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Knitting early modern Europe: materials, manufacture and meaning

Objective

The development of knitting was a key technological innovation for which there is little published scientific evidence. There are more than 100 knitted caps from the early modern era in museum collections worldwide - an astonishing number given the paucity of extant garments from the period. Despite their diverse locations, they have remarkable similarities in their materials and manufacture which illustrate trade in knitted caps as consumer goods in the emerging early modern European marketplace, demonstrate how knitting created new fashions for men indicative of rank and status, and facilitate theory on the cultural significance of the hat as an essential male accessory. My preliminary study of the caps tracks clear patterns in the data: five typologies are identifiable and when contextualised with pictorial and documentary sources, their cultural significance as functional and fashionable men’s wear is clear. I believe the caps’ potential as indicators of the development and growth of knitting technology is valuable yet vulnerable. The caps are fragile and deteriorating, a process accelerated by each viewing, for which there is pressing and unsatisfied demand. I propose immediate rigorous scientific study (radiocarbon dating, microscopic examination, x-radiography, fibre and dye identification, and degradation analysis) and interdisciplinary research into contemporary sources to chart an economic map of early knitting, to define terminology for further scholarly work, and to develop theory about men’s headwear in the 16th century. An online database will make the data accessible to scholars, museum pedagogues and craftspeople, who demand access to the caps. Journal articles, practical workshops and social media will disseminate my conclusions and my development of theory. I will give voice to an eloquent body of evidence about early modern knitting technology, which threatens to be silenced forever if scientific analysis is delayed.

Field of science

  • /humanities/history and archaeology/archaeology
  • /humanities/history and archaeology/history
  • /social sciences/economics and business/economics/production economics
  • /engineering and technology/materials engineering/textiles

Call for proposal

H2020-MSCA-IF-2014
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-CAR - CAR – Career Restart panel

Coordinator

KOBENHAVNS UNIVERSITET
Address
Norregade 10
1165 Kobenhavn
Denmark
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 212 194,80