Monday 20 November 2017

10th Knitting History Forum Conference – a report

Joyce Meader's collection of knitting gauges
An excellent day at the conference of the Knitting History Forum. The papers given covered 2000 years of knitting and crochet history, with three excellent papers on the early modern period which is of special interest to me. In addition there was a show and tell table or two where Joyce Meader had brought along her collection of knitting gauges (right), and a lady, whose name escapes me (sorry) had brought along samples of wool from different English breeds, and was talking about what we would lose if some of these breeds become extinct. Please note that the very brief comments below are my own and my apologies if I have misinterpreted anything someone said. Taking the papers in chronological order, rather than the order in which they were given.

Ruth Gilbert – On a complex knitting technique from Egypt. 

Ruth was looking at very early, mainly pre-modern knitting examples ranging from a 3rd century AD Egyptian sock from Antinoupolis made in what she described as a “crossed encircled loop,” to a 13th to 15th century Egyptian uncrossed two course simple knit fragment now in the V&A. Ruth also demonstrated how some of these very early techniques were worked. It is always easier to see what is going on when someone is demonstrating.

Lesley O’Connell Edwards – Of stockings and sleeves: insights from 16th century knitted items in the Museum of London. 

Lesley was the Pasold/Museum of London Research Fellow in 2015/6 and kindly gave us a handout listing all the items she had looked at as part of the project, unfortunately many of them are not on the Museum’s online database. She had looked at 14 whole or part stockings, three sleeves and a child’s mitten. Among the stockings were some with a heel like this example (Museum ID A26851), where the heel is created by working an area of “reverse stocking stitch”. As far as I can see, and Lesley had knitted a sock using this technique so we could see how it worked, you get to the point in the tube of the leg where you want to create the heel, then you reverse the knitting for a length, then go back, so you have put two or three rows into the same stitch, and continue this getting wider and then narrower, so that you produce a “bulge” which forms the heel. That is not a very clear description; you can see it on the original I have linked to above, and below is close up photograph of Lesley’s reconstruction. The toe on this was produced by several rounds of knit two together. The silk stocking foot that Lesley looked at has a more complex heel. Lesley said that the sleeves were narrow and came in different lengths. I believe the longest was 49cm. They were knitted at around 4 stitches and 6-7 rows per cm, and one had two rows of reversed stocking stitch at the top. The wrist sizes were between 15 and 20 cm.
Lesley O'Connell Edwards reconstruction

 Maj Ringgaard – The development of stockings 1600-1800: evidence from the Copenhagen excavations.

Copenhagen has had several excavations which have turned up textiles from the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly where old canals/moats have been filled in and the textiles can therefore be dated to pre the infill. Maj looked at the main components of early modern stockings: the welt, false seam, clock and heel. It is at this point that I realise my notes are not nearly comprehensive enough. There was a lot of discussion about the use of, or rather the lack of use of, purl stitches. Many of what we think are purl stitches are created when the knitting is turned inside out and knitted in the opposite direction; this creates the appearance of purl. So the welt at the top of some stockings was created by knitting a couple of rows, turning inside out and knitting a couple of row in reverse and then turning back. Maj commented that the false seams appear to be more elaborate in the first part of the seventeenth century. For the clocks, where you have an embroidered clock, there is almost always a decorative knitted clock underneath. Maj showed a couple of close ups to illustrate this, but unfortunately I didn’t make a note of whose they were. The stockings showed a variety of heels including the Balbriggan heel, though the most common used was the “common” heel. Maj noted that repairing and refooting of stockings appeared to be taking place across all levels of society. 

Helena Lundin – Shipwrecked knitting: fragments from the Swedish 17th century flagship Kronan.

The Kronan (Royal Crown) exploded and sank during the Battle of Oland on 1st June 1676. She lost most of her bow, and the majority of the 842 souls on board (which included 300 soldiers) were lost. A vast amount of material has been excavated from the ship and is at the Kalmar County Museum. Helena examined fragments from around 80 items, 86% were wool and 14% silk. Among the items were gloves, headgear, waistcoats and stockings. At least one of the gloves has the wrist knitted on thinner needles, and gauges of 2.5 to 3 stitches per cm, and 4 rows per cm. There is a hat knitted in the round with the brim knitted double at a gauge of 1.5 stitches and 3 rows per cm. Fragments of a knitted silk waistcoat with silver embroidery has silk pile on the inside which has been stitched in and not knitted in. The woollen stockings can be long, with legs up to 84 cm, some are heavily fulled, and there are two heel constructions used.

