Knitting History News

Knitting, Technology And Gaming

1980s brochure for Nintendo Knitting Machine.
1980s brochure for Nintendo Knitting Machine.

Students of knitting history are well aware the craft has long proved adaptable in the face of innovation. In the last thirty years, knitting and technology have had some interesting encounters. According to this article from 2012, in the 1980s Nintendo worked on an add-on device for the Nintendo Entertainment System that would have enabled users of the NES to create their own designs and knit them. A brochure from the time includes the bold statement, “The Nintendo Knitting Machine is just one more example of the innovative thinking that keeps Nintendo on the cutting edge of video technology. And your customers on the edge of their seats.” The brochure boasted, “Of course we should probably mention that no other video game system offers anything even remotely similar.” In hindsight, there may have been a reason for that. Despite the confidence of the advertising copy, the Nintendo Knitting Machine was shown at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas in 1987 but was never released.

On a related theme, ‘A brief history of yarn in video games‘ briefly mentions this same story and further electronic, yarn-related surprises, including an iPhone knitting game from 2009, an unusual subject for future knitting history research. The language in this article may be offensive to readers.

The Vintage Shetland Project

The Vintage Shetland ProjectKnitting designer Susan Crawford, with the assistance and support of curator Dr Carol Christiansen, spent several years studying hand-knitted garments and accessories in the rich collection of the Shetland Museum and Archives for The Vintage Shetland Project. Susan, co-author of ‘A Stitch in Time’, has now selected twenty-five pieces from the 1920s to 1960s for development into comprehensive, multi-sized knitting patterns. These will be published in a book with full-colour pictures, accompanying essays about each of the items and the knitting traditions of Shetland, and a chapter about the book’s creation, the history of the Shetland Museum and a foreword by Dr Christiansen.

Vintage Shetland Project - Susan Crawford examines a garment at the Shetland MuseumThe Vintage Shetland Project took four years and involved repeated trips to Shetland; recording the construction of vintage items stitch by stitch; the creation of custom software for ‘translating’ the stitches and the development of a new 2-ply wool yarn in the old style, ‘Fenella’, manufactured in a range of colours to match the garments from the archives.

Our followers on Twitter (@KnitHistForum) will already have read about a crowdfunding campaign towards the cost of self-publishing the book. Every day of the campaign, which ends 8 August 2015, Susan Crawford will be posting pictures from The Vintage Shetland Project on Instagram. The initial, modest target was met in a matter of days though there’s still time to donate and help cover further costs as detailed on the campaign page. Donations vary from low to high and each has an appropriate reward. Details, pictures, a video by Susan and an excerpt from the book can be found at https://pubslush.com/project/7016

Vintage Shetland Project - detail of a hand-knitted garment from the Shetland Museum
Detail of a hand-knitted garment from the Shetland Museum

 

Costume Journal – Free Access

Costume Society Journal 1965-2015
Costume Society Journal 1965-2015

The Costume Society was founded half a century ago. In honour of their fiftieth anniversary, fifty articles from the Society’s journal Costume have been digitised by publisher Maney of Leeds and are available free online to the end of July 2015. Many seminal, scholarly articles on the history of dress can be downloaded for free, including “The Englishman’s Swimwear” by Richard Rutt, published in Volume 24, 1990. While not specifically covering knitting, styles and construction of knitted garments and hand-knitting patterns are briefly (no pun intended) discussed. The article is a must for anyone interested in the serious history of men’s bathing costumes and swimming trunks, so often the subject of vintage knitting patterns.

Another article of interest currently with unlimited access is “The Hodson Shop” by Sheila B. Shreeve, from Volume 48, 2014, on a twentieth-century draper’s and haberdasher’s shop whose surviving stock is now kept at Walsall Museum. Small shops of this type throughout Britain sold supplies for knitting, crochet and other needlework as well as affordable, ready-made clothing including, no doubt, rayon jumpers of similarly unfortunate proportions to those sold in Edith Hodson’s shop! The article contains little information relating directly to knitting, but this evocative glimpse into a shopping experience common to many British knitters is invaluable.

To download these and other articles on costume history, visit Maney Online.

European Textile Forum 2015

The¬†European Textile Forum is being held again in Germany this November. The theme for 2015 is “Non-Woven Textile Structures”, a topic covering a broad range of textile techniques such as braiding, netting, nalbinding and of course, knitting. This year’s speakers include Jane Malcolm-Davies and Ruth Gilbert.

The European Textile Forumallows textile professionals, historians and textile workers with no academic background to explore and discuss early textiles. The programme usually includes a mixture of academic and practical presentations – in 2009 they ran a practical experiment testing the influence of spindle whorl, fibre and spinner on spinning. In 2015 the following presentations will be included (in no particular order):

  • Ruth Gilbert: On the terminology of non-woven textile structures and techniques, and why it matters
  • ¬†Anne Reichert: A lime bast textile find from Lake Constance in a singular technique
  • Ruth MacGregor: Demonstration and hands-on session on working with silk cocoons
  • Micky Schoelzke: Silk reeling demonstration/workshop
  • Heather Hopkins: Lightening talk presentations of unpublished findings from Pompeii, and a round-table discussion of these subjects
  • Rachel Case and Beatrix Nutz: Reconstruction project of extant garments from Lengberg Castle, focusing on the non-woven parts (paper and workshop)
  • Jane Malcolm-Davies: Knitted caps and knitting as a key innovation of the Early Modern era (paper and round-table discussion)

The conference runs from 2-8 November 2015 at the Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology in Mayen, Germany, the experimental archaeology research center of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (RGZM). On-site accomodation at the Laboratory is restricted and the conference can only accomodate a few more delegates but spaces are available. Please visit the European Textile Forum website for more information and to register for a place.

Historic Knit Open House with Joyce Meader

Joyce Meader Wearing Her Reproduction 1910s Knitted Suit, Knitting History Forum Conference 2007. Photo by Loraine McClean.
Joyce Meader wearing knitted 1910s reproductions in 2007. Photo by Loraine McClean.
Joyce Meader of The Historic Knit has confirmed more information ahead of the open house at her Hampshire home next month. The date is Wednesday 29 April from 10:00am to 16:00pm. Joyce says there is ample parking and she will kindly be providing bread, soup and homemade cake.

Please email or message Joyce ahead of the visit and let her know you are coming. Her personal details will not be posted here for obvious reasons. For more info log into the KHF Yahoo group to read Joyce’s latest post and respond to Joyce directly.

See our earlier post for photos from Joyce’s presentation at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2014. You can also see more of Joyce’s historical knitting and knitting pattern collection at her website.

ETA 18/03/2015: You can also message Joyce via her post today on the Knitting History Forum Facebook page.

Top photo: detail of a reproduction by Joyce Meader.

Fashion on the Ration : 1940s Street Style Exhibition

2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Among many events in tribute is ‘Fashion on the Ration : 1940s Street Style’, a new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. Fashion on the Ration looks at ‘how fashion survived and even flourished’ in wartime Britain. "Displays of original clothes from the era, from military uniforms to functional fashion, reveal what life was really like on the home front in wartime Britain. This is a story not about the end of fashion but about creativity, innovation and coping in adversity, the impact of which can still be seen upon British style today."

The exhibition shows how the British attempted to maintain standards of appearance, concentrating on "on what people wore, their sense of identity and how they coped with the demands and deprivations." People of all backgrounds explored new sources of materials, beauty products and styles of dress as first intermittent supply, then clothes-rationing, took effect. Winston Churchill opposed the very concept of rationing clothes when first introduced in 1941. But Oliver Lyttleton of the Board of Trade believed rationing would ensure fair distribution of clothing across all sections of society, preserve limited wool and cotton supplies and release thousands of workers in the clothes industry for war work. Initially the allowance was 66 coupons annually but as the war dragged on it was cut to 48 coupons in 1942, to 36 in 1943, and in 1945 to only 24. Putting this into context, in 1941 stockings were 2 coupons each, a dress or skirt was 7 coupons and a wool dress 11 coupons. A man’s shirt was 5 coupons, trousers were 8 and a jacket 13: a three-piece suit would have been 26 coupons altogether. Material and yarn were rationed too: a yard of wool 36″ wide was 3 coupons while knitting wool was 2 ounces a coupon. Sob! In 1941 the Utility Apparel Order was issued to standardise mass-produced clothing and fabric and minimise waste, even limiting the number of pleats on skirts, buttons on coats and the length of men‚Äôs socks. Adult clothing had 100% purchase tax added.

Facing such restrictions, the originality and invention of the response by British people, designers and manufacturers is extraordinary. “It would be an added calamity if war turned us into a nation of frights and slovens”, declared Vogue in 1939. Clothing was altered, mended and darned, often almost invisibly. Woollen jumpers were unravelled and re-knitted. We’ve all heard stories of unusual materials re-purposed for clothing and cosmetics, such as ‘liquid stockings’ and parachute silk. Some women without access to stockings or the charmingly-named ‘Helena Rubinstein’s Leg Stick’ really did resort to tea or even gravy browning. Shown for the first time is a set of Countess Mountbatten’s underwear. Made out of a silk map given by a boyfriend in the RAF, it is undecorated apart from the printing of the map and is actually rather beautiful. Other items on display are a woman’s suit made-over from a man’s, a child’s coat made from a blanket and a bracelet ingeniously created from components of crashed German aircraft.

Wedding dresses, with their increased yardage, presented a particular coupon-headache for brides who either could not or would not resort to black market goods. A bridesmaid’s dress made and worn by Janet Saunders in 1945 is indeed parachute silk. Evelyn Higginson‚Äôs 1943 wedding dress of pre-war figured silk, originally sold for making petticoats, was eventually worn by 15 different brides. Out of her own pocket, Barbara Cartland (yes, that Barbara Cartland), bought wedding dresses. She established a pool of hundreds of wedding-gowns lent out to hundreds more women who otherwise could not have afforded one. The thrift born then of necessity has much to teach us now regarding sustainability.

‘Fashion on the Ration’ features other, unexpected innovations. Gas masks might be an ugly fact of war but they could be carried in the bottom of a specially-designed leather handbag. Selfridges sold luminous buttons and brooches to make the wearer safe when walking at night because civilian car accidents in 1941 had risen from by over 2500 year since 1938, due, it was then thought, to blackout. A one-piece siren suit is ‘just the thing to pull on in a hurry’ when dashing for the shelter during night-time raids: a ‘onesie’, Home-Front-style. Nella Last described hers as “the maddest, most amusing thing a sedate matron of 51 ever possessed!” Rayon ‘Utility’ dresses provide a burst of vivid colour and pattern. With materials at a premium, styles were pared-down but striking. Many of the garments look wearable now. Perhaps that is why fashion keeps returning to the 1940s as a source of inspiration?

Knitting seems under-represented, given its significance at the time, but this outstanding exhibition nevertheless illuminates a significant aspect of life in wartime Britain. It is the perfect lead-up to the Museum of London’s conference on post-war dress in September. ‘Fashion on the Ration : 1940s Street Style’ runs until Monday 31 August 2015 at the Imperial War Museum London branch in Lambeth Road. More info at the IWM website. Their Wartime Fashion section may also be of interest.

Fully Fashioned: 200 Years of Pringle of Scotland

1930s Pringle of Scotland Sales Image
1930s Pringle of Scotland Cardigan and Twin Set

Pringle of Scotland marks its bicentenary this year with a new exhibition. “Fully Fashioned: The Pringle of Scotland Story” is at London’s Serpentine Gallery for a short preview coinciding with Pringle’s show during London Fashion week. Featuring surviving knitwear from Scottish museums, photographs and items from private collections and the firm’s archives, the exhibition traces the company’s history from its origins in 1815, when Robert Pringle began manufacturing hosiery and underwear in Hawick, to its current position as a international knitwear brand.

1907 Pringle of Scotland Sales Image
1907 Pringle of Scotland Sales Image

 

The company was a leading proponent of knitwear’s move into fashionable outerwear and in the twentieth century became known for luxury knitting, particularly sportswear emblazoned with the distinctive Pringle Argyle pattern, as popularised by Edward, Prince of Wales. Included in the exhibition are items from the twentieth century as well as early Pringle knitted underwear and more recent pieces, such as a handknit with 3D print elements from the Autumn/Winter 2014 campaign.

1958 Pringle of Scotland Advertisement
1958 Pringle of Scotland Advertisement

The Michael Clark Dance Company has collaborated with Pringle to produce Knitwear | Movement, three short films ‘animating’ this history, while Alfred Watson was commissioned for their 200th anniversary marketing campaign, combining Pringle designs with the Scottish landscape. The films and photographs are also shown in the exhibition.

Following the preview in London, “Fully Fashioned: The Pringle of Scotland Story” will subsequently tour the US and Asia, before heading back over the border to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, where it opens to the public from Friday April 10 to Sunday August 16 2015.

‚Äď http://www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/whats-on/fully-fashioned/
‚Äď http://www.harpersbazaar.co.uk/fashion/fashion-news/pringle-celebrates-200-years-with-new-exhibition
‚Äď http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/2015/02/24/pringle-of-scotland-london-exhibition-preview

Top image credit: Amy Barton

Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983

Ruth Gilbert has written a new book, “Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983”. Covering knitting and its uses from medieval to almost modern, it is, uniquely, aimed primarily at re-enactors, living historians, historical interpreters and all involved in period textile demonstrations. Described as “a practical guide” it answers fundamental questions for re-enactors such as “1. Should I be knitting? 2. What should I knit? 3. How should I knit? 4. Does it matter?”

Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983 by Ruth Gilbert
Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983 by Ruth Gilbert

Ruth is a textile historian who has published articles and presented conference papers on spinning and knitting history, including at the Knitting History Forum, with which she has been involved since it was the Early Knitting History Group in the 1990s. Ruth is also known to many in re-enactment as Beth Frend or Beth the Weaver, an authority on weaving, spinning and knitting and many, if not all things textile! This booklet will be invaluable to re-enactors and many others.

“Knitting Unravelled 1450-1983” is a slim but affordable A5 volume published by Hogwash Press at ¬£4 plus postage. It will also be available in the UK from Ruth herself at the Textile Fair, Kentwell Hall Open Days (participants only), Whittington Castle’s May Day event or the Loft Space at Standedge.

UK Copyright Guidelines for Knitting Patterns

The UK government’s Intellectual Property Office have issued a new copyright notice explaining copyright law for knitting patterns, "aimed at individuals and small businesses who may wish to use or create knitting, sewing and related patterns".

It isn’t a revision of existing laws, merely a guide to current practice in the UK. With the increase of independent designers publishing PDF patterns, so much online pattern-swapping, and so many sellers making illegal reprints of knitting and sewing patterns that are still very much in copyright, this is a timely reminder of where we all stand when making or using knitting patterns.

Copyright Notice Number: 4/2015 on Knitting And Sewing Patterns can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Thank you to Kay Lacey who brought this to our attention.

The Kitchener Stitch: Knitting in Wartime Study Day

Another exciting study day for the calendar. ‘Kitchener Stitch’, the seamless method of grafting the toe that is the joy or bane of many a sock-knitter, is said to have been devised or at least inspired by Herbert Kitchener, British Secretary of State for War from 1914 to 1916, in an attempt to prevent chafing. Whatever the truth of the story, this study day explores the relationship between knitting and wartime and highlights how knitting meant much more than the popular image of women on the home front knitting for the troops.

"Your Country Needs Knitters" Kitchener Stitch Study Day
“Your Country Needs Knitters” Kitchener Stitch Study Day
Speakers include Jane Tynan of Central St Martins on ‘Comforting Body and Soul: Knitting in First World War Britain‘ and Maggie Andrews of University of Worcester on ‘”Men went to war and women knitted” : domesticity and¬† crafts on the Home Front in Britain‘. Joyce Meader of The Historic Knit and Barbara Smith of Knitting & Crochet Guild will reprise their papers from the 2014 Knitting History Forum Conference, ‘Knitted Comforts from Crimea to the Modern Day‘ and ‘Useful Work for Anxious Fingers – Knitting & Crochet in the First World War‘ respectively. You can discover more about knitting in wartime from the Crimea to Afghanistan and also browse the Glasgow Women’s Library historical knitting pattern collection. A full programme will posted closer to the event.

The Kitchener Stitch Study Day is on Friday 27 March 2015, from 10am to 4pm at The Lighthouse, Mitchell Lane, Glasgow. See University of Glasgow Knitting and Textile History for details.

450th Anniversary Jacket

450th Anniversary Jacket knitted by Tricia Basham
450th Anniversary Jacket knitted by Tricia Basham

The 450th Anniversary Jacket was recently displayed on the KCG stand at the Creative Crafts Show in Esher. It was knitted by KHF Treasurer and Membership Secretary, Tricia Basham, as part of her City & Guilds in Hand Knit Textiles.

Designed to tie-in with the 450th anniversary celebrations at the school where she then worked,¬†this exquisite jacket was influenced by seventeenth-century textiles in the V&A collection, winning the V&A’s “Inspired by…” Fashion and Textiles Prize in 2012.

Emma Vining's 'Gladioli' made the cover of The Knitter magazine
Emma Vining’s ‘Gladioli’ on the cover of The Knitter magazine

The photo of the 450th Anniversary Jacket on the KCG stand was taken by Emma Vining, another Knitting History Forum member and supporter whose knitwear design just made the cover of The Knitter again.

Congratulations to both!

Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk Show ‚Äď 21 February 2015

A quick reminder that our next event is only four weeks away. The Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk Show is on Saturday 21 February 2015, from 1pm to 4pm at the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, London. There’s more information here.

Items from a previous Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk Show. Photo by Angharad Thomas
Items from a previous Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk Show. Photo by Angharad Thomas

Places cost only £10. Please contact our Membership Secretary and Treasurer, Tricia Basham, to book yours.

Knitting History Website Re-vamp

Knitting History the website of Knitting History Forum the international society for the history of knitting and crochet up to January 2015
The old Knitting History Forum website

Welcome to the new look Knitting History website. The re-vamp has landed! Knitting History now is easier to use, has improved visibility and is more mobile-friendly. The old URLs are no longer valid so please visit http://knittinghistory.co.uk/ and update your bookmarks. Further developments are on the way. We hope you enjoy the changes and our fresh new format.

Knitting History the website of Knitting History Forum the international society for the history of knitting and crochet re-vamped website January 2015
The new Knitting History Forum website from January 2015

Knitting History Forum Visit the V&A!

Loraine and Tricia have arranged a KHF visit to see knitting from the Victoria and Albert museum in London. The V&A has a rich and varied holding of knitting in their collections, ranging from very early to the latest in modern knitwear. Only a tiny fraction is on display in the museum itself: the rest is stored in controlled conditions at the V&A’s new purpose-built facilities at the Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion, Blythe House, in Olympia. The museum collections can be searched online. If there are specific items you know would like to see, please email your suggestions with your booking.

V&A Victoria and Albert Museum
V&A Museum, London
Once again the event is open to members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild as well as Knitting History Forum. There are two dates available, the afternoons of Friday 13 and Friday 20 March. Although it was intended that the 13th would be for KCG and the 20th for KHF members, there is some flexibility across both dates to ensure this wonderful opportunity is open to as many interested people as possible.

Tricia is still finalising all the details but she will let you know as soon as all the arrangements are made. Places are almost gone but there is still time to book yours. Contact Tricia directly or email ‘KHF Events & Bookings’ to reserve your space, arrange payment of the ¬£5 deposit and suggest items to view. Don’t miss this opportunity to see items not usually on display, in the company of some extremely knowledgeable members of both Knitting History Forum and the Knitting & Crochet Guild!

FTM Course on Software for Knitting Designers

Next week the Fashion and Textile Museum in London will be running a three-day course on using software to illustrate and chart knitting designs. ‘Illustrator for Knitwear Designers’ runs from Wednesday 14 to Friday 16 January. Numbers are limited, so enroll early to avoid disappointment. There’s more information and a downloadable course outline at the FTM website http://ftmlondon.org/ftm_courses/illustrator-for-knitwear/.

Joyce Meader’s Open House

Joyce Meader has graciously invited Knitting History Forum to an open house at her home in Hampshire, on 29 April 2015.

For those of you who do not know her, Joyce, a long-standing KHF member and supporter, is an expert on historical knitting who owns an extensive collection of knitting patterns from 1817 to the present day. She also recreates historical knitting for re-enactment, film and museums. Below is a sampling of Joyce’s reproduction hand knitting and her collection of nineteenth and twentieth century patterns, from those accompanying her presentation at the Knitting History Forum Conference in November 2014.

More details will be confirmed nearer to the time. If you are able to attend, please let Joyce know you are coming by logging into the KHF Yahoo group and replying to her post.

Read more about Joyce, her knitting pattern collection and reproduction historical knitting at her website, The Historic Knit, military and historic knitting.

Christmas Jumper Day 2014

Christmas knitwear has come in from the cold. Rescued from the icy wastelands of taste and fashion, it is assured of a welcome with the return of Christmas Jumper Day on Friday 12th December 2014.

The charity Save The Children would like as many people as possible to wear a Christmas jumper to work or to school for suggested donations of £2 for adults and £1 for children. Their website has more info and additional suggestions for fundraising (http://jumpers.savethechildren.org.uk/about/faqs).

Two of 30 jumpers specially customised in aid of Save the Children's Christmas Jumper Day 2014
Two of 30 jumpers specially customised in aid of Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day 2014

Others are getting involved too. As well as donating £2 from every sale of their exclusive Penguin Christmas jumper pattern, Deramores are offering free jumper patterns on their website http://www.deramores.com/christmas-jumper-day. Well-known British designers as well as students of the London College of Fashion have customised 30 identical bespoke jumpers by Wool and the Gang. Atterley Road will be holding a Secret Jumper Sale on 3rd December, selling the jumpers in aid of Save The Children. This is a rare opportunity to own an unique piece of knitting history AND do your bit for charity. Visit their website for more info and a preview of all 30 jumpers http://www.atterleyroad.com/the-road/do-your-bit-with-a-knit/

Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk Show ‚Äď 21 February 2015

Our next Knitting History Forum event is the Knitting & Crochet Guild Trunk Show on 21 February 2015, from 1pm to 4pm at the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, London. This is a joint meeting with the KCG.

The Knitting & Crochet Guild are making their collection, held at Lee Mills, more accessible by taking a selection on tour. Angharad Thomas and Barbara Smith, respectively the KCG’s Textile Archivist and Publications Curator, will bring an array of historical knitted and crocheted items, publications and knitting equipment.

Places are limited and cost £10 per head. If you are interested please contact our Membership Secretary, Tricia Basham.