Knitting History News

Knitted Gloves: KHF/KCG Joint Meeting

Angharad Thomas, Textile Archivist for the Knitting & Crochet Guild, is speaking on Knitted Gloves, their history, design and knitting. Angharad’s work was recently exhibited at the Bankfield Museum in Halifax, together with items from the KCG Collection.

This joint meeting of Knitting History Forum and Knitting & Crochet Guild Central London Branch will be held on Saturday, 18th March 2017, at the London College of Fashion, 20 John Prince’s Street, just off Oxford Street. The event is open to all and costs £15, or £10 for KHF/KCG members.

For further information and to book a place, please contact Tricia, our Membership Secretary, or email ‘KHF Events & Bookings’.

Knitting History Ravelry Group

KHF is now on Ravelry! The Knitting History Forum Ravelry group is open for discussion to members and friends of Knitting History Forum. Thanks to Lesley O’Connell Edwards who set up the group and is also one of the moderators.

Ravelry is an online knitting and crochet community and is free to sign-up. Visit http://www.ravelry.com/groups/knitting-history-forum to join the Knitting History Forum group.

Reflections On Knitting In The Media

A quick reminder about the discussion “Reflections on knitting in the media – how would we represent the history of knitting?” at the Knitting History Forum Conference this Saturday. Participants are reminded to prepare by seeing the documentary ‘The Secret History of Knitting’, freely available on Youtube. Made by Blue Ant Media, the programme features interviews with Joyce Meader, Jane Malcolm-Davies and Sandy Black, who will be leading discussion this Saturday afternoon. Follow the link to watch ‘The Secret History of Knitting’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJiN9GNrDpA.

Another documentary that may be of interest to delegates is ‘Fabric of Britain – Knitting’s Golden Age’. First shown in 2013, this programme was made by the BBC and is available to viewers in the UK with a TV Licence and access to BBC iPlayer (and possibly a few other viewers too). The similarities and contrasts to ‘The Secret History of Knitting’ are pertinent to our discussion. Viewers may recognise another interviewee – see above! There are 8 days left to catch this episode online. Click the link to watch ‘Fabric of Britain – Knitting’s Golden Age’ at the BBC website http://bbc.in/1CyVEmV.

Knitted 1940s ATS Doll

Knitted ATS DollAhead of Remembrance Day, here is a 1940s knitted ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) doll from the collections of the Imperial War Museum.

Knitted ATS Doll © IWM (EPH 2877)

Further down the same page are 1940s British knitting patterns for more dolls in uniform, including WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), WRNS (Women’s Royal Naval Service), sailor, soldier and airman http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30084130

Knitting History Forum AGM & Conference 2016

Knitting History Forum is pleased to announce that Dr Roslyn Chapman will be speaking at the Knitting History Conference on Saturday 19th November 2016, at the London College of Fashion. Her presentation, Cultural Sensitivities: Debunking the myths of Shetland lace, uses case studies to illustrate how traditional narratives of knitting history can be altered in retelling, and that even “detailed provenance cannot always be accepted as fact.”

The final programme of speakers and sessions for the Knitting History Conference , is now confirmed as:

  • 2.00-2.45 Gieneke Arnolli – Curator of Textiles & Fashion, Fries Museum, The Netherlands
    Typically Frisian lace knitting, between fact and fiction and Curating the Knitting exhibition ‘Breien!’
  • 2.45-3.25 Hanna Bäckström – PhD Candidate in Textile Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden
    The publication of knitting and crochet patterns in Northern Europe 1790-1870 and Brief remarks on recent knitting history research in Sweden
  • 3.35-4.00 Michelle Hanks – PhD Candidate London College of Fashion
    The Hand-Knitted Gift: using knitting as a research tool
  • 4.05-4.35 Roslyn Chapman – PhD, University of Glasgow
    Cultural Sensitivities: Debunking the myths of Shetland lace
  • 4.05-4.35 Discussion: Reflections on knitting in the media – how would we represent the history of knitting?
    With Joyce Meader, Jane Malcolm-Davies and Sandy Black, following their contributions to a documentary, The Secret History of Knitting. All contributions are welcome – please follow the link to watch the documentary online before this session [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJiN9GNrDpA].
  • 4.45-5.00 General discussion and close.

Further details are available on this downloadable Knitting History Forum AGM & Conference programme: Knitting History Forum Conference 2016 Final Programme. A downloadable agenda is also available for KHF members attending the AGM in the morning: Knitting History Forum AGM 2016 Agenda.

