History Of Knitting Industry

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The aim of the present book is to fill the gap in the history of the textile industry. The history of English knitting has already been elaborated; in other countries, however, interest has been limited to the production of certain regions only or discussion has centred on particular collections of relics. There has been no research done into the knitting of southern, central and eastern Europe. Therefore, we shall discuss the problem of knitting production, beginning with Coptic and Arabian articles, passing on to the introduction of knitting with five needles instead of two, somewhere around the thirteenth or beginning of the fourteenth century, and finally to the blossoming of hand knitting in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and the invention of the simple knitting machine in 1589. This tool-type frame, the most perfect of all, became very popular in England and France during the seventeenth century and in a majority of European countries between the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. But it was the invention of the circular knitting machine at the beginning of the nineteenth century which led to factory mass production and in the twentieth century brought hosiery into serious competition with woven fabrics.

Knitting is a branch of textiles which most closely connects production with consumption, since this technique was used for producing ready-made clothing. Knitting offers the possiblity of modelling flexible space forms of varying sizes. Globular or cylindrical shapes of human silhouette would be difficult to cover with clothes made from cloth or pieces of felt, which would limit movement. For this reason, coverings, and particularly the head, hand aid leg coverings, were made in the beginning with sprang technique, knotless netting or crocheting. Those three textile techniques, however, never went beyond the limits of women fancy-work or, nowadays, elements, of artists' work. Only knitting on two to five needles led to the invention of the knitting machine, and, in the nineteenth century, to mass production. In the felt industry, headgear or whole garments had to be moulded or cut and sewn from pieces of felt, while knitting either needles or machine made it possible to produce ready-made garments, coverings for hands, feet or head. Owing to this, there was a very close link between knitting and the demands of fashion. The pressure of these demands not only contributed to the early invention of the machine, but also to its constant improvement and later modification. Thus, studies on the history of knitting reveal a relationship between the technical possibilities of production and the requirements of consumption, between technology and fashion. This problem constitutes an important subject in the investigations of a historian of material culture.

Knitting appeared from the need for close-fitting and at the same time elastic coverings for the head, hands and feet. It developed first in the Mediterranean countries and later in central and particularly northern Europe, in the Baltic countries. The demand for knitted articles became increased greatly in the late

Middle Ages. An immense increase in demand was brought about by the rise in fashion of stockings which became a standard item worn along with breeches in men's attire, first worn in south and west European countries. Mass production of stockings led to the invention and introduction of the knitting machine. The technical complications of this machine and its high cost were the reasons why in many European countries it was used mainly by state sponsored joint-stock companies or by private businessmen in centralized manufactures connected sometimes with other textile manufactures. This small tool-type machine also constituted the equipment of craft workshops, of domestic producers who worked in the output system depending on trade capital or of workers in dispersed manufactures. Wherever machines were imported together with raw material and foreign specialists, the knitting machine could be found in centralized manufactures. The existence of knitting establishments equipped with machines in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, proves the acceptance of French fashion in that particular European country and considerable differentiation between the branches of textile production. Thus, the history of European knitting not only brings to light unpublished material concerning the relationship between production and consumption, but also illuminates the socio- technological problem of the production.

Encyclopaedic definitions of knitting are in general of little precision. They describe it as a technique of obtaining a row of stitches from a single thread.1 More precise definitions are given in specialized studies, particularly in that by I. Emery. Among the different textile techniques consisting of stitch formation, she singles out knitting on needles and crocheting. Needles generate rows of perpendicular stitches, while the crochet horizontal or sideways ones.2 We are not concerned with knotless netting, a technique producing fabrics very much like hosiery in appearance.3 Knitting is considered to be a textile technique consisting in the formation of rows of elastic stitches from a thread of unlimited length, using either two or more needles, or later a machine. We are not concerned with crocheting, used rather for making decorative items and thus of little importance in the knitted garment industry. In current literature on the subjects of the history of knitting those statements most open to discussion statements are presented in H.E. Kiewe's book. Even the woven textures of kaunakes type are considered to be knitted goods and the author claims to have seen these items represented on ancient carvings, in texts of the Old Testament and in Celtic etymology. The lack of analysis of concrete sources has led the author to fantastic conclusions hence this work cannot be reckoned as scientific literature. Among other general works the numerous papers of Braham Norwick from New York are worth mentioning. The author is interested not only in knitting as textile technique but also in other raw materials. Also the book of M. Grass provides some general information. Much better documented are some publications of Scandinavian specialists concerning not only one country in particular but all this part of Europe. After the symposium in Osterbottens Museum in Finland in 1984 the problem of knitting as Scandinavian tradition from the sixteenth century was discussed in the papers of thirteen specialists from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland,4 the question of the peasant hand knitting remaining as the centre of common interest.

