My apologies for the lateness of today's post, the fault of a missing internet connection. Here's a quickie featuring a wonderful on-line resource:
Historians come in many forms. Richard Rutt (1925-2011) was an Anglican bishop, scholar-missionary, and, late in life, a Roman Catholic priest. While his interests ranged from Classical Chinese to Korean history, he was also passionately interested in the craft and history of knitting. He wrote what many consider the definitive book – A History of Hand Knitting – that is fascinating reading even for non-knitters. Armed with careful documentation, he wasn't afraid to debunk well-treasured myths about the craft, including the "legend" of the Irish fisherman sweater.
His extensive collection of early knitting manuals and books is now held at the Winchester School of Art Library, University of Southampton, and has recently been digitized. These early "how-to" books are a treasure not only to adventuresome knitters who wish to make the projects (though be forewarned: terminology has changed over the years, and early patterns often don't make sense to modern knitters), but to costume historians as well. They also show the many ways that needlework is viewed by society: a necessary skill to help clothe a woman's family; a lady-like endeavor; "good works" via charity knitting; patriotic effort during war-time; and artistic expression.
Above left: Cover, The Seventh Book of "Hows": or How to Knit and Crochet Wools, 1911, London. Right: Cover, Ladies Work for Sailors, late 19th c. published by the Mission to Seamen, London. Both images courtesy of The Richard Rutt Collection: Winchester School of Art Library
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.