Knitting in Switzerland and in the Netherlands

Swiss knitting developed in the seventeenth century. The information that the first stockings knitted with five needles were produced about 1560 is untrue because this technique had been known 200 years earlier.34 Hand knitting developed first on the borderland with Alsace, about 30 workshops functioning in Basle and vicinity. Rules for journeymen from Freiburg date from 1591. Producers of knitted leggings were organizationally connected with clothiers, while a journeyman's pay was fixed at one pfenning per week.35 Already in 1644 knitting was taught along with spinning in the orphanage of this town. In 1672 a statute was conferred on the hand-knitters' guild in Berne, in 1676 in Unteraargau, Aarwangen, Wangen and Bipp. Individual guild masters also used outworkers, placing orders with local villagers. In 1687 in Aargau thre were more than 1000 knitters. Knitting developed in the Solothurn canton too, particularly in the small towns of Olten and Niederamt, in the neighbourhood of Schaffhausen, Zurich and Lucerne. Also in the Glarus canton there were woollen caps and stockings were manufactured in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century, hand knitting still persisted in the same regions, despite competition from knitting manufactures. Domestic production in the put-ting-out system assumed particularly large proportions in the Solothurn canton, >n the vicinity of Basle, in St. Gallen and Freiburg. W. Bodmer not always distinguishes clearly between hand-knitted and machine-woven hosiery.36 On the whole, it can be said that hand knitting had existed for a long time and was very popular in this mountainous terrain. However, it involved small-scale production for personal needs and for the local market. Only the introduction of the knitting machine by the Huguenot emigrants from France at the end of the seventeenth century transformed certain regions of Switzerland into knitting centres catering to a larger market.

Hand knitting developed particularly well in southern Netherlands. Owing to the French influence the Tournai region, where a knitters' guild had already existed in 1429, returned to this branch of production. About 1680 there are as many as 2000 masters listed there, who were producing "les bas de la moquette".37 Some of these products were designed for export to Spain.38 We should remember that this part of the Netherlands belonged to France between 1667-1708 and it was then that the knitting machine was introduced there.39 It is possible that the data on the extent of production around 1680 apply not only to handmade but also machine-made knit wear.

Hand knitting also existed in the northern Netherlands. Preserved relics such as knitted hats from the end of the seventeenth century in the Hermitage, the skirt in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, knitted garments, gloves and stockings in the Museum of Costume in the Hague and the Royal Museum in Amsterdam bring testimony to the high standard of hand knitting.40 Only a few studies discuss the development of machine knitting with brief references to hand knitting41 or describe the different types of knitting sticks, which are solid evidence of the development of hand knitting in villages among shepherds and women occupied with household chores.42 The history of hand knitting in the Netherlands is still waiting its author.

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