Friday, March 26, 2010

History Of Hand Knitting (Book Review)

I was fortunate to get a copy of A History of Hand Knitting by Richard Rutt (with a foreward by Meg Swanson) published by Interweave Press in 1987 through inter-library loan. There must not be too many copies of it available as mine came from an out of state library. This 248-page book was fascinating to read and includes many black and white photographs I've never seen before. It is an extensive history beginning with a chapter entitled Before 1500. Other chapters include Henry VIII to the Commonwealth, the Restoration to 1835, the Victorian age, the first World War and After, Some Local Traditions of the British Isles, the Americas, and Eastern Knitting. It also has an historical glossary, a bibliography, and an index.

Of course, it includes nothing about the knitting renaissance of the past decade or so and I was especially amused by this section on the end of hand-knitted stockings on page 161 which begins

Socks and stockings were the most frequently hand-knitted garments from the beginning of popular knitting until the 1950s. Today they hardly can be seen, and only the old can remember how to turn a heel without referring to a book. The cheapness of machine-knit stockings, especially when produced in low-wage regions such as East Asia, has finally banished the home-made stocking. Home-made stockings, partly because of knitters' habits, partly because men liked them, survived in dwindling numbers until about 1970. A few patterns only remain in print; and hosiery wool, through still spun, is not readily available. Stockings were always dull work. Today's knitter expects more pleasure from the craft.

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