Friday, August 29, 2008

Knitting History...



Elizabethan Period.

Stockings were very important during this era and due to the current fashion, mens short fitted trunks, stockings were also in high demand in Britain. They were made primarily out of fine wool and were a major export to other countries such as the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and perhaps more.
Queen Elizabeth I is said to have preferred knitted stocking made
from fine silk since they were much more finer, softer, aesthetic, and of course, a lot more expensive. These stockings still exist, standing to illustrate just how high quality stockings were made fit for a queen.

Oddly enough, during this era men were also the first to be employed for commercial knitting.

Scotland.

In Scotland knitting was not only commercial but vastly domestic as well. Whole 17th and 18th century families were said to been involved in knitting in order to make the majority of the family clothing; sweaters, socks, stockings, and various other accessories.

The Fair Isle style was, and still is, used to create beautifully detailed and colorful patterns. These woolen sweaters were essential to native Isles fishermen as the sweaters were coated with natural oils, providing crucial protection against the frigid and harsh weather.

Aran sweaters are a product of early 20th century Ireland. This particular design is greatly distinguished from others on account of its incredible use of the Cable Stitch. Cable stitching can be made with various forms of Cable Needles.

Industrial Revolution.

Devices for the most basic of knitting techniques were invented before this era, however, most never stood up to the tests of time. With the Industrial Revolution came the art of wool-spinning and clothing manufacturing products in large city line factories. The revolution thus pulled women out of the comfort of their homes, where they would make home spun yarn and knit by hand, and placed them inside these factories to operate spinning and knitting machines. Factory spun yarn became widely popular since it looked much more uniform and, as a result, its weight more easily gauged. One particular district called Lace Market in the city of Nottingham dominated machine-knitting lace production during and decades after the Industrial Revolution.
World War I.

The British wartime government department, the Ministry of Information, published a booklet entitled "Make do and mend". At the time almost everything was in short supply, not just wool. The booklet aimed to encourage women to unravel and reuse the yarn from any old, tattered, unwearable woolen clothing items. Patterns were issued to the public to make clothing such as balaclavas and gloves for the Army and Navy to wear during the grueling winter months. Not only did this movement produce the much needed clothing goods but also a great deal of morale boosting amongst those active in the "home front".



Post War Haute Couture(1950-1960).


After WWI
knitting hit an all time high, setting in motion a plethora of styles and colors that introduced an entire fashion genre. The famous Twinset, consisting of a cropped sleeved top and a cardigan of the same color both worn together, became an extremely popular project to the home knitter.

Schools began teaching girls how to knit more as a function of useful skill than a function of hobby. In the UK magazine called Pins and needles, difficult patterns for non-clothing projects such as toys, blankets, bags, curtains, lace etc, etc were issued.


The Fall (1980s).

A sharp decline in knitting popularity stamped this period within the Western culture. Pattern and yarns sales saw a steady fall as the craft took on a more old fashioned, "granny- in- a-rocking- chair" statement. The availability of low cost machine knitted items caused store bought clothing sales to sky rocketed and home made knitted items to plummet. People stopped bothering to take the time to knit and as a result even schools dropped knitting courses from their curriculum. It was cheaper and less time consuming to simply buy instead of create, driving the appreciation for the "home made" label to the ground.

Knitting Renaissance.

The 21st century essentially resuscitated the art of knitting back into the Western world, effectively performing "one of the largest resurgence of the craft in history" (Wikipedia: History of Knitting, "21st century: The Revival."). A cornucopia of yarn was given birth, bringing forth synthetic yarns, and natural animal fibers such as alpaca, angora, and merino, exotic yarns such as silk, qiviut, and even bamboo. The ever famous plant fiber, cotton, was also successfully implemented. While wool has still remained in the market in yarn form, all of the above mentioned yarn types have been more readily accessible to the average buyer due to their relatively easy and low cost collection processes.

Various books and magazines have been introduced to the public, seeking to re-peak their interests in the ancient craft, with remarkably successful results.

Those with little time on their hands for recreational pastimes have been tactfully reached, providing many with a potent destressor most of us were probably completely unaware could exist and help our hectic lifestyles. The most impatient person can now find patterns listed in books, and/or magazines for fast and easily completed projects. Designers have made this possible with the introduction of patterns created specifically for the use of large needles which speeds up the knitting process by a wide margin.



The new century has even managed to bring back the knitting enthusiast. One can't help but smile...


Television has also greatly assisted the movement, proving that knitting could be just as interesting and productive as cooking, quilting, sewing, needle point so on and so forth.

Even Pop culture has not been able to hide from its reaches, as celebrities have recently become active in its revival and re-popularization.

And let us not forget the best creation of the millennium; the Internet. What else has been able to yank books, articles, magazines, videos, encyclopedias, newspapers...simply all sorts of literature right off the shelves and place them right into our hands without us even having to move from our seat?

2 comments:

Keith said...

I am looking for information and pictures of early to mid 18th century wool knitwear, especially Guernsey frocks and under-weskits. I am pretty isolated here, so info on webb prefered. Any ideas?
Regards, Keith.
historicaltrekker@gmail.com

Thumbelyna said...

Hey Keith. I am really sorry, but I didn't even notice I had a comment on my post on the history of knitting. I just noticed it today while scrolling around to check for typos and do post updates. However, I will definitely do some research on that topic and make a post about it. It's a very interesting topic and I'd love to study it. Again, I apologize for not answering such a great and important request. Thanks!