Barbara Smith – Wools for the world: Wakefield Greenwood of Huddersfield

Barbara examined the history of the Wakefield Greenwood company, founded by Clara Greenwood (b.1898) and Harold Wakefield (b. 1898). They opened their shop in Victoria Street Huddersfield in 1919, selling haberdashery, needlework supplies and knitting yarns. By the 1930s they were advertising in magazines such as Stitchcraft, and Vogue Knitting offering a postal service and with a 60 page mail order catalogue. They traded as Greenwoods until 1946 when the wholesale yarn business became Wakefield Greenwood. They sold a wide range of yarns including rayon, and were the first to sell nylon yarn. They also started doing their own patterns. They moved from Huddersfield in 1962 and the company ceased trading in 1966.

Matteo Molinari – Crocheting cultures: traditional Italian crocheting practice in private and public spaces in Veneto

This paper came from the work Matteo did for his PhD. It looked at current and recent production of crocheted items within families in one small area of the Veneto. Matteo did a lot of filmed interviews, some of which we viewed,  with people who would talk about and show the dollies, curtains, bedspreads, etc. That they had produced for themselves and their families.

Monday 30 October 2017

The Clothing of the Common Sort, 1570-1700 – Book review

The Clothing of the Common Sort, 1570-1700. by the late Margaret Spufford and Susan Mee, 2017, £50. ISBN 978 0 19 880704 9. 332 pages.

I have been aware of this book being in the pipeline for more than ten years; mainly because Spufford did publish two papers based on the research. (1) (2)
1. Probate Accounts and Clothing
The book begins with a discussion of probate accounts and clothing. Probate accounts, are NOT probate inventories. The inventories list the goods that the deceased had at their death, ending with a charge value, that it the total value of the moveable goods the deceased owned. The accounts, which are much rarer than the inventories, start with the charge value, and then account for the costs that have to come out of the estate. Peter Spufford created a database of over 30,000 accounts, and although this is skewed against the very poorest, who were exempt from the probate procedure, it is also skewed against the very richest, as it does not include accounts from the Prerogative Court at Canterbury. These accounts were then whittled down to just over 8,000, by removing those for whom status and/or occupation were unknown. Spufford and Mee then extracted accounts which included the clothing of minor children; these can have been any age up to 21 years. The first section of the book goes on to discuss the language of “sorts”, what is the “common sort” or the “middling sort”, and concludes with a case study of John Fleetwood’s 1674 accounts.

2: The cost of apparel in seventeenth-century England, and the accuracy of Gregory King
The paper Spufford published on the accuracy of Gregory King (1) forms the base of much of this chapter of the book.

3: Clothing the poorest. Evidence from poor relief records
Before going into the probate account information, Spufford and Mee use poor law records, to examine clothing given to the very poorest in society. They look at both clothing given by charities and that given by overseers of the poor. In comparing the prices of fabrics used for the poor with those in the accounts they come to the conclusion that, certainly for some garments, cheap fabric seems to have been considered a false economy. 

4, 5 & 6 Clothing the families:
These chapters divide people on the basis of their charge values.
4: of labourers, and of husbandmen and their peer group, leaving goods worth up to £100
5: of yeomen and their peers, leaving goods worth £100-£300
6: of the 'chief inhabitants'. Evidence from probate accounts with a charge value of £300 and above

Spufford and Mee go into considerable detail as to how fluid these divisions can be. As an example, the general perception is that if someone says they are a labourer they are poor; in the database the lowest value for a labourer is £4, the highest is £666, the median is £29 and the average is £41. The same sort of spread occurs in other occupations as well, which is why they are divided by worth and not status. In most of these chapters Spufford and Mee talk about clothing by gender, and also footwear, headwear, undergarments, outerwear and gloves, and fabrics and colours.
An interesting point about all three of these chapters is that, although they make a point of putting the date of any example they use, they don’t often indicate how things changed over time, and they are looking at a 130 year period that saw great changes in clothing. In her article in Textile History (2) Spufford broke down the use of fabrics into: up to 1610, 1610 to 1660 and after 1660. There are areas where the book could do with that sort of division. In table 3 (pages 27-29) the numbers of specific garments in the database are given with the earliest and latest occurrence, not unsurprisingly shoes appear from 1570 to 1703, however as the authors state, “The fluidity of terminology that applies to clothing and changes in fashion presented some problems.” As they have based the table subdivision on King’s 1688 table, this means they have pushed certain garments together, gowns and mantuas for example. Some of the changes are laid out, in chapter 3 there is a section on the provision of mantuas to poor women in the last two decades of the seventeenth century. In chapter 4 the section on fabrics and colours mentions that while russet is the most common cloth in labourers’ accounts, this is all pre 1620, and there is a “total lack of references” after that date. But it is difficult to pull out the change in clothing over time.