Writings on the subject of knitting begin to appear in the middle of the eighteenth century. The Age of Enlightenment is characterized by interest in new techniques, the knitting machine introduced into production was at that time the most complex tool-type machine. Its description in Diderot's encyclopaedia is the first one and is repeatedly cited in subsequent literature on the subject.5 The earliest English studies were influenced by the social situation: the struggle of knitters working on machines for better working conditions. Books written by Henson 1831,6 and Felkin 1867,7 are characterized by excellent knowledge of English legal procedures and statistical data, vital to the fight in which these two historians and at the same time industrial workers were involved. They have provided us with a great deal of information about the invention and gradual introduction of the knitting machine, and have described in detail its construction and its most minute technical improvements. Moreover, they noticed the close interrelationship between knitting production and the demand for a particular type of product, offen dictating the widening of production possibilities according to current fashions. These matters were many a time to escape the attention of later historians of the textile industry.

In the later period, Englands maintains its leading position in studies on the beginnings of knitting and the development of machine production. J. Norbury presented an interesting though not well documented hypothesis about Arabian knitting on frames.8 The oldest relics have been described by A. P. Kendrick, C. J. Lamm, S. M. Levey and J. P. Wild.9 L. Bellinger from the United States has examined one of the oldest relics, and recently K. D. Burnham of Canada has considerably shifted the dating of the beginnings of knitting by establishing that the first Coptic relics were products of knotless netting.10 The beginnings of machine knitting are the second field of interest of English and Anglo-Saxon historians of knitting. F. A. Wells presents the development of this technique in England, while much new archival material from the central region of England is provided in the works of S. D. Chapman.11 Important archival information has been given in a popularized scientific book by M. and A. Grass.12 Recently largescale archival investigation is being carried out by the Pasold Research Fund.

Research undertaken by K. G. Ponting and P. Lewis in west European archives and museums, concerning the William Lees's stocking frame, brought new discoveries, as did the research of N. B. Harte, I. C. M. Barnes, P. Croft, C. Gulvin and T. Rath in their histories of knitting and hosiery in differing parts of England and Scotland. The research of English specialists also includes the most important French knitting regions of the eighteenth century such as Lower Champagne and Lower Languedoc.13 After this detailed research the new synthesis of the knitting and hosiery history in the British Isles should be elaborated.

M. Dubuisson, the foundress of the Museum of Knitting in Troyes, has elaborated a brief synthesized study and catalogue of the collection.14 Important supplementary material is provided by catalogues from Nimes and Le Vigan which present the largest collections of knitted articles from the second largest centre of production after Champagne.15 R. d'Harcourt in his work on early Peruvian textiles described similar but different techniques similar to knitting and concluded that the latter did not exist in the American cultures.16 Studies by historians of economic development in the sphere of the history of knitting are scattered in regional journals and only Troyes has been discussed in a separate book.17 The article by P. M. Bondois describes the development of stocking production during the time of Colbert.18

There are also studies dedicated to the history of hand knitting in Dourdan at the time of Henry IV19 and the introduction of the machine in the South of France,20 in Rouen, Orléans,21 Nantes22 and finally Compiègne.23 Machine production of hosiery played such an important role in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that some place was devoted to it in studies on the history of economic development and the history of the working class.24 Many French works discuss rather some particular questions such as the history of knitted liturgical gloves,25, Alsatian knitted carpets and the distribution in Europe of the affiquet, a tool used as a prop when working with two needles, its use being a reflection of the degree of development of hand knitting in different countries.26 For this reason a complete history of French knitting awaits elaboration as so far only particular topics or those having a contributory character have been dealt with.

