Preservation is one of the key aims of the Knitting & Crochet Guild. The history of our crafts can only be maintained if we preserve what has been created in the past, both the objects themselves as well as the methods and techniques used to create them.
Although the Guild was formed in 1978 it was not until 1990 that its collections were started. In recent years, the Guild has collected material relating to domestic knitting and crochet in the UK. A substantial project is being undertaken to review the collections to enable the Guild to rationalise its holdings and to make them available more widely to members and others in the knitting and crochet community.
An interim description of the collections
Sorting and cataloguing of the collections is still in progress. Briefly, the collections consist of
- knitted and crocheted items;
- tools and accessories;
- yarns and shade cards;
- and publications (books, magazines and pattern leaflets & booklets).
Some items date from before 1900, although the majority is post-1945. It is probably the largest collection of domestically-produced knitted and crocheted textiles and related material in the UK.
Knitted and crocheted items
There are about 2000 of these, hand knitted, domestic machine knitted or crocheted, some combining these techniques. There are garments of all sorts (men's, women's and children's), household items and decorative pieces. Materials include wool, for many of the knitted pieces, and cotton for much of the crochet. In age, the collection ranges from pre-Victorian to late twentieth century. It varies from museum-quality pieces to pieces representative of 'everyday' domestic production typical of the mid twentieth century. There are samples of regional patterns such as Shetland and Aran and 'designer' pieces from the 1980s when knitwear was high fashion.
Knitting and crochet tools and accessories
The collection includes:
- needles and hooks of all types and materials;
- needle boxes, holders and gauges;
- yarn holders and many other accessories and gadgets such as knitting bobbins.
Yarns and shade cards
Sample lengths and the ball band have been collected from about 800 yarns. There is also a collection of shade cards.
The publications collection focuses on material published in the UK and covering knitting and crochet in this country. The library contains around 2000 books. The magazine collection includes publications dating from around 1900, e.g. several of the Weldon's series and Fancy Needlework Illustrated. Later magazines include almost complete runs of the long-running British magazines that covered hand knitting and crochet, notably Vogue Knitting, Stitchcraft, Needlewoman and Needlecraft and Pins and Needles, as well as many other shorter-lived magazines. European magazines with a UK edition are kept (e.g. Mon Tricot, Pingouin). There is comprehensive coverage of machine knitting magazines.
There is a large selection of general women's magazines, mostly from the 1920s to 1950s, that included knitting or crochet patterns. More than 30 different titles are represented. The collection includes a number of part-works, including Golden Hands and Creative Knitting.
Many miscellaneous publications have also been collected, including magazine pull-out supplements and gift books, and special issues on knitting and crochet from a range of magazines. There are pattern leaflets produced by newspapers as a reader service, and others given away with a wide range of products, from soap flakes to cornflakes.
A very large and important component consists of pattern leaflets and booklets published by spinners and other publishers such as Bestway; there are upwards of 50,000 of these.
Using the Collections
The collections are intended to support the study and practice of knitting and crochet in the UK. Members, knitting & crochet practitioners and designers will find much to inform, inspire or amuse in the collections. They will be useful to students and academics in several fields, for instance, design, gender studies, material culture, social history and textiles and textile history. The collections are housed at Lee Mills near Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. Anyone wishing to see the collections can visit by arrangement.
We also welcome volunteers to help finish sorting and cataloguing.
Barbara Smith, Publications Curator
Angharad Thomas, Textiles Archivist
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