In chapter 4 they talk about clothing at the margins of poverty, and about the mending and cleaning of clothes. They also talk about second hand clothing, or the lack of information on it, and also in passing on the theft of clothing, an area which requires a good deal more research since in some areas theft of clothing constituted over 25% of all larceny cases. (3)

In chapter 5 looking at the yeoman equivalent class we have a discussion of the Abingdon and Reigate doublets. Here there is a first discussion of lace upon clothing, and of clothing given as legacies and bequests. There are sections on the cleaning and on the storage of clothing. The chapter ends with three case studies, a 1585 yeoman and his wife, the clothing account of Thomas Tarleton from 1612 to 1619, and of Anne Bartholomew from 1629 to1634.

Chapter 6 is looking at the “chief inhabitants” There is a whole section on the Crayfordes in the 1570s, this is unsurprising as Mee has written on them before. (4) There is also a section on childbed linen, and on bodies/stays, with a photo of the Sittingborne stays.

7: Customers and Tradesmen
This section looks in part at the development of retailing, and how historians have pushed back the date at which this is supposed to have started. It shows that there was a network of tradesmen providing clothing related items, but also they suggest there was a change in shopping experience in the last two decades of the seventeenth century. It then looks at tailors and seamstresses and the making up of clothes, and how people shopped for clothes.  

8: Conclusion: The Clothing of the Common Sort
This draws together the threads of their argument and, as they say at the end, shows that “people of various ranks of society...were prepared to acquire clothing ‘in as large amounts as they could afford’”

Glossaries: Garments and accessories, and fabrics.
The book concludes with two glossaries. Some of the definitions are debateable, and I could wish that the list of sources from which they were compiled had included the Oxford English Dictionary, and perhaps Beck’s Draper’s Dictionary. 

1. Spufford, Margaret. The cost of apparel in seventeenth century England and the accuracy of Gregory King. Economic History Review. 2000, Vol. 53, 4, 677–705.
2. —. Fabrics for seventeenth century children and adolescents' clothes. Textile history. 2003, Vol. 34, 47-63.
3. Lemire, Beverly. The theft of clothes and popular consumerism in early modern England. Journal of Social History. 1990, Vol. 24, 2, 255-276 .
4. Mee, Susan. The Clothing of Margaret, Parnell and Millicent Crayforde, 1569 to 1575. Costume. 2004, Vol. 38, 26-40.

Thursday 28 September 2017

The Duke of Buckingham's clothes for Paris, 1625.

Those who watched the recent BBC programme where a portrait of the Duke of Buckingham was identified as having been painted by Rubens in 1625 – and even those who didn’t, may be interested in this contemporary report of what Buckingham wore when he went on King Charles I’s behalf to Paris in 1625. The portrait to the right is not the Rubens portrait but one of the same date by Michiel J. van Miereveld, now in the Art Gallery of South Australia.

When James I died in March 1625 negotiations were already underway for a marriage between Charles and Princess Henrietta Maria of France. The marriage, with the Duc de Chevreuse (Claude de Guise) acting as proxy for Charles, took place at Notre Dame in May 1625. Charles sent Buckingham to Paris to bring the new queen back to England. 

In the State Papers the report of Buckingham’s clothes is actually described as “a singular specimen of the luxurious magnificence of that great favourite.” It also tells us to a certain extent about the clothes provided to his entourage. 

“His Grace hath for his body, twenty seven rich suits embroidered and laced with silk and silver plushes; besides one rich white satin uncut velvet suit, set all over, both suit and cloak, with diamonds, the value whereof is thought to be worth fourscore thousand pounds, besides a feather made of great diamonds; with sword, girdle, hatband and spurs with diamonds, which suit his Grace intends to enter Paris with. Another rich suit is of purple satin, embroidered all over with rich orient pearls; the cloak made after the Spanish fashion, with all things suitable, the value whereof will be £20,000 and this is thought shall be for the wedding day in Paris. His other suits are all as rich as invention can frame, or art fashion. His colours [that is for his entourage] for the entrance are white pwatchett, and for the wedding crimson and gold.

