10th Knitting History Conference 2017

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

Join us on Saturday 18th November 2017 as we celebrate 10 years of the renamed Knitting History Forum and our pioneering annual Knitting History Conference!

Once again the venue is the London College of Fashion, 20 Princes St, just off Oxford Street in central London. The programme for 2017 is full and includes the following speakers:

  • Maj Ringgaard on The development of stockings 1600-1800: evidence from the Copenhagen excavations
  • Helena Lundin on Shipwrecked knitting: Fragments from the Swedish Seveenth Century Flagship Kronan
  • Lesley O-Connell Edwards on Of stockings and sleeves: insights from some 16th century knitted items in the Museum of London
  • Matteo Molinari on Crocheting Cultures: traditional Italian crochet practice in private and public spaces in Veneto
  • Barbara Smith on โ€œWools for the Worldโ€ – Wakefield Greenwood of Huddersfield and
  • Ruth Gilbert on A complex knitting technique from Egypt: the evidence and some ideas
  • There will also be a display of British Wools by Zoe Fletcher

Registration starts from 10.30am and the KHF AGM runs from 11.00am to 12.30pm. The Knitting History Conference starts promptly in the afternoon at 1.45pm and closes at 5.30pm. Lunch is not provided so please bring your own or buy locally. Further details are available in the KHF AGM & Conference programme.

Please bring items for discussion during the morningโ€™s Show and Tell. There will be more time for questions and general discussion from 5.15pm, after all the speakers have delivered their papers.

We welcome members and non-members alike! Conference tickets cost ยฃ35 to non-members and are available in advance or on the door. Admission is also included in Knitting History Forum membership, currently ยฃ25. If you have not joined KHF as a member, you can use the PayPal button below to buy your ticket. See payment methods page for alternative ways to pay.


Knitting History Forum Conference 2017 Non-members’ Ticket



KEME Seminar – August 2017

Strickersvej – Knitters Way is hosting a seminar in August to discuss the KEME project and its findings. There will be speakers on topics ranging from early modern knitted stockings from burials in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, 3D modelling, the significance of the spin angle in knitted fabric, knitted items in the Design Museum, Eramus’s caps and comparing sheep fleece characteristics as well as workshops and broader discussions on the KEME project and citizen or crowd-sourced science.

The KEME Seminar will be held at the Centre for Textile Research in Copenhagen on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th August 2017. Further details are available from the Strickersvej – Knitters Way seminar page on Facebook.

Knitted Gloves: KHF/KCG Joint Meeting

Angharad Thomas, Textile Archivist for the Knitting & Crochet Guild, is speaking on Knitted Gloves, their history, design and knitting. Angharad’s work was recently exhibited at the Bankfield Museum in Halifax, together with items from the KCG Collection.

This joint meeting of Knitting History Forum and Knitting & Crochet Guild Central London Branch will be held on Saturday, 18th March 2017, at the London College of Fashion, 20 John Prince’s Street, just off Oxford Street. The event is open to all and costs ยฃ15, or ยฃ10 for KHF/KCG members.

For further information and to book a place, please contact Tricia, our Membership Secretary, or email ‘KHF Events & Bookings’.

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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Knitting History Forum AGM & Conference 2016

Knitting History Forum is pleased to announce that Dr Roslyn Chapman will be speaking at the Knitting History Conference on Saturday 19th November 2016, at the London College of Fashion. Her presentation, Cultural Sensitivities: Debunking the myths of Shetland lace, uses case studies to illustrate how traditional narratives of knitting history can be altered in retelling, and that even “detailed provenance cannot always be accepted as fact.”

