Knitting History News

Stocking Knitting In Sixteenth Century Norwich

Elizabethan knitting is the subject of a newly-published article in the journal ‘Textile History’. Lesley O’Connell Edwards’s paper is entitled ‘The Stocking Knitting Industry of Later Sixteenth-Century Norwich‘ and its focus is a subject with popular interest but surprisingly little academic investigation. As the abstract explains: “Knitted garments became increasingly common throughout the sixteenth century in England, and it has been estimated that the production of stockings alone occupied at least 90,000 knitters at the end of the century. Knitting as an economic process in England has been little studied in this period. This paper examines the evidence for knitting as an industry in the later sixteenth century in Norwich, the second city in England, when it provided a source of employment for over seven per cent of the poorest people. It provides quantitative data for the socio-economic background of knitters in the 1570s, and for the minimum volume of production in the early 1580s. It analyses other evidence for this industry, including the production process and contemporary writings.”

Lesley, a long-standing member of KHF, has presented well-received papers at previous Knitting History conferences. She maintains the invaluable Bibliography Of The History Of Knitting Before 1600 and has published other pieces on early knitting, some of which are included in KHF’s select Knitting History Reading List. This latest work, which includes material from her recent masters’ dissertation, is based on her ongoing research into sixteenth century knitting. Textile History is a peer-reviewed journal published on behalf of the Pasold Research Fund. Lesley’s article is available by subscription at the Textile History website

Kirstie Buckland

Reproduction Knitted Sixteenth Century Cap Kirstie Buckland
Reproduction Knitted Sixteenth Century Cap by Kirstie Buckland

Our new Honorary President Kirstie Buckland is well known as an eminent researcher and maker of historical knitted caps. She started her making career as an apprentice with couturier Norman Hartnell working on the queen’s wedding dress, and developed a lifelong interest in costume history and construction. Kirstie also has a professional background as a sheep farmer in Monmouth, Wales, and her interest and skills in spinning wool, weaving and knitting led her to the study and reproduction of medieval woollen textiles. Specialising in headgear, Kirstie became an expert on knitted caps including Tudor flat caps of the kind depicted by Breughel and Holbein (known as ‘Statute Caps’).

Detail of a knitted sixteenth century cap as reproduced by Kirstie Buckland.
Detail of a knitted and fulled sixteenth century cap as reproduced by Kirstie Buckland.

Kirstie is much sought after as a re-creator of historical knitted caps and has completed many commissions for films, theatre and television. Kirstie’s caps have graced the heads of Kenneth Branagh as Henry V, and his later production of Hamlet, Russell Crowe’s crew in Master and Commander, Diana Rigg in Mother Courage and Ian McKellen in An Enemy of the People, amongst others.

Kirstie Buckland presenting a paper at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015
Kirstie Buckland presenting a paper at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015

Kirstie’s knowledge of wool and her location in Monmouth informed her seminal paper ‘The Monmouth Cap’. Her articles on caps and capping have been published in Costume, Textile History, Ars Textrina, and Text. When Henry VIII’s sunken warship ‘Mary Rose’, lost in 1545, was located in the early 1970s with many long-hidden treasures intact, including knitted caps, Kirstie was invited to contribute to the book Before the Mast: life and death on board the Mary Rose, vol. 4 documenting the ship’s contents.

Certificate awarded to Kirstie Buckland as Cap-knitter and Bonnet Maker to the Laird of Balgonie
[Details of these papers may be found in the select knitting history reading list in our Resources section. Kirstie has also written another article, ‘A Warm House For the Wits’ – The craft, trade or science of capping, which she has generously made available for download from her website.]

Dr Karen Finch and Kirstie Buckland, 2017 Knitting History Forum. Copyright Kirstie Buckland
Karen Finch and Kirstie Buckland in 2017.

Kirstie has been active in many scholarly textiles groups including the Costume Society, the Textile Society and the Medieval Dress & Textile Society alongside Karen Finch, Janet Arnold, Kenneth Ponting, Lisa Warburg and others, and was a founder member of the Early Knitting History Group, established in 1993 by Montse Stanley with Richard Rutt and Negley Harte. The EKHG was founded to encourage and share research into knitting before 1600, from which the current Knitting History Forum has grown and developed to cover all periods. As a founder member of KHF, we are delighted to have Kirstie’s wealth of historical knowledge and practical experience to epitomise the breadth of interests that the KHF encompasses.

Sandy Black

Kirstie Buckland, Lise Warburg, Karen Finch and Ann Saunders
Kirstie Buckland, Lise Warburg, Karen Finch and Ann Saunders




Top image: Kirstie Buckland with one of her reproduction knitted caps, at the Knitting History Forum Conference in 2017.

