted items from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries is wide-ranging and full of interest. Joyce is also an entertaining and engaging speaker with a talent for making the past come alive. Last year saw the publication of her book ‘Knitskrieg! A Call To Yarns’, a history of military knitting drawing on Joyce’s collection and extensive expertise.

For more details, please contact Joyce directly by emailing her via The Historic Knit website, on Ravelry or via Facebook.

We will post an update with further information when we know more. The chance to hear Joyce Meader and see her extraordinary knitting collection close-up is a wonderful opportunity and well worth the trip to Hampshire!

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Knitted 1940s ATS Doll

Knitted ATS DollAhead of Remembrance Day, here is a 1940s knitted ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) doll from the collections of the Imperial War Museum.

Knitted ATS Doll © IWM (EPH 2877)

Further down the same page are 1940s British knitting patterns for more dolls in uniform, including WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), WRNS (Women’s Royal Naval Service), sailor, soldier and airman http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30084130

Propagansey Exhibition 2016

A date for your diary: Propagansey 2016 will run from 10th to 18th September, 10 AM to 4PM at Old St Stephen’s Church, Robin Hood’s Bay. Propagansey is an annual exhibition of ganseys from various traditions throughout the British Isles and the Netherlands. Some have notes from the donors attached, explaining how or why they were made, giving the ganseys context and meaning beyond their beauty, utility or the skill required to make them. Deb Gillander, gansey collector and expert, shows items from her collection as well as others sourced locally. The jumpers ‘connect’ to the church, arranged over the backs of the pews, a perfect example of relating an exhibit to the space. The concept is brilliant, both supporting the garments and displaying them to full advantage, as well as evoking the sense of their former wearers seated in rows.

Old St Stephen’s Church in Fylingdales overlooks Robin Hood’s Bay on the coast of North Yorkshire. For more information on Propagansey, see Propagansey on Facebook or visit the Propagansey website

Joyce Meader Open House 2016

Joyce Meader With Her Reproduction Crimea War Jumper, Presentation At The Knitting History Forum Conference 2014. Photo By I N Eliatamby
Joyce Meader’s presentation at the Knitting History Forum Conference 2014

Joyce Meader is holding another open house event at her home in Hampshire on Tuesday 19th April 2016. Once again she has graciously invited Knitting History Forum. Joyce, of The Historic Knit, is an expert on historical knitting whose amusing but instructive lectures, on knitting for the military and on the history of commercially-printed knitting patterns from 1800, are always very popular. Her wonderful, extensive collection of knitting patterns and knitted items ranges in date from the 1817 to the present day. This is a rare opportunity to see these historical survivals close-to! For details please contact Joyce via the KHF Groups.io, via her post on Facebook or email us via the Contact Form and we will pass on your enquiry.

Meanwhile, here is a taste of Joyce’s collection from 2014

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Elizabeth Hawes Jumper

The unusual 1968 sleeveless jumper or jumper shown above, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, was knitted in wool by American designer, writer and political activist, Elizabeth Hawes (1903-1971). Despite working in the fashion industry, Hawes was a vocal critic, publishing a semi-autobiographical commentary “Fashion Is Spinach” in 1938 and championing dress reform. The seemingly innocent telephone number knitted into the jumper is in fact the numerical representation of an obscenity. This jumper seems strongly proto-punk in spirit, a reminder that the later subculture was influenced by earlier twentieth-century movements.

The accession number is 1980.490.2 and further details are available on the MMA website.

Knitting! At The Fries Museum

The Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, has opened major new exhibition on the art of knitting. ‘Breien!’ or ‘Knitting!’ celebrates knitting in all its forms. Historical and contemporary work are placed in ‘conversation’ with each other. Items of traditional dress, fishermen’s jumpers, twentieth century knitting patterns, finely-knitted eighteenth century mitts and later caps or the oldest knitting sheath, for example, can be seen alongside the knitwear of Starsky and Hutch and contributions from artists and designers including Zoë Landau Konson, Christien Meindertsma, and Bas Kosters. Sarah Lund’s jumper makes a notable appearance! The setting is fresh, modern and intentionally quirky, with pieces mounted on mannequins with animal heads; installations such as ‘City of Stitches’, by Isabel Berglund, which enfolds the visitor in a knitted structure; dioramas of historical and modern knitting; touch trail routes and other methods of display invite engagement with the exhibits at all levels of interest: this is a child-friendly exhibition. This short video offers a taste of the exhibition:

Knitting! opened in October and runs until 28 August 2016. For more information, visit the Fries Museum website.

