Think back to a time when every stitch was handspun

Knitting Traditions are Spinning Traditions

A note from Amy Clarke Moore: I've invited Jeane Hutchins, the editor of PieceWork magazine (one of Spin-Off's sister magazines), to talk about the bookazine she's been working on this winter, the beautiful and inspiring second edition of Knitting Traditions. This 148-page special issue includes new content as well as some selected and pulled together from back issues of PieceWork and Interweave books. Sit back and enjoy the historical highlights in Knitting Traditions that Jeane describes—and keep this in mind: before the industrial revolution and the invention of the spinning mule in 1779 by Samuel Crompton in England, every stitch of clothing people wore was made from handspun yarn.

 


The reproduction of Mary Allen's gloves. Photo: Joe Coca.

Elements from the Andean figure purses. Photo: Joe Coca.

The scalloped edging C. E. Hobert used on his knitted lace. Photo: Joe Coca.

Welcome to Knitting Traditions! I'm so pleased to have this opportunity to introduce you to the second edition of this 148-page special issue from Spin-Off's sister magazine PieceWork.

Putting it together was an amazing journey for me. I got to vicariously travel back in time, starting in the late Iron Age (circa 500–1 B.C.), and to places far and wide—from the Arabian Peninsula to Europe and the Americas. The entire trip just re-emphasized how amazingly rich the history of knitting is. Here are a few highlights: 

  • If someone told you that Daniel Defoe mentioned knitting in a book published in 1724, you'd probably say what I said, "Get out!" Although most well known for Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, Defoe was a prolific writer, and in the first of his three-volume A tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, published between 1724 and 1726, he wrote about knitters in England's Yorkshire Dales: ". . . here you see all the people, great and small, a knitting . . ." So there you have it—famous eighteenth-century author Daniel Defoe discussing knitting! As early as the seventeenth century in the Dales region of England, everyone—women, men, and children—were involved in spinning, knitting, and weaving. Happily, some of their knitting has survived, including Mary Allen's gloves worked in stranded knitting.
  • Andean knitters have been creating whimsical yet highly useful handspun and knitted coin purses (called monederos) for well over a century. The 3-D forms vary from well-dressed male and female figures to animals, particularly llamas and bulls. I absolutely adore them (and think I've found my next collecting addiction!).
  • And then there's C. E. Hobert. While serving a life sentence for murder, beginning in 1895 at the Yuma (Arizona) Territorial Prison, C. E. knitted lace. Honest! And it's really beautifully done. The prison is now a state historic park and five of his knitted lace pieces are in their collection.

In all, you'll find instructions for forty-five projects, including Mary Allen's gloves, a hat and cape from one of the Andean figure purses, and the edging C. E. Hobert used in his knitted lace in Knitting Traditions. You'll also find a host of knitting history facts and lore like the ones above. I do hope you'll take your own Knitting Traditions journey and join me in this celebration of knitting and the knitters who came before us!

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