CFP: Knitting History Conference 2021

Knitting History Forum TRC Leiden Conference 2019 – KHF Chair Prof Sandy Black models the EKHG Sanquhar gloves donated by Kirstie Buckland, see notes in 2019 AGM minutes and subsequent post on website – image 2019 by Christine Carnie
Knitting History Forum TRC Leiden Conference 2019 – image copyright 2019 by Christine Carnie

Are you still considering presenting a paper online at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2021? KHF welcomes original research papers from contributors around the world on items such as knitted hats, caps, bonnets, gloves, stockings or shoes, from any culture and within any historical period up to the end of the 19th Century. Why not put on your thinking cap this weekend and submit an extended abstract of between 1200 and 1400 words to KHF chair Prof Sandy Black on The deadline of Wednesday 30 June is just days away.


Images by Christine Carnie from the Knitting History Forum TRC Leiden Conference in 2019. Top image: Knitted socks in the TRC exhibition. Above left image: KHF Chair Prof Sandy Black models the EKHG Sanquhar gloves donated by Kirstie Buckland. See notes in 2019 AGM minutes and Christine Carnie’s conference report on the Knitting History website

KHF Conference 2021 Call For Papers

Knitting History Forum will be contemplating Heads, Hands and Feet for our 2021 conference. KHF is calling for original research papers on items such as knitted hats, caps, bonnets, gloves, stockings or shoes, within any historical period up to the end of the 19th Century. Contributors are invited to present for maximum 20 minutes plus 5 minutes Q&A, and abstracts will be published on the Knitting History website (

The deadline for submissions is 30th June 2021, just over three weeks from today. If you’re still adding finishing touches, please don’t delay – email Prof Sandy Black at and let her know you will be submitting an abstract.

Papers may examine any aspect of knitting history such as design and technical construction, materials, provenance and trade, social context or economic aspects related to the production and consumption of knitted artefacts. The Knitting History conference will be online and we welcome submissions from around the world.

Knitting History Forum Conference 2021 : Head, Hands and Feet will take place on Saturday 13th November 2021. All abstracts will be reviewed by a selection committee and decisions notified by 5th August. Further details are available here:

Handknitting and Handknits in British Domestic Magazines, 1910–1939

The Early Summer 2021 issue of The Journal of Dress History includes Dr Eleanor Reed’s article on twentieth century knitting, “For Those Who Enjoy an Interesting Piece of Knitting:” Handknitting and Handknits in British Domestic Magazines, 1910–1939. The abstract reads: “Although early to mid twentieth century histories of handknitting are well documented, comparatively little research has been undertaken into the role in these histories of domestic magazines, which, appealing to and working to generate mass readerships of skilled and enthusiastic knitters, supported — and sought to profit from — a precipitous rise in the handicraft’s popularity. This article uses quantitative and qualitative analysis of The Knitting and Crochet Guild’s collection of 1910−1939 British domestic magazine knitting patterns to explore these publications’ treatment of handknitting and knitwear during a period in which knitting’s popularity soared, and the women’s magazine market boomed. Surveying a sample of 2538 patterns from 367 magazines representing 46 titles, this article spotlights, besides a rise in the popularity of knitwear and handknitting, a fall in the assumed expertise of knitters targeted by domestic magazines, and a growing intimacy in the commercial partnerships between these publications, yarn manufacturers, and pattern designers.”

The focus of Dr Reed’s research is on early to mid twentieth century domestic magazines and she gave an insightful presentation on 1958 knitting patterns in Woman’s Weekly magazine at the Knitting History Forum Conference in 2018 (in those heady days when we could all gather in person). The Journal of Dress History is peer-reviewed and published by the Association of Dress Historians. The Early Summer 2021 edition, Volume 5, Issue 2, is free to download at the ADH website

Bluestockings Symposium

The latest paid-for knitting club by Kate Davies Designs is the Bluestocking Club, named after the informal English literary, social and educational movement, originally founded by elite intellectual women of the mid-eighteenth century. The modern sock patterns are accordingly inspired by different eighteenth-century women writers. Possibly of more interest to KHF members is the accompanying online event. Subscribers to the KDD club will be able to attend an online symposium on Monday 24th May at 4.00PM hosted by Prof Nicole Pohl of Oxford Brookes University. The symposium will cover the history and cultural context of the bluestockings and also eighteenth-century sock and stocking knitting. Susan North will speak on eighteenth-century knitting, Lis Gernerd will speak on men’s stockings and Isabella Whitworth will speak on eighteenth-century methods of wool dyeing and worsted processing. Places on the online symposium are limited and though a recording may be made available afterwards, both the live event and the recording will only be available to members of the KDD Bluestocking Club. More information is available at the KDD&Co website.

