Assortment of hand and machine knitted products

This chapter will dicuss types of all knitted garment products with the exception of carpets, as well as some small items used to furnishing interiors, suchn as cushion- coverings.1 Among the garments we can list are: headgear, coverings for hands and legs, doublets, waistcoats, trousers, skirts, drawers and shirts, meant also for children's wear. Children's clothes and frocks dating from the Middle Ages were often produced using hand knitting. Belts, shawls and small clothing accessories such as bags of purses, cushions for pins or needles, as well as gussets and the finishing of clothes were also knitted. The most important, commonly used garments were mentioned in the statutes of knitters' guilds. At the same time, on the basis of dates of statues it can be seen that at the beginning of the sixteenth century knitted headgear, so prevalent in the Middle Ages, was still being listed in first place ahead of trousers, leggins and other garments. By at least the beginning of the seventeenth century, stockings become the most important single item of knitting production. In the late Middle Ages they begin to replace the previously popular leg coverings fabricated with cloth sewn together and fitting the leg closely. Indeed, the earliest of the preserved stockings are in fact leggings. In the sixteenth century closefitting knitted stockings become an essential item in male and female dress. Consequently the assortment and variety of raw materials and colour schemes used, widen considerably. Later, stockings are the original sewn product of the simple knitting machine. The demands of fashion as to their patterning, variegation and method of finish lead to small improvements being made to the knitting machine in the eighteenth century.


From the early Midle Ages different types of headgear were one of the basic products of hand-knitting guilds. The name for craftsmen registered in Paris in 1268 derives from bonnet - the article they produced. In the Middle Ages woollen headgear is encountered in the Mediterranean Basin, on the British Isles and in Liibeck. In warm climate countries they constituted above all a comfortable head covering, worn under a knight's helmet, while in northern Europe a close-fitting warm cap from well-fulled wool was an essential clothing item. Head coverings from the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries present such a uivciMiy ui lurrn inui 11 is essenuai 10 esuioiisn tneir typological classification. Some of these types of headgear were difficult to dressing. Hence their reduced usage during the period of machine production of knitwear on the flat knitting frame.

On the basic of examples preserved in museums, and representations and descriptions of costume, four types of head coverings can be distinguished:

  1. Hoods mostly fastened under the chin. They could be worn under another headgear such as helmets or mitres.
  2. Berets of different shapes.
  3. Hats with brims.
  4. Night-caps of elongated from.

The first of the above-mentioned groups of headgear can be considered the oldest ones, since it corresponded in from to the simplest hoods of the Middle Ages and could be worn under other headgear such as helmets or mitres. However, also the fourth type, the knitted night-cap with an elongated top hanging down the back, was also prevalent in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately no relic has survived to confirm this assumption, while the iconographic representations do not leave it clear whether these were knitted caps or were made of a soft woollen fabric. For this reason, in the description of the earliest relics we have separated the first two of the above-mentioned groups - the hood- type of caps and the berets.

The knitted caps found in Lübeck are a typical example of the first group. K. Schlabow dates them at the end of the fifteenth or beginning of the sixteenth century. A careful reconstruction enables the from of these relics to be established despite their rether poor state of preservation. The knitting of the cap started at the neck part; products from Lübeck are 30 cm at the base, with an initial width of 97 stitches knitted on thick needles and from thick wool. After completing 6.5 cm of the item, the knitter began widening the hood to a width of 140 stitches. Next, this hood was finished with a small front part turned over the forehead, while the top of the head was almost flat.2 The caps from Lübeck are a perfect example of close-fitting hedgear of the first group.

Also belonging to this group are the older relics of the numerous excavated knitted articles from Lonfon itself and from southern England. Close-fitting caps made of thick, usually undyed wool, come from archeological discoveries from the beginning of our century and similar material is constantly being found in the most recent excavations. These relics date from the end of the fifteenth and the sixteenth century. The largest group of them, in part preserved in the Victoria and Albert, in part in the London Museum, comes from excavations near Worship Street in London. The exceptionally great number of fragment of caps and unfinished products indicates that it may have been the site of a fairly large knitting workshop. Similar conclusions are also suggested by the smaller group of relics found in excavations in Moorfield in London, prederved in the Gallery of English Costume in Manchester. These pieces are very early, since they are dated at about 1500 and are much more carefully made and finished. Similar headgear was being made in numerous localities in southern England. A group of caps and their fragments probably comes from one of larger knitting workshops in Finsburg, and is found in the London Museum, while a part of the relics now in London's Guild Hall was found in excavations, the materials from which were initially being collected in the Norwich Museum.3 From this rich material we can distinguish caps knitted in one piece, while others, owing to the lack of skill in fashioning the products, were sewn together. The part covering the neck and the ear-flaps were knitted in one piece, the round head being knitted separately. The head part of some of the caps was stiffened by felt insertions, although this was more frequently done in berets. The caps knitted in one piece can be described as products of more skilled craftsmen, while the joining together of different knitted pieces into one article replaced the ability of counting the number of stitches. Nevertheless, the dimensions of the caps must also be taken into account because those with elongated ear-flaps were more often sewn form separate pieces. The caps were then felted in manual fulleries which thickened and stiffened the knitwear surface and facilitated its modelling on wooden forms. In the scores of relics and numerous small fragments still being found in English excavations, even more sub-types can be distingushed.