We welcome non-members and new members! Tickets cost £35 to non-members and can be booked in advance or on the door. If you have not joined KHF as a member, you can use the PayPal button below to buy your ticket. See payment methods page for alternative ways to pay.

Knitting History Forum Conference 2016 Non-members’ Ticket



Textile Society Annual Conference 2016

The Textile Society have sent us notice of their annual conference next month : ‘Textile Futures: Technology, Materials and Preservation’. Saturday 5th November, Wellcome Trust, 215 Euston Road, London.

This conference will examine recent advances in textile design, materials and technology, considering emerging ideas and approaches that may change the way we design, make, use and preserve textiles in the future.

Our keynote speaker is Janis Jefferies, Professor of Visual Arts and Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. Janis will be speaking on her research that examines the relationship between culture and technology, including wearable devices as ‘intelligent textiles’. Dr Kate Lloyd from the industry organisation ‘Textile Intelligence’, will be speaking on thermochromics and advances in textile print technology, and Dr Celina Jones from the University of Manchester, will be discussing her research on textile printing and sustainability, looking at low impact techniques, reducing the use of colorants, and new ways of distressing denim. We will also be joined by Anne French, Textile Conservator and Collections Care Manager at the Whitworth Art Gallery, speaking on the challenges of conserving increasingly complex textile materials for the future, and Professor Carole Collet from Central Saint Martins, speaking about her work with the design & living systems lab, biotextiles and the advantages of biological tools for a more sustainable textile future.

We hope you can join us at the Wellcome Trust for a day of thought provoking presentations and discussion on ‘Textile Futures, Technology, Materials and Preservation’. The conference begins at 11.15am and finishes at 5.15pm. Lunch and refreshments are included. Booking is via Eventbrite.

Euston is the closest train/underground station to the Wellcome Trust. Just walk from Euston to the main road, cross over and the Wellcome Trust building is on the right hand side.

If you have any queries please email Sonja Andrew at: s.andrew@manchester.ac.uk

Knitting History Conference 2016

Join us for the Knitting History Forum 2016 Conference and AGM on Saturday 19th November, at the London College of Fashion, 20 Princes St.

Registration opens in room 418 at 10:30AM, with the first session an informal Show and Tell. 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 and there are many places to eat nearby.

The Knitting History Conference starts promptly at 2.00PM. Speakers and sessions for 2016 include:

  • 2.00-2.45 Gieneke Arnolli – Curator of Textiles & Fashion, Fries Museum, The Netherlands
    Typically Frisian lace knitting, between fact and fiction and Curating the Knitting! exhibition.
  • 2.45-3.30 Hanna Bäckström – PhD Candidate in Textile Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden
    The publication of knitting and crochet patterns in Northern Europe 1790-1870 and Brief remarks on recent knitting history research in Sweden 
  • 3.30-4.00 Michelle Hanks – PhD Candidate London College of Fashion
    The Hand-Knitted Gift: using knitting as a research tool
  • 4.00-4.45 Discussion: The Media Representation Of Knitting
    Reflections on knitting in the media – how would we represent the history of knitting? With Joyce Meader, Jane Malcolm-Davies and Sandy Black. Delegates wishing to participate will find it helpful to watch the documentary, ‘The Secret History of Knitting’, before this session https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B63vxlRIcfrOcDY0OWF1Nm4yZm8/view?usp=sharing.

There will be time for questions and general discussion from 4.45PM, after all the speakers have delivered their papers.

We welcome non-members and new members! Tickets cost £35 to non-members and can be booked in advance or on the door. If you have not joined KHF as a member, you can use the PayPal button below to buy your ticket. See payment methods page for alternative ways to pay.

Knitting History Forum Conference 2016 Non-members’ Ticket



The Secret History Of Knitting

Fourth on the provisional programme for this year’s Knitting History Forum Conference is a group discussion, “The Media Representation Of Knitting – reflections on knitting in the media and how would we represent the history of knitting?”

