The focus ofย The Early Textiles Study Group (ETSG) covers all types of fibre artefacts from all over the globe, up to 1600 AD. The group was founded by specialists in archaeological textiles but also has members from allied disciplines, fibre-specialists and makers. ETSG events include visits to collections and archaeological sites, seminars and meetings to discuss research, as well as a regularly-held, two-part course on identifying textile structures.
ETSG has opened up their membership. All members must be willing to share knowledge and experience and be open to advancing their learning. The new Associate membership level is open to anyone with “a passion for the subject”. Associate members may attend or participate in ETSG events, though they are not eligible to vote or join the committee, and may join by simply contacting the ETSG membership secretary. The Core membership, generally expert in their field of textile research or practice, is eligible to vote at general meetings and take on formal roles within the group and continues to be proposed by two existing members and elected at the ETSG AGM. Both Core and Associate membership of ETSG continues to be free.
Listeners of radio and podcasts may like to know BBC World Service flagship discussion series ‘The Forum’ recently broadcast an episode ‘Unravelling the history of knitting’. The 40-minute programme examines the global history of knitting from its origins to the recent craft revival, including distinctive traditions that have developed around the world. Three guests share their insights in discussion with presenter Bridget Kendall: Professor Sandy Black, KHF Chair and author of ‘Knitting: Fashion, Industry, Craft’; Annemor Sundbรธ, Norwegian textile designer and author of ‘Everyday Knitting: Treasures From A Ragpile’ and Cynthia LeCount Samakรฉ, specialist in indigenous textiles and author of ‘Andean Folk Knitting: Traditions and Techniques from Peru and Bolivia’. (Further details of these books may be found in the Knitting History Reading List in our Resources section).
In the twenty-first century, Dr Tahani Baakdhah of the University of Toronto makes models in crochet to illustrate her research on stem cells in the retina and promote science literacy. She has just published a book of patterns, ‘Crocheting Neuroscience: The Retina’. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries British chemist and mathematician, Alexander Crum Brown (1838-1922), also made teaching models using a variety of techniques including knitting. Some of Dr Crum Brown’s models, including multi-dimensional knitting demonstrating his mathematical work on inter-penetrating surfaces, are shown in this article from the National Museums of Scotland blog https://blog.nms.ac.uk/2017/11/15/alexander-crum-browns-mathematical-models-interpenetrating-models-of-beknottedness/, and it is really encouraging this connection between textiles and teaching science continues today.
The University of Glasgow’s Knit History blog has posted a piece by graduate student Qiaoyun Peng, on knitting in Georgia, the nation and former member of the Soviet Union, not the US state. Georgian knitting has been described by Sofia Tchkonia, founder of Tbilisi Fashion Week, as “the Missoni of the mountains” and the president of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, is himself a knitter but, as Peng notes, “Georgian knitting is far from being famous outside the country itself.” A brief but revealing glimpse into a lesser-known but important knitting tradition http://knithistory.academicblogs.co.uk/a-georgian-knitting-odyssey/
Hyperallergic, the arts blogzine, posted a review of ‘People Knitting: A Century of Photographs’ a compact book by Barbara Levine,ย an artist,ย collector and curator. Published in 2016 by Princeton Architectural Press, the images in People Knittingย are drawn mainly from Barbara Levine’s collection. Shown here is Sojourner Truth, the African-American women’s rights activist and abolitionist.
Ruth Gilbert, textile historian and weaver, has kindly offered access to her 2009 MPhil thesis, “The King’s Vest and the Seaman’s Gansey: Continuity and Diversity of Construction in Hand Knitted Body Garments in North Western Europe Since 1550”. For a dropbox link to an electronic copy, please email Ruth at email@example.com.
Hard copies of the final version are available at the Winchester School of Art and the Hartley Library at the University of Southampton, and Ruth informs us she will place a copy of the unrevised thesis in the library at the Knitting and Crochet Guild Collections. Please note that Ruth retains copyright in her work and the pictures are for personal use only.
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.
Mary Hawkins, a long-standing member of Knitting History Forum, has spoken more than once at KHF conferences and meetings on framework and machine knitting, still a mainstay of the modern garment industry. She also volunteers at the Framework Knitters Museum in Ruddington. Mary has kindly offered us a very brief tour through the history of machine knitting, from William Lee’s invention of the knitting frame in 1589, to the technological advances of the post-war period. A Short History of Machine Knitting is available to read in the Resources section.
Some of the many women ready to contribute to the war effort by knitting for soldiers were surprised to find the task more difficult than they imagined, and their exertions unappreciated. Newspapers lamented the quality of some of the items sent to the front by their female readers, complaining that they were too small for soldiers’ feet or even that they were misshapen. The Charleston Mercury remarked, โThe formation of some of the socks which they have produced does not indicate a very exact knowledge of human anatomy. I saw one last evening, which I am told, was intended for the foot of the entire Southern Confederacy. From its size, I judged it would make a rather loose fit.โ
Students of knitting history are well aware the craft has long proved adaptable in the face of innovation. In the last thirty years, knitting and technology have had some interesting encounters. According to this article from 2012, in the 1980s Nintendo worked on an add-on device for the Nintendo Entertainment System that would have enabled users of the NES to create their own designs and knit them. A brochure from the time includes the bold statement, “The Nintendo Knitting Machine is just one more example of the innovative thinking that keeps Nintendo on the cutting edge of video technology. And your customers on the edge of their seats.” The brochure boasted, “Of course we should probably mention that no other video game system offers anything even remotely similar.” In hindsight, there may have been a reason for that. Despite the confidence of the advertising copy, the Nintendo Knitting Machine was shown at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas in 1987 but was never released.
On a related theme, ‘A brief history of yarn in video games‘ briefly mentions this same story and further electronic, yarn-related surprises, including an iPhone knitting game from 2009, an unusual subject for future knitting history research. The language in this article may be offensive to readers.
The UK government’s Intellectual Property Office have issued a new copyright notice explaining copyright law for knitting patterns, "aimed at individuals and small businesses who may wish to use or create knitting, sewing and related patterns".
It isn’t a revision of existing laws, merely a guide to current practice in the UK. With the increase of independent designers publishing PDF patterns, so much online pattern-swapping, and so many sellers making illegal reprints of knitting and sewing patterns that are still very much in copyright, this is a timely reminder of where we all stand when making or using knitting patterns.
The 450th Anniversary Jacket was recently displayed on theย KCG stand at the Creative Crafts Show in Esher.ย It was knitted by KHF Treasurer and Membership Secretary, Tricia Basham, as part of her City & Guilds in Hand Knit Textiles.
Others are getting involved too. As well as donating ยฃ2 from every sale of their exclusive Penguin Christmas jumper pattern, Deramores are offering free jumper patterns on their website http://www.deramores.com/christmas-jumper-day. Well-known British designers as well as students of the London College of Fashion have customised 30 identical bespoke jumpers by Wool and the Gang. Atterley Road will be holding a Secret Jumper Sale on 3rd December, selling the jumpers inย aid of Save The Children. This is a rare opportunity to own an unique piece of knitting historyย AND doย your bit for charity. Visit their website for more info and a preview of all 30 jumpers http://www.atterleyroad.com/the-road/do-your-bit-with-a-knit/