Due to the global pandemic, the KHF Committee decided to hold the 2020 AGM and Conference virtually and to extend a welcome to attendees from all time-zones around the world. The response was extremely enthusiastic and tickets were booked up very quickly. Approximately 120 attendees joined via Zoom from countries including the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland and the Nether-lands.
Alongside the excellent presentations, fascinating points and questions were raised by participants via the Zoom chat function. Some of these have been included in this report. However, there is no doubt that the discussions will continue on the KHF group discussion forum, https://groups.io/g/knittinghistory. Please join in!
The morning began with a warm welcome from our Chair, Professor Sandy Black. After the AGM, which will be reported separately, participants joined one of two breakout groups. The first group was a show and tell open session, exploring âWhat I made during lockdownâ. This session began with Susan Northâs amazing crochet toys. During lockdown, Susan has so far crocheted forty-three different critters. Her creative and colourful creatures range from a selection of urban pests to an English beaver, a Highland cow and a Louisiana alligator. Her wide range of subjects also includes sea creatures, monsters and dinosaurs and her next project is a âcreepy crittersâ collection!
Roxanne Richardson shared the extensive learning opportunities from knitting a 1920âs knitting pattern. The 1920âs jumper can be viewed on Ravelry https://www.ravelry.com/projects/Rox/indian-slip-on-no-13a and there is an accompanying video https://youtu.be/4cxNbJoWXB4. A link to a 1904 pattern ‘Edwardian Sweaterâ can also be viewed on Ravelry. https://www.ravelry.com/projects/Rox/columbia-sweater
Kirk Dunn, a textile artist who apprenticed with Kaffe Fassett, shared three hand-knitted stained glass windows that took 15 years to create. http://www.kirkdunn.com/knitting#stitched-glass
Marleen Laag shared that the company EE Exclusives made a knitting wall-hanging for King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, which had a lot of media coverage. https://www.ee-exclusives.com/portfolio/furniture/for-sale-bouquet-v-a-unique-double-sided-wall-hanging/
The second group attended two presentations by PhD candidates.
Michelle Hanks, London College of Fashion, considered knitting as a thinking tool in her presentation âIâll have to knit about itâ. Michelle selected four items from her research to illustrate her ideas and processes. A large knitted blanket project was a fascinating record of her own mood and feelings as compared to the same dayâs Twitter headlines. A double-sided, reversible sweater with mirror-imaged lettering âGood enoughâ was extremely thought-provoking, especially when Michelle revealed her discovery that the words on the inside of the sweater became readable in selfie photographs. The links between the complexity of knitting project and an individualâs mood and feelings provided fascinating insights. Maintaining control over the knitted stitches was also considered as an important element linked to well-being.
Emily Rickard, Nottingham Trent University, introduced us to her free knitting experi-ments. These knitted responses are used as a means of exploring the use of creative, open-ended knitting as a form of journaling to record emotions, with consideration for mental well-being. A discussion point raised during the presentation suggested that free knitting has parallels with âautomatic writing” and with Julia Cameronâs âmorning pagesâ. Emily developed her free knitting proposals though interviews with knitters. This allowed her to establish clear parameters for her research. At the end of her presentation, Emily made a request for new participants to join her research. If you are interested in finding out more, please do contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Director of the Textile Research Centre (TRC), Leiden, The Netherlands, opened the afternoon Conference with her presentation about knitted highlights from the TRC Collection. In particular, the Socks & Stockings Exhibition (2019) featured exhibits from many different countries, and the results of the Texel Silk Stocking project led by Chrystel Brandenburgh. This exhibition included a wall of socks created with items borrowed from Annemor Sundboâs Ragpile Collection in Norway https://annemor.com/. Gillian showed a surprise object in this section â a knitted snake! This snake had been constructed using seventeen different styles of sock heels, demonstrating just how many techniques exist within only one aspect of sock knitting.