It is difficult to find recent publications dealing with French knitting history. I would like to mention here the doctor's thesis of J. Poisat prepared in the Economic Faculty of Lyon II University. The first part is dedicated to the history of French knitting, while the second part is concentrated on the history of hosiery in the region of Roanne in the years 1880-1973. The historical introduction numbers 125 pages althougt the author does not seem to be acquainted with the literature of the history of French knitting. He does not seem to have used the numerous notes of my book published in 1979 about the history of European knitting nor other information provided by the catalogue of the excellent library in the Musée Historique des Tissus in Lyon. No sources in any language other than French are mentioned; therefore I suppose he was not able to use numerous articles published both in Textile History and in Bulletin de Liaison de Centre Internationale d'Étude des Textiles Anciens, those two being the most important reviews contributing to the studies on the European (including French) knitting history. Short introductions in technical hand-books about knitting often give outdated and inaccurate information, but are nevertheless used in this doctor's thesis. The author is not able to give the modern date for the beginning of knitting and fails to mention the knitting and knotless netting in Coptic and Arabian times. Neither does he show much interest in the earliest craft of knitting in Paris; the earliest information of this craft reaches back to the year 1268 but the author gives the date 1527. He fails to record the large craft production of hand knitting in France from the early sixteenth century and the specialized knitting of carpets in Alsace. Only one of the three knitted carpets from Colmar is mentioned. The author is more interested in the invention of the knitting frame but fails to notice the recent research about William Lee and the diffusion of his machine. He only offers some information published long ago about the diffusion of knitting and knitting made in France from the second half of the seventeenth in France. In the second part of the book the author relates the history of hosiery in Roanne and its region from 1880 up to 1973. He offers new information about important French mills and the conditions of the workers' life. We can also find here some mention of the hand knitting production of the region making use of needles, crochet-needle and special laths which were employed in peasant knitting of some European countries such as Bohemia, for example. It is a pity that the author did not limit himself to the history of knitting and hosiery in Roanne in the last hundred years. So my short review of the French knitting history in the chapters four and five of the present book constitutes the only synthesis of this subject. I did not mentioned in my Polish edition of the present book the study of S. Ferchiou on the fabrication fo caps in modern Tunisia, a very important work for the guild knitting history.27

In Switzerland a book has been published on the knitting manufactures established in Saxony by the Huguenot emigrants.2? The question of Austrian knitting has been particularly well studied.29 In other German-speaking countries, especially Prussia, the best-researched era concerns the time of the popularization of machine knitting by the Huguenot emigrants.30 G. Schmoller published a good source of information about textile guilds in Strassburg up to the seventeenth century.31 K. Schlabow described the knitted goods discovered in Liibeck.32 The much-quoted work of C. Aberle, which forms part of the compiled monograph on the history of knitting, contains, by and large, inaccurate and outdated information and quotes some statements mainly from Great French Encyclopaedia without mentioning the source.33

The Scandinavian literature has within it important achievements in the history of knitting. M. Hald was the first to distinguish the knotless netting technique and give a basic technical interpretation of the material excavated in Denmark.34 She wrote about the knotless netting or looped needle netting technique and showed some phases of development of this technique. I return to this important question in the first chapter. A Norwegian, O. Nordland, classified in detail the types of knotless netting starting from the oldest archaelogical relics up to the rural handicrafts. The detailed and not always clear definitions of this author are somewhat controversial, but indirectly his book is also of great importance to the history of knitting. In Herning, Denmark, there is a Museum of Knitting which is the second in Europe after Troyes in Champagne. The history of the Jutland production centre has been traced by H. P. Hansen.

The Danish knitting history has been much contributed in the last eleven years. M. Ploug published a book about 137 knitted waistcoats relics in Danish museums dating mainly from the nineteenth century. L. Warburg gave numerous papers about Our Lady as knitter and some small knitting tools and relics. Another Danish vast study about the stocking gives some historical information. The history of Swedish rural knitting has been published by I. Wintzell. It supplies additional information to the monograph on knitting technique by A. M. Nylen.35

Norwegian literature provides a study on the set of eight knitted waistcoats and nineteenth centuries. One of the authors of this book A. Kjellberg also wrote two papers about knitting history in Norway. E. E. Gudjonsson published the short knitting history in Iceland. Two conferences about the history of Scandinavian knitting organized in 1984 and 1986 in Finland and Sweden advanced the state of this research.36

As refers to the other countries there are no technical publications available. W. Bodmer in the history of Swiss textiles provides some data about the development of knitting in that country. Dutch knitting has a monograph on the largest Jansen factory preceded by an historical introduction.37 There are no books available pertaining to the early development of Italian knitting. The rich museum collections have not been studied, while information on productions is scattered among historical monographs of particular towns. The stockings collection in the Museo Franceschi in Milan is simply a collection of remembrances of famous personalities.38 There are no publications pertaining to Spanish knitting except for a few mentions in museum catalogs and books on the history of economic development.39 Historical and ethnographical articles provide material on Czech and Slovak knitting. N. Bazantova and D. Stehlikova published a big paper about the gloves of saint Adalbert from the fourteenth century. J. Stankova shows the peasant knitting in Bohemia and A. Spiesz analyses the knitting guilds in Slovakia.40 Information concerning the development of Russian knitting has been elaborated by me on the basis of museum relics.41 I have also written a history of Polish knitting.42 The present book provides some additional material on this subject.

Owing to the unavailability of information on the history of knitting in many European countries, the material for this book was drawn from three types of sources: 1) material, i.e., relics in the form of knitted products and the tools; 2) iconographic, and 3) written.

