Knitting in Central Europe

The history of hand knitting in Germanic countries should start from Austria, as it is situated close to Italy, from where knowledge of the production of patterned knitted carpets or of larger garments was to come. It was in this mountainous country with its extensive sheep rearing that knitting based on wool blossomed. In the vicinity of Salzburg and in the Tyrol, as well as in Styria, there was, by the end of the fifteenth and in the sixteenth century, a rather wide diffusion of woollen trousers, leggings, shirts, caps and gloves, and later stockings and socks.43 At the same time, there exists no information about the existence of guild organizations before the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Nevertheless, the high incidence of different types of woollen garments indicates that already in the sixteenth century knitting is not only a domestic craft but that some of this production was carried out by craftsmen, who belonged to joint guilds. The oldest guild statute of the Austrian knitters comes from Vienna and dates back to 1609. The assortment of products is revealed by the requirements for master craftsmanship: a table carpet in six colours, a beret, a pair of silk stockings and a pair of gloves. The statute of the Viennese knitters from 1614 requires that each candidate for master shall produce "as in the whole Roman Empire", in Prague and in other places: "Eine Decke, vier Ellen lang und breit mit Blumenswerk, ein Barettlein, ein wollenes Hemd, ein paar Handschuhe", allocating 13 weeks for each masterpiece.44

The list of goods required to attain a "masters" varies radically in these two statutes. The later statute gives the traditional assortment of the Alsace and German guilds, while in the earlier one there are mentions of silk stockings and a beret of Renaissance fashion. Guild insignia inform us about a cap, stockings, needles in a ball of wool and open scissors. The reference to Prague in the statute arises from the fact that the Emperor Rudolph, residing in this city before 1600, issued regulations for Bohemian and Moravian knitters. In the sixteenth century Viennese knitters were probably already working because confirmations of statutes usually are suggestive of earlier production of a given branch of the craft. However it was not a very large guild, as by 1675 it comprised 9 masters and 13 journeymen. The rules of 1698 reduce the number of knitting workshops in Vienna to ten. They require that the journeymen, after journeying, should work a year in one of the Viennese workshops. A characteristic feature is the injunction that the more complicated work, particularly the footpart in stockings and repairs to knitwear should not be done by women servants. The work of women as a supplementary force in knitting workshops or of non-guild craftsmen was very common in hand knitting since the production of simple knitwear did not require long professional training. The statute also informs us of the great diffusion of stocking production and its increased variety. In the course of the seventeenth century in the guild called "Parett- und Sockenstricken" stockings became the main production item. There were not only woollen and cotton stockings were being made but also the "Hamburg stocking", single and double ones, with their different technical solutions of the foot-part.45

Besides Vienna, hand-knitters' guilds existed in Hallein near Salzburg from about 1620, in Linz from 1655 and in Styria from 1698. Widespread use of woollen knitwear in the Tyrol proves organized production 46 A few Austrian knitters' guilds and probably quite a large group of non-guild producers were making head coverings, garments, gloves, socks, and the increasingly popular stockings, mostly from wool, but also from cotton and silk. This knitting production could have satisfied major local needs even before the introduction of knitting manufactures.

The fact that Prague was given the first place in the count-' of the Roman Empire in statutes from Alsace and Vienna, was not connected solely with it being the seat of the chancellery of Rudolph II. The Bohemians posessed one of the largest cloth-manufacturing centres in central Europe which affected the rapid spread of other textile techniques as well. As mentioned before, the oldest relics of silk knitting in central Europe are the liturgical gloves from the fourteenth century probably imported from the Middle East and Italy. Local products knitted with five needles are known from at least 1560. In 1570 knitters in Prague left the local clothiers' guild, but confirmation of their own statute dates only from 1612. Soon afterwards another knitters' guild was registered in Kutna Hora. In 1660 there are mentions of stocking-markers in Strakonice. The statute of 1716, repeating the requirements of 1612, gives, as production requirement for a master knitter, a fulled knitted carpet, a pair of reiter stockings with gussets, two pairs of gloves from black and coloured wool and a beret. From the middle of the eighteenth century red stockings and fezes were being produced in this town for export to the Near East. At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were eighty fez producers.47 In the seventeenth century the extent and high standard of Bohemian knitting production poses a serious threat to Austrian and South German products.48 There was a connection between Bohemian knitting and production in northern Italy. About 1600 a knitter from Milan, Ferrante Castelle, was staying at the court of the Emperor Rudolph (1576-1612). he settled permanently in Prague and in 1605 became a citizen of the town.49 He brought with him from Milan the knowledge of production of patterned knitwear, which was utilized in Prague in the production of woollen carpets. The Prague knitters' guild exists up to at least the end of the eighteenth century. There is still preserved a cup with its guild insignia from 1792. Seen on it are a stocking, a ball of wool with five needles and a brush from fuller's teasel.50 (II. 11)