One of them could be the caps known as the Monmouth caps. This headcovering could be ranked with the night caps. K. Buckland dedicated a large paper to this headgear. She presented numerous mentions about Monmouth caps from different written records from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. But she is not sure what they looked like, and how they were made. "There is a brownish knitted cap in Monmuth's Local History collection which is belived to be a genuine specimen and the only survivor. It has been studied by experts who agree that there is nothing opposing a sixteenth century date. It is made with a seamless stocking stitch throughout, with a flat double brim knitted together at the edge, which continues into a loop, the crown is finished off with a small button, and it is knitted in coarse, thick, 2-ply wool, felted, thickened and shorn. It may have been dyed after or during felting. The most noticeable feature is the shape which is achieved with mathematical care and simplicity; all in plain knitting, and in multiples of ten and twenty, it could not be simpler for an illiterate novice to learn. It follows a carefully helmet-shaped head hugging, pattern suggesting that this was important. It is in excellent condition but very small, eight inches deep, twenty-two inches (55 cm) and only fifty-nine stitches in circumference at the junction of crown and brim". The ¡authoress considers the possibility of wearing the cap inside a helmet, she also wrote about the similarity of the cap to a typical sixteenth century "Spanish ®orion". Such a cap, catalogued as Monmouth cap, from the fifteenth or sixteenth century made with thick, brown wool, is preserved in Metropolitan Museum in New York. In the book of Cunningtons the Monmuth cap is Classified as a type of shallow night-cap, particularly popular between 1570 and 1625 among soldiers, sailors, and also Welshmen.4 But I think that this cap fhould probably be classified in the first group of headgears, r: Caps dating from the seventeenth century were also found on archeological •xcavations in Scotland and in Shetland. Three woollen knitted caps from Scotland were brown and green, heavily felted. Two caps, one with turned-up brim, another without a brim, were dated to the late seventeenth century. The first cap was made of a Cheviot-type fleece, very heavily felted. The second cap *as worked in a similar way, in a stocking stitch but less shrunk. The relics ow the widespread diffusion of this type of woollen caps in British isles. The same type of headgear was used in Denmark in the seventeenth century. Five caps are preserved in the National Museet in Copenhagen.5 It can be said that, all this evidence testifies to the widespread use of this older form of knitted headgear. These relics have not been studied in the literature dedicated to the subject. They should not only be carefully analyzed, but efforts should be made to retrieve from archive records corresponding to workshops in particular districts of London or other towns of southern England.

In the same group of knitted hoods we can include the four hoods from the Kremlin Armoury. II. 32

The head-dresses of the Ortodox clergy offer an extremely interesting example, unique of its kind, of hand knitting produced in Russia in the seventeenth century. They were knitted on five needles with a silk thread, that is quite supple and glossy but of inferior quality, perhaps imported from Central Asia or the Near East. They were tied under the chin. Two of these headdresses have an embroidered representation of the Holy Spirit in the from of a bird with the human face in the middle. Such articles were very carefully made; the wide border of the back of these hoods, carried around the bands which tied beneath the chin, were sewn by hand. They belong to the close-fitting type of headgear, but they differ from the German and English caps by the elongated back covering the neck and by longer fastenings under the chin. These silk caps were a distinct part of liturgical dress, thus not head coverings of common use. Nevertheless, they undoubtedly originate with the hoods which protected the head under metal helmets. The knitting technique reminds one of the early liturgical gloves. The manner in which the wedges are inserted and the execution of the fastenings indicate that they were made by rather unprofessional knitters lacking in skill, but the precision with which the various stitches are executed is worth mentioning. Its possible that these hoods could have been made by nuns.6

The absence in France of preserved caps of the first group does not in any way bring evidence that this from was unknown. The repeatedly mentioned Parisian knitters' statute commands in 1608, as well as in 1627: "faire, fouler et appareillez bien et duement un bonnet anciennement appelé aumuce ou deux bonnets d'usage d'homme d'appelés anciennent crémiolles". The amice (aumus-se) in the Middle Ages usually consisted of a cloth cape with hood, while the crémyole or cramignole was a cap with raised rim worn at the end of the fifteenth and in the sixteenth century,7 thus at the beginning of the seventeenth century these were considered old-fashioned.