Three rich suits apiece,

Twenty privy gentlemen; seven grooms of his chamber; thirty Chief Yeomen; two master cooks.

Of his own servants for the household,

Twenty five second cooks; fourteen Yeomen of the second rank, seventeen grooms to them; forty five labourers selletters belonging to the kitchen, twelve pages, three rich suits apiece; twenty four footmen, three rich suits and two rich coats apiece; six huntsmen two rich suits apiece, twelve Grooms one suit apiece, six Riders one suit apiece, besides eight others to attend the stable business.
Three rich velvet coaches inside; without with gold lace all over; eight horses in each coach and six coachmen richly suited; eight score musicians richly suited; twenty two watermen suited in sky coloured taffety, all gilded with anchors, and my Lord’s arms; all these to row in one barge of my Lord’s. All these servants have everything suitable, all being at his Grace’s charge.”

From: Miscellaneous state papers: from 1501-1726, Volume 1, p.571-2

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Embroidered jackets or waistcoats – surviving examples

Detail from the 1610-20 example at Platt Hall, Manchester

The fashion for women to wear embroidered jackets or waistcoats appears at the end of the sixteenth century and goes through to at least the middle of the seventeenth century. From the middle of the seventeenth century and on into the eighteenth the embroidered jacket or waistcoat disappears from portraiture, and the garment itself becomes an under garment worn for warmth and often quilted, though it loses its sleeves. 

The examples I link to below are by no means a complete listing, but I have put them into date order, or at least ordered by the dates the museums that hold them give for them. The dates are pretty fluid and often change depending on who is describing the item. In many cases I indicate printed sources where you can find further information.

The photographs are mine and are therefore usually taken through glass, my apologies for the quality.

1590-1630 Victoria and Albert Museum. Coloured silk embroidery on linen. A coiling deign of flowers and leaves. Melanie Braun,  'Embroidered Linen Jacket', in North, Susan and Jenny Tiramani, eds, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, vol.2, London: V&A Publishing, 2012, pp.48-57

1600-1610. Museum of Fashion, Bath.  Coloured silk and metal thread embroidery on linen. A coiling pattern of flowers and leaves. I have found it difficult to find images online as the museum does not have an object search as such.

1600-25. Victoria and Albert Museum. Coloured silk thread embroidery on ivory silk with a slightly, coiling, slightly interlaced design of roses, honeysuckle and other flowers. John Lea Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Textiles, London: HMSO, 1938, p.79, plate LV.

The back of the Worthing Museum example
1600-25. Victoria and Albert Museum. Coloured silk and silver gilt thread embroidery, with spangles, on a linen fabric. A coiling design with flowers, birds and butterflies.  Avril Hart and Susan North, Historical Fashion in Detail: the 17th and 18th centuries, V&A Publications, 1998, p.148 & 149 John Lea Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Textiles, London: HMSO, 1938, p.78. Avril Hart and Susan North, Historical Fashion in Detail: the 17th and 18th centuries, V&A Publications, 1998, p.148 & 149

1600-1615. Worthing Museum. Blackwork silk on linen. Nothing on the Worthing Museum website, though it is mentioned fleetingly here

1600-1620. Norwich Museums. Unmade garment. Coloured silk on linen, with a pattern of roses in circles, and borage(?) flowers. See my photograph. 
The Norwich Museums unmade example

1610-1615. Victoria and Albert Museum. The Margaret Layton jacket. Coloured silk and metal thread on linen with spangles. A coiling design of flowers fruit and insects. Thornton, Claire, 'Margaret Layton's Waistcoat', in North, Susan and Jenny Tiramani, eds, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, vol.1, London: V&A Publishing, 2011, pp.22-33.

1610-1615. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass. Silver and gilt-silver thread embroidery on linen, with a coiling patterns of daffodils.

1610-1620. Burrell Collection, Glasgow. Coloured silk and metal thread embroidery on linen in a coiling design of flowers and insects. Janet Arnold, Patterns of fashion c.1560-1620. Macmillan, 1983. p.51 & 120-121. The link is to a short film on jacket and the Burrell’s recreation of it.

1610-1620. Platt Hall Gallery, Manchester. Coloured silks on linen with spangles, and an open scrolling design of vines and grapes.