ADH New Research in Dress History Conference 2021

The Association of Dress Historians will hold its annual New Research in Dress History Conference virtually via zoom, from 7 to 13 June 2021. Billed as ‘a weeklong “festival” of dress history!’ it features 122 speakers across seven days, beginning every day at 12:00 noon (London UK time). The programme for Monday 7th June may be of particular interest to KHF members, as Jane Malcolm-Davies’ paper ‘Slow Seeing and Fast Forensics: The Usefulness of Radiocarbon Dating Early Modern Materials, 1450–1650’ addresses the use of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry in dating knitted fabrics, but there are many, many more papers introducing new scholarship on the dress of different cultures and periods. All of the conference presentations will be live and not recorded, so for some this may be an unique opportunity to see them. Tickets for this ambitious event start at £25. A 3-page conference schedule and a 146-page conference programme including all speakers’ abstracts and biographies are available. Visit the ADH conference website for more information and to download the booklets.

Early Textiles Study Group Conference 2021

The Early Textiles Study Group have issued a call for papers for their 2021 conference Legacy: textile studies, the past informing the present. The ETSG intends holding this in-person conference at the University of Manchester from 9th to 11th September 2021, though alternative arrangements for a virtual event may become necessary because of the continuing pandemic. Abstracts are invited of no longer than 250 words, to be sent together with your name and a brief biography to Cordelia Warr, The deadline for receipt of abstracts is 1st June 2021. Please see the attached leaflet or the ETSG website for more details.Early Textiles Study Group Conference 2021 leaflet flyer 'Legacy: textile studies, the past informing the present'

CFP – Knitting History Forum Conference 2021

Knitting History Forum Conference Saturday 13th November 2021

Heads, Hands and Feet

Call for Papers

Knitting History Forum/Early Knitting History Group Reconstruction Knitted Sanquhar Glove courtesy of Kirstie Buckland. PLEASE DO NOT USE IMAGE WITHOUT PERMISSIONFor this year’s Knitting History Forum conference we are calling for contributions on the theme of Heads, Hands and Feet.  As evidenced by the earliest artefacts that survive in museums and collections, much of the historical practice of knitting created coverings for the extremities of the human body, due to knitting’s flexibility, warmth and capacity for complex three-dimensional shaping.

We are inviting original research papers that focus on items such as knitted hats, caps, bonnets, gloves, stockings or shoes, within any historical period up to the end of the 19th Century.  Papers may examine any aspect of knitting history such as design and technical construction, materials, provenance and trade, social context or economic aspects related to the production and consumption of knitted artefacts. This list is not exhaustive so do feel free to propose other areas.

Please submit an extended abstract of between 1200 and 1400 words to the KHF chair Prof Sandy Black on by the deadline of 30th June.  All abstracts will be reviewed by a selection committee and decisions notified by 5th August. Contributors will be invited to present for maximum 20 minutes plus 5 minutes Q&A, and abstracts will be published on the Knitting History website (

The 2021 conference will be extended to a full day, and will take place online on Saturday 13th November with the Knitting History Forum AGM in the afternoon of Friday 12th November.

Unravelling The History Of Knitting On BBC World Service

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 Sundbø, Norwegian textile designer and author of ‘Everyday Knitting: Treasures From A Ragpile’ and Cynthia LeCount Samaké, 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).

The programme ‘Unravelling the history of knitting’ can downloaded directly from the BBC website and will be available for over a year on BBC Sounds It is also available as a podcast and can be found by searching “BBC The Forum” in any podcast provider.

Karen Finch Centenary: 8th May 2021

It is nearly three years since Knitting History Forum sadly noted the passing of our much-admired Hon. President, Dr Karen Finch. Since then, however, her legacy continues, not only in the careers of her many students or the memories of those who knew her, but also through the Karen Finch Textiles website, led with sensitivity and care by Karen’s daughter, Katrina Finch.

Throughout her long and varied career, Karen amassed a considerable archive of papers, books, images, teaching materials, textiles and much more besides, some of which is now located in teaching institutions, libraries and museums but some of which remains with her family. The website serves as a finding aid for navigating the archive across many locations. Ongoing digitisation will make these holdings available as far as possible. The online forum hosts discussion of Karen and her work as well as information and ideas on textiles and conservation. Karen’s life is celebrated through biographical posts and the many relationships she fostered are honoured through contributions from family, friends and colleagues, providing personal insight and warmth sometimes missing from online archives.