Hand knitting became prevalent later to Slovakia and Hungary than in Bohemia. The reason was not only the less developed local textile industry, but there was also the less demand for knitted headgear, waistcoats and particularly stockings which were in the sixteenth century a standard item of male dress made according to Italian or Spanish fashion. In Slovakia and Hungary in those days men usually wore the long national dress with high boots which did not require stockings. The latter, however, were worn with female and male dress based on western fashion. The oldest knitters' guild was established in Bratislava, probably by in the first half of the seventeenth century, while its statute was confirmed in 1651. The knitted masterpieces, "as in the whole Roman Empire", were described as: "A long carpet two ells long and large with flowered patterns, as well as a small beret, woollen shirt and a pair of riding socks". These masterpieces had to be made within a thirteen weeks period. The guild name "Parett- und Sockenstricker" indicates that mass production of stockings started somewhat later, and until that time that most important production was that of knitted carpets, headgear, shirts or waistcoats and socks. This statute also specifies the guild subscription fee required to obtain one's own workshop, with a rebate for the members of master's family, and restricts the production capacity of one workshop to the output of three journeymen and one apprentice. If a given item was not accepted by the senior guild members, the journeyman had to make a new one after a year's journeying. Woollen knitwear was always subject to hand fulling. The next statute dating from the 17th of September 1660 indicates the organizational connection of knitters and the haberdasl ;rs and the emergence of "Seidenstricker" - producers of silk hosiery. The latter were required to undergo four years' journeying and were even more strictly forbidden to bribe journeymen who were obliged to give two weeks' notice before abandoning the workshop.51 This gives evidence of the need for a labour force, hence of demand for knitted products.

The Slovak knitters were organized in the seventeenth century into a joint guild in Bratislava. The guild book has been preserved from 1684, but the joint guild's statute remains unknown. Those most numerous belonging to it were the masters from Bratislava and its suburbs, Komarno from 1698, Trnava -

1714, Trencin - 1723, Samorin - 1728, Nove Mesto - 1729, Stupava - 1747. pevin - 1751, Dunajska Streda - 1756 and lastly Nitra - 1771. Fulled and most probably knitted socks were also produced by felt-workers from Sabino-wo.52 Knitters' guilds in Bratislava and in Trnava obtain the confirmation of privileges in the eighteenth century from this it cannot always be determined whether it is a question of hand-knitters or of knitters working on machines. In the imperial privilege dating from 1770 there is a mention of gulds in eastern Slovakia in Sobotiste, Holica and Sastin.53-