The final programme of speakers and sessions for the Knitting History Conference , is now confirmed as:

  • 2.00-2.45 Gieneke Arnolli โ€“ Curator of Textiles & Fashion, Fries Museum, The Netherlands
    Typically Frisian lace knitting, between fact and fiction and Curating the Knitting exhibition ‘Breien!’
  • 2.45-3.25 Hanna Bรคckstrรถm โ€“ PhD Candidate in Textile Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden
    The publication of knitting and crochet patterns in Northern Europe 1790-1870 and Brief remarks on recent knitting history research in Sweden
  • 3.35-4.00 Michelle Hanks โ€“ PhD Candidate London College of Fashion
    The Hand-Knitted Gift: using knitting as a research tool
  • 4.05-4.35 Roslyn Chapman โ€“ PhD, University of Glasgow
    Cultural Sensitivities: Debunking the myths of Shetland lace
  • 4.05-4.35 Discussion: Reflections on knitting in the media โ€“ how would we represent the history of knitting?
    With Joyce Meader, Jane Malcolm-Davies and Sandy Black, following their contributions to a documentary, The Secret History of Knitting. All contributions are welcome โ€“ please follow the link to watch the documentary online before this session [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJiN9GNrDpA].
  • 4.45-5.00 General discussion and close.

Further details are available on this downloadable Knitting History Forum AGM & Conference programme: Knitting History Forum Conference 2016 Final Programme. A downloadable agenda is also available for KHF members attending the AGM in the morning: Knitting History Forum AGM 2016 Agenda.

We welcome non-members and new members! Tickets cost ยฃ35 to non-members and can be booked in advance or on the door. If you have not joined KHF as a member, you can use the PayPal button below to buy your ticket. See payment methods page for alternative ways to pay.

Knitting History Forum Conference 2016 Non-members’ Ticket



Textile Society Annual Conference 2016

The Textile Society have sent us notice of their annual conference next month : ‘Textile Futures: Technology, Materials and Preservation’. Saturday 5th November, Wellcome Trust, 215 Euston Road, London.

This conference will examine recent advances in textile design, materials and technology, considering emerging ideas and approaches that may change the way we design, make, use and preserve textiles in the future.

Our keynote speaker is Janis Jefferies, Professor of Visual Arts and Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. Janis will be speaking on her research that examines the relationship between culture and technology, including wearable devices as ‘intelligent textiles’. Dr Kate Lloyd from the industry organisation โ€˜Textile Intelligenceโ€™, will be speaking on thermochromics and advances in textile print technology, and Dr Celina Jones from the University of Manchester, will be discussing her research on textile printing and sustainability, looking at low impact techniques, reducing the use of colorants, and new ways of distressing denim. We will also be joined by Anne French, Textile Conservator and Collections Care Manager at the Whitworth Art Gallery, speaking on the challenges of conserving increasingly complex textile materials for the future, and Professor Carole Collet from Central Saint Martins, speaking about her work with the design & living systems lab, biotextiles and the advantages of biological tools for a more sustainable textile future.

We hope you can join us at the Wellcome Trust for a day of thought provoking presentations and discussion on โ€˜Textile Futures, Technology, Materials and Preservationโ€™. The conference begins at 11.15am and finishes at 5.15pm. Lunch and refreshments are included. Booking is via Eventbrite.

Euston is the closest train/underground station to the Wellcome Trust. Just walk from Euston to the main road, cross over and the Wellcome Trust building is on the right hand side.

If you have any queries please email Sonja Andrew at: s.andrew@manchester.ac.uk

New Date! Knitting History Conference 2016

Save the date! Knitting History Forum Conference & AGM 2016 is on Saturday 19th November, at the London College of Fashion. The AGM begins in the morning and the Knitting History symposium in the afternoon. For more details, download a provisional conference programme, but full programme and details are to follow. For now here is a taste of the event from last year.

Click on Membership to renew your KHF subscription for this year. Tickets cost ยฃ35 to non-members and can be booked on the door or in advance.

Knitting History Forum Conference 2016 Non-members’ Ticket



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

Knitskrieg: A Call to Yarns! And a Reminder

'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

More news on Joyce Meader : the publication of her new book on the knitting for the military. ‘Knitskrieg: A Call to Yarns!’ has the subtitle ‘A History of Military Knitting from 1800s to Present’. Accessible but informative, it relates the contribution of knitting to warfare and soldiery throughout the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with an emphasis on domestic knitting and the patterns produced for the ordinary home-knitter. The book is well illustrated with items from Joyce’s incredible collection of military knitting patterns, ephemera, and knitted items as well as reproductions she has knitted, with a selection of modernised knitting patterns. For more, see the publisher’s website.

Joyce has also been interviewed for Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. Readers in the UK can listen again via the Radio 4 website or jump straight to her interview.