Berets constitute a considerable part of relics preserved in England and Norway. This head covering gains prominence in Renaissance fashion in the sixteenth contury; to this item refers the word Baretmacher used for the South German and Silesian knitters' guilds, in a similar way as French bonnetiers, who derived their name from the knitted headgear of the Middle Ages. In written sources from the sixteenth century the name biretta occurs interchangeably with beret. Biretta is a much more ambiguous definition of both male and female headgear, later, seen as rather clerical. In the Parisian knitters' guild statute the biretta appears most probably under the name bonnet carreé and is to be made from good material.8 Knitted birettas from the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries were baggy night-caps: they are included in the fourth group of headgear discussed here. On the other hand, the knitted beret differred from the other headgear as it had a flat, round top and a variously fashioned part clinging to the head. Among the numerous preserved berets found in English excavations, two types can be distinguished. Both have round tops of different size, but the part surrounding the face and back of head was either smoth or made of small overlapping tooth-shaped pieces of a different width. Some of the berets were found in London itself, some in Finsbury and Norwich. They were made in the same workshops as the earlier described hoods. It appears that the indented berets are of later origin. Some of the preserved berets were made in one piece, which required considerable skill in counting the number of stitches. Sometimes the little teeth were sewn on to the rest of the beret. The poor state of preservation of some of the relics and the fact that others are exhibited behind a glass pane renders technological conclusion difficult. As for to the already mentioned group of caps, they require careful technological and archival investigation.

A number of new archeological excavations show more berets worn in England. An excavation in the castle Ditch at Newcastle upon Tyne brought a small fragment of knitting piece and remains of two hats of similar type, dating from the mid-sixteenth century. They resembled the berets. "An interesting feature of these hats is that they have been knitted from the centre, the increase being done in a random fashion, by eye, and at least on of them was worked on only two needles". The other relics from England were made with four or five needles. The other relics from England were made with four or five needles. One beret was also more felted than the other. There caps found in Scotland dated to the seventeenth century were dressed like flat berets. They were catalogued as caps but the form resembles the berets. Another beret was found in an early eighteenth century grave on Arnish Moor, Lewis, It was a cloth of a murder victim. He wore stockings made of cloth and the woollen beret knitted in stocking stitch "worked in round using several needles [...] The fabric is very firm, and inside, heavily felted. The bonnet was apparently made large and then considerably shrunk by milling, presumably to make it waterproof'. The present colour is brown-green but in the folds it is dark blue and the analysis has shown that it was dyed with indigo. These new relics show that the knitted caps and berets were worn in England also in the eighteenth century. A beret found in Trondheim in Norway comes form 1575 and altogether reminds one of the English types of beret without the teeth.9 This, however, does not point to its English origin; it could also have been made locally. II. 28

The third group of headgear consists of hats with tightly felted brims, bringing to mind similar products made from felt. Only three such hats have survived to our times; they were purchased by Peter I during his visit to Holland at the end of the seventeenth century and are kept in the Leningrad Hermitage. Perhaps some day more of these relics will turn up in one of the Dutch museums. These products indicate a considerable diffusion of hand knitting made from coarse wool in Holland during the seventeenth century and are the peak achievement in the sphere of headgear. The fashion for hats during the seventeenth century displaced other types of headgear, particularly berets. The preserved Dutch hats are an example of an attempt to produce more lasting and somewhat less rigid headgear than felt products. They were made of thick wool in natural light grey, dark grey and brown colours. The head-part of the hat of varying height, narrowing at the top, was made separately, while the brim in one of the hats was sewn from double knitted fabric, and in the remaining two, the single knitted fabric here is particularly dense. The brim was sewn on to the head-part of the hat, it could also be knitted in one piece with the head-part, but this required complicated counting of the number of stitches. The rigidity of the hat, particularly of its brim, was achived by considerable compaction of the knitted piece, making it from thick wool on relatively thin needles and then by heavy felting in a fullery. The head of one of the hats was lined with black netting, which also had a stiffening effect, and was finished with a black ribbon. In the remaining ones the decoration and finish may not have survived.