Knitters' guilds were established in Hungary only in the course of the eighteenth century this was caused by the general backwardness in the development of Hungarian textile industry in the seventeenth century as a result of the Turkish conquest.54 The oldest knitters' guld in Buda emerged in 1715. (II. 12) From 1725 dates a very interesting mark of that guild with a pair of stockings, a pair of scissors and a brush made from fuller's thistle. This mark shows the main product of the guild, a pair of scissors served to sheare the fulled stockings and other woollen fabricated products: and brush from fuller's thistle was used to comb this article before shearing. The mark reveals the variety in ther production of Buda knitters. They made the simplest woollen articles, mainly stockings, which they fulled in small hand-fulling presses. In 1744 the knitters' guild in Sopron confirms its privilege; at least from 1776 there were knitters working in Gyor, while from 1781 originates both the statute and knitters' guild shield from Veszprem. Finally in 1782 there are mentions of knitters in the district of Tolna.55 The registration of numerous new knitters' guilds in Hungary shows clearly the rapid development of hand knitting in that country, because knitting machines in central Europe were usually connected with manufactured production. In the eighteenth century demand increases for stockings worn alongside western male attire which is beginning to displace Hungarian national dress. The handknitters produced to satisfy the demand of the Hungarian middle class found mainly in towns. The demands of the wealthiest Hungarian people were met by the importing of goods from Austria, Bohemia or Western Europe.

The history of German knitting is still not well known, despite publications of archive records pertaining to the Strassbourg knitters' guilds or Prussian manufactures. Scholars have primalrly interested themselves in the introduction of knitting manufactures in some German states, while of the existence of hand-knitting guilds little mentions can be found. Nevertheless, a few hand-knitting workshops were satisfying a proportion of the garment needs of the local market. At this time, before the Thirty Years' War, there were large quantities of knitted stockings being imported from England and Italy to Bavaria, mainly from Mantua; but because of the high price of these products, hosiers' workshops begin to appear.56 Cologne carried out considerable trade in textile products imported from England and the Netherlands to the countries of central Europe. Thus, knitting production may have established itself there as well.57 In Frankfurt am Main the "Hosenstricker, Teppich und Barettmacher" guild probably existed as early as the end of the sixteenth century, and obtained the confirmation fo its privileges in 1640, 1646 and 1649. The original statute from 12 March 1659 still exists and it presents the following requirements for maserpieces: "Erstlich einen Teppich drey ehlen lang und dritthalb ehlen bret mit Blumenwerk versetzet. Zwytens ein Baretlein, drittens ein wullen Hembd, und viertens ein Paar Strumpf! mit Spanischen Zwickeln, zum Längsten innerhalb dreyzehn wochen". These requirements give proof of the high standard of hand knitting and the wide assortment of products, and that the latest changes in fashion were take account. The knitting machine was introduced within this guild only a hundred years later. In Münich and Stuttgard only knitted items from the early sixteenth century have survived, unfortunately there is no information on the existence of guilds there.58

In Saxony knitters' guilds were organized exceptionally early. In Dresden "Barettmacher und Strumpfstricker" register their statute in 1563. In Apolda "David der Strickermann" was the founder of this branch of textiles in 1593. A hundred years later a large machine knitting centre develops there. The Dresden statute from 1653 required from a master knitter: Spanish man's beret, a woman's cap, a woollen shirt, a pair of men's long trousers and a pair of gloves. In 1687 there is a characteristic change in the assortment of the most important products; listed are: headgear for men, a pair of men's stockings from beaver hair, a pair of fully-fulled men's stockings, a pair of ladies' fulled stockings from beaver hair and a pair of gloves with fingers. The hosiers from Leipzig were linked with the Dresden guild but in 1674 different masterpieces were required from them: "Baret und ein wollen Hembde. Bey denen Frembden aber ein gebrochner Teppicht", which made admission to the guild difficult. The knitters' guild in Zittau was also organized exceptionally early, its first statute being registered in connection with the Prague regulations in 1574.59

In Berlin the establishment of the knitters' guild was linked with the development of machine knitting and manufactures. The guild regulations from 1697, however, specify a typical assortment of hand-made knitwear: Spanish beret, woollen shirt, carpet and a pair of men's long fulled and finished stockings; only in 1710 there is the requirement for making trousers and stockings on the knitting machine. In Magdeburg the guild regulations from 1739 already refer to machine knitting. In Lübeck, however, the knitters' guild existed from 1613. There is no data available about the knitters' guild in Hamburg. Nevertheless we learn from the Vienna statute of 1698 and from other mentions that it required production of "Hamburg stockings",00 which meant articles of local production and not those imported from England.