And to conclude this unexpected celebration of all things Joyce, a reminder that her open house event on Tuesday 19th is in two weeks’ time. Don’t forget to let her know if you are attending. Her collection really is astonishing and not to be missed!

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 Yahoo group, 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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Study Day : Authenticity in Culturally-Based Knitting

Shetland Museum and Archives are hosting a free study day on Saturday 5 March 2016, from 10:00am – 4:00pm. “Authenticity in Culturally-Based Knitting” will be the last event from the programme “Knitting in the Round: Hand-Knitted Textiles and the Economy of Craft in Scotland”.

The event aims to explore the promotion, branding and marketing of so-called ‘authentic’ Shetland knitwear, and how a strong basis in heritage affects designers and industry alike. Speakers include Professor Lynn Abrams, Roslyn Chapman, Dr Carol Christiansen, Frances Lennard, Rhoda Hughson, Kathy Coull and Helen Robertson. For more details and a programme, visit http://www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk/events/study-day-authenticity-in-culturally-based-knitting.

Booking is essential. Tickets are still available via https://thelittleboxoffice.com/smaa/event/view/39600 or by phoning Shetland Museum and Archives on 01595 741562.

Info - Shetland Museum Study Day : Authenticity in Culturally-Based Knitting
Info – Shetland Museum Study Day : Authenticity in Culturally-Based Knitting

If you are unable to attend, you can watch a live broadcast which can be viewed online for free. Check http://www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk/collections/museum/textiles – a link to the live feed will be added there when available. You can also participate by joining the Q&A session by tweeting questions directly to the Museum, prefixed by @ShetlandM&A.

Introduction to Historic Knitting

Introduction to Historic Knitting course, Weald & Downland Museum, September 2016
Introduction to Historic Knitting leaflet

Click to download this leaflet for historian Ruth Gilbert’s one-day ‘Introduction to Historic Knitting’ at the Weald & Downland Museum in Sussex this September 2016.

“A brief practical history of knitting in Britain, looking at the products, techniques, and social history of knitting and knitters from the 16th to the 20th century. We shall be learning to โ€˜knit in the roundโ€™ and to use a knitting sheath, and trying out a number of different techniques. Pictures, samples and items from the Knitting and Crochet Guild Collection illustrate the wealth of resources. This is a course that we hope will inspire you to have the confidence to raid the past in your future knitting projects. Some previous knitting experience would be helpful on this course, but is not essential.”

Friday is already fully booked but Ruth agreed to run another on Thursday 1 September, 2016 as well. Spaces are filling up so hurry to book yours!

KHF AGM and Conference 2015

The day began with our AGM, showcasing KHF successes of the past year, as well as suggestions for improvements going forward. Positive feedback highlighted the growing need for the network for knitting history, which we hope KHF events, our discussion group, the website and social media presence provide. The Show and Tell was, as always, an eclectic mix of early to modern knitting, with contributions from members’ collections and historical reproductions from members’ needles.

Sandy Black introduces Carol Christiansen at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015
Sandy Black introduces Carol Christiansen at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015

Carol Christiansen’s much-anticipated presentation explained the process of creating historically accurate reproductions for the Shetland Museum, of late seventeenth century knitted items found with the Gunnister Man find. Exhaustive testing of the originals and experimentation with modern fibres was necessary to accurately recreate or simulate the variety of textiles, not all of which had come from Shetland. The different colours were due primarily to peat-staining and the original shades of the natural, undyed wool.

Kirstie Buckland brought her considerable knowledge and experience to bear on early Spanish knitting, particularly the finely-knitted silk cushions recovered from thirteenth-century tombs at the monastery at Las Huelgas. Kirstie also shared a medieval image she tracked down from a reference, showing the Virgin and Christ, accompanied by industrious saints. One of the saints knits a patterned sock on five needles, but no stitches in the painting connect the sock with the knitting needles – how miraculous!

Chatting at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015
Members at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015

Lesley O’Connell Edwards presented her research into the work and identities of the Hope family of Ramsgate, early Victorian knitting pattern designers or compilers, and publishers of several books on knitting, including patterns for essential items such as Magic Penwipers and Magic Puzzle Kettle Holders. Lesley recounted her trawl through reviews, advertisements and census records as well as hunting for clues in the knitting books themselves. A fascinating, ongoing investigation with as many twists and turns as a detective novel.

