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Historical Reconstructions

Knitted Stockings Citizen Science Project

Knitting developed into an important commercial activity in early modern Europe. As a result, knitted objects, such as stockings, became widely available on the market. While people at all levels of society wore knitted objects, there was a stark difference between the relatively ordinary items artisans used themselves, and those they knitted for the wealthy elites

This citizen science project focuses on early modern stockings and their reconstruction. By combining scientific testing, close reading of surviving objects, and archival evidence with the expertise of skilled makers, the aim is to gain a deeper understanding of what early modern stockings originally looked and felt like, how early modern objects were knitted, and what tools and level of sophistication were needed to knit stockings of different kind.With the help of 35 experienced volunteer knitters, our citizen science knitting project reconstructs three different types of early modern stockings, each with different focus and aims.

The most complex of these is the reconstruction of a surviving silk stocking, discovered from the coffin of Elisabeth Bure (d. 1668) in Turku Cathedral. In order to recreate the stocking as accurately as possible and to produce a digitized pattern, we will study of the original stocking closely, and carry out a fibre and dye analysis. Once the knitting is completed, the stockings will be treated and dyed using the period methods. The project has so far shown that ot takes up to 200 hours, or more, to knit one stocking with 0.7–1.0 mm needles.

The second reconstruction, interpretations of simple artisan stockings based on examples found in excavations in Copenhagen require knitters to combine their knowledge of early modern knitting techniques with their own creativity. Finally, knitters recreating stockings from the first known surviving knitting instruction from 1655, “The order how to knit a Hose”, need to carefully read the instructions and make decisions on how to interpret them.

This project allows us to render visible lost and fragmented historical objects, including those routinely made objects that have not survived in our museums. This way, we hope to gain a more concrete access to the manifold layers of meaning that were associated with wearing, making and using these objects.

As we make process in our reconstructions, we will update this page, as well as our blog.

We are concentrating on three different stocking models in our project. Stocking pattern on the right courtesy of Maj Ringgaard.

Finished stockings:

 

Helena Visapää: Artisan stocking. Wool and 1mm needles.

Anne Bäcklund: How to knit a hose, 1655. Linen and 1 mm needles.

Seija Tiihonen: Turku stocking in silk, 1 mm needles.


Pirkko Mäkinen: Turku stocking in wool, 1 mm needles.


We would like to thank our volunteer knitters and testers:

Suvi Aaltonen, Päivi Alinniemi, Maija-Leena Autio, Anne Bäcklund, Elina Gundersen, Leena Hannula, Kristiina Hohti, Maaria Hohti, Eeva Hohti, Riikka Hohti, Tanja Huikuri, Helena Hämäläinen, Anu Hämäläinen, Laura Hämäri, Tiia Joensuu, Eeva Karjalainen, Hanna Karkku, Joanna Kopra, Meri Kortteenpohja, Ulla Kostiainen, Liisa Kylmänen, Anja Lebedeff, Anna Mäkilä, Pirkko Mäkinen, Eeva Niemelä, Leena Niiranen, Mia Nilsson, Nanna Niskanen, Arja Nurmiainen, Sari Passi, Anna Rantanen, Anna Rauhala, Sanna Rummakko, Annaliisa Ryhänen, Leena Salmi, Leena Tammelin, Hanna Tamminen, Virpi Tarvo, Seija Tiihonen, Sari Valta, Helena Visapää, Mari Voipio, Riina Vuokko.