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A History of Hand Knitting

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  287 ratings  ·  33 reviews
This reference provides a full history of hand knitting by tracing the development and refinement of the craft. With special attention to the social aspects of knitting, it examines the changes in tools and techniques within different regions. Examined in detail are the history of European knitting before 1500, knitting in Britain from Henry VIII to the Commonwealth, from ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Interweave Press (first published January 1st 1987)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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Sep 17, 2009 added it
Shelves: read-in-2009

Believe it or not, I started this little history over a month ago: while I was wading through the blood and guts of Blood Meridian, I occasionally needed something with which to decompress, to take my mind off the gore and scalpings and other grotesqueries that make up McCarthy's novel. And what could be less offensive or more charming to a knitter like myself than Richard Rutt's classic treatise A History of Hand Knitting? Nothing, that's what. I leapt in and interspersed passages from Rutt
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to believe that in a world where hardcover books filled with full-color photos devoted to topics such as salt-and-pepper shakers, or mullets, have a place, there's little written (and much less photographed) history of handknitting. This well-researched, if out of date (much of the research extends no further than mid-twentieth century) book makes me feel less lonely in pursuing the topic: it covers knitting traditions in all regions to which it's native, and even includes ...more
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Although Rutt himself admits that his work is not complete, and in fact expresses his hopes that some later scholar might improve upon it, his History of Hand Knitting remains one of the most thorough histories of knitting to date. There are certainly pieces of his work that have been disputed and even disproven, but that was, I feel, part of the reason he published in the first place: to set the facts out as he found them, and invite others to continue his research.[return][return]Despite its ...more
An extremely in-depth and interesting look into what knitting is, how it came to be, and what distinguishes it from other, similar fiber crafts throughout the ages.
Amber Ray
May 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
At times too much, and at times not enough is what I'd say of this book. I'd had the impression knitting was an ancient craft and was sad to learn it's only Medieval-era or so, not truly ancient. I was also sad to learn Aran patterns are basically modern, and that "identifying" styles of ganseys are total myths.
The problems of this book: The tone as others have noted is terribly dry, very academic. There are also not near enough color photographs, not enough examples of knitted pieces, and NO
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, 2019
Note: I have both read the full book and listened to the audiobook which is an abridged version.

This is probably currently the most authoritative book on knitting written in English. While it does have some gaps, and Rutt puts forward some suggestions that have since been disproven, it is a delight to read and full of information for anyone interested in knitting, or the history of textile crafts. It is an academic book but is written in a style that makes it accessible to scholars and
Apr 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Wind your yarn around a goose thropple (windpipe) containing a few small stones. If you drop the ball the rattle of stones will help you find it.
This clever idea comes to you from 19th century English Dales and is just one example of the fun facts found in “A History of Hand Knitting”.

Another one is the debunking of The Irish Sweater Myth - turns out those beautiful heavy cables didn’t appear in Ireland until the beginning of the 20th Century. And the style was probably brought back to Ireland
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
All in all I enjoyed this book.

Some aspects of knitting had too much focus and others didn't have enough in my opinion. I feel like so much was written about before the 1500's that more modern day knitting weren't focused on enough to keep the book from being too long. Also there was too much focus on things that weren't actually knitting. We got whole sections on things that ended up being braids or woven items. It also ended super abruptly.

I really liked how the first chapter was on things
Melissa Croy
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Very interesting read. Debunked some myths and got a much greater understanding of the history of the craft. A great deal of detail and very informative. Agree with other critiques that the material could be better organized/structured, but I am glad to have read nonetheless.
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very dry overall, but just what I've been looking for, so I'm pleased!
Feb 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Overall, the book is well researched and interesting. The author is hesitant to make assumptions (which is nice) but does seem to have strong opinions on the proper way to hold your knitting needles.