Luzyce lay on the borderland between Lower Silesia and Saxony. Already by the early seventeenth century the knitting technique was known in Zgorzelec (Görlitz); the statute of 1683 required the following masterpieces: "Ein Spanisch Bareth, ein Weiber Bareth, ein wollen Hembde und ein Paar lange Mannes Strümpffe gestrickt, gewalckt und aussgebreit - in 5 Wochen anfertigen".61 The production of patterned knitted carpets testified to the high standard of Zgorzelec hand knitting.

Lower Silesia is comparable to Bohemia as one of the most important centres of knitting production in central Europe. In the discussed period this region was subject to various changes in national status; nevertheless articles were being produced there both for local needs and for sale to the Polish Republic. A knitting fullery had existed in Wroclaw from 1534, which gives evidence of considerable guild production. In 1573 a Spanish man's beret, a lady's cap and a woollen shirt were accepted as masterpieces. The requirements for masterpieces dating from 1675 show the change in assortment: "Coloured patterned knitted carpet for the table, Spanish or Jewish cap, a pair of English summer stockings with Spanish gussets, also a pair of similar lady's stockings, lady's cap and finally a lined woollen shirt, or rather a waistcoat, cut low in front, with sleeves, finished all round at the bottom with wool". Stricter requirements as to the execution of the garment indicate the trend towards limiting the number of masters; the regulations from 1646 mention only: woollen shirt, lady's cap, various trousers, leggings and stockings (for men, women, children and riders), gloves with five fingers and with one finger, and socks. These specifications show considerable changes in the assortment of guild products according to fashion. Between 1550-1577 there were 26 workshops in the Wroclaw guild. In 1617 there are as many as 44 masters, and in 1649 - 66 masters and one widow. We also know the data referring to the expenses on knitting fullery in 1751-17 52.62 (II. 13)

The beret-, sock- and glove-makers from Legnica make reference in the 1639 statute to an earlier document dating from 1576. Thus it would have been the second knitters' guild in Silesia, the product variety being similar th the Wroclaw guild, although not so wide.63 The knitters' guild statute in Nysa dates from 1602 and is the first one among the Silesian statutes to mention about the production of knitted carpets. The masterpieces to be: a carpet for table or bed, a cap, a pair of riding trousers and gloves, a pair of stockings with gussets from Rhenish or strongly twisted wool. In 1672 the Nysa guild had 19 masters and 3 widows managing the workshops. At that time, apart from a carpet, the requirement was to produce a Jewish cap, thick or thin stockings with gussets, winter stockings, fingerless gloves and fashionable riding socks. The knitters' statute from Brzeg dates from 1611 and, in addition to the knitted carpet, lists a beret, riding socks, stockings with gussets and black riding gloves.64 Knitters' guilds were also scattered in other towns of Lower Silesia, particularly in the wool-rich mountains region. There is a mention of a hand-knitters' guild in Kowary in 1619, while in Lwowek Sl^ski hand knitting is still being mentioned in 1791.65 The hand-knitters' guild of Ghibczyce in Upper Silesia is mentioned in the seventeenth century. The surviving shield represents a cap, stockings, open scissors and other tools. In Raciborz, the silk stockings producers, were in the early eighteenth century organizationally connected with the haberdashers' guild, the guild's seal dates probably from 1685.66

Gdansk is the first place for knitwear production in the former Polish Republic. In 1620 a statute was conferred to the knitters' guild. Rich masters of that guild practised the putting-out system, they sold products made by their poorer colleagues from raw materials which they themselves supplied. Officially the guild existed and trained apprentices and journeymen, while in the organization of production the first signs of the capitalist system had begun to appear. M. Bogucka forwards a well-founded hypothesis, based on the known norms, which requires the existence of the knitting machine in Gdansk by 1620. A master was nor allowed to "demand an apprentice to produce more than 7 Pairs of socks or 7 "ladies stocking per day".67 These norms are too high for hand knitting and correspond to the initial output capacity of the knitting machine.

