I know there are hundreds, (thousands even?) of passionate knitters here, but do we have any really knowledgeable historians of knitting?
There was fantastic fine knitting in the Scottish Islands for centuries, and we do have evidence for Victorian times in paintings and the census lists. But do we evidence of knitting in Tudor England?
Bone or metal pins probably, for caps and hose perhaps? 4 ply maybe?
I would be grateful for any information provided.
That would be very interesting for many of us. Add Ireland to that mix, too. So many from those areas immigrated to the US and brought their talent and instructions with them.
I would be very interested in this also. I love history
Any experts out there, my question is specifically about England in the Tudor era, before U.K. was created.
An interesting topic. According to historians knitting goes back to the 11th century in Egypt and because of the trade routes thru the Mediterranean it eventual spread thru Europe and eventually to the Americas. When it did arrive in Europe it started in Spain back in the 1200's. The fine work was used to decorate beautiful silk and velvet dresses, headpieces and bags and eventually evolved into clothing that would provide warmth from bitter cold winters.
I studied this many years ago when I became interested in knitting, tatting and embroidery. If I recall Queen Elizabeth 1st wore silk stockings because wool was to harsh for her delicate ankles but even she had to succumb to wool stocking in the winter months. These would have all been made by the local poor. Can't remember when E1 came to the throne but maybe the late 1600's. All the needle arts were tied in one way or another. In the mid 1800 the nuns in Cork ireland developed lace making that were directly related to crocheting, knitting and tatting.
In the 17th and 18th century knitting was a very important occupation taken up by entire Scottish families and the fair isle works would identify which family made those particular items.
It is said that in the very beginning 2000 years ago this art form that we love so much was started by fisherman who wove heavy cord into fishing nets and sailors would use finer ropes to make various knots and over the centuries the ropes were woven into finer and finer "string" which began the tatting and knitting era. If my memory is correct (that is taking a chance) the word "knit" is derived from the term "to knot" .
My interest in the original beginnings of nets for fishing is because my grandfather was a fisherman from Greenspond Newfoundland. I visited a couple of times during my teen years and I would be mesmerized as I watched him "create" his fish nets. He could weave those heavy cords faster than my Nan could knit. His hands were so rough but he had the most gentle touch. The salt of the earth was he.
Well that is some of what I remember. I apologize if I have some details wrong. I am happy if I wake up every morning and remember what I am suppose to do with my needles and that lovely colourful string!!!
A good place to start is with "A History of Hand Knitting" by Richard Rutt. This is the most frequently cited reference in article regarding historic knitting. Looking at the prices on Amazon it looks like the book is out of print, but I thought they did a reprint of the book within the last 10 years. The reprint had updates to the illustrations, from what I remember the black and white photos were replaced with color photos.
You could also check with "Medieval Reenactor" here on KP. She's very knowledgeable.
Many thanks to all who have offered some knowledge. I will look out for the book by Richard Rutt.
In the meantime, the strangest thing has happened!
I am reading "How to be a Tudor" by Ruth Goodman. A most fascinating dawn to dusk guide to everyday life.
In chapter 5 about education, Ruth quotes the 1597 census of the poor in Ipswich, Suffolk, where 3 girls are recorded as attending the knitting school.
Stripe me pink! More revelations may follow.
The only thing missing that I noticed was any reference to the Guild system in medieval Europe and British Isles. The Guilds controlled every aspect of arts, sciences, crafts and ordinary necessities of everyday life, and pretty much restricted such knowledge to men, passed from master to apprentice. During these times women were only allowed to knit socks and a few other "comfort" items for their families, but nothing for trade. Anything decorative was jealously guarded from women, who were considered inferior and unable to learn such specialties.
I am sure knitting is as old as sewing and weaving, and we know those are thousands of years old. I imagine sewing and felting came first as people joined pelts and wadded wool.
Great subject! Thanks. Very interesting to read what people said and referenced.