1610-20.  Museum of London. A wool thread blackwork embroidered on linen, in a pattern of barberries. Zillah Halls, Women’s costume 1600-1750, Museum of London, HMSO. 1970, p31, Plates 1 & 2.

1610-20.  Museum of London. Silk blackwork embroidery on linen with a pattern of strawberries and strawberry leaves. Zillah Halls, Women’s costume 1600-1750, Museum of London, HMSO. 1970, p31.

1610-1620. Victoria and Albert Museum.  Blue embroidery on pink silk with silver spangles, in a coiling design.  Jenny Tiramani,  'Pink Silk Waistcoat', in North, Susan and Jenny Tiramani, eds, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, vol.1, London: V&A Publishing, 2011, pp.34-47

1615-1620. Victoria and Albert Museum. Silk blackwork embroidery on linen fabric. A coiling design of flower, animal and insect motifs. Susan North, "The Falkland Jacket: Sources, Provenance and Interpretation of an Emblematic Artifact", Emblematica, vol 14, 2005, pp.127-151. Avril Hart and Susan North, Historical Fashion in Detail: the 17th and 18th centuries, London: V&A, 1998, p. 148

c.1616. Metropolitan Museum, New York. Coloured silk and metal thread embroidery on a linen fabric, with a coiling design on flowers, birds and insects.

c. 1620. Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery. Red silk embroidery on linen in a design of coiling peapods.

1620-25. Victoria and Albert Museum. A silk thread blackwork embroidered on linen. A coiling design of flowers interspersed with insects and birds. Luca Costigliolo,, 'Blackwork waistcoat', in North, Susan and Jenny Tiramani, eds, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, vol.1, London: V&A Publishing, 2011, pp.48-59

1620-1640. Victoria and Albert Museum. One panel only from a waistcoat.  Coloured silk embroidery on linen. A coiling pattern of strawberries.  John Lea Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Textiles, London: HMSO, 1938, p.78

1620-1625. Platt Hall Gallery of Costume, Manchester.  Black silk, blackwork on linen, with a design of strapwork bands with flower motifs between.
Detail of the 1625-40 Platt Hall example

1625-1640 Platt Hall Gallery of Costume, Manchester.  Silver thread embroidery and spangles on a  linen ground with an abstract coiling design.

1630-1640.  Victoria and Albert Museum. Silver thread embroidery and spangles on fustian. The design is a meandering pattern. Tiramani, Jenny, 'Fustian Waistcoat', in North, Susan and Jenny Tiramani, eds, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, vol.1, London: V&A Publishing, 2011, pp.60-69

1630-1640.  Victoria and Albert Museum. Drawn-thread-and-pulled-fabric work on linen, decorated with spangles. Hart, Avril and Susan North, Historical Fashion in Detail: the 17th and 18th centuries, London: V&A, 1998, p. 196

1630-1640.  Victoria and Albert Museum. Red wool embroidery on linen, with some white linen thread embroidery as well. Large very stylised floral motifs.

1640. Victoria and Albert Museum. Red wool embroidery on a linen warf/wool weft fabric [linsey wolsey]. Individual motifs of flowers and birds. Avril Hart and Susan North, Historical Fashion in Detail: the 17th and 18th centuries. London: V&A Publications, 1998, p.150.

Detail of the painted cotton example
1670-1700. JUST TO CONFUSE EVERYONE. Not embroidered. A painted cotton calico jacket in imitation of the embroidered examples.
1680-1720 Platt Hall Gallery of Costume. Yellow silk embroidery on linen with a design of nterlacing circular arabesques enclosing three-leaf sprigs. Museum does not have an image.

c. 1700 Philadelphia Museum of Art. A sleeveless waistcoat, quilted with silk embroidery in a vine pattern on a cotton fabric with a linen lining.|5

c.1700 Museum of Fashion, Bath. Coloured silk embroidery on linen, quilted. A sleeveless waistcoat, with a tree of life type motif and birds resembling cranes.

1700s. Victoria and Albert Museum. Coloured silk embroidery on linen, quilted, with a very open design of stylised flowers.

1700s Victoria and Albert Museum. One panel from a woman’s waistcoat. Coloured silk embroidery on linen, in a very open scrolling pattern.

1700-1750. Phoenix Museum of Art. A sleeveless waistcoat, coloured silk embroidery on linen with floral motifs.$0040:9482

1730s Glasgow Museums. A sleeveless waistcoat or underbodice, cotton quilted with white cotton thread and embroidered in coloured silk threads with stylised floral motifs.