Book Launch for ‘Knitting – Fashion, Industry, Craft’

I was determined. I wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t – I would not buy a book from the launch party of Knitting – Fashion, Industry, Craft. Don’t get me wrong. I was delighted to have been invited, but my bookshelves already groan. So I decided restraint was in order.

Yep, that lasted about half an hour. Here’s Sandy signing my copy.

This book is superb. A comprehensive history of knitting from the third century to present day, calling on the V&A’s extensive collection. From 16th-century Spanish gloves to 18th-century knitted petticoats, a 1589 knitting frame, and 1950s couture knitting – they’re all here. Sandy traces knitting across the social divides – as piece work for the poverty stricken, via a genteel pursuit in 19th-century drawing rooms to the 1920s when knitting became democratised.

She touches on the twin set, 1950s sweater girls, the 1970s domestic knitting machine (My mum had one! I remember it made her swear a lot!), couture knits, charity knitting, Craftifivism, wild knitting, punk knitting … everything!

And then there are the photos.

This is my absolute favourite. It’s a Shetland worker, c1890, knitting to supplement her income whilst carrying peat fuel in a kishie. How amazing is she? I think I have it hard if I can’t get a morning latte on my way to work!

I’m fascinated by this photo, even as it makes me wriggle with discomfort. It’s from a 1951 Vogue shoot of ‘quintessentially British fashions in various iconic locations’. Ouch. Let’s take the posh bird in a twin set and sit her next to a working class miner in a flat cap. There’s ironic and there’s … insulting? Wonder how many trips down the pit he’d have had to take to buy his wife a twin set. Still, I’m sure he earned a fee for the photograph.

Moving on! I find it bizarre that I actually own the 1920s knitting pattern for this scarf, in a book my sister bought me, Vintage Knitwear for Modern Knitters:

Can you tell? I really love Knitting – Fashion, Industry, Craft. It’s part of a dying breed – good quality paper, excellent standards, hardback, carefully indexed, expertly written and beautifully illustrated. And the launch party. It was so innocent, definitely from a bygone age. No singing or dancing, performing actors, printed book marks, Youtube promotional videos, live Tweeting – none of that. Just a table of books, the author, a lecture, some wine. Sandy hadn’t even brought a pen to sign copies with! This isn’t me criticising, don’t get me wrong, just reflecting. These days, an author so often also needs to be a performer, high kicking his or her way into sales success.

Not Sandy. She and the V&A are above all that. A fact I rather like.

UPDATE Sandy is giving a lecture on 15 November for V&A members.

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7 Responses to Book Launch for ‘Knitting – Fashion, Industry, Craft’

  1. Fabulous looking book. Must put it on my Christmas list. Thank you Karen!

  2. Thank you for the review AND losing your control so quickly. The book does look fabulous and I am only not putting it on my Christmas list because of the blank stares I’d get from the blokes in my life! Also, bookshelves were made to groan. It’s in their job brief, honest. Look in the small print bit. And, furthermore, I want to know have you made that wonderful scarf?? (It’s beautiful.)

  3. Kerry says:

    That book looks great, one for the Christmas list.

  4. Pat(ricia) Taylor says:

    I don’t knit and I want the book! I could work up a trade…vintage & new mags, notions and books, a package worthy of a trade?

  5. gingermakes says:

    Whoa, this book looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Liz says:

    This book looks great, I have added to my wishlist so hopefully someone will buy it for me for Xmas. I have been wanting to make that jumper on the front for a while and have it my Ravelry queue – maybe this will be the push I need!

  7. LinB says:

    I do love a good historical knitting research book! I dimly remember from a decades-ago reading of “No Idle Hands” that, in 18th century northern England, each household servant girl on a farm was expected to knit at least one sock a day — in addition to all her other duties — to supplement the family’s income with the cottage industry of sock-making. Let’s hope she was allowed to use large needles and bulky wool!

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