The material sources were searched for in the museums of most European countries. In the classification of the oldest relics great difficulties were encountered in differentiating knitted products from knotless netting ones. Most of these products are found in church treasuries or museums, exhibited through a glass pane, thus being inaccessible to technological analysis. Access was much easier for various products from the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries, i.e., different types of headgear such as caps, berets, hats or nightcaps, as well as stockings, drawers and trousers, gloves and mittens, waistcoats, doublets, overcoats, skirts, mantles, children's dresses, belts and suspenders. For comparative purposes rural hand-knitted products from the last century have also been investigated. Different production tools and the finish of the knit goods were also taken into account. The oldest of the preserved machines come from the early eighteenth century. An attempt has been made to follow later modifications in their construction and the structural differences connected with, for instance, the Saxon or Swedish knitting centres. Mention is also made of knitted products, not belonging to the garment category, carpets among them 43

Iconographic sources are of great importance for dating diffusion of knitting with four and fivve needles in Italy and Germany. Numerous iconographic documents representing hand- knitters in different European countries have enabled us to determine the system of work and method of holding the needles. In addition, technical drawings provide information about the construction of the first knitting machines and show the production process inside workshops and manufacturing rooms. The simplicity of the technique of hand knitting is such that the iconographic representations are only slightly deformed by the artist's imagination or lack of drawing ability. Technical drawings from the Age of Enlightenment are generally quite precise.

Written material pertaining to the history of knitting gives information relating to the production and consumption of these products. In a book covering all the European countries it was impossible to utilize all this information fully. It was easier to find sources relating to hand-made hosiery production organized in guilds or to materials pertaining to manufactures. The best utilized were archive records from the Polish territories, and fragmentarily those from Russia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In other countries it was also possible to gain access to numerous published sources, particularly in the German-speaking region. In this way, mentions of knitters' guilds and manufactures were taken into account in the majority of European countries. Nevertheless, information about some guilds, manufactures or even entire knitting centres could have escaped our attention owing to the material being widely dispersed in not easily accessible regional papers. Even more difficult proved to be the utilization of sources pertaining to the consumption of knitted products. These consist primarily of probate inventories, as well as testaments, accounts, dutiable articles, mentions in memoirs or literature. Usually only the latter have been published. Numerous probate inventories remain in manuscript. To fully utilize the scattered references would exceed the capability of one researcher. An attempt was made to utilize to the fullest the probate inventories from Poland, particularly with reference to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. On the basis of the material used, an attempt was made to describe the general character of production, as well as the occurrence of knitted products in different European countries. A detailed history of knitting in particular countries still awaits elaboration.

The present book is the fruit of many years of research into the history of the European textile industry. This study would not have appeared without the help I received from many institutions and people. Here I would like to express my acknowledgements for their help. The Institute of the History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences contributed to this work by financing two of my trips, each of three months' duration, one to the USSR in 1964, and the other to France, on a scholarship from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes des Sciences Humaines in 1973. Thanks to the Pasold Research Fund I spent one month in England and a week in Denmark to advance my investigations. In addition I carried out museum research in Italy, Spain, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Holland, the German Demokratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece and Georgia. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to my colleagues, historians of the textile industry and costume in these countries, for enabling me to gain access to museum collections, to iconographic and archive records. I am particularly grateful to all museums for sending me photographs of knitted relics and permitting me to publish them.

Recently the possibility has appeared to publish the book in English version, edited by the Institut for History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Science. A rough translation of the first edition of the present book (History of Knitting in Europe till the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century, Warsaw, 1979) was made for private use in the National Museum of American History, Science, Technology and Culture in Washington, and kindly sent to me by Miss Rita J. Adrosko, the curator of Division of Textiles of this Museum. It revealed the actual demand for the English edition of the monograph. Thus appeared the new version, reneved and updated. I am very thankful to my friends and colleagues, historians of knitting history, who helped me to complete my research and send books and papers published after 1976, the year when I finished the first version of the present handbook. The change of the title shows my interest in Coptic and Arabian knitting, as well as that of the Near East, North Africa, Caucasus, and North America. I also found it imprescriptible t,o deal with the question of knitted carpets. Chapter IX, discussing this subject, is a short version of the paper published previously in "Textile History" in 1976 with the late Keneth George Ponting. I am convinced that my co-author vould be satisfied with this solution. Knitted carpets were a peak achievement of the patterned hand knitting guild. I would like to thank to my translater Agnieszka Szonert and Chris Broomfield to his help in correcting the English translation of this book.

The previous, Polish, edition of the book dealth primarly with knitted garments and focused on the territory of Europe. For the presend edition, much supplementary research has been done and the area of interest has been considerably widened. I hope that the new, and, this time, English version will be interesting to all those who are interested with textile history. Even if the first language of the book was Polish it will now be more accessible to all specialists.

Warsaw, December 1988.

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