|The Mayflower (knitting needles on board?) *|
So the Colonial family's knitting was done at home. The first record of a knitting machine frame in America was a full 150 years after the Mayflower landed, in a 1771 ad in the Virginia Gazette for a "newly invented instrument for knitted, knotted, double looped work, to make Stockings, Breeches Pieces, or Silk Gloves, Cotton or Worsted."
Knitting at home fit along perfectly with the colonial mindset. Colonists abhorred idleness and laziness, and diaries of the period are often a dull list of the tasks accomplished each day instead of the juicy gossip and guarded secrets that we modern folks think a good diary should contain. The greatest compliment was to say that one was an "industrious woman." A good woman should be busy at all times, and in her idle moments waiting for a pot to boil or the bread to rise, she should pick up her knitting needles!
|Girl Knitting by André Bouys **|
The 1765 Stamp Act required paper products such as legal documents, magazines and newspapers to be printed on "stamped" paper, meaning paper that was printed in London and had received a stamp certifying that the paper tax had been paid. Some had suggested a boycott of English goods after the Wool Act, an idea that gained greater momentum after the Stamp Act.
When the Sons of Liberty was formed to boycott English goods and resist the Stamp Act, women followed with the Daughters of Liberty, vowing to forgo all British goods and instead spin, weave and knit all of their families clothing and wear nothing but homespun.
|Martha Washington knitting ***|
Wearing homespun became a political statement. At the first commencement of Rhode Island College (later Brown University) in the 1760s, the president proudly wore homespun clothing while conducting the ceremony. At Harvard, the faculty and students all wore homespun clothing.
Women were now in an unusual situation. Women were not allowed to vote and it was considered inappropriate for a women of the time to be involved in politics, but in their role of maintaining their homes and purchasing or producing food and clothing for their families, they had the ultimate say in whether their family would purchase British goods in loyalty to England or produce homespun clothing as a show of independence.
|Knitting, 1793 ****|
You may not knit as a form of political protest today (hey, I just knit because it's fun!), but whatever your reason for knitting, at FiberWild we're happy to help!
Want more? My favorite book on the history of knitting in America is No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne L. Macdonald.
Happy Knitting . . . . Scout
* The Mayflower in Harbor, painted by William Halsall in 1882 and now at the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
** Girl Knitting by André Bouys, a French painted who lived 1656 - 1740. This had been in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum and was sold in 2014.
*** A gorgeous lithograph of Martha and George Washington. Unfortunately, I don't have any more information than that.
**** The caption on this 19th century costume plate says "Tricoteuse, 1793" which translates from the French as "Knitting Machine." So is she the knitting machine? Note that her yarn is held in a "pocket" on the outside of her skirt. The original is in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.