The basic material - natural coloured woll - and the simple technique of these hats, proves that they were articles in common use. A double knitted brim gave the special rigidity to one of these hats. They were probably worn by Dutch artisans and fishermen, and Peter I bought them when he worked as labourer in Amsterdam. These hats, therefore, show that hand-knitted clothes were in everyday use, and that in the Dutch knitting workshops there were hand fullers. The archaelogical excavations in Copenhagen gave there more knitted hats kept in National Museum. Their quality deserve a special publication. One of them is made like the Dutch hats with stocking stitch, not very heavily felted, 30 cm high, the brim is narrow and not rigid. The two other were made from a very coarse wool, heavily felted with not very tall head of 19 and 20 cm and a turned-up brim. A felted cap from England dated to the sixteenth century was cut and re-sewn to make two, overlapping brims.10 II. 30-31

The fourth group of headgear consisted of baggy night-cap types of caps with an elongated and often dangling top. It is only because of the absence of preserved early relics that they are being mentioned last in this list. However, they are part of to the oldest headgear, already prevelent in west European fashion in the early Middle Ages. It was probably for their mass production that the first Parisian knitters'guild was established in the second half of the thirteenth century. This type of cap was particularly suitable for production on two needles, since it did not require special fashioning, stitching of ear-flaps or brim. The night-cap could be made knowing no other principle than that of decreasing the number of stitches. The so called Monmouth cap is sometimes seen as a type of shallow night-cap but I classified them in the first group of headgear.

The oldest of the night-caps preserved in European collections are the relics of Italian origin kept in London museums and dated to the seventeenth century. These technically uncomplicated products soon started to be decorated with colourful stripes or with geometric design. Italian products of purple or pink silk were decorated with an elongated pattern and a pendant at the end of the elongated top. One of the caps has a floral design arranged in longitudinal stripes.11 Two similar night-caps were preserved in American Museums, one from the sixteenth, the other from the seventeenth century, both classified as Italian. They were made with patterned silk knitting, one of them decorated with human figures. These caps were suitable for making with more flexible raw material, such as silk, and then they would fall in soft folds. Their mass production, however, was based on the use of wool. The only English relic from the sixteenth century, found in the Worship Street excavations in London, made of thick, felted wool, was probably a type of night-cap. But the degree of its deterioration and its execution from several longitudinal stripes indicating ornamentation of the garment, preclude us from linking it with certainty to the type discusssd here.12 A typical night-cap of tzar Peter I,preserved at Petro-dovored Palace Museum (Peterhof). was made of medium quality greyish beige grey wool, hand knitted in stocking stitch; it may have been made locally in Russia,13 It was naturally much stiffer than the silk or cotton night-caps, It can be assumed that night-cap type of headgear with different length of top as well as shallower skull-caps were being made in the sixteenth century by Spanish knitters,14 Part of them were exported to Algiers. This type of cap was taken up by French machine knitwear production in the seventeenth century. Of night-cap or skull-cap shape were the caps exported in great quantities both from Orléans and Troyes, as well as from other machine-knitting centres to Tunis of the Near Est. S. Ferchiou has shown the production of such knitted caps chechias made in Tunis.15 These head coverings were particularly suitable for production on Lee's simple knitting frame. They merely required subsequent stitching up, just like stockings.

A large collection of night-cap type of headgear made by hand and machine from thin wool and cotton is found in the Victoria and Albert Museum.16 Less frequently encountered are the caps made from silk. Nightcaps from the beginning of the nineteenth century, usually of white cotton, were among the indispensable accessories of men's night attire; they were also used by the Dickensonian Mr. Pickwick. This type of cap also effectively protected the heads of men working in difficult weather conditions, thus of villagers, fishermen or sailors. Despite the small number of relics dating from before the beginning of the last century, it must be assumed that they were prevalent during the whole period discussed in this book not only as caps for sleeping in, but also as head coverings for the widest masses of male users.

Such shallow caps were worn mainly by peasants, but also by sailors as well as in the towns of numerous European countries such as Scandinavian countries, Estonia, Spain and Portugal, Poland and other countries of central Europe. The caps made mainly of cotton and wool were preserved also in American museums. The biggest collection can be found in the National Museum in Copenhagen, Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Nordiska Museet in Stockholm, in Estonian Museum in Tartu, in Musée de l'Homme in Paris, Ethnographic Museum in Cracow. The caps of Majas of toreadors were kept in Museo de Pueblo Espanol in Madrid and Museo Textil, Collection Rocamora in Barcelona.17

0 0

Post a comment