Sunday 11 November 2012

Talking about Elizabeth Forster

Yesterday, I went to London to give a talk at the AGM of the Knitting History Forum, on Elizabeth Forster.  The meeting was at the London College of Fashion, just off Oxford Circus.  It was a very good day, though it meant an early start to get to the College for 10.45.    I forgot to take a camera with me (how daft is that?)  so I cannot show you photos of the splendid Christmas decorations in Oxford Street, or of the wonderful pieces of knitting that had been brought to the 'show and tell' session  You'll have to make do with a couple of book jackets off the web, and the title slide for my talk.  The title was suggested by Sandy Black, and I thought it was great - there must have been lots of knitting pattern designers working at the same time as Elizabeth Forster, and we know very little about them. The designers of the patterns published in magazines or by spinners were hardly ever named.  We don't even know many of their names - they were invisible.  

There were several other talks in the afternoon - a really interesting programme.  Lise Warburg from Denmark talked about twined knitting or "knitting with both ends of the ball".  The idea is to give a thicker warmer fabric, though it is often very decorative as well, whether or not both strands are the same colour.  Lise traced the geographic spread of the technique and suggested that it might be related to the travels of the Vikings through Eastern Europe to Byzantium.

Jane Malcolm-Davies gave a talk about the Tudor Tailor project - specifically about the replicas of 16th Century knitted children's clothes that have been made, and the difficulties in writing unambiguous instructions for them.  She brought along some of the replicas:  vests, caps, mittens, socks and a swaddling jacket.  I think that I have seen the original of one of the vests (or one like it) in the Museum of London, and tried to figure out through the glass how it was made, so it was fascinating to be able to examine the replica closely.  

Mary Hawkins talked about her efforts to find the replica of William Lee's 16th century knitting frame that was made by Eric Pasold. She eventually tracked it to the Science Museum in London.  The museum was able to supply her with photos of the models (it turned out that there were two) taken some time ago (with one of the models upside down), but although they haven't lost the actual models, they don't know exactly where they are....

Sandy Black finished the day with a talk on the work of Maria Luck Szanto who was a postwar designer of couture hand-knitted clothes.   I had heard Sandy give a similar talk at the In The Loop conference in September, but actually got a lot out of hearing it again.  The clothes she showed were beautiful - often constructed from several oddly-shaped pieces, which came together in the workshop  in a feat of virtuoso tailoring.  Often the stitch patterns were very intricate too (and always beautifully executed)   - fine pleats, lace patterns graduated to fit the shape of the garment, brocade patterns combined with beading.  Maria Luck-Szanto features in Sandy's new book, Knitting: Fashion, Industry, Craft, which is on my Christmas list. 

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