8th May 2021 marks the centenary of Karen’s birth. The continuing global pandemic has made a memorial event impossible in person, but the Karen Finch Textiles website will be launching an interactive map showing the worldwide network created by Karen’s teaching, “sustained by her dedication to maintaining regular national and international correspondence and her fundamental commitment to knowledge without boundaries.” Another addition will be the introductory lecture given by Karen to teach the Masters course in Textile Conservation, dating back to when the Textile Conservation Centre (TCC) was based in the grace-and-favour apartments at Hampton Court Palace. In future it is intended to publish the remaining lectures with their accompanying illustrations. Contributions are also invited from those who knew Karen, which would be posted on the Karen Finch Textiles website in the coming weeks. KHF members interested in sharing their memories should email Katrina Finch directly at

Visit the Karen Finch Textile website to learn more:

Karen Finch’s centenary, 8th May 2021

Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black

Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black Travelling Vine Design
Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black Travelling Vine design – click to enlarge

At the Knitting History Conference last year, Sandy Black mentioned her latest book, ‘Classic Knits of the 1980s’, which was published in January 2021.

Many of us know Sandy Black as Professor of Fashion and Textile Design and Technology at the London College of Fashion and Chair of Knitting History Forum, but prior to that she had a successful career as designer and director of the ‘Sandy Black Original Knits’ label from the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.

Publisher Crowood Press notes how the book discusses “the principal fundamentals of knitwear design and features original, colourful, textural and fun knitting patterns that capture the fashion zeitgeist of the 1980s

Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black Persian Flower Design
Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black Persian Flower design – click to enlarge

designer knitwear boom” and includes “a range of innovative designs from Sandy Black knitting kits, many published here for the first time.”

“Part 1 establishes the fashion and knitwear context of the period and its influence on the development of the designs, examining the entire creative process from inspiration to final pattern.

Lavishly illustrated with photographs, diagrams and charts, special features include patchwork (modular) designs and intarsia or colour-block knitting, with techniques and tips for pattern calculations, working from charts and handling several colours.”

Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black Three Cats Design
Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black Three Cats design – click to enlarge

“Part 2 then offers twenty-one original patterns and designs, grouped into themes of textural, graphic, heraldic and ornamental, plus the unique Siamese cat, leopard and tiger accessories. Contemporary photography, together with original images from the 1980s, illustrates the designs’ timeless appeal, with close-up images of intricate pattern details and suggested design variations to aid creative knitters.”


Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black Fairisle Fun Fair Isle Fun Design
Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black Fair Isle Fun design – click to enlarge

Some may consider the 1980s so recent as hardly to seem like history at all, yet then as now it was a time of revived interest in traditional knitting and intense creativity in new knitting design. Knitwear of the period is already receiving academic attention and one of Sandy’s designs, ‘Fairisle Fun’, with her kit and the jumper knitted from it (as seen to the right), are held in the collections of the V&A Museum
Well-illustrated and with technical information as well as patterns of Sandy’s fresh and ebullient
designs, ‘Classic Knits of the 1980s’ is a welcome
introduction to the work of a pioneer of modern fashion knitwear which will be of interest to
knitters and historians of knitting and dress alike.

Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black Book Cover
Classic Knits of the 1980s by Sandy Black book cover – click to enlarge

New Knitting History Events & Media

April may have been the cruellest month in T. S. Eliot’s eyes, but for many in the continuing COVID pandemic, January 2021 is far worse. Here is some good news to help KHF members keep going:

Curators’ Colloquium on Knitted Textiles

The University of Glasgow is hosting a free online colloquium on Friday 29th January 2021 from 13:30 to 16:00 GMT. This event will share knowledge and practice regarding the collection, conservation, preservation and interpretation of knitting collections. Knitting is often a hidden part of a national or local collection, yet given the importance of knitted textiles to Scotland and to so many very different nations and cultures, it is imperative to raise awareness and share information and knowledge so that garments which carry so much meaning are appreciated, preserved and interpreted. National collections may have specialist curators, but many other smaller museums and collections do not. The aim of the colloquium is to share knowledge and practices amongst curators and custodians. Speakers will include Carol Christiansen, Curator and Community Museums Officer at Shetland Museum and Archives; Jen Gordon and Federica Papiccio, Assistant Curators, Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther, where they are responsible for the Scottish Gansey project; Frances Lennard, Professor of Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow, who led the University’s Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History until 2020; Lisa Mason, Assistant Curator in the Art & Design department at National Museums Scotland, Trustee of the Bernat Klein Foundation, and Membership Secretary of the Dress and Textile Specialists and Helen Wylde, Senior Curator of Historic Textiles at National Museums Scotland, responsible for European textiles and dress from the medieval period to 1850. Tickets and further information available here:

Knit back to the 1920s and 1930s

The LSE Library is hosting this free online event on Thursday 4th February 2021 from 6:30pm to 7:30pm GMT. ‘For those who enjoy an interesting piece of knitting’, the talk explores knitting patterns in interwar women’s domestic magazines with Dr Ellie Reed, of the year-long project Time and Tide: Connections and Legacies’ at Nottingham Trent University, who will focus on publications in the Knitting & Crochet Guild’s collection. A booklet containing stitch patterns will be available to attendees and there will be a social media hashtag to share the efforts of those intrepid knitters who have a go! Further details and a link to book tickets available here

Inside The Factory

And finally, there’s still time to catch the BBC’s ‘Inside The Factory’ episode on commercial sock-knitting in the UK. The programme includes visits to a sock factory in Leicester, a cotton spinning factory in Manchester and looks at Kitchener stitch and the First World War, as well as featuring Joyce Meader of The Historic Knit. You may have missed the original transmission, but it’s still available to watch online by viewers in the UK until June 2021 on BBC iPlayer. More details and a link to the programme available here

Knitting History Forum 2020 Conference Report

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, 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 “What I made during lockdown”. This session began with Susan North’s 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 “creepy critters” collection!

Roxanne Richardson shared the extensive learning opportunities from knitting a 1920’s knitting pattern. The 1920’s jumper can be viewed on Ravelry and there is an accompanying video A link to a 1904 pattern ‘Edwardian Sweater’ can also be viewed on Ravelry.

Kirk Dunn, a textile artist who apprenticed with Kaffe Fassett, shared three hand-knitted stained glass windows that took 15 years to create.

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.

The second group attended two presentations by PhD candidates.

Michelle Hanks, London College of Fashion, considered knitting as a thinking tool in her presentation “I’ll have to knit about it”. 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 day’s Twitter headlines. A double-sided, reversible sweater with mirror-imaged lettering “Good enough” 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 individual’s 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 “automatic writing” and with Julia Cameron’s “morning pages”. 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

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 Sundbo’s Ragpile Collection in Norway Gillian showed a surprise object in this section — 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 “From Fleece to Fashion: researching the history of knitted textiles in Scotland”. 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 University’s own Cochno yarn. “This project’s 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 — through adaptation — 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.”

Jade Halbert, University of Huddersfield, drew on her own family experiences in her fas-cinating talk, “Knitting for Money: homework in Glasgow and beyond in the 1980s”. 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 mother’s experience of hand-knitting garments for a “designer” 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 Black’s presentation,” On being a knitwear designer in the 1980s”. Sandy’s 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 Sandy’s forthcoming Crowood Press book! For the book ‘Classic Knits of the 1980s’, 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, ‘Knitting: Fashion, Industry, Craft’, is currently available from the V&A bookshop.

The next two presentations explored the subject of knitted gloves. In “Two pairs of 18th Century Abbess’s gloves from Prague”, Sylvie Odstrčilová, an independent researcher from the Czech Republic shared her fascinating research. The audience were entranced by Sylvie’s 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. Sylvie’s 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.

Lesley O’Connell Edwards and Angharad Thomas, both independent researchers from the UK, introduced us to their current shared research, “Holy Hands: studies of knitted liturgical gloves”. 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.

For the final presentation of the day, we were joined by Emily Whitted, PhD candidate from the University of Massachusetts, USA. Emily presented her Master’s research, “Made in Germantown: Analysis of an Early American Frame Knitting Industry”, 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.

Knitting History Forum the international society for the history of knitting and crochet. Eight-pointed star, a common motif in knitting across many cultures.

Emma Vining

Bibliography Of The History Of Knitting Update

As promised at the KHF AGM on Saturday 7th November, Lesley O’Connell Edwards has updated the Bibliography of the history of knitting before 1600 and once again has kindly permitted publication on the KHF website.

It was first compiled by Richard Rutt, author of ‘A History of Handknitting’, before passing on the task to Lesley, who has faithfully maintained and updated it for two decades. The work is unique and remains, as stated in 2018, the most complete bibliography of early knitting history currently published and an important aid to research. Permission to reproduce the document whole or in any part must be sought directly from Lesley O’Connell Edwards, who can be emailed via the address in the downloadable PDF. This, and other useful articles and information, can be found in the Resources section of the Knitting History website.

Virtual Knitting History Conference 2020

Knitting History Forum would like to thank everyone, our excellent speakers, members, delegates and KHF friends old and new, for taking part in our first ever virtual AGM & Conference and for making it so enjoyable and interesting. The event was entirely online this year, perhaps the first virtual knitting history conference of its kind in the world but certainly, we hope, not the last! We would also like to express our thanks to KHF Chair Sandy Black and Treasurer Tricia Basham, who worked particularly hard both behind the scenes and onscreen on the day hosting the meeting. Speakers and delegates alike came from around the world, many joining us bright and early from time zones where lesser mortals were still asleep, yet all were fully engaged and enthusiastic. Questions and comments were insightful and discussion lively as ever, and though it was not possible to meet in person, this event brought us together, our shared interest creating sense of community and a buzz we hope will continue.

