Knitting History News

Centenary Stitches WWI Commemorative Project

The Centenary Stitches WWI project began as a response to plea for assistance from WAGscreen, makers of the film ‘Tell Them of Us’. Set in the First World War and drawing on surviving letters, memoirs, photographs and other artefacts, the film follows the fortunes of a real Lincolnshire soldier, Robert Crowder, showing through the view point of his family and the home front how the war affected an ordinary British household.

Producer and costumier Pauline Loven understood the significance of knitting and crochet in 1910s Britain and tweeted for help sourcing original patterns and creating reproductions for the cast. The response was overwhelming, with researchers, knitters and crocheters all over the world mobilising to form a group recreating period garments and supporting the film. British yarns were donated by Rowan, Texere, Jamiesons of Shetland, Frangipani and Blacker. In less than a year the group grew to over 300 volunteers, co-ordinating efforts via Facebook and Ravelry, and accessed funding through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘First World War, Then and Now’ programme. Period patterns were supplied by several sources including the collection of the Knitting and Crochet Guild. These were tested and modernised and feature in the film together with new designs by Elizabeth Lovick, based on Crowder family photographs. Volunteers have blogged their progress at, a testament to the extraordinary motivation and generosity of the textile community.

The project has developed even further, with Elizabeth Lovick editing ‘Centenary Stitches’, a book of over 70 knitting and crochet patterns inspired by or reproduced from 1910s originals. ‘Centenary Stitches’ will be published to coincide with the release of ‘Tell Them of Us’, which premieres this November. Visit the website to learn more about this unique group and see pictures of their work, including a shawl by Joyce Meader, speaker at the KHF conference this November

Knitting History Forum AGM & Conference 2014

This year’s Knitting History Forum AGM and Conference will be held on Saturday 8 November 2014, once again at the London College of Fashion, 20 Princes St.

Doors open at 10:30 for registration and Show and Tell so please feel free to bring items for discussion. The AGM will start at 11 and we break for lunch from 12:30 to 1:45. The KHF Conference will start at two. Speakers this year include Angharad Thomas, Tom van Deijnen (Tom of Holland), Amy Twigger Holroyd, Barbara Smith and Joyce Meader, covering topics from the history of two-colour gloves, sustainable knitwear and knitting during the First World War to traditional repair techniques. There will be more time for questions and discussion from 4:45, after all the speakers have delivered their papers.

Non-members are very welcome to attend. Tickets cost £20 and can be booked in advance or on the door. The price of a ticket is included in KHF membership which is £15 annually. Members may renew or subscribe on the day. Lunch is not provided so please bring your own or buy locally. The LCF is just off Oxford St so there is plenty of choice!

For more information, to book tickets or renew membership, please visit our website Knitting History ( or the Facebook event page ( A PDF of the conference programme can be downloaded here (KHFAGM2014Programme).

“Knitwear Has Become Interesting” – Visionary Knitwear at the Fashion and Textile Museum

According to the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, one unnamed journalist said “knitwear has become interesting”. This is hardly news to students of knitting history. Knitting constantly evolves, develops and surprises.

The thoughtful, intelligent selection on display in the mezzanine gallery at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey is proof, if proof were needed, that knitting is not only relevant now but at the forefront of design and technological development. ‘Visionary Knitwear – new directions’ is guest-curated by our very own Sandy Black, Chair of the Knitting History Forum and Professor of Fashion and Textile Design and Technology of the London College of Fashion. ‘Visionary Knitwear’ showcases contemporary knitting design at its best: innovative, bold, sophisticated and subversive.

Exploring the work both of established designers and recent graduates, all of whom have studied in the UK, the exhibit also highlights the influence of UK design education on knitwear in the global fashion industry. Of the designers featured, Juliana Sissons gave a presentation at the Knitting History Forum Conference in 2011, while Amy Twigger Holroyd will be speaking at the 2015 KHF Conference this November. Head of the Fashion and Textile Museum, Celia Joicey said, “The Museum is privileged to be working with the globally respected academic and designer Sandy Black to highlight the most exciting aesthetic and technical developments. Her expertise and keen eye provide a snapshot of why contemporary knitwear is so exciting.”

“knitwear has become interesting”

‘Visionary Knitwear – new directions’ complements the museum’s main exhibition, ‘Knitwear Chanel to Westwood‘ and ends similarly on 18 January 2015. Don’t miss it.

KNITWEAR Chanel to Westwood

The exhibition ‘KNITWEAR Chanel to Westwood’ is now at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. Curated by Mark and Cleo Butterfield, this exhibition views twentieth century knitting through the lens of their personal collection. The exhibits are nearly all drawn from their archive and cover everyday handknits to high fashion, including early swimwear, 1960s crochet, punk, WWII, folk designs, Pop Art novelty knits, 1980s clubwear and couture. A separate, complementary display of 21st century knitwear, ‘Visionary Knitwear – new directions’, is being staged in the mezzanine gallery.

