Guide The Loving Stitch: A History of Knitting and Spinning in New Zealand

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Sewing, knitting and textile crafts

The earliest sewing machines were powered by a hand-propelled wheel on the side, but by the time sewing machines arrived in New Zealand foot-powered treadles were in use. Electric machines were available from the s and machines have since become increasingly sophisticated. Missionary women were the first knitters in New Zealand.

While women were the main knitters, working-class men also knitted. Edward Ward noted in his diary that steerage passenger Robert Wilson knitted during the voyage to New Zealand alongside his wife Margaret. Boys as well as girls from Scottish families learned the craft, and immigrants from the Shetland Islands were particularly well known for their knitting, which was an important source of income alongside fishing back home.

Socks, stockings, shawls, mufflers and baby clothes were the main items knitted in the early 19th century.


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Table linen and trimmings knitted from cotton yarn were a cheap substitute for lace. Even curtains and bed counterpanes were knitted. Some settlers brought spinning wheels with them to New Zealand and new ones were built on arrival. Jerseys started out as undergarments for naval and military men. Sailors and whalers wore jerseys called guernseys to protect them from salt water. Women and gentlemen were not similarly advised. Commercial knitting patterns for outer garments — sports jerseys for men and boys — were available from around During the First World War, women were urged to knit items such as socks, balaclavas, gloves and facecloths for New Zealand soldiers.

The number of knitted items produced was huge. In August alone, , items were made. This work popularised knitting and it became a major home craft alongside sewing.

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Women were also encouraged to take up spinning and contribute yarn to the war effort. To this end, in , Lady Liverpool ran a competition to design and build a spinning wheel. It was won by Wellington-based architect J. Chapman-Taylor, who then produced and sold his wheels. As knitting became widespread, more complex patterns were published. Everything from dresses to swimsuits was knitted. Girls and boys were taught to knit, though boys were usually confined to simple items like hot water bottle covers. Young women knitted for their boyfriends. Competitions for knitted garments were held at rural shows and church fairs.

Knitting skills were very valuable during the economic depression of the s. Women sold knitting to support their families. Old garments were unraveled and the yarn used for new clothes. Spinning wheels were rescued from sheds and attics or made anew with whatever materials were at hand. The yarn was knitted or woven. Women working as fleece-os gathering shorn wool in shearing sheds would roll freshly shorn wool on their thighs and knit the resulting strands with needles made from fencing wire in a practice known as uruahipi.

This practice was revived in during the first Wairoa Wool Week, a local wool promotion event, and it was called Kiwicraft. Home knitting was again in demand during the Second World War. Yarn was distributed to volunteers by the National Patriotic Fund Board and knitted items destined for soldiers were sent to local Red Cross branches.

By May , 1,, items had been knitted. Wool for personal use was in short supply, but it could be bought using clothing ration coupons. Fine wool used for baby clothes was rationed and reserved for pregnant women. As they had been during the economic depression, spinning wheels were brought back into more widespread use. The post-Second World War baby boom created significant demand for knitting yarn to clothe all those babies, and specialty shops flourished in the s.

However, the wider post-war demand for manufactured goods affected public perception of knitting — what was once a thrifty, sensible way of clothing families started to be seen as boringly suburban and second-best. Some feminists viewed knitting as the epitome of domestic servitude. Knitted garments became fashionable again in the s and patterns mimicking designer fashions were readily available. Knitting machines grew in popularity. However, the advent of cheap, imported commercially machine-knitted clothing in the s reduced knitting to a hobby, though it did become a popular one in the early s in line with renewed interest in handcrafts.

Spinning and weaving remained a hobby for some women after the war and became increasingly popular.

Home sewing

Embroidery, lace-making, crochet, tatting and quilting are all home crafts which were brought to New Zealand by European settlers in the 19th century. Embroidery is decorative, fine needlework. It is used to embellish clothing, accessories and furnishings with pictures and patterns as well as for creating decorative textiles to hang on walls. Missionary women were the first embroiderers in New Zealand. Hannah King was a particularly skilled needlewoman. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, girls demonstrated their embroidery skills by working samplers, pieces of cloth embellished with different stitches.

In embroidery was removed from the school examination schedule but it was still done by many women, and embroidery guilds were formed. In the s embroidered woollen wall hangings were popular and women embroidered their clothing — even jeans. In the early s it was possible to easily convert hand-drawn pictures into embroidery patterns using digital embroidery software.

That idea is quite wrong. Any sudden embroidery super-imposed on a garment cannot help but be wrong.

Episode 14: Podiversary: knitting, NZ wool and dollmaking

All decoration must be as far as possible part of the construction of the garment or it must at least following the lines of the construction, having been planned from the beginning. In lace, crochet and tatting, thread is worked to create intricate patterns. These crafts are commonly used to create doilies small cloths placed on furniture , tablecloths, handkerchief borders, clothing cuffs and collars. In England, Devonshire and the East Midlands were major centres of lacemaking and migrants from these counties would have continued to make lace in New Zealand.

Making lace by hand was a very skilled and time-consuming task, and it was particularly valuable for this reason. Crochet and tatting were simpler crafts and sometimes used as a substitute for lace. These crafts were still practised on a small scale in the early s. Quilting is where two or more pieces of material are sewn together and filled to form one thicker, padded piece of material. Quilts can be made from large blocks of material or many small bits pieced together, and were commonly used as bedspreads. Patchwork quilts were a good way of using and not wasting scraps of material.

During the Second World War, when fabric was in short supply, cotton sugar bags were cut up and used in quilts. Quilts for exclusively artistic purposes wall hangings for example started to be made in New Zealand around the early s. Abbott, Jean, and Shirley Bourke. Else, Anne, ed.

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View Count: This is a second-hand soft-cover book Condition: The cover has surface rubbing, light fading to the spine area, and a small bump to the top right corner on the front cover. There is light age spotting to the edges of the compressed pages. The rest of the book has no faults. The pages are clean and bright. Knitting came to New Zealand with the missionaries and Heather Nicholson constantly reminds us of the ancient European history of the craft. But her main focus is on a chronological picture of antipodean knitting which is also a history of the domestic lives of women, of their resourcefulness, their talent, their sociability.

She follows the growth of pattern books, the role of knitting for the troops in two world wars, knitting in the Depression and the recent interest in art knitting.


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She also explores the different items produced by the skilled knitter, from jerseys and guernseys, to counterpanes, socks and stockings and the scarf that stretched right round Parliament Buildings. She is a mine of fascinating information: did you know the origin of the Peggy square?

Knitting: A Global History (Bibliography) - charityneavejohnson

Always broad and generous in her approach, she also includes material on spinning and on the woollen industry; and intersperses throughout a rich collection of anecdotes, memories and good advice, much of it drawn from the personal experience of knitters and spinners. There were no answered questions or comments placed on this listing. You must have Javascript enabled to ask and answer questions Your question and answer privileges have been disabled.

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