People Knitting: A Century of Photographs

Sojourner Truth from 'People Knitting A Century of Photographs' by Barbara Levine
Sojourner Truth from ‘People Knitting A Century of Photographs’ by Barbara Levine

Hyperallergic, the arts blogzine, posted a review of ‘People Knitting: A Century of Photographs’ a compact book by Barbara Levine, an artist, collector and curator. Published in 2016 by Princeton Architectural Press, the images in People Knitting are drawn mainly from Barbara Levine’s collection. Shown here is Sojourner Truth, the African-American women’s rights activist and abolitionist.

Click here to read the review

The King’s Vest and the Seaman’s Gansey – Thesis

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

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.

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!

Scottish Handknitting Industry Thesis

Cover of Helen Bennett's 1981 doctoral thesis "The origins and development of the Scottish hand-knitting industry", University of Edinburgh. Copyright Dr Helen M Bennett.
Cover of Helen Bennett’s 1981 doctoral thesis “The origins and development of the Scottish hand-knitting industry”, University of Edinburgh. Copyright Dr Helen M Bennett.
Helen Bennett’s ‘Scottish Knitting’ is a frequent entry in bibliographies of knitting. Her 1981 doctoral thesis, “The origins and development of the Scottish hand-knitting industry”, is now available online from ERA, digital research archive of The University of Edinburgh.

Dr Bennett’s introduction states “The purpose of this study […] is to examine the evidence for the antiquity of the wearing and making of knitted garments in Scotland, and to establish a framework for the emergence of the industry in different parts of the country”. Ruth Gilbert, who kindly sent in this link, describes the thesis as the best general background available free online and we agree!

The Vintage Shetland Project

The Vintage Shetland ProjectKnitting designer Susan Crawford, with the assistance and support of curator Dr Carol Christiansen, spent several years studying hand-knitted garments and accessories in the rich collection of the Shetland Museum and Archives for The Vintage Shetland Project. Susan, co-author of ‘A Stitch in Time’, has now selected twenty-five pieces from the 1920s to 1960s for development into comprehensive, multi-sized knitting patterns. These will be published in a book with full-colour pictures, accompanying essays about each of the items and the knitting traditions of Shetland, and a chapter about the book’s creation, the history of the Shetland Museum and a foreword by Dr Christiansen.

Vintage Shetland Project - Susan Crawford examines a garment at the Shetland MuseumThe Vintage Shetland Project took four years and involved repeated trips to Shetland; recording the construction of vintage items stitch by stitch; the creation of custom software for ‘translating’ the stitches and the development of a new 2-ply wool yarn in the old style, ‘Fenella’, manufactured in a range of colours to match the garments from the archives.

Our followers on Twitter (@KnitHistForum) will already have read about a crowdfunding campaign towards the cost of self-publishing the book. Every day of the campaign, which ends 8 August 2015, Susan Crawford will be posting pictures from The Vintage Shetland Project on Instagram. The initial, modest target was met in a matter of days though there’s still time to donate and help cover further costs as detailed on the campaign page. Donations vary from low to high and each has an appropriate reward. Details, pictures, a video by Susan and an excerpt from the book can be found at

Vintage Shetland Project - detail of a hand-knitted garment from the Shetland Museum
Detail of a hand-knitted garment from the Shetland Museum


Costume Journal – Free Access

Costume Society Journal 1965-2015
Costume Society Journal 1965-2015

The Costume Society was founded half a century ago. In honour of their fiftieth anniversary, fifty articles from the Society’s journal Costume have been digitised by publisher Maney of Leeds and are available free online to the end of July 2015. Many seminal, scholarly articles on the history of dress can be downloaded for free, including “The Englishman’s Swimwear” by Richard Rutt, published in Volume 24, 1990. While not specifically covering knitting, styles and construction of knitted garments and hand-knitting patterns are briefly (no pun intended) discussed. The article is a must for anyone interested in the serious history of men’s bathing costumes and swimming trunks, so often the subject of vintage knitting patterns.

Another article of interest currently with unlimited access is “The Hodson Shop” by Sheila B. Shreeve, from Volume 48, 2014, on a twentieth-century draper’s and haberdasher’s shop whose surviving stock is now kept at Walsall Museum. Small shops of this type throughout Britain sold supplies for knitting, crochet and other needlework as well as affordable, ready-made clothing including, no doubt, rayon jumpers of similarly unfortunate proportions to those sold in Edith Hodson’s shop! The article contains little information relating directly to knitting, but this evocative glimpse into a shopping experience common to many British knitters is invaluable.

To download these and other articles on costume history, visit Maney Online.

Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983

Ruth Gilbert has written a new book, “Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983”. Covering knitting and its uses from medieval to almost modern, it is, uniquely, aimed primarily at re-enactors, living historians, historical interpreters and all involved in period textile demonstrations. Described as “a practical guide” it answers fundamental questions for re-enactors such as “1. Should I be knitting? 2. What should I knit? 3. How should I knit? 4. Does it matter?”

Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983 by Ruth Gilbert
Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983 by Ruth Gilbert

Ruth is a textile historian who has published articles and presented conference papers on spinning and knitting history, including at the Knitting History Forum, with which she has been involved since it was the Early Knitting History Group in the 1990s. Ruth is also known to many in re-enactment as Beth Frend or Beth the Weaver, an authority on weaving, spinning and knitting and many, if not all things textile! This booklet will be invaluable to re-enactors and many others.

“Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983” is a slim but affordable A5 volume published by Hogwash Press at £4 plus postage. It will also be available in the UK from Ruth herself at the Textile Fair, Kentwell Hall Open Days (participants only), Whittington Castle’s May Day event or the Loft Space at Standedge.

UK Copyright Guidelines for Knitting Patterns

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.

Copyright Notice Number: 4/2015 on Knitting And Sewing Patterns can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Thank you to Kay Lacey who brought this to our attention.

Centenary Stitches WWI Commemorative Project

The Centenary Stitches WWI project began as a response to plea for assistance from WAGscreen, makers of the film ‘Tell Them of Us’. Set in the First World War and drawing on surviving letters, memoirs, photographs and other artefacts, the film follows the fortunes of a real Lincolnshire soldier, Robert Crowder, showing through the view point of his family and the home front how the war affected an ordinary British household.

Producer and costumier Pauline Loven understood the significance of knitting and crochet in 1910s Britain and tweeted for help sourcing original patterns and creating reproductions for the cast. The response was overwhelming, with researchers, knitters and crocheters all over the world mobilising to form a group recreating period garments and supporting the film. British yarns were donated by Rowan, Texere, Jamiesons of Shetland, Frangipani and Blacker. In less than a year the group grew to over 300 volunteers, co-ordinating efforts via Facebook and Ravelry, and accessed funding through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘First World War, Then and Now’ programme. Period patterns were supplied by several sources including the collection of the Knitting and Crochet Guild. These were tested and modernised and feature in the film together with new designs by Elizabeth Lovick, based on Crowder family photographs. Volunteers have blogged their progress at, a testament to the extraordinary motivation and generosity of the textile community.

The project has developed even further, with Elizabeth Lovick editing ‘Centenary Stitches’, a book of over 70 knitting and crochet patterns inspired by or reproduced from 1910s originals. ‘Centenary Stitches’ will be published to coincide with the release of ‘Tell Them of Us’, which premieres this November. Visit the website to learn more about this unique group and see pictures of their work, including a shawl by Joyce Meader, speaker at the KHF conference this November

Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture

The latest issue of ‘Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture’ is a special edition devoted to knitting. Edited by Jonathan Faiers, it contains articles based on presentations originally given at the conference ‘In the Loop 3: The Voices of Knitting’, held in Winchester, September 2012.

Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture.  Special Knitting Edition
Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture. Special Knitting Edition

The papers are:

‘“In the Loop”: Challenging and Disrupting the Stereotypes of Knitting’ – Linda Newington
‘A Sweater to Die for: Fair Isle and Fair Play in The Killing’ – Jo Turney
‘Knitting and Well-being’ – Betsan Corkhill, Jessica Hemmings, Angela Maddock, Jill Riley
‘Discovering Knitting at the Regent Street Polytechnic, 1898‐1948’ – Anna McNally
‘Knitting and the Olympic Games: Clothing, Competition, Culture, and Commerce’ – Martin Polley
‘Stitched Up—Representations of Contemporary Vintage Style Mania and the Dark Side of the Popular Knitting Revival’ – Emmanuelle Dirix
‘Knitting and Catastrophe’ – Jonathan Faiers

Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Volume 12 Issue 1, is published by Bloomsbury. Ingentaconnect gives abstracts but unless you have access to a subscription, each downloadable article is $32.99.

Alternatively, the print edition is currently available at a discount, directly from the publishers

‘Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World’

Dr Maj Ringgaard, an expert in textiles and conservation from the Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen, has researched early knitted waistcoats or vests. At the Knitting History Forum Conference in 2011 she delivered a paper on 17th and 18th Century star-patterned, knitted waistcoats in Scandinavia. Some of her findings will be published later this month in an exciting anthology which she has also co-edited.

Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World
Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World

‘Silk Knitted Waistcoats – a 17th-century fashion item’ will be available in ‘Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World’, together with 15 other papers on dress, fashion and consumption in Denmark, Norway, Sweden Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Isles and Greenland. ‘Early Modern’ is defined here as 1500 to 1850, though the majority of papers are 17th or 18th century. Topics are both object-based and theoretical in their analysis and include merchant and shop inventories, the whaling industry, sumptuary laws, christening garments, taste and consumption, clothing construction, liturgical textiles and an English fashion doll, among others.

‘Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World’ is jointly edited by Tove Engelhardt Mathiasen, Marie-Louise Nosch, Maj Ringgaard, Kirsten Toftegaard, and Mikkel Venborg Pedersen. It will be published by Oxbow Books on 30 May 2014 as Volume 14 of their Ancient Textile Series.

Further details and a full list of articles are on the publisher’s website: