Knitting History News

Wool: Cloth, Clothing and Culture – MEDATS Conference 2019

Wool: Cloth, Clothing and Culture” is the subject of the next MEDATS (Medieval Dress and Textiles Society) conference in April. Many of the papers confirmed for MEDATS this Spring will be of interest to KHF members. The history of wool and the early history of knitting are closely linked, as highlighted by the fact that three of the speakers are Kirstie Buckland, Jane Malcolm-Davies and Lesley O’Connell Edwards, members of Knitting History Forum who presented highly-regarded papers at KHF conferences. All of the MEDATS presentations look fascinating:

‘A warm house for the wits’: The craft, trade or science of capping
Kirstie Buckland, Independent scholar
‘Home or away? Woollens, worsteds and the “industrious revolution” in England
John Styles, The University of Hertfordshire
Hanging by a thread: Anticipating structural damage in Tudor Tapestries through the study of photo-oxidation in historic wool
Nanette Kissi, Independent Scholar
Turning wool into silk: How sixteenth century craftspeople created legal luxuries
Jane Malcolm-Davies, Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen
The “industry” of knitting of wool stockings in later 16th century England, especially Norwich
Lesley O’Connell Edwards, MSc student in English Local Studies at the University of Oxford
The first cowl of St Francis of Assisi and the mantle of Bishop Guido
Maria Giorgi, Adjunct Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and Independent Textiles conservator and Conservation Consultant
The St Clare intermediate tunic
Tina Anderlini, Independent scholar
Distaff spinning: a forgotten aspect of medieval wool textile production
Mary A. M. Cleaton, Jane Hunt, Alice R. Evans & Cathelina de Alessandri

“Wool: Cloth, Clothing and Culture” will be held on 6th April 2019 at Saint Stephen’s Church Hall, Knightsbridge, London, from 11:00am to 5:30pm. There is an Early Bird discount for MEDATS members and non-members if booking conference tickets before 31st January 2019. After that date, all tickets except for students will cost £45, so remember to book by the end of January.

Further information and booking enquiries should be directed to MEDATS at their website

Early Modern Knitting in Denmark

This knitted item, found in a crypt in a Danish manor church, was photographed on the day it was recognised as an Early Modern cap by Jane Malcolm-Davies during examination at the National Museum of Denmark’s store in Brede in May 2014. It is recorded in detail in the forthcoming Archaeological Textiles Review issue no. 60 by Maj Ringgaard, together with another cap found in Copenhagen. Click on the image for a larger view.

Early Modern knitted cap, National Museum of Denmark, photo by Jane Malcolm-Davies
Early Modern knitted cap, National Museum of Denmark, photo by Jane Malcolm-Davies

Available by subscription, the 2018 volume of Archaeological Textiles Review will focus on knitting in the Early Modern period, with 99 pages devoted to knitted fragments and garments with many colour photographs and detailed specifications. Collaborating authors and articles are as follows:

Ruth Gilbert – reviews published evidence for Early Modern knitting
Susanne Lervad – contributes to terminology for studying knitwork
Helena Lundin – reports knitted items from the c17th Kronan shipwreck
Jane Malcolm-Davies – introduces the issue and proposes a protocol for reporting Early Modern knitwork
Rosalind Mearns – discusses crowdsourcing for experimental archaeology to reconstruct knitted items
Lesley O’Connell Edwards – discusses c16th stockings in the Museum of London
Sylvie Odstrčilová – surveys c17th silk stockings in the Czech Republic
Maj Ringgaard – reveals the remains of two Early Modern knitted caps found in Denmark
Annemarieke Willemsen – reports mittens found in a c17th Dutch shipwreck
There will also be an article on Karen Finch, our late Honorary President, by her colleague, Rosalind Janssen.

Archaeological Textiles Review 2018 60th Issue Early Modern Knitting Special
Archaeological Textiles Review 2018 60th Issue

The print deadline has been extended, but only until after the weekend, so if you prefer a print copy, reserve yours soon. Subscriptions for the 2018 issue of Archaeological Textiles Review cost DKK250, approximately €34, £30 or US $38, and are available from the University of Copenhagen website

Archaeological Textiles Review Knitting Issue

BREAKING NEWS! The 60th edition of Archaeological Textiles Review has finally been published. This long-awaited diamond issue is devoted to the study of Early Modern knitted items with more than ten articles focussing on extant evidence, including two sixteenth century caps (one being the earliest known example of Danish knitting), sixteenth century wool stockings, seventeenth century silk stockings, items recovered from shipwrecks including mittens from the Netherlands and Sweden, and the full version of the proposal for a new protocol for recording evidence for knitting (read more here). One of the articles is an obituary of Karen Finch, our late Honorary President. A major outcome of the Knitting in Early Modern Europe (KEME) project, funded by a Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellowship, the volume contains 99 pages devoted to knitted fragments and garments with many colour photographs and detailed specifications such as the tension or gauge, yarn and fibre for each item.

Archaeological Textiles Review 2018 60th Issue Early Modern Knitting Special
Archaeological Textiles Review 2018 60th Issue on Early Modern Knitting

This issue is available by subscription and the University of Copenhagen is now deciding how many copies to print. Don’t delay! The print deadline is today (12th December 2018). Volume 60 of Archaeological Textiles Review costs dkk250, approximately €34, £30 or US $38. Visit the University website to subscribe:

1930s Hand–Knitted Bathing Suits

Emmy Sale won the undergraduate student Design History Society Essay Prize with an essay based on her BA dissertation examining hand-knitted bathing suits in the 1930s, particularly how they were made and worn by young working women. She wrote a shorter essay, ‘The 1930s Hand-Knitted Bathing Suit: Cost, originality and adaptation’, based on the collection of Worthing Art Gallery and Museum, as part of their joint Objects Unwrapped research project with University of Brighton. A downloadable PDF is available on the Objects Unwrapped website

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

Emmy has also written a post for the Association of Dress Historians, discussing her research and showing images of knitted bathing suits in other British museum collections. ‘Homemade Garments in Museum Collections: 1930s Hand–Knitted Bathing Suits’ is available on the ADH website

Textile Tools for Teaching Science

'Crocheting Neuroscience: The Retina' by Dr Tahani Baakdhah
‘Crocheting Neuroscience: The Retina’ by Dr Tahani Baakdhah

In the twenty-first century, Dr Tahani Baakdhah of the University of Toronto makes models in crochet to illustrate her research on stem cells in the retina and promote science literacy. She has just published a book of patterns, ‘Crocheting Neuroscience: The Retina’. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries British chemist and mathematician, Alexander Crum Brown (1838-1922), also made teaching models using a variety of techniques including knitting. Some of Dr Crum Brown’s models, including multi-dimensional knitting demonstrating his mathematical work on inter-penetrating surfaces, are shown in this article from the National Museums of Scotland blog, and it is really encouraging this connection between textiles and teaching science continues today.

Postgraduate Knitting History Research Online

Two very different studies on the history of knitting are available online. One taps a vein of research that had been hardly explored before, the other re-visits a popular topic of knitting literature, but both dispel old assumptions.

‘Myth: Black People Don’t Knit – the importance of art and oral histories for documenting the experiences of black knitters’ by Lorna Hamilton-Brown can be read and downloaded here: Her MA dissertation moves beyond facile ethnic stereotypes, examining art and using oral history from living knitters to record firsthand the experience and culture of knitting among people whose stories are often marginalised or misrepresented. Lorna spoke at the Knitting History Forum meeting last November and her lively presentation both informed and entertained.

Roslyn Chapman’s PhD thesis, ‘The history of the fine lace knitting industry in nineteenth and early twentieth century Shetland’, is available in an edited form on the University of Glasgow website Roslyn’s continuing examination of Shetland lace knitting and its many imitations sheds light on how knitting traditions are created, emulated and sometimes inaccurately disseminated. Her much-anticipated presentation at the Knitting History Conference in 2016 highlighted that traditional narratives of knitting should be evaluated against the historical record.

‘Groundbreaking’ is an adjective rarely applied with sincerity, but the work of both Roslyn Chapman and Lorna Hamilton-Brown genuinely breaks new ground in knitting history scholarship, challenging preconception not by deliberate provocation but research that speaks for itself.

Sewing & Stories in Leeds

Sewing & Stories is an interactive event in Leeds this Thursday 29th November. The organisers would like to gather memories of knitting, crochet and sewing, personal, domestic and industrial, from the Windrush generation and anyone from the wider community in Leeds and the surrounding area. Those can’t knit, crochet or sew are also very welcome. KHF only just received notice, but it’s a brilliant idea and looks like a lovely event. See the flyer for more information.

Sewing & Stories Event, Leeds
Sewing & Stories event, The Compton Centre, Leeds, Thursday 29th November 2018

Early Knitted Waistcoats – An Overview

Knitting History Forum the international society for the history of knitting and crochet. Eight-pointed star, a common motif in knitting across many cultures. Following on from Jana Trepte’s presentation on Saturday, ‘Piecing the Bremen waistcoat together: an everyday knitted garment of the early 1600s’, Pat Poppy has pieced together her own helpful overview of knitted waistcoats and jackets of the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries. The post lists details of select recent scholarship on early knitted waistcoats and jackets, both ordinary and elite, with links to online records of several examples in museum collections. Pat is herself an historian as well as a long-standing member of Knitting History Forum and her post is a sound springboard for further research. Visit her blog to read more

2018 KHF AGM & Conference

Sandy Black and Rachael Matthews at KHF AGM & Conference 2018
Sandy Black and Rachael Matthews at KHF AGM & Conference 2018

After a year notable for the extraordinary, in weather and in much else, November has rolled around once more. Knitting History Forum’s unique annual conference and AGM for 2018 was held last Saturday. The day’s proceedings informed, amused and intrigued.

The conference itself was packed with more papers than at any previous KHF event. Six very different but equally eloquent speakers presented. Our Chair Prof Sandy Black opened proceedings, then Annemor Sundbø opened an apparently unremarkable suitcase to reveal a wonderful selection of knitted garments she had rescued from destruction.

Annemor Sundbø's suitcase of extraordinary knitting at KHF AGM & Conference 2018

These treasures, ranging from the strictly utilitarian and functional to highly decorative expressions of love, form a record of Norwegian knitting traditions and dress history, many with signs of multiple repairs and multiple lives, such as cardigans and jumpers turned into underwear or swimming costumes.

Annemor Sundbø presents her collection of rescued knitting at KHF AGM & Conference 2018
Annemor Sundbø presents her collection of rescued knitting at KHF AGM & Conference 2018

Celia Pym’s paper followed on directly from this, beginning with a jumper from Annemor’s ‘ragpile’ that Celia had visibly darned in white wool and going on to deeply moving accounts of repair work, including two well-loved jumpers, one belonging to her family GP Bill, and the second to Celia’s great-uncle Roly, which involved adding to her great-aunt Elizabeth’s sturdy and very individual darning.

Celia Pym presents a paper at KHF AGM & Conference 2018
Celia Pym presents a paper at KHF AGM & Conference 2018. Photo by Jane Malcolm-Davies.

Nineteenth-century and reproduction knitting from the collection of Gieneke Arnolli at the KHF AGM & Conference 2018. PLEASE DO NOT REPRODUCE THIS IMAGE WITHOUT PERMISSION
Nineteenth-century and reproduction knitting from the collection of Gieneke Arnolli, at the KHF AGM & Conference 2018.

Rachael Matthews discussed her work as textile artist, writer, teacher and activist with refreshing honesty. Her paper took the form of an humourous but candid alternative to her recent book, expressing knitters’ struggles and low points illustrated by examples from Rachael’s own practice and experience and observing truthfully how knitting can divide as well as unite.

KHF AGM Conference 2018 Jana Trepte in Bremen
Jana Trepte examining a recovered fragment of knitting in Bremen. Photo by Jane Malcolm-Davies.

After a short break, the conference resumed with Cary Karp speaking on the use in Great Britain of hooked-tip knitting needles, the distinction from and adoption of crochet hooks and the terminology and structure of the different techniques. His precise and incisive paper, tracing this history through the published work of nineteenth-century knitting writers, was a model of clarity. Jana Trepte’s well-received paper examined the fragments recovered in Bremen of everyday knitted garments of the early seventeenth century and concentrated on one large piece from a knitted wool waistcoat with knitted-in shaping, comparing it to surviving examples of elite waistcoats of silk and wool.

Cary Karp, Sandy Black, Lorna Hamilton-Brown and Ellie Reed at KHF AGM & Conference 2018
Cary Karp, Sandy Black, Lorna Hamilton-Brown and Ellie Reed at the KHF AGM & Conference 2018

Ellie Reed’s paper presented an evaluation of the target readership of ‘Woman’s Weekly’ in 1958. Her analysis of the social and cultural significance of ‘ordinary’ domestic knitting as presented in the magazine was confirmed and expanded by the memories of several delegates. Both this and the final presentation by Lorna Hamilton-Brown underlined the importance of collecting oral history from living knitters of all backgrounds. Lorna’s paper on black knitters was both revelatory and entertaining, enlivened by a brilliant video, ‘Knitters of the Caribbean’. Securing funding for further, doctoral research is vital. The memories Lorna collected from older generations of black knitters in the Caribbean showed Members of KHF and conference delegates looking at items of knitting historysimilarities to otherwise very different geographical and cultural knitting traditions, such as knitting needles made from palm leaves, a practice also found in Malaysia, or more expensive metal bicycle spokes, still frequently used in Peru.