This is a nice introduction to the history of hand knitting with a focus on the UK. This is a huge area of research and the author is trying to satisfy both an academic and casual reader's interest in the topic. For this reason there seems to be a lot of "dropped stitches". Areas where I could
Rachel Murphy
I have mixed thoughts on this book. Some parts I found interesting, such as the chapter on Shetland knitting (but then I would, given that I come from Shetland, and a long line of knitters!). But other chapters were tedious, especially the early chapters on the origins of knitting (which never seemed to come to a conclusion, presumably because nobody knows how, where and when knitting began). I think I was hoping for more description of how knitting had changed over time such as types of yarn, ...more
James Johnson
May 16, 2013 rated it liked it
This was well-written but a little too technical for me. I was thinking the book would focus on a brief history of knitting and then give examples of historical turning points with respect to knitting and textiles. What I got was a very detailed history of knitting and a lot of descriptions of many different stitches and their origins and what other stitches were influenced by them.

All in all this would be a very good book if you had a keen interest in or a developed skillset in the art of
Jun 04, 2012 rated it liked it
A fairly thorough, but very dry history of knitting, primarily in the British isles. You have to be VERY interested in the minutiae of knitting history to enjoy this and I found myself skimming much of the book. Rutt frequently would glance off a really interesting issue of, say, knitting and social class or the changing relationship between knitting and gender, then go back to writing extensive details about the shape of knitting sheaths in the Dales in the late 19th century, or something like ...more
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Somewhat out of date, and highly focused on Britain, but nevertheless a fascinating look at the history of hand knitting. Great photographs of old knitted pieces (although apparently there are supposed to be some color plates, which are not in the used copy I bought thru Alibris). Really enjoyable as my bedtime reading for the past couple of weeks.
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: knitting, owned-books
IF you want to know something about the history of knitting and you can find this book at anything approaching a reasonable price - BUY IT! Otherwise, use an inter-library loan so that you can read it. WARNING - I have seen copies on Amazon for $154.00. It isn't worth that much! IF you are doing Level 2 of the Master Knitter program you will want to read this book.
Wendy Williams
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
While the history jumps around a bit, the information is fabulous. It gives you many jumping off points to follow the history in areas that may appeal to the interested knitter to pursue. If you are not a knitter then it might not be a book for you, but anyone who knits and has a interest in how the craft developed, it's a great read. I'm very glad I read it.
Jun 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely interesting book about the origins and history of hand knitting around the world. My only criticism is that the book is only available abridged on audiobook and that the narrator reads as though she's reading a text book. Otherwise, the content and writing is very good!
Lisa Patton
Apr 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Unless you knit, skip this one. I thought it was REALLY interesting, but that would be the knitting thing. I cannot imagine why anyone who does not knit would read this. And there are surely a great number of knitters who would find this excruciating. I like the history thing. What can I say?
Apr 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book has a ton of great information on the history of knitting, but be warned, it's a bit... academic. There were a couple of times that I realized that I'd quit reading and was just turning pages because my brain was full. Taken in small doses, though, it's an amazing book.
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so I'm a knitting nerd. I enjoyed learning about stuff like the origin of Fair Isle patterns and the days when hand knit socks were a cottage industry.
Feb 21, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I loved this history as an audiobook.
Apryl Anderson
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Both interesting and tedious at the same time.
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: audible
Short and odd. It was a worldwide history, sketchy in several areas (particularly American), and I had doubts about his research.
Jun 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
I don't know what I was expecting, but this was so dry that I couldn't get through half of it.
Dec 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to the abridged audio December 2009. The whole book is better, of course!
May 04, 2009 rated it liked it
One of the only accounts of the history of knitting.
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
supremely fascinating
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
A very interesting look at the history of hand knitting on the European continent and the spread of its influence. Not a page-turner for sure but a certainly a lens into a more quiet piece of history.
Marion Hogervorst
Adio book, awesome listening whilst knitting. Me thinks I want the paper version too :)
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Cecil Richard Rutt CBE, was an English Roman Catholic priest and a former Anglican bishop.

Rutt spent almost 20 years of his life serving as an Anglican missionary in South Korea, a country for which he developed a deep affection. He was perhaps the last of the line of scholar-missionaries, beginning with James Scarth Gale, Homer B. Hulbert, George Heber Jones and the Anglican bishop Mark Napier