We look forward to seeing you all again in the future and though the conference has ended, you can still contribute and join in the conversation online:

2019 Knitting History Forum Conference Report

Knitting History Symposium
Conference organised by the TRC Leiden and the Knitting History Forum
Leiden, November 2, 2019


A Knitting Weekend in Leiden

Almost a year ago I spent a fantastic weekend all about knitting in Leiden, taking part in the Knitting History Symposium on the 17th century “Texel Silk Stocking” on Saturday and visiting the TRC Leiden where the KHF AGM was held on Sunday, as well as some of the sights of Leiden. I was so busy taking notes I did not take any pictures at the conference itself but I did in the exhibition on Sunday, which showcased most of the samples and reproduction stockings of the project.

The keynote lecture of the symposium was about the reconstruction of the 17th century Texel stocking finds by a citizen science community, under Chrystel Brandenburgh.

The stockings came from wreck number BZN17, and we now know it was an armed Dutch merchant ship that sank about 1645-1660.

The two goals for the project were to involve people who are not normally part of archaeological research but have the expertise needed for a reproduction, in this case experienced knitters, and to be able to repeat the experiment. More than a hundred people volunteered!

The original stocking was made from reeled, not spun, silk, and knitted in the round. It was examined with a Dino-Lite microscope. All information was gained from that examination, the stocking was not turned or otherwise disturbed.

The citizen science project involved knitting test swatches with different types of silk (some already de-gummed, some still containing the sericin, and different size needles, 0.7mm and 1mm, to find the right material and gauge for the reconstruction. The original measured 83 stitches and 100 rows for a 10cm square! The test pieces measured 5x5cm and took on average 5 hours to complete, and required 15m of silk, which means a stocking would need 1080m.

After the test swatch stage, about 40 people continued with the experiment by knitting a complete stockings, and as of the date of the conference 27 stockings were finished. Knitting with the silk that still contained the sericin proved easiest and quickest, and blocking the stocking after removing the gum also brought the most uniform result.

Using a wooden former to shape the stockings after washing (and de-gumming) was based on the existence of an extant example of the period in Denmark, and English records mentioning wooden stocking formers. Uneven knitting and a certain amount of difference in gauge did not matter after removing the sericin and blocking the stocking.

It is impossible to tell how long it would take to knit a stocking in period. Those knitters that knitted more than one stocking reported that the time it took to knit the second one was almost half of the first, showing how much familiarity with the material and the way to knit speeded up the process.

The papers in the Knitting History conference itself were all connected to the Texel Stocking project. The first section was about stocking production in Europe, showcasing current research in knitting history:

  • Lesley O’Connell Edwards’ “A hidden workforce: hand knitters in 17th century England” focused on evidence of who was knitting and what was being produced, and the research is centred on Norfolk and Suffolk. There is less information available on this topic for the 17th century than for the 16th century, and council and probate records are so far the best sources. Items produced by knitting included caps, gloves, petticoats (short jackets), stockings or hose, and waistcoats. There was no guild for knitters, but knitting was something taught, not necessarily learned in the family. Interestingly, although men were listed as teachers, very few men were listed as being taught. Silk hand knitters are mentioned in 1619 but there is not much more information about this aspect of knitting.
  • Sylvie Odstrcilova’s paper “Early modern stockings from the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries: The story continues” offered a fascinating glimpse into the variety of extant stockings in this area, and built on her research published in NESAT and ATR. Her findings of the similarity of the stockings of Imrich Thurzo in Orava Castle to the Texel stocking opened questions regarding manufacture and import of silk stockings throughout Europe.
  • Hanna Backstrom’s paper “The earliest printed knitting patterns” compared what the printed patterns looked like and who they were made for, to a hand written 17th century notebook, possibly from a knitter’s workshop. This was one of the highlights of the conference for me. It raised lots of interesting questions as to how they used the charts, diagrams and sketches contained in this book, especially in contrast to the printed books which seem to have been designed for a different audience.