 

An innovative representation of Swaledale sheep and wool by Zoe Fletcher at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015
An innovative representation of a Swaledale sheep and its wool by Zoe Fletcher at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015

Zoe Fletcher presented a summary of her recent work into the possibilities of British wool, researching the properties of wool from different British breeds of sheep and how these properties could be exploited in knitwear design. She also demonstrated how this could be applied using Shima Seiki CAD and design systems, a marriage of traditional and modern technology. The project focussed on the 72 British breeds promoted by the British Wool Marketing Board and Zoe surprised and delighted all with her innovative approach to presenting the information in a way that is accurate, accessible and beautiful.

Jane Malcolm-Davies presents a paper at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015
The Revolution Will Be Knitted: Jane Malcolm-Davies presents a paper at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015

Finally, Jane Malcolm-Davies introduced the research project Knitting in the Early Modern Era, or KEME. As we related last month, KEME is based around detailed examination of surviving sixteenth century knitted caps, the wider aim of the project is interdisciplinary research, creating an economic map of early knitting and laying a foundation of terminology information on which further scholarship on knitting in Early Modern Europe may be built. In an informative and amusing presentation, Jane discussed the work so far, the methodology they would establish and invited contributions and assistance.

All in all, it was another interesting event. The Knitting History Forum thanks our speakers for their engaging and informative presentations. Thank you also to everyone involved in organising the event and to all the delegates, members and non-members. This year’s symposium proved once again that the study of knitting history, while deeply interesting and often highly entertaining, is also vital both to our understanding of the past and our development of future textile technologies.

The speakers and their papers are listed in Knitting History Forum Conferences.

KHF Conference 2015

KHF Chair, Prof Sandy Black, introduces speaker Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd, at the 2014 Knitting History Conference
KHF Chair, Prof Sandy Black, introduces speaker Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd, at the 2014 Knitting History Conference

It’s not too late to join us for the KHF Conference 2015, on Saturday 14th November 2015, at the London College of Fashion. Tickets available at the door or reserve in advance via the website. See Knitting History Forum Conference 2015 all the details and to book your ticket.

Knitting History Conference 2015

Reconstruction Knitted Sanquhar Glove courtesy of Kirstie Buckland. PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION!Join us for the Knitting History Forum 2015 Conference and AGM on Saturday 14th November 2015, at the London College of Fashion, 20 Princes St.

The Knitting History Conference starts promptly at 2.00PM. Speakers and papers for 2015 are:

  • ย Carol Christiansen on ‘Late seventeenth century knitwear from the Gunnister Man find‘;
  • ย Kirstie Buckland on ‘Saintly Socks and Silken Pillows โ€“ a glance at the mysteries of some medieval knitting in Spain‘;
  • ย Lesley Oโ€™Connell Edwards on ‘Who wrote what when? A study of the publications of the Hopes of Ramsgate in the 1840s‘;
  • ย Zoe Fletcher on ‘Designing for breed: Enhancing the potential for British wool in UK knitwear manufacture, through design, new technologies and marketing strategyโ€™ and
  • ย Jane Malcolm-Davies on ‘A knitting revolution? A scientific survey of sixteenth century knitted caps‘.

There will be time for questions and further discussion from 5.00PM, after all the speakers have delivered their papers.

Doors open at 10:30AM for registration. The first session from 10:30 to 11.00 is Show and Tell so please bring items for discussion. The AGM for KHF members runs from 11.00AM to 12:45, followed by a break for lunch. Lunch is not provided so please bring your own or buy locally. The London College of Fashion is just off Oxford Street so there is plenty of choice!

We welcome non-members and new members! Tickets cost ยฃ25 and can be booked in advance or on the door. If you are not a KHF member, you can use the PayPal button below to buy your ticket. See payment methods page for alternative ways to pay.


Knitting History Conference 2015 Non-members’ Ticket



Attendance at the Knitting History Conference is included in the KHF membership subscription, only ยฃ15 annually. Members may renew or subscribe on the day.

Knitting History Forum the international society for the history of knitting and crochet. Eight-pointed star, a common motif in knitting across many cultures. Smaller.
Knitting History Forum, the international society for the history of knitting.
Keep up with the latest inย knitting history news here on the KHF website, Knitting History, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@KnitHistForum).

European Textile Forum 2015

Theย European Textile Forum is being held again in Germany this November. The theme for 2015 is “Non-Woven Textile Structures”, a topic covering a broad range of textile techniques such as braiding, netting, nalbinding and of course, knitting. This year’s speakers include Jane Malcolm-Davies and Ruth Gilbert.

The European Textile Forumallows textile professionals, historians and textile workers with no academic background to explore and discuss early textiles. The programme usually includes a mixture of academic and practical presentations – in 2009 they ran a practical experiment testing the influence of spindle whorl, fibre and spinner on spinning. In 2015 the following presentations will be included (in no particular order):

  • Ruth Gilbert: On the terminology of non-woven textile structures and techniques, and why it matters
  • ย Anne Reichert: A lime bast textile find from Lake Constance in a singular technique
  • Ruth MacGregor: Demonstration and hands-on session on working with silk cocoons
  • Micky Schoelzke: Silk reeling demonstration/workshop
  • Heather Hopkins: Lightening talk presentations of unpublished findings from Pompeii, and a round-table discussion of these subjects
  • Rachel Case and Beatrix Nutz: Reconstruction project of extant garments from Lengberg Castle, focusing on the non-woven parts (paper and workshop)
  • Jane Malcolm-Davies: Knitted caps and knitting as a key innovation of the Early Modern era (paper and round-table discussion)

The conference runs from 2-8 November 2015 at the Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology in Mayen, Germany, the experimental archaeology research center of the Rรถmisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (RGZM). On-site accomodation at the Laboratory is restricted and the conference can only accomodate a few more delegates but spaces are available. Please visit the European Textile Forum website for more information and to register for a place.

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 Yahoo group 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.

Fashion on the Ration : 1940s Street Style Exhibition

2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Among many events in tribute is ‘Fashion on the Ration : 1940s Street Style’, a new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. Fashion on the Ration looks at ‘how fashion survived and even flourished’ in wartime Britain. "Displays of original clothes from the era, from military uniforms to functional fashion, reveal what life was really like on the home front in wartime Britain. This is a story not about the end of fashion but about creativity, innovation and coping in adversity, the impact of which can still be seen upon British style today."

The exhibition shows how the British attempted to maintain standards of appearance, concentrating on "on what people wore, their sense of identity and how they coped with the demands and deprivations." People of all backgrounds explored new sources of materials, beauty products and styles of dress as first intermittent supply, then clothes-rationing, took effect. Winston Churchill opposed the very concept of rationing clothes when first introduced in 1941. But Oliver Lyttleton of the Board of Trade believed rationing would ensure fair distribution of clothing across all sections of society, preserve limited wool and cotton supplies and release thousands of workers in the clothes industry for war work. Initially the allowance was 66 coupons annually but as the war dragged on it was cut to 48 coupons in 1942, to 36 in 1943, and in 1945 to only 24. Putting this into context, in 1941 stockings were 2 coupons each, a dress or skirt was 7 coupons and a wool dress 11 coupons. A man’s shirt was 5 coupons, trousers were 8 and a jacket 13: a three-piece suit would have been 26 coupons altogether. Material and yarn were rationed too: a yard of wool 36″ wide was 3 coupons while knitting wool was 2 ounces a coupon. Sob! In 1941 the Utility Apparel Order was issued to standardise mass-produced clothing and fabric and minimise waste, even limiting the number of pleats on skirts, buttons on coats and the length of menโ€™s socks. Adult clothing had 100% purchase tax added.

Facing such restrictions, the originality and invention of the response by British people, designers and manufacturers is extraordinary. “It would be an added calamity if war turned us into a nation of frights and slovens”, declared Vogue in 1939. Clothing was altered, mended and darned, often almost invisibly. Woollen jumpers were unravelled and re-knitted. We’ve all heard stories of unusual materials re-purposed for clothing and cosmetics, such as ‘liquid stockings’ and parachute silk. Some women without access to stockings or the charmingly-named ‘Helena Rubinstein’s Leg Stick’ really did resort to tea or even gravy browning. Shown for the first time is a set of Countess Mountbatten’s underwear. Made out of a silk map given by a boyfriend in the RAF, it is undecorated apart from the printing of the map and is actually rather beautiful. Other items on display are a woman’s suit made-over from a man’s, a child’s coat made from a blanket and a bracelet ingeniously created from components of crashed German aircraft.

