Thursday, March 29, 2007

Books on the History of Knitting

Catie asked, and I figured it deserved it's own post.

Unfortunately, I have nothing to recommend. "A History of Hand Knitting" by Richard Rutt is the only big-picture overview of the history of knitting available in the English language, and, well, it sucks. He gives a biased, Christianized view of things that is pretty horribly inaccurate when faced with the archeological record.

Same goes for anything by James Norbury. He's worse than Rutt.

You can get bit-and-piece history lessons from other types of knitting books, though, and they're often really good.

"Folk Socks" by Nancy Bush has a good history of socks in it.
"Victorian Lace Today" by Jane Sowerby has an excellent history of lace-knitting-as-parlor art and the 'patternization' era of knitting.
"The Art of Fair Isle Knitting" by Ann Feitelson has a good history of Fair Isle knitting in it.
"Knitting in the Nordic Tradition" by Vibke Lind is like a history book with patterns in it.
"Poems of Color" by Wendy Keele has an excellent but very specialized history of Bohus Knitting in Sweden in it.
"Knitting in the Old Way" by Gibson-Roberts and Robson is another history book with patterns in it.

Not much help, I guess, but I don't think Rutt's worth the money it would cost to buy.

Not to toot my own horn, but my own article on the history of knitting is here.
And a rant about what's wrong with most knitting history is here.


Amy Lane said...

Nice list... but you know, I bet you could probably write a masters thesis based on your own research that would be much more readable... (since you're planning to go back to school and all...) hint hint hint hint... (I'm sorry...I'm shamelessly begging you to write more.)

Julie said...

Ha. The basis for the article I've already written was a research paper for school. I just rewrote it less formally and submitted it to Knitty.

And if I get a degree it's going to be in something that doesn't care about knitting, like plant genetics or organic chemistry.

Amy Lane said...

You could probably make that interesting, even to me, and I'm a science idiot!!!!

Julie said...

I have a theory that any subject can be made interesting, if explained by a person who knows enough about it, is articulate, and loves it himself. The hubby has an uncle who built nucelar power plants back in the day, and I go to him with most of my science questions. He can explain more in one sentence than my high school chem teacher could explain in an hour. And make me enjoy it.

Alwen said...

Naturally I'm prejudiced since I'm a member, but I consider Historic Knit (the Yahoo group) better than most of the books out there. Rutt, well, he said himself his book was a starting point. Too bad none of the knitting publishers are taking knitting history any further than Rutt.

What I like best about the Yahoo group is when someone brings up brand NEW "oldest knitting", like the Estonian (it is Estonian, isn't it?) mitten fragments. I love that stuff.

Catie said...

i know about your article julie - that is why I am so interested - i am hooked.

i agree about your theory on a good teacher/professor will hook you into the topic. That is how I ended up majoring in psychology and my husband in chemistry. One prof was such a nice guy, awesome fantabulous teacher, smart, and interesting that he is our friend and my husbands mentor. I think that if I ever took one of his courses I would have switched majors (again)...