HNW - knitting trivia

Deborah Pulliam pulliam at acadia.net
Tue Sep 8 06:59:42 PDT 1998


<<take items apart and wash and dry the thread and rewind it to be
used over again....now wouldnt you think that those who knitted during the
middle ages and before would also do this?>>

Unfortunately, I think this is one of those things that sounds very
reasonable and sensible to a twentieth century mind, but not necessarily to
those in another era.

Aside from parfilage (the practice of picking apart gold thread from
fabric, whether knitted, woven or embroidered), which was quite a fad in
the eighteenth century amongst the wealthy, I've never seen any evidence of
items being unravelled and reknitted. There are probably several reasons
for this--

- ---most knitting (in northern and western Europe, at least) was done in
wool or silk. Silk was unpicked (see above) but then sold as precious
metal, not thread. If you've ever examined a garment with gold thread,
you'd see it really couldn't be unravelled and reused, especially if it was
much worn.

- ---Wool typically was heavily fulled after knitting, which would make it
impossible to unravel.

- ---Clothing was very valuable, especially prior to the
seventeenth-eighteenth centuries, and was frequently sold, and left to
specific people in wills. In the wills I've looked at for people of the
yeoman class in sixteenth century England, clothing was usually the single
most valuable group of item in the will (frequently more valuable than the
livestock and what little furniture they had.) The yarn was more valuable
as a garment/accessory than as raw material to be reused.

- ---Because of its value and relative scarcity, clothing was mended far more
than in later years, and frequently remade. This applies to knitted pieces
as well -- most  of the flat caps I've examined have be mended, and many
have pieces of several caps worked into one. Stockings were of course
darned and mended. I've also seen ones that have a foot cut off and
attached to a different leg.

- ---Fashions changed much more slowly then, so there was no reason to reknit
something to make it more up to date.

- ---a lot of knitting was done professionally, so the wearer wouldn't
necessarily be able to reknit the yarn her/himself.


Deborah


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