Wedding dresses, with their increased yardage, presented a particular coupon-headache for brides who either could not or would not resort to black market goods. A bridesmaid’s dress made and worn by Janet Saunders in 1945 is indeed parachute silk. Evelyn Higginsonโ€™s 1943 wedding dress of pre-war figured silk, originally sold for making petticoats, was eventually worn by 15 different brides. Out of her own pocket, Barbara Cartland (yes, that Barbara Cartland), bought wedding dresses. She established a pool of hundreds of wedding-gowns lent out to hundreds more women who otherwise could not have afforded one. The thrift born then of necessity has much to teach us now regarding sustainability.

‘Fashion on the Ration’ features other, unexpected innovations. Gas masks might be an ugly fact of war but they could be carried in the bottom of a specially-designed leather handbag. Selfridges sold luminous buttons and brooches to make the wearer safe when walking at night because civilian car accidents in 1941 had risen from by over 2500 year since 1938, due, it was then thought, to blackout. A one-piece siren suit is ‘just the thing to pull on in a hurry’ when dashing for the shelter during night-time raids: a ‘onesie’, Home-Front-style. Nella Last described hers as “the maddest, most amusing thing a sedate matron of 51 ever possessed!” Rayon ‘Utility’ dresses provide a burst of vivid colour and pattern. With materials at a premium, styles were pared-down but striking. Many of the garments look wearable now. Perhaps that is why fashion keeps returning to the 1940s as a source of inspiration?

Knitting seems under-represented, given its significance at the time, but this outstanding exhibition nevertheless illuminates a significant aspect of life in wartime Britain. It is the perfect lead-up to the Museum of London’s conference on post-war dress in September. ‘Fashion on the Ration : 1940s Street Style’ runs until Monday 31 August 2015 at the Imperial War Museum London branch in Lambeth Road. More info at the IWM website. Their Wartime Fashion section may also be of interest.

Fully Fashioned: 200 Years of Pringle of Scotland

1930s Pringle of Scotland Sales Image
1930s Pringle of Scotland Cardigan and Twin Set

Pringle of Scotland marks its bicentenary this year with a new exhibition. “Fully Fashioned: The Pringle of Scotland Story” is at London’s Serpentine Gallery for a short preview coinciding with Pringle’s show during London Fashion week. Featuring surviving knitwear from Scottish museums, photographs and items from private collections and the firm’s archives, the exhibition traces the company’s history from its origins in 1815, when Robert Pringle began manufacturing hosiery and underwear in Hawick, to its current position as a international knitwear brand.

1907 Pringle of Scotland Sales Image
1907 Pringle of Scotland Sales Image

 

The company was a leading proponent of knitwear’s move into fashionable outerwear and in the twentieth century became known for luxury knitting, particularly sportswear emblazoned with the distinctive Pringle Argyle pattern, as popularised by Edward, Prince of Wales. Included in the exhibition are items from the twentieth century as well as early Pringle knitted underwear and more recent pieces, such as a handknit with 3D print elements from the Autumn/Winter 2014 campaign.

1958 Pringle of Scotland Advertisement
1958 Pringle of Scotland Advertisement

The Michael Clark Dance Company has collaborated with Pringle to produce Knitwear | Movement, three short films ‘animating’ this history, while Alfred Watson was commissioned for their 200th anniversary marketing campaign, combining Pringle designs with the Scottish landscape. The films and photographs are also shown in the exhibition.

Following the preview in London, “Fully Fashioned: The Pringle of Scotland Story” will subsequently tour the US and Asia, before heading back over the border to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, where it opens to the public from Friday April 10 to Sunday August 16 2015.

โ€“ http://www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/whats-on/fully-fashioned/
โ€“ http://www.harpersbazaar.co.uk/fashion/fashion-news/pringle-celebrates-200-years-with-new-exhibition
โ€“ http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/2015/02/24/pringle-of-scotland-london-exhibition-preview

Top image credit:ย Amy Barton