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.

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