Archive for the ‘Knitting Reference Library’ Category

tom of holland

Image – Tom Van Deijnen wearing his own making, I think socks, gloves and trousers.

I met up with Tom Van Deijnen late last year at MADE in Brighton to interview him following his very good paper given at In the loop 3: the voices of knitting. He had spoken about his “Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches” which received thunderous applause from the delegates. Tom has visited the Knitting Reference Library located at Winchester School of Art a few times. He has always found much to interest him as a knitter. So I decided to find out more about him.

The pleasure of making

Of course his mum is a really good knitter, she can famously knit, watch tv and do a crossword all at the same time! Tom remembers choosing the colours for a polo neck Fair Isle type jumper she knitted him when he was about twelve. However she did not teach him to knit. He learnt at primary school where he knitted a tiny cable scarf for his teddy bear, with the not unusual beginners problem of too tight tension. He told me he has always liked making and that he just can’t stop it. This is perhaps one of the reasons that knitting and sewing have made a notable comeback. “The pleasure and meaning of making” by Ellen Dissanayake from American Craft, vol.52, no.2, pages 40-45, published in 1995 is an interesting article on this subject. She discusses the centrality of making in everyday life.

Tom now knits for his mum.


Image – a very beautiful scarf knitted by Tom for his mother

Early projects

Although Tom took a different path through school he continued making and seriously returned to knitting in his early thirties. Seeing a Paul Smith scarf he coveted he decided to knit his own version using Rowan felted tweed in russet-brown. Running out of wool near completion led to an improvisation with a purple stripe and tassels.

A tank top followed using a Sirdar pattern which proved too prescriptive stifling this makers own creativity. At this point he turned to the books of Elizabeth Zimmerman describing her as “the knitter’s companion”. Her emphasis on construction, pattern elements and stitches proved a good fit. Consequently a key tip from Tom is “always knit a swatch”.

Sanquhar gloves

The first pair of plain knitted gloves were for a Christmas present. These were from a recipe which Tom says gives guidance rather than strict instructions. Having enjoyed this challenge Tom moved onto the complexities of knitting Sanquhar gloves spotted on Ravelry. He used the written pattern with no charts from the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute http://www.swri.org.uk Tom has told me he has an interest in mathematics which I have noted many knitters share. Amongst them my knitting friends Deryn Relph http://www.derynrelph.co.uk and Sarah Elwick http://www.sarahelwick.com The yarn first chosen for the gloves was discarded when he discovered Prick you Finger at Bethnal Green in London where he replaced it with Shetland Spindrift from Jamiesons of Shetland.


Image – Sanquhar gloves knitted recently by Tom for “Wovember”

The reading gloves

Prick your Finger http://www.prickyourfinger.com is described by Tom as a wool shop that would never belittle anyones work. It was here that his obsession with gloves reached a peak in his exhibition entitled “The Reading Gloves”. Developed as a knitting shop like no other by Rachael Mathews a founder member of the “Cast Off Knitting Club for boys and girls” the shop window was a fitting location for Tom’s knitted literary gloves. He had begun with a pair based on a Mary Thomas recipe and gave them the title of “Lady Chatterley”. Of course “Mellors” followed, also “Anna Karenina” and “Dorian Gray”.

Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches


Image – from the Curiosity Cabinet

This project has been based on Tom’s reasearch into knitting stitches and has recently been completed. It will be having a first showing very soon at Prick Your Finger from Friday, 15 February 2013. A reclamation of forgotten stitches and techniques is presented as an homage to the curiosity cabinets of past collectors often seen in our national museums.

Knitters and their books: visits to the Knitting Reference Library.

KRL Animals

Image – The Knitting Reference Library

Tom has been a welcome supporter of our work with the Knitting Reference Library. Consistently posting information about his visits and the resources he has come across. His interests are wide-ranging but often come to rest on the unusual and unexpected. The earliest printed books commence with the Victorian knitting manuals donated by Richard Rutt dating from the 1830s. One of Tom’s prefered periods is the early to mid-twentieth century which he describes as refined and sophisticated. There are also many classics from Mary Thomas through the decades to present day authors. I think Tom should join them some time.

New Projects

The challenge of learning to spin is next with advice from a friend Felicity Ford alias Felix http://www.thedomesticsoundscape.com A lovely hand-made spindle had arrived in the post and Felix was sending Wenslydale and Jacob fleece. There are also “bursiforms” knitted in the round to explore soon for this super knitting geek.


