Knitting History Comes Alive

Miss Pole's muffatees by Mary Lycan. Photograph by Joe Coca.

A note from Kathleen: The January/February issue of PieceWork magazine is on the horizon, and I've gotten a sneak peek. Knitters should be really excited for it, because it's the annual Historical Knitting issue. Full of fabulous patterns and articles about knitting through history, you'll find yourself drawn into the fascinating stories of knitters of the past. Here's editor Jeanne Hutchins to tell you all about it.

Connecting with Knitting History

This is our seventh annual Historical Knitting issue! It seems as though we were working on the first one just last year. Your enthusiastic response to the six previous issues is a testament to your appreciation of knitting's rich historical context.

A few of this issue's highlights:

Working with Priscilla Gibson-Roberts was a dream come true. Both of us are indebted to the Martin Fellows Hatch family for lending us the stunning Armenian sock (circa 1840–1860) for study and photography. Priscilla's colorful adaptation of the original graces our cover. Of the original sock she writes, "That it has survived and will continue to survive is testament to the original knitter's vision."

Lady's Claret Polka in Brioche Stitch
by Carol Huebscher Rhoades.
Photograph by Joe Coca.

I'd always wondered about polka jackets. Were they named for the dance? Who wore them? When? All these questions and more are answered in Helen Bonney's article. By 1849, a polka jacket, a tiny waist, and a voluminous skirt covering layers of crinolines were the pinnacle of fashion in England, America, and elsewhere. Helen transcribed instructions for a knitted polka jacket from a pattern designed by Mrs. Warren for The Family Friend, 1, July–December 1849, a London women's magazine. Carol Rhoades rewrote the instructions for today's knitters and knitted the example shown in the article.

No, it's not an ancient physician's manual. NATURA EXENTERATA: OR NATURE UNBOWELLED By the most Exquisite Anatomizers of Her. Wherein are contained, Her choicest SECRETS, digested into RECEIPTS, fitted for the Cure of all sorts of Infirmities, whether Internal or External, Acute or Chronical, that are Incident to the Body of Man is a thick compendium of household advice published in London in 1655. Among its "remedies for 'Soar Eyes' . . . recipes for marmalade, biscuits, broth, rosewater, and 'Washing Balls' (scented soap) . . . gardening advice, beauty tips, medicines for the plague, and guidelines for restoring wine that has become 'Sowre'" are instructions for knitting stockings: the earliest known printed knitting pattern! Author Chris Laning relates her efforts to knit from this pattern and offers her adaption for you to knit your own.

1861 Cottage-Industry Mittens
by Mary Lycan.
Photograph by Joe Coca.

Frequent PieceWork contributor Galina Khmeleva once again shares her extensive knowledge of and love for Orenburg knitting, this time with traditional mittens for men and boys. And when we learned of the adventures of the English Captain Burnaby on his unauthorized trip to Russia and his encounter with Orenburg knitting in 1875, we knew we had to include it.

There's much more. Each article and project in this issue adds to knitting's illustrious history.

Have a glorious time discovering it. I certainly did!

And if you're not a PieceWork subscriber, what are you waiting for? Subscribe now so you don't miss a thing in our upcoming issues.

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