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.