Knitting Production in the Netherlands

The neighbourhood of Tournai, thus the region bordering with France, is the most important Belgian knitting centre of southern Netherlands. Already at the end of the fifteenth century this part of the country is famous for hand knitting. The knitting machine was introduced there relatively early, already at the time when this region belonged to France, in the years 1667-1708. Tournai together with Valenciennes figures on the list of towns to which English knitting machines were exported during the period 1670-1695. In England at the beginning of the nineteenth century the southern Netherlands were considered to be an important knitting centre.11 There is data showing that around 1680 there were more than 2000 master-knitters in Tournaisis, who produced mainly stockings, part of this production being exported to Spain.12 The establishment of machine-knitting production in settlements such as PĆ©ruvelz or Leuze brought about their rapid economic development. Already by 1764 in Leuze 85-90 knitting machines were working, producing 50,000 pairs of stockings per year.13 Statistical statements from the period of Austrian rule in the second half of the eighteenth century give detailed numerical data pertaining to southern Belgium. In Charleroi there were 4 hosiery manufactures in 1751; in 1764, 6 more were added. In Antwerp in 1738-1764 there was only one silk stockings manufacture functioning with 8-9 workers. In 1764 there are two stockings producers in Merbes- de-Chateau, one manufacture belonging to a certain Jean Deferrier in Gerpinnes, and establishment in the possession of Simon Joseph Boucher in Tournai. The list of manufactures from 1782-1784 supplements these figures. So knitting establishments exist in Antwerp and Brussels; besides these there are manufactures in Diest, Tirlement and Tournai. In the statistical statements it is emphasized that in the whole Hainaut region knitting manufactures are operating in all town; hand-made knitwear was also being made. Quevancamps in particular, distinguishes itself among the villages engaged in the production of hand-made knitwear in Tournaisis. This powerful centre of knitting production in Belgium survived right up to the beginning of the nineteenth century, the time when knitting manufactures became the must important textile establishments in Tournai.14

Exceptionally under investigated is the knitting production in northern Netherlands. After liquidation of the manufacture in Rouen in 1611, Abraham Jones set out with some of the machines and experts to Amsterdam and established a small manufacture there, training Dutch specialists. Soon afterwards, he and his whole family fell victim to the plague.15 There are no studies on the further fate of machine knitting.16 There existed in this country a smal knitting production for local demand.

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