In the seventeenth century knitters of many Polish towns belonged to joint guilds. Around 1660 in Cracow a point guild comprising the production of woollen fabrics was established, and it encompassed clothiers, felt-makers and kilim - producers. "Hosiers living in the city of Cracow or in the suburbs will belong to their guild".68 In the years 1787-1792 only two knitters were working in Cracow. In Posen, knitters were organizationally linked with the bag-makers' guild; they made gloves and stockings, both from leather and from wool.69 The hosiers in Lublin appear quite early. One of them is mentioned in notes referring to admissions to the guild between 1605-1626, while in the 1661 survey: "They first of all complained about suburban knitters saying that they create difficulties for them by making and selling products belonging to their guild, and also about the Jews who work in wool but do not want to contribute to the church order".70

Punczosnicy (stocking-makers) are also mentioned in the clothiers' statute in Opole Lubelskie in 1662: "so that knitters, not being guild members, would not buy out the wool before them, priority shall be given to the latter". In Zamosc, knitters worked in the clothiers' guild from 1646 to at least 1715.71 "It occurred in the clothiers', hosiers' and hatmakers' guild in Zamosc [...] so that clothiers would make cloth and hosiers stockings without interfering with each other". There were a few knitters there, the end of the apprenticeship time and the making of the required masterpieces, enabled a new master to establish his own workshop. The 1671 guild privilege from Strzyzow in Little Poland also gives an indirect proof of the existence of knitters linked with the clothiers' guild since it mentions that "sale is forbidden of Walachian cloth, garments, stockings" except of the fair.72 A considerable group of knitters was working in Opatow. In 1687 "a comrade from the knitters' guild" was accused of running away from his master "under cover of night taking with him needles and leaving behind debts, therefore for this offence gentlemen brothers ordain that he be punished by twenty lashes in corpore, and as to the debts that he be jailed". Eventually, instead of lashes he was ordered to pay "2 pounds of wax" and if he made peace with the head guildsman "he would be taken back to the bench". So the guild did not have an excess of journeymen, although it did train apprentices. In 1796 the same hand-knitters' guild complains that "Jewish hosiers do not want to bear, as we do, the municipal and guild obligations -producing botch and hiding other bothers in their midst". Jewish stocking-makers were very numerous in Mazovia already in the seventeenth century.73 Knitters in fairly large numbers banded together in joint guilds on ethnically Polish lands, while the hand-knitting form of production facilitated the use of the putting-out system, which so often occurred in Jewish trade.

On the lands of the former Polish Republic, in Lithuania, White Russia and the Ukraine, there were also many separate knitting guilds registered. In the seventeenth century such a guild existed in Vilno with the following requirements for mastership: "Master hosiers must demonstrate their ability to make patterned stockings and gloves on three needles from pure wool without any defect".74 During the same period a knitters' guild in Kowel existed.75 Mention of knitters in Stuck dates from 1664. "At a meeting of brotherhood members neither older nor younger brothers should carry on them any sword, cutlass, knife or any other tool which could be used in a fight". In 1728 there were twenty stocking-makers working in Stuck, thus it was a fairly large centre of production.76

The studies on craft knitting production in central Europe is based mainly on information coming from guild statutes, since no data is available on non-guild and home or cottage production. Some pieces of information recur. Thus, guilds always fought against expansion of production, restricting the number of apprentices and journeymen, and came out against competition from the so-called bunglers. Generally speaking, similar data refer to the length of apprenticeship, conditions for obtaining one's own workshop, and concessions for the sons of masters and their families. To limit the size of this work, these recommendations have not on the whole been repeated, because they did not form a characteristic feature of guilds of particular countries. The most important for the subject of our book is the variety of production, its quality and approximate volume. An attempt was made to extract this information from the dispersed and fragmentary statute data. It was impossible, however, to discuss them as a whole in relation to several countries or all of central Europe because of the varied economic situation over such a long chronological period, encompassing three centuries. In some countries guilds were established only at the end of the eighteenth century. This chapter is dedicated to the production of hand-made knittwear before the introduction of the machine.

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