Lynn Abrams, University of Glasgow, presented an excellent overview of âFrom Fleece to Fashion: researching the history of knitted textiles in Scotlandâ. The following quote is from The University of Glasgow knitting and textile history blog, where you can find out more about Fleece to Fashion and other research projects. There are also links to the Universityâs own Cochno yarn. âThis projectâs aim is to transform understanding of a) creativity: the relationship between materials, designs, techniques, and skills used to produce knitted textiles across Scotland; b) authenticity: why and how knitted textiles have become synonymous with Scottish heritage and c) sustainability: how knitting has survived â through adaptation â as both an indigenous craft and industrial practice from the late-eighteenth through late-twentieth centuries, and what is required for its survival in the twenty-first century and beyond.â
Jade Halbert, University of Huddersfield, drew on her own family experiences in her fas-cinating talk, âKnitting for Money: homework in Glasgow and beyond in the 1980sâ. Using interviews with her aunts and her mother, Jade described small-scale knitwear businesses that were set up and run within the Easterhouse area of Glasgow in the 1980s. Using knitting machines, her aunts made sweaters and cardigans and sold them to local residents. Jade highlighted the contrast between this machine-knitted garment production and her motherâs experience of hand-knitting garments for a âdesignerâ shop. These ob-servations showed the difference between what the garment knitter was paid and how much a garment could subsequently be sold for. Several participants shared their own family experiences, including teaching machine-knitting and making garments for shops and local communities.
The 1980s theme continued into Sandy Blackâs presentation,â On being a knitwear designer in the 1980sâ. Sandyâs creative use of a wide range of different inspirations, including landscapes, texture and colour in her work, prompted many admiring comments in the chat. Sandy was also asked about her background in mathematics which prompted a discussion of the strong links between maths and science and knitwear design. The presentation concluded with the exciting news about Sandyâs forthcoming Crowood Press book! For the book âClassic Knits of the 1980sâ, Sandy has recreated some of her favourite knitwear from the 1980s, placing them in context with the inspiration for the designs. Another of Sandy’s excellent books, âKnitting: Fashion, Industry, Craft’, is currently available from the V&A bookshop.
The next two presentations explored the subject of knitted gloves. In âTwo pairs of 18th Century Abbessâs gloves from Pragueâ, Sylvie OdstrÄilovĂĄ, an independent researcher from the Czech Republic shared her fascinating research. The audience were entranced by Sylvieâs detailed examination of the construction of the gloves, especially the differences between the pairs of gloves that became apparent upon close viewing. For example, slits present on the thumb and two forefingers of each glove had several possible uses. Each were carefully considered by Sylvie before reaching the fascinating conclusion of linking them to rosary beads. Sylvieâs research will be published in the Archaeo-logical Textiles Review (no 62) at the end of the year. It will be free to access online from early January 2021. https://ctr.hum.ku.dk/articlesbooks/atn/
Lesley OâConnell Edwards and Angharad Thomas, both independent researchers from the UK, introduced us to their current shared research, âHoly Hands: studies of knitted liturgical glovesâ. In one section of their talk, they explained the development of a protocol to record observations where there are a large number of elements to be included. Deciding on a consistent approach to the order of examination is key to gaining an understanding of the gloves. When considering the reconstruction of a glove, several challenges emerged including charting the motifs and patterns, as well considering how colour-work was handled. The extremely fine gauge of the knitting was also highlighted. This prompted a fascinating discussion of the tools required to knit with this fine gauge silk. A participant suggested that fine smooth needles could have been supplied by goldsmiths or armourers. The project will also be written up as a work in progress report in Archaeological Textiles Review (no 62). Liturgical gloves can be found in the collection of the Worshipful Company of Glovers. http://www.glovecollectioncatalogue.org/
For the final presentation of the day, we were joined by Emily Whitted, PhD candidate from the University of Massachusetts, USA. Emily presented her Masterâs research, âMade in Germantown: Analysis of an Early American Frame Knitting Industryâ, tracing the life cycle of Germantown stockings as they passed through the hands of their makers, users, and repairers in eighteenth-century Philadelphia. To gain an understanding of frame knitting machine operation, Emily undertook hands-on research at Ruddington Framework Museum in the UK. Learning to set-up and make her own samples on a frame knitting machine showed her the complexity of working in this way. Her descriptions of carrying out repairs to the knitting machine and actually making the spare parts were in-sightful.
Thank you to the KHF Committee for organising and hosting this excellent event.
Please do keep in touch with Knitting History Forum through the following links to continue the excellent discussions and conversations started during the Conference.