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Historical Knitting: A trip through time in the new issue of PieceWork

Jan 13, 2010

Miss Money's Fly's Body pattern with sample
knitted in cotton. Photograph courtesy of
June Hall.

A note from Kathleen: I'm a history-phile. I love the History Channel; the most recent thing I watched was a two-hour program called "Russia: Land of the Tsars." Heaven! (And "The Tudors"? Enough said.) I also love a historical mystery and the occasional romance—Outlander, anyone? That's why I'm crazy about this issue of PieceWork. It's full of fascinating, historical information about our first love: knitting! When I got the issue, I sat down with a cup of coffee and read it from cover to cover. I know you'll love it, too.

Here's editor Jeane Hutchins to show you what this issue of
PieceWork has to offer, so prepare your hot beverage of choice and relax with some knitting history!

Knitting through Time

I think I lead a charmed life as the editor of PieceWork! The January/February 2010 issue, our 4th annual Historical Knitting issue, is a case in point.

In the spring of 2008, Donna Druchunas, a frequent contributor, stopped by the office to introduce me to June Hall from England. June, an avid knitter, historian, author, and keeper of a flock of rare Soay sheep, shared the handwritten instructions for and tiny samples of lace-knitted edgings and insertions that she found in a copy of a nineteenth-century pattern book.

Since the writing matched the inscription on the book's flyleaf (dated 1847), the instructions surely were penned by the owner of the book, Miss Money. The page with the intriguingly named Fly's Body pattern with its intriguing symbols and sample is above. June deciphered the symbols and shares them, along with several of the other patterns and her quest to find information on Miss Money.

Nancy Bush's unusually-shaped mitts.
Photograph by Joe Coca
Laurann Gilbertson, textile curator at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, sent a 1944 book about traditional Norwegian handcoverings to Nancy Bush (well-known author, designer, teacher, and a member of our editorial advisory panel). Among the objects depicted in the book was a knitted "offering" mitt. As soon as I saw the photograph, I knew Nancy's version of these unusually shaped mitts would be perfect (they're shown at right). In her article, Nancy explains the practical reason for their unusual shape.

I learned that Barbara G. Walker, knitting legend and author of the beloved Treasury of Knitting Patterns books, was going to the 2009 Sock Summit with Schoolhouse Press owner Meg Swansen (also a member of our editorial advisory panel).

Detail of Barbara G. Walker's Diamond
Basketweave pattern. Photograph by Joe Coca.
I instantly called Meg and asked her to please "introduce me" to Barbara, and let her know that I would be thrilled to have her contribute to a future issue of PieceWork.

My phone rang one day, and it was Barbara Walker—I could barely get a coherent word out—all I could think about was "Oh my, I'm talking to Barbara Walker!" A never-before-published Barbara Walker stitch pattern is included in this issue (it's our cover and a detail is shown at left).

Definitely charmed, don't you think? And these are only three examples! To see all (including Donna Druchunas's very compelling article, "Knitting in Jewish Lithuania") click here to try our 4th annual Historical Knitting issue—free. I hope you will be delighted.


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Angharad wrote
on Feb 14, 2010 1:40 AM

All this is wonderful, but is it not possible to put more into electronic formatting?

I'm teaching in China and NOTHING is available here... not even your offers!  So I am becoming reluctant to even open your e-mails.

Why can't you offer the free copy as an e-book for download?



leilacat wrote
on Jan 20, 2010 10:33 AM

I subscribed to Piecework at the end of October attracted by the exquisite work featured on the covers of recent issues. My first issue finally arrived this month and I am quite frankly a little disappointed, I knit and I like to knit but if I wanted a knitting magazine I would have subscribed accordingly. Lovely work and interesting content but leaves me cold.


Katneedle wrote
on Jan 19, 2010 5:09 AM

I would love to read about all the articles and patterns I see on Knitting Daily and other sites. Unfortunately, living in Britain means that I don't have easy access to most publications shown, living in Wales as I do means even less access; I often have to ask if Interweave Knits is still on order at my local newspaper shop; Interweave Crochet disappeared some time ago without trace. I've seen Piecework there once or twice but not recently. So for me, Knitting Daily is an important window on what's happening in the knitting world and a vital resource of beautiful patterns. Thank you Knitting Daily!

scknitter2 wrote
on Jan 18, 2010 10:44 AM

Looks great! Can hardly wait to get my issue!

YamunaW wrote
on Jan 14, 2010 7:06 PM

Yes, historical fiction!  I'm a major fan of the Outlander series.  I just finished the 7th book.  I'm also a nut for info on historical textiles.

Ron@3 wrote
on Jan 14, 2010 5:32 PM

Just began a subscription to Piecework and loved the History issue. I never really thought about that slant on knitting for a magazine. Wonderful! Thanks.


Judy Olson wrote
on Jan 13, 2010 8:47 PM

Russia, my husband and i are also fans of the history channel. That was a great show. Thanks for my e-mails.

Jerrolynn wrote
on Jan 13, 2010 7:15 PM

I have some hand knitted lace that was on the edge of some pillowcases my 2nd great grandmother made.  She was born in Nov 1847 & lived until I was 5 years old.  I knew & remember her.  I have always loved knitting.  I learned how as a 17 year old.  The first thing I ever knitted was a pair of argyle socks which were the things to do in 1951.  But they were knitted out of pure wool & in those days moths loved to eat them.  We had forms to place them on to air dry them.  You could buy a kit with instructions, the various colors of wool, & nylon reinforcement to knit into the heels & toes.  They were done on 4 straight needles, using bobbins to change the colors & the only sewing was to finish the back of the sock from top to where the back of the heel was.  Jeri Jensen      

ReitaJ wrote
on Jan 13, 2010 2:00 PM

I too, get Piecework Magazine and love the patterns as well as the articles. I love the historical articles how handwork was done and used through out the "ages" . <It is a really great magazine!!  Reita Julien    Dunnville, Ontario Canada

on Jan 13, 2010 12:48 PM

I love the knitting edition and, frankly that's the only reason I subscribe to Piecework.  If you had the knitting edition year-round I would snap it up in a heartbeat. Sandy Meadows

Knitto wrote
on Jan 13, 2010 9:34 AM

When I got my latest issue of Piecework I sat down and did absolutely nothing until I read it from cover to cover!  My DH wanted to know if I was planning to cook dinner that night - guess what the answer was......nope, it's your turn!  LOL!

This is such a quality magazine - thank you!!!!

Mary Ann@39 wrote
on Jan 13, 2010 8:12 AM

The latest issue of Piecework had me at the cover.  I sat down with it and thoroughly enjoyed my trip through history.  The staff should be so proud of themselves for producing such quality.  I could not put it down until I had it finished.  Thank you so much.