Open from now until 18 January 2015, tickets can booked in advance or purchased at the door. More information available on the F&TM Facebook page or their website

KHF AGM & Conference

Reconstruction Knitted Sanquhar Glove courtesy of Kirstie Buckland. PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION!Save the date! Our annual Knitting History Forum AGM and Conference will be held on Saturday 8 November 2014, at the London College of Fashion.

The conference programme is yet to be finalised but the AGM is usually held in the morning, and the conference after lunch. Speakers are drawn from a wide range of specialisations and discussion is always lively. Non-members are welcome.

The Look of Austerity – 2015 Conference on Post-war Dress

A Call for Papers has been issued for a two-day conference hosted by The Museum of London in September next year. ‘The Look of Austerity’ will “explore the effect of post-war austerity on the appearance of people and cities… ‘The Look of Austerity aims to re-examine the post-war period, looking at the changing meaning and the face of austerity and exploring the real implications of austerity policies and culture on sartorial aesthetics. Focusing on the immediate post-war period, specifically the years 1945-1951, we invite papers that examine the popular experience of obtaining and wearing clothes throughout the western world during these turbulent and changing times, exploring the often overlooked areas of ready-to-wear innovation, international dialogues, and approaches that look beyond some of the popular myths of post-war fashion.”

The conference will take place at the Museum of London, on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 September 2015. Presentations are invited of 20 to 25 minutes’ duration – material culture and interdisciplinary contributions are particularly encouraged. Topics for discussion may include:

  • fashion consumption and austerity, particularly popular and everyday experiences of obtaining and wearing clothes
  • the production and distribution of ready-to-wear
  • the role of couture after the war
  • dialogues across Western nations and fashion capitals, particularly Paris, New York, Berlin and Rome
  • visual and written representations of fashion in newspapers, magazines, advertisements, cinema and amateur film
  • biographic approaches, for example diaries, novels and short stories
  • the designer in a culture of austerity
  • the connection between austerity and glamour
  • re-emergence of the austerity look in later periods, for example in the 1970s/1990s
  • the legacy of the look of austerity

The effects of war did not end immediately in 1945. In Britain clothes rationing lasted until 1949 while rationing only ended altogether in 1954. The ‘Make Do And Mend’ mentality of the war years continued long after, as Europe began the slow process of rebuilding. Knitting played vital part in the budgets of many households and really should be represented appropriately by a paper at this conference. So put on your [knitted] thinking caps!

The deadline for submission of proposals is Monday 27 October 2014. Further information is on the Museum of London website, where you can also download a copy of the Call For Papers.

Early Seventeenth Century Knitting from Copenhagen

“The materiality of textiles and clothing – under the surface” was a recent two-day workshop organised as part of the research programme, Costume, Clothing, Consumption and Culture. CCCC is investigating early modern textiles and dress and is run jointly between The Centre for Textile Research and the National Museum of Denmark.

Delegates from universities in Denmark, Finland, India, Great Britain and Italy, curators, conservators, students and a multi-disciplinary network of scholars gathered

Early seventeenth century knitted hats and gloves on display in the National Museum in Copenhagen. Photo by Paula Hohti
Early seventeenth century knitted hats and gloves on display in the National Museum in Copenhagen. Photo by Paula Hohti

to visit the National Museum of Denmark and the Museum of Copenhagen, taking in the Renaissance exhibition, attending talks, discussions and a shoemaking demo. They also viewed early textiles from the reserve collections and excavated finds in the process of being conserved.

Paula Hohti has posted a well-illustrated report, including large pictures of early knitted hats, stockings, gloves and mittens not commonly seen outside Denmark.

BBC Radio Knitting Programmes

Just in time for the May Bank Holiday, here’s a further selection of radio programmes on knitting courtesy of the BBC. These programmes and clips cover various topics such as the British wool industry, knitting during the Libyan war, “Scandi knits”, craft and community, knitting on Fair Isle and Kaffe Fassett. Pour yourself a drink, pick up your knitting and enjoy the long weekend!

Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture

The latest issue of ‘Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture’ is a special edition devoted to knitting. Edited by Jonathan Faiers, it contains articles based on presentations originally given at the conference ‘In the Loop 3: The Voices of Knitting’, held in Winchester, September 2012.

Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture.  Special Knitting Edition
Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture. Special Knitting Edition

The papers are:

‘“In the Loop”: Challenging and Disrupting the Stereotypes of Knitting’ – Linda Newington
‘A Sweater to Die for: Fair Isle and Fair Play in The Killing’ – Jo Turney
‘Knitting and Well-being’ – Betsan Corkhill, Jessica Hemmings, Angela Maddock, Jill Riley
‘Discovering Knitting at the Regent Street Polytechnic, 1898‐1948’ – Anna McNally
‘Knitting and the Olympic Games: Clothing, Competition, Culture, and Commerce’ – Martin Polley
‘Stitched Up—Representations of Contemporary Vintage Style Mania and the Dark Side of the Popular Knitting Revival’ – Emmanuelle Dirix
‘Knitting and Catastrophe’ – Jonathan Faiers

Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Volume 12 Issue 1, is published by Bloomsbury. Ingentaconnect gives abstracts but unless you have access to a subscription, each downloadable article is $32.99.

Alternatively, the print edition is currently available at a discount, directly from the publishers

A Gripping Yarn

Celebrate St George’s Day with a BBC radio documentary exploring knitting! Jane Garvey will present a lively programme on knitting past and present, from the American Revolution through to the current knitting renaissance, touching on various subjects such as ‘guerilla’ knitting, the work of composer Hafdís Bjarnadótti and chitin yarns. Among those taking part are design historian Dr Joanne Turney, Christine Kingdom of the UK Hand Knitting Association and artist, writer and designer, Rachael Matthews of ‘Prick Your Finger’. With a running time of 28 minutes this will not be an in-depth investigation but any positive representation of knitting will surely be a good thing.

‘A Gripping Yarn’ is due for broadcast on BBC Radio 4, this Wednesday 23 April at 11 AM. Listen live online at the Radio 4 website and for seven days after transmission

‘Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World’

Dr Maj Ringgaard, an expert in textiles and conservation from the Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen, has researched early knitted waistcoats or vests. At the Knitting History Forum Conference in 2011 she delivered a paper on 17th and 18th Century star-patterned, knitted waistcoats in Scandinavia. Some of her findings will be published later this month in an exciting anthology which she has also co-edited.

Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World
Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World

‘Silk Knitted Waistcoats – a 17th-century fashion item’ will be available in ‘Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World’, together with 15 other papers on dress, fashion and consumption in Denmark, Norway, Sweden Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Isles and Greenland. ‘Early Modern’ is defined here as 1500 to 1850, though the majority of papers are 17th or 18th century. Topics are both object-based and theoretical in their analysis and include merchant and shop inventories, the whaling industry, sumptuary laws, christening garments, taste and consumption, clothing construction, liturgical textiles and an English fashion doll, among others.

‘Fashionable Encounters: Perspectives and trends in textile and dress in the Early Modern Nordic World’ is jointly edited by Tove Engelhardt Mathiasen, Marie-Louise Nosch, Maj Ringgaard, Kirsten Toftegaard, and Mikkel Venborg Pedersen. It will be published by Oxbow Books on 30 May 2014 as Volume 14 of their Ancient Textile Series.

Further details and a full list of articles are on the publisher’s website:

Sixteenth Century Spinning and Knitting

Steve Kennett, The Sussex Spinner, will be giving two talks on Tudor knitting and spinning this April. The West Surrey Guild of Spinners Weavers & Dyers are hosting Steve’s talk on Tudor knitting on Tuesday 8 April 2014 at 10:30 AM. The Dorset Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers are hosting Steve’s talk on the history of Tudor hose on Saturday 19 April 2014 at 13:30 PM. Steve researched Tudor knitted hose and spun yarn for the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, near Chichester in West Sussex. He is also a trustee of the Textile Conservation Centre Foundation.

KAFFE 2014 – The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett

Kaffe Fassett celebrates 50 years of art and design with “KAFFE 2014 – The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett” at the American Museum in Britain, the decorative arts museum in Bath. This exhibition showcases the work of the artist and designer best known for his use of colour. Exhibits include a variety of textiles, including quilts, needlepoint and beadwork as well as knitting, in addition to visual artworks by Fassett.

The exhibition runs until 2 November 2014. More information, including a video and preview, is available from the museum website

Tudor Merchant’s Cap Workshop

Emma Vining, a Knitting History Forum member and one of the attendees at our Tudor Merchant’s Cap workshop, has posted about the day on her blog

Many thanks to our tutor Gary Hayton for leading the workshop and to everyone involved in organising, publicising and making the day so enjoyable.

Knitting 1914-2014

There’s still time to catch the exhibition ‘Knitting 1914-2014’.

Celebrating knitting in the 100 years since the First World War, the exhibition features historical items from the Knitting Reference Library and Knitting Collections held by the University of Southampton Library, together with new work by knitwear students at Winchester School of Art.

Two co-ordinating study days will be held on 2-3 April, the first at the Highfield Campus, the second in the Gallery at Winchester School of Art. Speakers include Jonathan Faiers, Gill Clarke, Victoria Walters, Alex Pengelly, Martin Polley, Tom Van Deijnen, Linda Newington and many others. Download a programme here

‘Knitting 1914-2014’ runs until 4 April 2014 in the Special Collections Gallery at the Hartley Library on the Highfield Campus, University of Southampton