Knitting History News

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Knitting! At The Fries Museum

The Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, has opened major new exhibition on the art of knitting. ‘Breien!’ or ‘Knitting!’ celebrates knitting in all its forms. Historical and contemporary work are placed in ‘conversation’ with each other. Items of traditional dress, fishermen’s jumpers, twentieth century knitting patterns, finely-knitted eighteenth century mitts and later caps or the oldest knitting sheath, for example, can be seen alongside the knitwear of Starsky and Hutch and contributions from artists and designers including Zoë Landau Konson, Christien Meindertsma, and Bas Kosters. Sarah Lund’s jumper makes a notable appearance! The setting is fresh, modern and intentionally quirky, with pieces mounted on mannequins with animal heads; installations such as ‘City of Stitches’, by Isabel Berglund, which enfolds the visitor in a knitted structure; dioramas of historical and modern knitting; touch trail routes and other methods of display invite engagement with the exhibits at all levels of interest: this is a child-friendly exhibition. This short video offers a taste of the exhibition:

Knitting! opened in October and runs until 28 August 2016. For more information, visit the Fries Museum website.

KHF AGM and Conference 2015

The day began with our AGM, showcasing KHF successes of the past year, as well as suggestions for improvements going forward. Positive feedback highlighted the growing need for the network for knitting history, which we hope KHF events, our discussion group, the website and social media presence provide. The Show and Tell was, as always, an eclectic mix of early to modern knitting, with contributions from members’ collections and historical reproductions from members’ needles.

Sandy Black introduces Carol Christiansen at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015
Sandy Black introduces Carol Christiansen at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015

Carol Christiansen’s much-anticipated presentation explained the process of creating historically accurate reproductions for the Shetland Museum, of late seventeenth century knitted items found with the Gunnister Man find. Exhaustive testing of the originals and experimentation with modern fibres was necessary to accurately recreate or simulate the variety of textiles, not all of which had come from Shetland. The different colours were due primarily to peat-staining and the original shades of the natural, undyed wool.

Kirstie Buckland brought her considerable knowledge and experience to bear on early Spanish knitting, particularly the finely-knitted silk cushions recovered from thirteenth-century tombs at the monastery at Las Huelgas. Kirstie also shared a medieval image she tracked down from a reference, showing the Virgin and Christ, accompanied by industrious saints. One of the saints knits a patterned sock on five needles, but no stitches in the painting connect the sock with the knitting needles – how miraculous!

Chatting at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015
Members at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015

Lesley O’Connell Edwards presented her research into the work and identities of the Hope family of Ramsgate, early Victorian knitting pattern designers or compilers, and publishers of several books on knitting, including patterns for essential items such as Magic Penwipers and Magic Puzzle Kettle Holders. Lesley recounted her trawl through reviews, advertisements and census records as well as hunting for clues in the knitting books themselves. A fascinating, ongoing investigation with as many twists and turns as a detective novel.

 

An innovative representation of Swaledale sheep and wool by Zoe Fletcher at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015
An innovative representation of a Swaledale sheep and its wool by Zoe Fletcher at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015

Zoe Fletcher presented a summary of her recent work into the possibilities of British wool, researching the properties of wool from different British breeds of sheep and how these properties could be exploited in knitwear design. She also demonstrated how this could be applied using Shima Seiki CAD and design systems, a marriage of traditional and modern technology. The project focussed on the 72 British breeds promoted by the British Wool Marketing Board and Zoe surprised and delighted all with her innovative approach to presenting the information in a way that is accurate, accessible and beautiful.

Jane Malcolm-Davies presents a paper at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015
The Revolution Will Be Knitted: Jane Malcolm-Davies presents a paper at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2015

Finally, Jane Malcolm-Davies introduced the research project Knitting in the Early Modern Era, or KEME. As we related last month, KEME is based around detailed examination of surviving sixteenth century knitted caps, the wider aim of the project is interdisciplinary research, creating an economic map of early knitting and laying a foundation of terminology information on which further scholarship on knitting in Early Modern Europe may be built. In an informative and amusing presentation, Jane discussed the work so far, the methodology they would establish and invited contributions and assistance.

