Dr Karen Finch OBE. Cover of a Textile Conservation Centre (TCC) 40th anniversary tribute volume. Photo by Kirstie Buckland.

Dr Karen Finch

Since 2006, Dr Karen Finch OBE has been Honorary President of the Knitting History Forum. As textile conservator and specialist, Dr Finch’s warm personality and depth of knowledge enlivened early meetings. She delivered a paper on Needle Knitting in 1996 and spoke again in 2006 on archaeological finds from Copenhagen. Kirstie Buckland, a founding KHF member and herself an authority on early knitting, visited Karen at her home earlier this summer:

Dr Karen Finch OBE. Summer, 2015. Photo by Kirstie Buckland.
Dr Karen Finch OBE. Summer, 2015.

Karen Finch was born to a farming family in Denmark in 1921. She trained as a weaver and textile specialist, then married Norman Finch and moved to England in 1945. Here she quickly established her authority through the Royal School of Needlework and the V&A, voicing her concern about the lack of proper scientific conservation methods for vulnerable textiles. She began holding training classes for conservators in their beautiful house in Ealing but these classes quickly outgrew the house and in 1975 premises in Hampton Court Palace were secured for this purpose and the Textile Conservation Centre (TCC) took shape, culminating in purpose-built studios being attached to Winchester School of Art.

Dr Karen Finch OBE. Detail of a Textile Conservation Centre (TCC) 40th anniversary tribute volume. Photo by Kirstie Buckland.
Dr Karen Finch OBE. Detail of Textile Conservation Centre (TCC) 40th anniversary tribute.

Dr Finch was the founder and first Principal of the TCC, known, respected and admired worldwide. Her contribution over the subsequent forty years was marked this summer by a ceremony when a unique volume of comments, extracts and pictures compiled by some of those conservators was presented to her. We are fortunate that at my suggestion to re-establish the former Early Knitting History Group (1993-2006), Karen immediately agreed to stand for President and was unanimously elected to that position at our inaugural meeting.

She is still greatly loved by her many friends, amongst whom I hope I can be counted. We first met over a Grenadier cap in 1975, and have since shared a lot of information and fun. Karen now lives with her daughter and family in Walthamstow where her spirit and sense of humour continues to engage all who go there.

Kirstie Buckland, September 2015.

All photos courtesy of Kirstie Buckland.