Sandy had loosely arranged the conference presentations around a theme of mending and repair. Other themes emerged during the course of the day, such as recovery of unexplored, hidden or unvalued histories of knitters and knitting; of moving beyond limits of tired tropes and preconceptions; of fresh methods and fields of research; of breaking new ground while re-considering and consolidating the old. One point certainly highlighted by all six presentations is that the ingenuity and resourcefulness of knitters, crafters and needleworkers everywhere is unbounded.

The KHF AGM in the morning was hopeful in outlook, with suggestions for future events and new ways for Knitting History Forum to participate in wider discussion and continue to build up networks of knitting history research. The display tables held an eclectic array of knitting-related items, including exquisite nineteenth-century garments and a stunning modern reproduction from the collection of Gieneke Arnolli; modern publications by Annemor Sundbø, Rachael Matthews and Lise Warburg; nineteenth and twentieth-century knitting books brought by Joyce Meader from her extensive collection; new work by Philippa Thomas incorporating real gold, and much more.

Modern work by Philippa Thomas at the Knitting History Forum AGM & Conference 2018
Modern work by Philippa Thomas on display at the Knitting History Forum AGM & Conference 2018

Many thanks to all of our fantastic speakers for their papers, our delegates for stimulating discussion and to Sandy Black for arranging another really thought-provoking conference that could be enjoyed by scholars and knitters of all levels of interest. KHF Membership Secretary and Treasurer Tricia Basham deserves special thanks for valiantly joining us straight after a very long Knitting and Crochet Guild board meeting. It was wonderful to see friends old and new and see the results of some exceptional scholarship. Here’s to another excellent year of knitting history networking and research.

Delegates at the Knitting History Forum AGM & Conference 2018
Knitting History Forum Conference delegates 2018

Texel Silk Stockings Project Update

The latest newsletter from the TRC Leiden Silk Stockings Project to study and reproduce those recovered from the Texel shipwreck, shows the progress of the knitters, on course to finish their work by the end of March 2019. Read the newsletter here, in Dutch and English. The group were also recorded for television, which may be viewed here, starting at 7.30 minutes in. Ravelry users can also follow the progress of the knitters on their group, Texelstockings.

Center for Knit and Crochet Collections Resource

The Center for Knit and Crochet (CKC) is a non-profit organisation whose aim is to preserve and promote the art, craft, and scholarship of knitting, crochet, and related arts. One result of this aim is the establishment of a digital repository of knitting and crochet. The new CKC Collections Resource is an online-only collection bringing together items from different sources such as museums, galleries, libraries, archives and other public and private entities.

More than 5000 items relating to knitting and crochet may now be browsed in the Library and Museum Collections. Currently in an experimental phase, the database is drawn from the Digital Public Library of America. Other contributions are to be found in the Crowdsourced Collection, which is being used to refine the design, features and functionality of the online interface before continuing expansion. The CKC are in search of further partner organisations willing to share their collections of knitting and crochet.

Visit the CKC Collections Resource to read more, browse the collections or, perhaps, contribute your own piece of history:

Terminology of Knitting and Knitted Fabrics

We are pleased to publish an aid to knitting terminology by Ruth Gilbert, available now for downloading from the Knitting History website.

Entitled ‘Words for recording knitting and knitted fabrics. An introduction to important distinctions and concepts’, Ruth’s concise but precise paper aims to avoid confusion by promoting the use of clear and accurate terms in the description of knitted fabrics and artefacts, many of which are already used in machine knitting and in the knitting industry. Please visit our Knitting History Resources and scroll down the page to view or download Ruth’s paper.

Archaeological Textiles Review

It is part of a wider movement towards improving understanding and will undoubtedly become essential to future knitting history research. More information will be available in the forthcoming and much-anticipated 60th edition of Archaeological Textiles Review, to be published this Autumn. As the Archaeological Textiles Newsletter website explains : “Issue 60 will primarily include articles on evidence for knitting in Early Modern Europe, and we hope our readers will appreciate the importance of this long needed initiative and embrace the scientific impact and upgrade of this over-looked research direction.”

Darning Masterclass with Tom van Deijnen FULLY BOOKED


Exciting news : Knitting History Forum is pleased to announce Tom van Deijnen will be running a Darning Masterclass on the Friday before this year’s KHF Conference & AGM.

