Historical Knitting: A trip through time in the new issue of PieceWork

Miss Money's Fly's Body pattern with sample
knitted in cotton. Photograph courtesy of
June Hall.

A note from Kathleen: I'm a history-phile. I love the History Channel; the most recent thing I watched was a two-hour program called "Russia: Land of the Tsars." Heaven! (And "The Tudors"? Enough said.) I also love a historical mystery and the occasional romance—Outlander, anyone? That's why I'm crazy about this issue of PieceWork. It's full of fascinating, historical information about our first love: knitting! When I got the issue, I sat down with a cup of coffee and read it from cover to cover. I know you'll love it, too.

Here's editor Jeane Hutchins to show you what this issue of PieceWork has to offer, so prepare your hot beverage of choice and relax with some knitting history!

Knitting through Time

I think I lead a charmed life as the editor of PieceWork! The January/February 2010 issue, our 4th annual Historical Knitting issue, is a case in point.

In the spring of 2008, Donna Druchunas, a frequent contributor, stopped by the office to introduce me to June Hall from England. June, an avid knitter, historian, author, and keeper of a flock of rare Soay sheep, shared the handwritten instructions for and tiny samples of lace-knitted edgings and insertions that she found in a copy of a nineteenth-century pattern book.

Since the writing matched the inscription on the book's flyleaf (dated 1847), the instructions surely were penned by the owner of the book, Miss Money. The page with the intriguingly named Fly's Body pattern with its intriguing symbols and sample is above. June deciphered the symbols and shares them, along with several of the other patterns and her quest to find information on Miss Money.

Nancy Bush's unusually-shaped mitts.
Photograph by Joe Coca

Laurann Gilbertson, textile curator at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, sent a 1944 book about traditional Norwegian handcoverings to Nancy Bush (well-known author, designer, teacher, and a member of our editorial advisory panel). Among the objects depicted in the book was a knitted "offering" mitt. As soon as I saw the photograph, I knew Nancy's version of these unusually shaped mitts would be perfect (they're shown at right). In her article, Nancy explains the practical reason for their unusual shape.

I learned that Barbara G. Walker, knitting legend and author of the beloved Treasury of Knitting Patterns books, was going to the 2009 Sock Summit with Schoolhouse Press owner Meg Swansen (also a member of our editorial advisory panel).

Detail of Barbara G. Walker's Diamond
Basketweave pattern. Photograph by Joe Coca.

I instantly called Meg and asked her to please "introduce me" to Barbara, and let her know that I would be thrilled to have her contribute to a future issue of PieceWork.

My phone rang one day, and it was Barbara Walker—I could barely get a coherent word out—all I could think about was "Oh my, I'm talking to Barbara Walker!" A never-before-published Barbara Walker stitch pattern is included in this issue (it's our cover and a detail is shown at left).

Definitely charmed, don't you think? And these are only three examples! To see all (including Donna Druchunas's very compelling article, "Knitting in Jewish Lithuania") click here to try our 4th annual Historical Knitting issue—free. I hope you will be delighted.

—Jeane

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