In order to participate fully in the conversation, before the session conference delegates will find it useful to prepare by watching the documentary ‘The Secret History of Knitting’, made by Blue Ant Media. Joyce Meader, Jane Malcolm-Davies and Sandy Black were all interviewed for the documentary and will be leading discussion. ‘The Secret History of Knitting’ can be viewed at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B63vxlRIcfrOcDY0OWF1Nm4yZm8/view?usp=sharing

New Date! Knitting History Conference 2016

Save the date! Knitting History Forum Conference & AGM 2016 is on Saturday 19th November, at the London College of Fashion. The AGM begins in the morning and the Knitting History symposium in the afternoon. For more details, download a provisional conference programme, but full programme and details are to follow. For now here is a taste of the event from last year.

Click on Membership to renew your KHF subscription for this year. Tickets cost £35 to non-members and can be booked on the door or in advance.

Knitting History Forum Conference 2016 Non-members’ Ticket



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 rgthesis@knittinghistory.co.uk.

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.

Dumfries House Wool Conference 2016

The Prince of Wales has called it the “Davos of Wool”. September 9th sees the first ever Dumfries House Wool Conference, described as a “gathering of key members of the fashion, interiors and wool industry organised by The Campaign for Wool” and “the largest and most prestigious international gathering of wool experts ever held in the United Kingdom. Animal welfare, sustainability and quality, environmental issues and slowing down fast-fashion turnover will be discussed during the conference.”

Campaign for Wool : a flammability test compared a wool duvet, jacket and carpet with their synthetic counterparts
A flammability test compared a wool duvet, jacket and carpet with their synthetic counterparts

More details at The Campaign for Wool. Read Prince Charles’ own view as published in the Telegraph Magazine. It’s more measured and less sensational than the majority of ‘I set fire to / I buried my jumpers at Clarence House’ headlines in newsfeeds.

Propagansey Exhibition 2016

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.

Old St Stephen’s Church in Fylingdales overlooks Robin Hood’s Bay on the coast of North Yorkshire. For more information on Propagansey, see Propagansey on Facebook or visit the Propagansey website

Sanquhar Gloves: A Living Scottish Tradition

A new, online-only exhibition was launched earlier this year by The Centre for Knit & Crochet (CKC) in Wisconsin. Guest-curated by Dr Angharad Thomasand Beth Brown-Reinsel, “Sanquhar Gloves: A Living Scottish Tradition” defining the meaning of the term, and explores the history, patterns and construction of the gloves, both historical and contemporary.

Sanquhar Gloves: A Living Scottish Tradition, Online Exhibition, Centre for Knit & Crochet
Online exhibition ‘Sanquhar Gloves: A Living Scottish Tradition’

In addition to a bibliography and reference materials, the exhibition boasts photographs of Sanquhar gloves in collections around the world. This digital exhibition is a wonderful example of how history can be made available to all through modern techology. Among their stated aims, CKC hope to create an entire virtual museum. “Sanquhar Gloves: A Living Scottish Tradition” is an excellent beginning.

View the exhibition here.

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!

Joyce Meader Open House 2016

Joyce Meader With Her Reproduction Crimea War Jumper, Presentation At The Knitting History Forum Conference 2014. Photo By I N Eliatamby
Joyce Meader’s presentation at the Knitting History Forum Conference 2014

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

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Elizabeth Hawes Jumper

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.

The accession number is 1980.490.2 and further details are available on the MMA website.

Study Day : Authenticity in Culturally-Based Knitting

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”.

The event aims to explore the promotion, branding and marketing of so-called ‘authentic’ Shetland knitwear, and how a strong basis in heritage affects designers and industry alike. Speakers include Professor Lynn Abrams, Roslyn Chapman, Dr Carol Christiansen, Frances Lennard, Rhoda Hughson, Kathy Coull and Helen Robertson. For more details and a programme, visit http://www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk/events/study-day-authenticity-in-culturally-based-knitting.

Booking is essential. Tickets are still available via https://thelittleboxoffice.com/smaa/event/view/39600 or by phoning Shetland Museum and Archives on 01595 741562.

Info - Shetland Museum Study Day : Authenticity in Culturally-Based Knitting
Info – Shetland Museum Study Day : Authenticity in Culturally-Based Knitting

If you are unable to attend, you can watch a live broadcast which can be viewed online for free. Check http://www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk/collections/museum/textiles – a link to the live feed will be added there when available. You can also participate by joining the Q&A session by tweeting questions directly to the Museum, prefixed by @ShetlandM&A.

Introduction to Historic Knitting

Introduction to Historic Knitting course, Weald & Downland Museum, September 2016
Introduction to Historic Knitting leaflet

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 ‘knit in the round’ 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!

A Short History of Machine Knitting

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.