Darning Masterclass with Tom van Deijnen
Friday 16th November 2018 2-5 pm.
London College of Fashion, 20 John Princes St, London WC1 0BJ

Learn to darn with Tom van Deijnen, aka tomofholland. Best known for his Visible Mending Programme, he will teach you two darning techniques (Swiss darning and stocking darning). Tom will also bring along his darning showcase for plenty of inspiration, and talk about why darning and repairing clothes is important to him. You’ll take home a comprehensive hand-out, two darning needles, and the skills to tackle any holey sock or thinning elbow, and be able to wear a beautiful darn as a badge of honour. All practice materials provided.

Cost £40 payable in advance. Places are limited to 12 so please ensure that payment is made as soon as possible.

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

We are delighted to invite the wider craft community to join us for this absorbing afternoon masterclass.

Workshop places can be paid directly to the Knitting History Forum HSBC bank account sort code 40-39-16 account number 81487760, quoting your full name as reference. You can also pay via Paypal below.

KHF Tomofholland Darning Masterclass 2018

Read more about the 2018 Knitting History Forum Conference here. We welcome anyone with an interest in the history of knitting and crochet.

Fibres in Early Textiles from Prehistory to AD 1600

News of an event for next year, Fibres in Early Textiles from Prehistory to AD 1600. This biennial conference of the Early Textiles Studies Group will be held at the University of Glasgow, 6th to 7th June 2019. Dedicated to the memory of Karen Finch, Knitting History Forum’s inspirational and much-missed Honorary President, who sadly passed away earlier this year, the conference themes are:

– developments in the identification and analysis of early textile fibres
– contributions to the chronology of fibre use at a local or global level
– fibre procurement and use within specific historical or archaeological contexts
– the qualities of fibres and their contribution to finished textiles

Fibres in Early Textiles from Prehistory to AD 1600, Early Textiles Study Group biennial conference 2019The ETSG have issued a flyer, download here for information. Their Call for Papers invites 15-minute papers and posters and encourages submissions from early-career and experienced researchers : email abstracts to Margarita Gleba, by 11 January 2019.

Registration and booking will open in early 2019 and further details will be posted on the ETSG website:

The Knitting Madonna by Lise Warburg

Lise Warburg’s book, “Den strikkende madonna: 12 essays til strikningens geografi”, has been published by Vandkunsten. This collection of 12 essays discusses select aspects of the cultural history of knitting using evidence drawn from many disciplines, including archaeology, ethnography and language research, enlightened and enlivened by Lise’s depth of understanding and breadth of knowledge. This edition is in Danish but we hope public interest may encourage the publishers to issue an English edition as it deserves a wider audience. Visit Vandkunsten’s website for more information and a lovely photo of the author

Knitted Replacements

Knitting really does improve well-being

Even if you’re not a rabbit and you don’t wear knitted ears, you are still very welcome to join us for the Knitting History Forum Conference on Saturday 17th November 2018. Click through to read more :

“The women knit and share their secrets with one another”?

The Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change have made Remco Ensel’s article ‘Knitting at the beach: tourism and the photography of Dutch fabriculture‘ open access. The article discusses late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century representations of women and girls wearing regional Zeeland dress while knitting in the open air, examining the meanings of the images, their role in tourism marketing and their relation to reality. In addition to the title comment, French artist and photographer Ludovic-Georges Hamon gave his opinion on the region’s knitting, as seen on his trip in 1906 : “Reneetje is still busy knitting. In Holland, one does not knit with the fingertips, as in France. In their belt, the knitters have a sheath of carved wood; they put the needle in it and the wool is processed into knit stitches at an amazing speed, accompanied by a constant buzzing … Reneetje knits.” An absorbing piece of research, which may be read here:

2018 Knitting History Forum Conference Programme

Details of the Knitting History Forum Conference have now been confirmed. The speakers and papers on Saturday 17th November 2018 will be

  • Annemor Sundbø, textile designer and author on Everyday knitting in Norway – treasures from the ragpileReconstruction Knitted Sanquhar Glove courtesy of Kirstie Buckland. PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION!
  • Celia Pym, textile and knitting artist on The Norwegian Sweater: Darning Damage
  • Rachael Matthews, knitter, craftivist, artist and author on Knitting effect, wellbeing and health
  • Cary Karp, independent scholar on Investigating 19th Century ‘Tricot ecossais’ and ‘Crochet à la Tricoter’
  • Jana Trepte, student at Kiel University on Piecing the Bremen waistcoat together: an everyday knitted garment of the early 1600s
  • Eleanor Reed, PhD graduate in domestic culture on Post austerity consumerism and thrift – 1958 knitting patterns in Woman’s Weekly
  • Lorna Hamilton-Brown, artist and Royal College of Art MA graduate on Black people don’t knit?

For more information download the 2018 Knitting History Forum Conference programme and book your place here.