The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Knitting

 

Description.

 

Status Currently viable
Craft category  Textiles
Historic area of significance  UK
Area currently practised  UK
Origin in the UK
Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Current no. of trainees  1000+
Current no. of skilled craftspeople  1000+
Current total no. of craftspeople  1000+ (see ‘Other information’ for further details)

 

History

 

Techniques

 

Local forms

 

Sub-crafts

Shetland lace hand knitting: Shetland lace is an extremely delicate knitted fabric made with soft Shetland wool spun into very fine yarn and knitted into intricate patterns. Shetland lace is traditionally made with wool taken from the throats of native sheep as this is considered to be the finest. The wool is hand carded or brushed between a pair of wooden paddles covered on one side with small metal teeth or tines, and then spun into a gossamer thread. For really fine Shetland lace, the spinner will spin only one strand. For two-ply lace, two strands are twisted together. There are many classic Shetland lace stitches such as old shell, razor shell, bead, feather and fan, fern, trailing leaf, spider diamond and rose diamond.Shetland lace was the mainstay of the Shetland knitwear industry during the nineteenth century. Arthur Anderson, one of the founders of P&O Shipping Company, introduced Shetland shawls to Queen Victoria and from there it became fashionable for ladies to wear Shetland shawls and stockings.

Fair Isle hand knitting: A knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colours, traditional to Fair Isle and the Shetland Islands in Scotland. Traditional Fair Isle patterns have a limited palette of five or so colours, use only two colours per row, are worked in the round, and limit the length of a run of any particular colour. A highly successful crowd-funded project launched in 2015, Shetland Peerie Makkers, is working to safeguard Shetland hand-knitting.

Traditional glove knitting: The craft of knitting gloves by hand to traditional patterns, particularly the ‘Sanquhar’ glove from Dumfriesshire which have a distinctive two colour pattern. The Sanquhar glove is characterised by the use of fine wool, two colours (most commonly, black and white or yellow and brown), and small all-over patterns. Other features include the cuff, knitted in two colours, the initials of the wearer above the cuff, and the sharply-shaped thumb gusset. Traditional patterns include the ‘Duke’, ‘rose and trellis’, ‘cornet and drum’, ‘drum and trellis’, ‘Prince of Wales’, ‘shepherd’s plaid’ and the ‘midge and flea’. The designs have been documented in a Japanese book, Traditional gloves in Scotland (in Japanese). Today, Sanquhar gloves are not made on a commercial basis but knitting as a leisure activity is huge. They are knitted for sale by about 6 women in Sanquhar itself (including May McCormick, A’ the Airts, and the Upper Nithsdale Community), and by people all over the world but not usually for sale. See the online exhibition by the American Centre for Knit and Crochet for further history of the Sanquhar glove. There is a globally active Sanquhar knitting group on the knitting website Ravelry. There are also a couple of enterprises in Scotland knitting Sanquhar patterns by machine.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

Number of craftspeople: Knitting is a hugely popular craft, mostly undertaken on an amateur/hobby basis but often to an extremely high level. Very few people make their living through hand knitting.

 

References