The Textile Museum, Iceland

Source: Iceland – the textile museum | ella Gordon

An interesting post about the Textile Museum in Blönduós, Iceland, by Ella Gordon, with photos of some of the exhibits from her trip earlier this year.

The underlying theme of all the museum’s exhibitions is “Þráður” or the “thread” connecting all textile techniques, past and present. Traditional knitting is featured, beyond the ubiquitous Lopapeysa or Icelandic jumper popular since the 1950s, including mitts, shawls and the patterned insoles used in traditional fish skin shoes.

The museum also has a space called “Halldórustofa” or Halldóra´s Room, devoted to the textile collections and work of Halldóra Bjarnadóttir, a twentieth-century champion of women’s rights, home crafts, textile education and traditional Icelandic textiles. See Gudrun Helgadottir’s 1991 paper, ‘Halldóra Bjarnadóttir And The Development of Textiles As A School Subject in Iceland’, from the Proceedings of the 3rd Nordic Research Conference in Slöjd, Göteborg, Sweden.

Ella Gordon, a textile maker who also works at Jamieson & Smith and is a trustee of the Shetland Textile Museum, writes about her knitting, her collection of vintage knitwear and life on Shetland at her blog https://ellagordon.wordpress.com/.

Historic Knit Open House with Joyce Meader

Joyce Meader Wearing Her Reproduction 1910s Knitted Suit, Knitting History Forum Conference 2007. Photo by Loraine McClean.
Joyce Meader wearing knitted 1910s reproductions in 2007. Photo by Loraine McClean.
Joyce Meader of The Historic Knit has confirmed more information ahead of the open house at her Hampshire home next month. The date is Wednesday 29 April from 10:00am to 16:00pm. Joyce says there is ample parking and she will kindly be providing bread, soup and homemade cake.

Please email or message Joyce ahead of the visit and let her know you are coming. Her personal details will not be posted here for obvious reasons. For more info log into the KHF Groups.io to read Joyce’s latest post and respond to Joyce directly.

See our earlier post for photos from Joyce’s presentation at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2014. You can also see more of Joyce’s historical knitting and knitting pattern collection at her website.

ETA 18/03/2015: You can also message Joyce via her post today on the Knitting History Forum Facebook page.

Top photo: detail of a reproduction by Joyce Meader.

Joyce Meader’s Open House

Joyce Meader has graciously invited Knitting History Forum to an open house at her home in Hampshire, on 29 April 2015.

For those of you who do not know her, Joyce, a long-standing KHF member and supporter, is an expert on historical knitting who owns an extensive collection of knitting patterns from 1817 to the present day. She also recreates historical knitting for re-enactment, film and museums. Below is a sampling of Joyce’s reproduction hand knitting and her collection of nineteenth and twentieth century patterns, from those accompanying her presentation at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2014.

More details will be confirmed nearer to the time. If you are able to attend, please let Joyce know you are coming by logging into the KHF Groups.io and replying to her post.

Read more about Joyce, her knitting pattern collection and reproduction historical knitting at her website, The Historic Knit, military and historic knitting.

KNITWEAR Chanel to Westwood

The exhibition ‘KNITWEAR Chanel to Westwood’ is now at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. Curated by Mark and Cleo Butterfield, this exhibition views twentieth century knitting through the lens of their personal collection. The exhibits are nearly all drawn from their archive and cover everyday handknits to high fashion, including early swimwear, 1960s crochet, punk, WWII, folk designs, Pop Art novelty knits, 1980s clubwear and knitted couture from the 1920s to 1990s. A separate, complementary display of 21st century knitwear, ‘Visionary Knitwear – new directions’, is being staged in the mezzanine gallery.

Open from now until 18 January 2015, tickets can booked in advance or purchased at the door. More information available on the F&TM Facebook page or their website http://ftmlondon.org/