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.
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 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
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”.
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 â€˜knit in the roundâ€™ 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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
Â Carol Christiansen on ‘Late seventeenth century knitwear from the Gunnister Man find‘;
Â Kirstie Buckland on ‘Saintly Socks and Silken Pillows â€“ a glance at the mysteries of some medieval knitting in Spain‘;
Â Lesley Oâ€™Connell Edwards on ‘Who wrote what when? A study of the publications of the Hopes of Ramsgate in the 1840s‘;
Â Zoe Fletcher on ‘Designing for breed: Enhancing the potential for British wool in UK knitwear manufacture, through design, new technologies and marketing strategyâ€™ and
Â 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 Â£25 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.
TheÂ 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
Â 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
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 RÃ¶misch-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.
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.
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 menâ€™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 Higginsonâ€™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.
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.
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.
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.
Another exciting study day for the calendar. ‘Kitchener Stitch’, the seamless method of grafting the toe that is the joy or bane of many a sock-knitter, is said to have been devised or at least inspired by Herbert Kitchener, British Secretary of State for War from 1914 to 1916, in an attempt to prevent chafing. Whatever the truth of the story, this study day explores the relationship between knitting and wartime and highlights how knitting meant much more than the popular image of women on the home front knitting for the troops.
Speakers include Jane Tynan of Central St Martins on ‘Comforting Body and Soul: Knitting in First World War Britain‘ and Maggie Andrews of University of Worcester on ‘”Men went to war and women knitted” : domesticity andÂ crafts on the Home Front in Britain‘. Joyce Meader of The Historic Knit and Barbara Smith of Knitting & Crochet Guild will reprise their papers from the 2014 Knitting History Forum Conference, ‘Knitted Comforts from Crimea to the Modern Day‘ and ‘Useful Work for Anxious Fingers – Knitting & Crochet in the First World War‘ respectively. You can discover more about knitting in wartime from the Crimea to Afghanistan and also browse the Glasgow Women’s Library historical knitting pattern collection. A full programme will posted closer to the event.
A quick reminder that our next event is only four weeks away. The Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk Show is on Saturday 21 February 2015, from 1pm to 4pm at the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, London. There’s more information here.
Places cost only Â£10. Please contact our Membership Secretary and Treasurer, Tricia Basham, to book yours.
Loraine and Tricia have arranged a KHF visit to see knitting from the Victoria and Albert museum in London. The V&A has a rich and varied holding of knitting in their collections, ranging from very early to the latest in modern knitwear. Only a tiny fraction is on display in the museum itself: the rest is stored in controlled conditions at the V&A’s new purpose-built facilities at the Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion, Blythe House, in Olympia. The museum collections can be searched online. If there are specific items you know would like to see, please email your suggestions with your booking.
Once again the event is open to members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild as well as Knitting History Forum. There are two dates available, the afternoons of Friday 13 and Friday 20 March. Although it was intended that the 13th would be for KCG and the 20th for KHF members, there is some flexibility across both dates to ensure this wonderful opportunity is open to as many interested people as possible.
Tricia is still finalising all the details but she will let you know as soon as all the arrangements are made. Places are almost gone but there is still time to book yours. Contact Tricia directly or email ‘KHF Events & Bookings’ to reserve your space, arrange payment of the Â£5 deposit and suggest items to view. Don’t miss this opportunity to see items not usually on display, in the company of some extremely knowledgeable members of both Knitting History Forum and the Knitting & Crochet Guild!
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.
Joyce Meader’s presentation at the Knitting History Forum Conference 2014
Detail of a reproduction by Joyce Meader
Detail of Joyce Meader’s reproduction of a Crimean War era jumper from her presentation at the 2014 Knitting History Forum Conference
Detail of a 1910s knitting pattern for a Belgian soldier’s kepi, collection of Joyce Meader
Detail of a 1910s magazine with patterns, collection of Joyce Meader
Early knitting patterns and historical reproductions by Joyce Meader
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 Yahoo group and replying to her post.
The Knitting & Crochet Guild are making their collection, held at Lee Mills, more accessible by taking a selection on tour. Angharad Thomas and Barbara Smith, respectively the KCG’s Textile Archivist and Publications Curator, will bring an array of historical knitted and crocheted items, publications and knitting equipment.
Places are limited and cost Â£10 per head. If you are interested please contact our Membership Secretary, Tricia Basham.
Another great day at our annual KHF AGM and Conference on Saturday, with a broad range of topics and plenty of discussion! Angharad Thomas took us on a tour through the history of two-colour glove-knitting, starting right from the earliest nalbindning examples in only one colour, presenting her conclusions so far. Tom van Deijnen introduced us to different methods of repairing knitting and wowed us with his meticulous mending skills, including a jumper repair commissioned by the Knitting and Crochet Guild. Amy Twigger Holroyd recapped the last ten yearsâ€™ development of â€˜Keep & Shareâ€™, the experimental knitwear label and open craft practice, impressing us with her beautiful knitting and thoughtful approach to her work. Barbara Smith shared her research on knitting and crochet in Britain and the Empire during the First World War, revealing some surprising facts and surviving items including some which can be matched to patterns in wartime magazines.
Joyce Meader showed us a small portion of her collection, a veritable treasure trove of knitting and crochet patterns for the armed forces from the 1800s to now, with remarkable garments she reproduced from them. Our progress was recorded at the AGM with lively debate and fresh ideas for moving onwards and upwards. Look out for some interesting events next year!
A big thank you to our wonderful speakers for their inspiring and intriguing talks. Thank you also to Professor Sandy Black, Tricia Basham and all involved in organising the event, for making the day so enjoyable. And finally thanks to everyone who brought open minds, interesting questions, stimulating conversation â€“ and their knitting!
In the Loop 4 will be held 26-28 August 2015 at the University of Glasgow, in association with the School of Humanities and the ‘Knitting in the Round’ project. It is intended to reflect the place of Scotland in the history of knitting and the city of Glasgow in the world of fashion.
In the Loop is a series of interdisciplinary and international conferences on knitting and crochet. 2015 sees the fifth to be held so far (the numbering is correct, theÂ fourth conference in 2013 was In the Loop 3.5). Professor Sandy Black, Knitting History Forum’s Chair, was keynote speaker at the first conference and the following events have featured an impressive array of speakers and topics.
The Call for Papers for next year invites proposals for papers and poster presentations on the theme “From Craft to Couture”,Â encompassing the range of applications of knitting (and crochet) in the past, present and future and in a variety of contexts. Applications are encouraged from all “practitioners, academics and researchers, designers, makers, artists, technicians, those working at home, in business and industry, education, archives, libraries and museums.” The deadline is 15 January 2015.