Image – the new spindle

All images courtesy of Tom except for the Knitting Reference Library image from Linda Newington. You can read all about Tom at http://www.tomofholland.com His blog includes all the knitting projects mentioned and new work, there is darning too. Do take a look, visit Prick Your Finger and us too at the Knitting Reference Library http://www.soton.ac.uk/intheloop


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Image courtesy University of Southampton Library

Image courtesy University of Southampton Library

A small selection of menswear knitting patterns, copyright cleared with the yarn company Sirdar, from the Knitting Reference Library are now available via a link on our website at http://www.soton.ac.uk/intheloop
The patterns are all from the Richard Rutt Collection which is especially strong on menswear. I have included a few of my favourites all images Courtesy of the University of Southampton Library.

This has been a “pilot-project” to explore digitising a selection of the knitting patterns. Sirdar have been very supportive in allowing us to digitise the covers which will help us profile and promote the collection as both a research and educational resource.

The project has been quite complex involving much investigation and research into company histories, cataloguing and indexing, and copyright clearance for open access licences. This has all been quite complicated in relation to making the patterns digitally available. The primary intention is to improve access and profile the collection around different themes starting with menswear.

Users need to remember that knitting patterns are an important aspect of a company’s archive and heritage so having permission regarding copyright clearance has been a key factor for us as an institution.

Here are just a few of my personal favourites which reveal the interesting imagery of knitting patterns. In my view they are an aspect of our national heritage, relating not only to knitting but also to business and textile history, the aspirations of knitters through the 20th century and how knitting patterns relate to fashion and everyday clothing.

Our collection commences around the 1920s through the decades of the twentieth century into the present day. It includes menswear, womenswear and childrenswear, the knitting campaigns of World War 1 and World War 11, knitting for the home, patterns for dolls clothes and novelties.


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With thanks to the Knitmas Party students Lucy, Mikey, Lora & Alex

Lucy 2MikeyLora2Alex

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With thanks to Sarah, Caroline and Anne

Sarah Elwick


CarolineAnne 2

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Marie 3

The first group of my daily knits spotted at Winchester School of Art in winter 2012 leading up to Christmas. Lots of style and variety, male and female, students and staff, hand knits, car boot finds and originals. Who says knitting’s boring and beige? Here at the Knitting Reference Library we know it’s warm, colourful, interesting, eclectic and stylish. The daily knits include Marie Wallin, Head Designer at Rowan, who was visiting to work with the knitwear students.

With thanks to Maija, Andy, Kjetil and Marie

lMaijaAndyKjetil Berge 1

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Make a white rabbit by Lucy May Schofield

I gave a short paper at the two day conference Text and Textiles held at the Centre for Material Texts, Jesus College, Cambridge in September 2012 just after organising In the loop 3. My paper entitled From rags to riches focused on some examples of textile texts from our Artists’ Books Collection which I think have a relationship with the Knitting Reference Library too. My selected earlier precedents were textile sample books, children’s rag books and the textile books of the artist Louise Bourgeois.

An altered book with knitted cover by Cally Barker

The material selected from the Artists’ Books Collection I broadly defined as the “stuff of textiles”. Some of the items we have collected  may be  regarded as outside the canon set in place by the conceptual works of the 1960s which are sometimes viewed as the true artists books. However textiles have a long and distinctive history in relation to books which is being continued through the work of some contemporary artists.   It is their works which have made the link possible with the Knitting Reference Library. Amongst others I mentioned Cally Barker, Angie Butler, Judith Hammond, Joanna Long, Imi Maufe, Treena Markham, Tamar MacLellan, Andrew Norris, Lucy May Schofield, Anna Vicente, Heather Weston, Philippa Wood. All have utilised either materially, as part of the concept or in the narrative, textiles for a bookwork/s. Sometimes they are not strictly books but belong as part of the artists approach to making.

All the artists and works mentioned are catalogued and indexed and part of our collection comprising over 1500 items.

Journal of a dream by Ana Vicente

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Courtesy of the Knitting Reference Library, University of Southampton

A recent enquiry from a Russian journalist prompted a search for images of balaclavas. His article is tracing the history of this practical knitted garment bringing it up to date with those worn by the controversial Pussy Riot. My research took me to our WWI resources held in the Knitting Reference Library where I discovered that they were not only worn at the front but also knitted for use in hospitals during WWI. The image here is from that period.

My colleague Carol Christiansen also included them in her presentation on Exploration And Discovery at In the loop 3: the voices of knitting. Another library colleague then found images of Sir Douglas Mawson wearing a balaclava dated 1911, who was an Antarctic explorer. These were found on the website of the Australian War Memorial at www.awm.gov.au 

Further thoughts prompted me to look further, there are many types of balaclava and they make an appearance in the knitwear of other cultures, for example Peru and Bolivia where they are used for different purposes. I think more research will follow possibly for a future exhibition or to illustrate the rich resources held in our Knitting Collections at the University of Southampton.

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