December 7, 2019

Knitting by numbers: Typical Tudor teamwork, timelines and trips

Test sleeves by (L to R): Anne Gunnar, Belinda Tartaglio, Faye Esswein, Laura Hämäri, Tine Jensen & Vivienne Carey

The Typical Tudor will break new ground in the reconstruction of 16th century adult dress with detailed instructions for knitted garments.

Jane and Ninya have worked with Rachel Frost (The Crafty Beggars), Lesley O’Connell Edwards, and Sally Pointer to work out ways of reconstructing 16th century knitted hats, sleeves and stockings. The book will feature advice on materials and ways of knitting simple items such as garters and more complex headwear in several different styles, including the iconic split-brimmed cap of the ordinary man.

The knitted garment instructions for the book are currently undergoing rigorous testing by The Tudor Tailor’s citizen science team of knitters (see image above). The knitted sleeves, which are based on originals in the museum collections at Groningen (Netherlands) and Norwich (United Kingdom), will be available to knit in plain and fancy versions. Another group of knitters has just joined the team from the volunteer sewing group at The National Trust’s Compton Castle in Devon led by Rosemary Griggs, a local costumed interpreter. They are hard at work testing the instructions for a coif cap and a split-brimmed cap with its separate lining, both of which require at least 45 minutes’ fulling with a pair of mallets to achieve the appropriate napped surface. Detailed fulling instructions will also be included in The Typical Tudor. The cap and lining are based on numerous original examples, which can be viewed in the Knitting in Early Modern Europe online database.

The other exciting knitting news is that Jane has been awarded a grant of €25,000 by the Agnes Geiger Foundation, a Swedish textile research fund administered by the Royal Academy in Stockholm. She will use the budget to radiocarbon date the knitted samples from her study of 16th century caps, Knitting in Early Modern Europe. This promises to reveal whether all the knitted caps thought to be 16th century are as old as presumed or earlier/later in date. A first batch has already been through the C14 lab at Uppsala University and the results will be revealed during the Missing Persons conference.

Jane gave a paper at the Texel Silk Stockings project finalé conference in Leiden at the beginning of November, where Sally also presented her work on developing reconstructions for the reenactment market based on original items, and Lesley provided interesting details about knitters in 17th century England. Susan North from the V&A Museum, a speaker in the Missing Persons programme for next April, also talked about her experimental work for The Globe knitting silk stockings for Mark Rylance to wear in the 1990s. Hanna Bäckström also discussed the earliest evidence for knitting instructions and their development.

The launch event for the book, the Missing Persons conference from Friday 3 to Sunday 5 April, has been extended to offer an additional knitting-themed event on Monday 6 April. There will be a special visit to the Framework Knitters Museum at Ruddington, Nottingham. It will include demonstrations of the knitting frames and machines, a tour of the knitters’ cottages and the textile collection. The visit will be hosted by Julia Holm from Uppsala University’s Textile Studies department, who works with 19th and 20th century archival sources and preserved garments to recreate machine knitted clothing for Skansen open air museum in Stockholm, focusing on women's coats, waistcoats, and jackets circa 1904. There will be a small additional charge of £10 for this bonus conference event and places will be limited. Book yours via the Missing Persons Facebook page (available to conference ticket holders only).

Sign up to attend Missing Persons and receive one of the first copies of The Typical Tudor at the gala dinner on Saturday 4 April 2020 here. Full details of the event programme are available on The Tudor Tailor’s website. General release of the book will be in May. Pre-order your copy here.

The Archaeological Textiles Review 2018 (number 60), edited by Jane and devoted to the scholarly and scientific study of evidence for early knitting, features many previously unpublished knitted items. It is now available to buy from The Tudor Tailor’s Etsy shop at £25 plus P&P.