The first afternoon section was dedicated to projects inspired by the Texel Stocking project:

  • Art Ness Proano Gaibor’s “Dye experiments on the Texel Stocking” was an interesting paper on how period dye recipes can have an impact on our modern lives, and how diverse the period recipes for dyeing black were – some doing more harm to the fabric than others.
  • Geeske Kruseman’s findings of her report “wearing 17th century knitted silk stockings” really surprised me. Two people wore two pairs of the stockings produced by the citizen science project with period reproduction shoes in everyday life and recorded their subjective and objective observations. Although the experiment was cut short, they still got some data. The stockings showed no signs of wear after an accumulated 139 hours of wear, kept their shape after washing, and were comfortable to wear in hot and cold weather. Afterwards everyone with the right foot size (European 38) got a chance to try the stockings , and I personally loved the experience! The stocking is very light and smooth to wear, you sort of forget you have it on, and the lack of stretch that we have come to expect from wool stockings wasn’t missed due to the garter holding the stocking up, and the fact that the stocking fitted me perfectly. It would be interesting to repeat this experiment with a wider range of participants.
  • Sally Pointer reported on her experience of making a replica for the re-enactment market based on the Texel stocking and using a 19th century knitting machine. She started with a wool version to test the design and then made a version with spun silk. She had to alter the key features to work with the much lower stitch count possible with the knitting machine, reducing the patterns produced by the purl stitches by about one third, and producing a stocking with a similar pattern but clearly different to the original. key question: “Though we can do it, should we?” The stocking she produced is much quicker to produce than the hand knitted ones, but still took a considerable time to make and it leaves the question how it would compare being worn to a non-patterned, machine-knit silk stocking and the replica hand knitted ones.

The last section consisted of papers based on Citizen Science Projects:

  • In “How not to knit: Sourcing silk, research and reconstructions reviewed” Susan North shared with us her insights into the problems encountered and mistakes made when making reconstruction silk stockings for the Original Practice at the Globe Theatre, and how difficult it was to find any information on tools, materials, and methods.
  • Jane Malcolm-Davies’ paper “Modern Slavery and the early modern work ethic: Lessons learned from volunteer participation in knitting in early modern Europe” gave insights into the experiences made by her and the volunteers in the Knitting in Early Modern Europe (KEME) project. She discussed how using volunteers in knitting (a notoriously underpaid work activity) raises the question to what extent Citizen Science is exploitative, and how much can be learned from the knitwork produced, and the process of knitting it. The focus has to be on what the benefits for the volunteers are as well as the researcher/scientist, and it is interesting that the KEME volunteers listed a similar range of benefits as the Texel stocking project participants.

The following panel discussion followed along similar lines, and I loved the new-to-me emphasis on the social aspect of taking part in a Citizen Science project, and the emphasis on being mindful of the nature of these experiments versus lab experiments, and that there have to be mutual benefits for the researcher and scientist as well as the volunteer.

My stay extended to Sunday for the Knitting History Forum AGM, and so I had a chance to visit the exhibition about the stockings in the Textile Research Centre, showcasing all the finished stockings, the former, all the samples and the ingenious holders some of the knitters had come up with to keep the cone of silk from unravelling while being able to knit off it easily. Also part of the exhibition was a treasure trove of patterned socks and stockings, and sample boards of different heel and toe varieties, as well as other knitting samples. I came away with so much inspiration!

We also were given a short tour of the facilities, making me want to come back to study some of the beautiful knitted and crocheted items in the collection. In the afternoon we visited the weaver’s house and the Laakenhal museum, all places I am looking forward to visiting again!

Christine Carnie

Knitting History Forum 2020 – Virtual AGM and Conference

TICKET BOOKING HAS NOW CLOSED. The 2020 edition of the Knitting History Forum Conference will be brought to you online via Zoom from several different locations.  Last year, as part of our visit to the Netherlands in collaboration with the Texel Stocking Project, the KHF AGM was hosted by the Textile Research Centre in Leiden.  We start our conference Knitting History Forum/Early Knitting History Group Reconstruction Knitted Sanquhar Glove courtesy of Kirstie Buckland. PLEASE DO NOT USE IMAGE WITHOUT PERMISSIONthis year with a presentation from the TRC’s director Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood about their collection and will see some of its knitted items.

The next group of presentations focus on the experience of knitting at home with examples from research based in Scotland and elsewhere.  Lynn Abrams will give an overview of current research into the history of knitted textiles in Scotland, followed by Jade Halbert speaking about knitting for money as a homeworker in the 1980s.  Sandy Black responds to this with her personal perspective of being a knitwear designer and producer in the 1980s.

We then return to the early history of knitting with two presentations on gloves worn by religious figures.  The first, from Sylvie Odstrčilová in the Czech Republic discusses two pairs of 18thC Abbess’s gloves from Prague, and the second reports on a project by Angharad Thomas and Lesley O’Connell Edwards, mapping the existing liturgical gloves as worn by bishops from the sixteenth century. We conclude with a talk by Emily Whitted from Massachusetts USA on the stocking frame knitting industry in Germantown, near Philadelphia, including Emily’s experience of trying out frame knitting herself in Ruddington Museum.

Join us for a pre-session Show and Tell (including what did you make during lockdown?) or see and respond to the fascinating new knitwork produced by Michelle Hanks as part of her PhD research.