All in all, it was another interesting event. The Knitting History Forum thanks our speakers for their engaging and informative presentations. Thank you also to everyone involved in organising the event and to all the delegates, members and non-members. This year’s symposium proved once again that the study of knitting history, while deeply interesting and often highly entertaining, is also vital both to our understanding of the past and our development of future textile technologies.

The speakers and their papers are listed in Knitting History Forum Conferences.

KHF Conference 2015

KHF Chair, Prof Sandy Black, introduces speaker Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd, at the 2014 Knitting History Conference
KHF Chair, Prof Sandy Black, introduces speaker Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd, at the 2014 Knitting History Conference

It’s not too late to join us for the KHF Conference 2015, on Saturday 14th November 2015, at the London College of Fashion. Tickets available at the door or reserve in advance via the website. See Knitting History Forum Conference 2015 all the details and to book your ticket.

KEME: Knitting in the Early Modern Era

A new interdisciplinary research project will be taking a closer look at early knitted caps. The Centre for Textile Research or CTR in Copenhagen and Dr Jane Malcolm-Davies of The Tudor Tailor have been awarded a prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship for “Knitting in the Early Modern Era: materials, manufacture and meaning“, or KEME. Based at the University of Copenhagen, the KEME team will be investigating in detail more than one hundred extant knitted caps from the Early Modern period, submitting them for technical examination and analysis, compiling an economic map of early knitting and clarifying terminology as a basis for future research to build upon. A database will be developed to make the information gathered in the project available online.

Jane will be speaking on “A knitting revolution? A scientific survey of sixteenth century knitted caps” at the Knitting History Forum Conference 2015 in London, Saturday 14th November. Her paper will introduce KEME and she will be appealing for knitters, volunteers and collaborators to participate in the project. A blog, Facebook page and Ravelry group called Strickersvej (Knitters Way) are to launch in November.

Read more at the Tudor Tailor website. And don’t forget to book your place at the Knitting History Forum Conference, to hear Jane speak on the KEME project, its aims, methods and how YOU can help.

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.

Knitting History Conference 2015

Reconstruction Knitted Sanquhar Glove courtesy of Kirstie Buckland. PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION!Join us for the Knitting History Forum 2015 Conference and AGM on Saturday 14th November 2015, at the London College of Fashion, 20 Princes St.

The Knitting History Conference starts promptly at 2.00PM. Speakers and papers for 2015 are:

  •  Carol Christiansen on ‘Late seventeenth century knitwear from the Gunnister Man find‘;
  •  Kirstie Buckland on ‘Saintly Socks and Silken Pillows – a glance at the mysteries of some medieval knitting in Spain‘;
  •  Lesley O’Connell Edwards on ‘Who wrote what when? A study of the publications of the Hopes of Ramsgate in the 1840s‘;
  •  Zoe Fletcher on ‘Designing for breed: Enhancing the potential for British wool in UK knitwear manufacture, through design, new technologies and marketing strategy’ and
  •  Jane Malcolm-Davies on ‘A knitting revolution? A scientific survey of sixteenth century knitted caps‘.

There will be time for questions and further discussion from 5.00PM, after all the speakers have delivered their papers.

Doors open at 10:30AM for registration. The first session from 10:30 to 11.00 is Show and Tell so 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 so there is plenty of choice!

We welcome non-members and new members! Tickets cost £25 and can be booked in advance or on the door. If you are not a KHF member, you can use the PayPal button below to buy your ticket. See payment methods page for alternative ways to pay.


Knitting History Conference 2015 Non-members’ Ticket



Attendance at the Knitting History Conference is included in the KHF membership subscription, only £15 annually. Members may renew or subscribe on the day.

Knitting History Forum the international society for the history of knitting and crochet. Eight-pointed star, a common motif in knitting across many cultures. Smaller.
Knitting History Forum, the international society for the history of knitting.
Keep up with the latest in knitting history news here on the KHF website, Knitting History, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@KnitHistForum).