See the detailed schedule below…

We look forward to seeing you online on 7th November via Zoom.  It’s free for everyone but donations to Knitting History Forum are always welcome by Paypal to

Please register via the Eventbrite link below and joining details will be sent to you.

Best wishes

Sandy Black

Chair, Knitting History Forum





Knitting History Forum 2020  AGM and conference – Saturday 7th November via Zoom 


We ask for your understanding if the schedule is subject to change at short notice due to the current pandemic.

10.30 -11.00 am Welcome and AGM  – see separate agenda (to follow)

Breakout groups

11.30 – 12.30pm Show and Tell open session – Moderator:  Tricia Basham

  • Bring along something to show and discuss  including “What I made during lockdown” – kicked off by Susan North’s crochet toys.


11.30 – 12.30 pm PhD research student presentations – Moderator: Sandy Black

  • 11.30 Michelle Hanks, London College of Fashion “I’ll have to knit about it…”  Knitting as a thinking tool Showing her knitted pieces made whilst exploring ideas in response to interviews with knitters
  • 12.00 Emily Rickard, Nottingham Trent University Exploring the use of creative, open-ended knitting as a form of journaling to record emotions, with consideration for mental wellbeing

Break or keep chatting informally

1.20 pm conference welcome: Sandy

1.30 – 2pm    The Collection of the Textile Research Centre Leiden, with some knitted highlights.
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Director of the TRC Leiden, The Netherlands

2 – 2.15     From Fleece to Fashion: researching the history of knitted textiles in Scotland
Lynn Abrams, University of Glasgow

2.15 – 2.45    Knitting for Money: homework in Glasgow and beyond in the 1980s
Jade Halbert, University of Huddersfield

2.45 – 3.15   On being a knitwear designer in the 1980s
Sandy Black,  London College of Fashion, UAL


3.30 – 4.00   Two pairs of 18thC  Abbess’s gloves from Prague
Sylvie Odstrčilová, Independent researcher, Czech Republic

4. – 4.30      Holy Hands: studies of knitted liturgical gloves
Lesley O’Connell Edwards and Angharad Thomas, Independent researchers, UK

4.30 – 5      Made in Germantown: Analysis of an Early American Frame Knitting Industry 
Emily Whitted, PhD candidate, University of Massachusetts, USA

5 – 5.05      Closing remarks – Sandy Black

Knitting History Forum Sanquhar Gloves

At our previous AGM in 2019, Kirstie Buckland generously presented a pair of gloves which our Chair, Sandy Black, accepted on behalf of Knitting History Forum. The distinctive black and white knitted gloves will be familiar to long-term KHF members and supporters as we frequently use an image of one of the gloves on our website and social media. Kirstie has kindly written a little more about these very special gloves and their significance.

Knitting History Forum/Early Knitting History Group Reconstruction Knitted Sanquhar Glove courtesy of Kirstie Buckland. PLEASE DO NOT USE IMAGE WITHOUT PERMISSIONWhen discussing the Castle Howard sock we once talked of having a section for ‘knitting myths’ to share some of the funnier ones. However, such myths should not be confused with symbolism and its roots.

Many KHF notices appear beneath a photograph of a single Sanquhar glove knitted in the ‘Duke’ pattern.

At the last AGM I donated these gloves to the KHF as a symbol of our connection with the aspirations of the Early Knitting History Group (EKHG) on which we were founded. They were made for me by Alison Thomson, the wife of the former vicar of Sanquhar and we had replaced the traditional date, which was worked into one wrist, with the EKHG initials. My initials are on the other glove.

The history and symbolism of Sanquhar knitting is well recorded:-, and in Richard Rutt’s ‘History of Handknitting’, pages 199-202.

Knitting History Forum/Early Knitting History Group Reconstruction Knitted Sanquhar Gloves courtesy of Kirstie Buckland, being worn by Chair Prof. Sandy Black at the KHF AGM in Leiden 2019. PLEASE DO NOT USE IMAGE WITHOUT PERMISSION
Sandy Black wearing the EKHG/KHF gloves at the 2019 KHF AGM in Leiden

The gloves give us links with our group’s history, with British textile history, with Montse Stanley’s KRL* and with our loyal supporters. I hope that others will supply or suggest their own items, pictures or stories of direct significance to KHF to inspire and continue the achievements and independence on which we were founded. It would provide somewhere interesting to direct old friends and potential members who ask what we are doing.

Meanwhile Australians are being asked to knit pouches to comfort baby marsupials orphaned by their tragic bush fires, a new challenge for knitting.

Kirstie Buckland

* In 1999 the collection of EKHG co-founder Montse Stanley, including the Montse Stanley Knitting Reference Library, was acquired by the University of Southampton Library. Further information is available here: