Theme 5: Creative Communities: Knitting in Europe, 1500-1800

Principal Investigator 05: Marie-Louise Nosch

Principal Investigator 06: Maj Ringgaard

Knitted hat, thick wool, Copenhagen, late 16th or first half of 17th century, National Museum of Denmark

Knitted yellow stockings, possibly delivered to the king Karl X Gustav in 1654, Royal Armoury, Stockholm

Detail of a jacket knit of coral pink and silver-gilt silk, Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Research Context, Research Questions

Research in Progress

Data Collection: Collective Data Source

Workshops: Workshop 3, Objects from Collections

Webtrails: Object in Focus

Knowledge Exchange

Publications (2011-2010)


Research Context, Research Questions

Read the IP-05 project description in full here.

The research project that will be the focus for IP5: Creative Communities: Knitting from 1500-1800 is an interdisciplinary investigation of textile cultures in the 17th and 18th centuries in Denmark, with comparative material from Sweden, Norway and the UK. As a useful comparison with the broader work undertaken by the other IPs, this project takes an in-depth case study of a single type of object: the knitted garment which was central to the Baltic and ubiquitous in Northern Europe. This allows us to use archaeological analysis to understand circulation and dissemination in one European region, providing a necessary corrective to the documentary and visual materials being examined by other project partners. Importantly, it redresses the balance by ensuring that fashion and fashionablity (and its associated concepts of innovation and creativity) are discussed in terms of traditional products such as European knitwear as well as investigating new products.

This research project is framed around a case study of knitted textiles found in archaeological excavations in Copenhagen, Denmark. The unique find of more than 10,000 textiles, includes a large number of knitted items such as stockings and waistcoats which were deposited in the harbor of Copenhagen. These give new and challenging insights into 17th and 18th century Danish textiles and clothing. A textile find in Kalmar in a warship sunk in 1676, among these a knitted silk waistcoat in a ships trunk (still unpublished), adds to the knowledge of knitwear fashions amongst the well-d0-do in the 17th century. Furthermore this Swedish find enables the precise dating of historic knitted artifacts from parts of the old Danish Kingdom.

The IP will investigate both finds and include similar historic textiles from Norway, South West Sweden and England. Three approaches will be taken into account in the IP. Chronological and geographical spread of this type of knit-ware and to a smaller extent the question of evolutionary development of fashion seen from the point of view of knitted garments. The star lozenge pattern of some of the knitwear is typically Danish and has had a wide chronological spread. It is seen in knitted silken waistcoats, as early as the burial clothes of the children of Danish King Christian 4th from the 1620’s. The same pattern is also used in peasant’s clothes in the late 19th century. An investigation of how far back and forth in time the pattern can be traced will therefore reveal interesting information into the mechanisms of diffusion of a fashion and technique over time.




Research in Progress

During 2011, research on the distribution of knitted objects in Denmark during the late 16th century, 17th century and the first part of the 18th century, has been undertaken by Principal Investigator 06, Maj Ringgaard. A full description of the goals and objectives of the research during 2011 can be read here.

Fieldwork studies on knitted early modern objects have been conducted in museum collections during 2011. Thanks to the access kindly granted by the museum curators and conservators, it has been possible to study historical, as well as archaeological objects from the museum stores closer (V & A and Museum of London, UK ; Livrustkammaren, Historiska Museet, Nordiska Museet, Stockholm Stads Museum and Skansens Klädkammere, Sweden; Københavns Museum, Helsingør Museer, Nationalmuseet, Denmark).

The aim of this study is too see the distribution of knitted items (e.g. stockings, waistcoats, caps) and to detect when different social groups exchanged the sewn hose with the knitted stocking or if the two kinds of leg wear were used simultaneously. The studies of existing items in museum store rooms will allow for identification of items mentioned in the probates and perhaps identification of regional or time differences in the use of terms: what did they mean by a specific term in the 17th century, what did the item look like and do we understand the same using this term today? Here it is important for the work conducted to not only look at historic items in collections as they primarily reflect the consumption of the well to dos, but also to implement the archaeological finds from cities and dumps, so that the picture we get will be more complete. The results of this research on early modern knitting were presented by Maj Ringgaard at The Knitting History Forum conference at London College of Fashion (November 2011).

This year’s research also included investigations on traditional knitting, exploring the meaning of this term, on the historic reuse and recycling of textiles, on starch, coating and impregnation of textiles in early modern time and on the implementation of knitted textiles in daily wear and work wear. The results of this research were presented at the Spandex to Sportstech: Fashion and Innovation in Sportswear (November 8 2011, Copenhagen).

Ongoing research in textile dyes and how the dyes influence on the preservation on archaeological textile has been further developed leading to work presented at the conferences “Textile and chemistry” the Technical University of Denmark, (April 2011), NESAT XI the North European Symposium on Archaeological Textiles – Esslingen, Germany (May 2011) and 16th triennial ICOM-CC Conference, Lisbon, Portugal (September 2011).



Data Collection: Collective Data Source

The main source for the investigation into the distribution of the knitted objects in Denmark during the late 16th century, 17th century and the first part of the 18th century are the probates from the Danish archives. This material allows us to see how the knitted items are spread in this period, both geographically and socially. Probates in archives all over Denmark, and to some extent in areas of Norway and Sweden that belonged to the Danish-Norwegian kingdom, have been studied. The probates are transcribed by MA Camilla Dahl, and those mentioning garments, textiles and textile tools are published on the project page of the Centre for Textile Research:

Extracts of Probate Records from Danish Towns 1536-1650
Extracts of Probate Records from Danish and Norwegian Towns 1660-1700

A small part of the work conducted on the probates will be made available in due course as part of the “Object in focus” series of the Fashioning the Early Modern project website.




Workshops: Workshop 3, Objects from Collections


A workshop on the theme of early modern textile production was c-organised 6 – 7 October 2011 by the National Museum of Denmark (Maj Ringgaard), the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen (Marie-Louise Nosch) and the Old Town Museum, Aarhus (Tove E Mathiassen). Twenty eight participants from Denmark, Sweden, United Kingdom, Finland, France, Italy, Germany and Australia took part in the 3rd project workshop on Early Modern Textile Production. In the morning of the first day, participants visited the Brede Manor House, the National Museum conservation workshop and the Rosenborg Castle conservation department where they saw selected items from the Royal Danish costume collection. In the afternoon, they visited the study rooms of the National Museum’s Store Rooms where they saw selected textiles from NMD’s collections. On the second day, the participants visited the Old Town Museum in Aarhus and had the opportunity to view selected items from the textile collection. The afternoon of the second day was dedicated to a PhD student presentation session followed by a discussion.

The workshop programme and the abstracts from the PhD presentation session can be viewed here.

Objects from Collections

To view the images and descriptions of objects from collections at the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen and the Old Town Museum, Aarhus, go here.



Webtrails: Object in Focus

The following Objects in Focus have been prepared as part of IP-05 and will be published on the Fashioning The Early Modern website in due course:

  • Epitaph with depiction of a pearl-studded cap, 1582
  • The probate of Hans Dinesen and his wives, Denmark, 1584-86




Knowledge Exchange

Here are the major IP-05 activities in 2011 that contributed to the knowledge exchange between museum professionals, academics and the media and public, both nationally and internationally:

  • The Centre for Textile Research is collaborating with the Danish Costume Group on an interdisciplinary project on the creation and development of an online dictionary of historical terms for dress and textiles: The project leader is Tove Engelhardt Mathiassen (Associated Partner 06) and Maj Ringgaard is part of the project group.
  • In March 2011, Maj Ringgaard spoke about knitted finds from a 17th-18th century rubbish dump in Copenhagen in the television program “Affald fra 1700-tallet” (“Rubbish from the 18th century”) by the Copenhagen broadcaster Vores By (Our City).




Publications (2011- 2010)

Download a full list of publications in 2010 and 2011 by Marie-Louise Nosch and Maj Ringgaard here. A selected list is available below:

Marie-Louise Nosch

Nosch, M-L, Murphy, B., Holst, B., Skals, I., Stratouli, G., Sarpaki, A., “A rare Neolithic find from the Aegean: A fibre from Drakaina Cave, Kephalonia Island, W. Greece”, 2011.

Nosch, M-L, “The Mycenaean administration of textile production in the palace of Knossos: observations on the Lc(1) textile targets“, in: AJA 115.4, 2011, p. 495-505.

Nosch, M-L, “The Textile Logograms in the Linear B Tablets: Les idéogrammes archéologiques – des textiles”. In : XIIIème colloque international sur les textes égéens (eds. P. Carlier & J. Zurbach), Sèvres : Nanterre, Paris, 2011, p.305-346.

Nosch, M-L, “Methodological considerations regarding the parameters for the classification of the Knossos Od Tablets”, in: Pasiphae X, 2011, p. 29-37.

Nosch, M-L (ed.), Wearing the Cloak. Dressing the Soldier in RomanTimes, Ancient Textiles Series 10, Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2011.


Maj Ringgaard

Brandt, L.Ø., Tranekjer, L., Mannering,U., Ringgaard, M.G., Frei, K., Gleba, M. & Gilbert, M.T.P, “Characterising the potential of sheep wool for ancient DNA analyses”, in: Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, vol. 3, 2011, New York/ Heidelberg: Springer , 2011, p. 209-221.

Ringgaard, M., “An Investigation of the Effects of Borohydride Treatments of Oxidized Cellulose Textiles”, in: Changing Views of Textile Conservation (eds.Mary M. Brooks and Dinah D. Eastop, Getty Publications, 2011, p.386 – 401.

Ringgaard, M. & A, B. Scharff, ”Om indigo i arkæologiske tekstiler”, in: Tekstilkemi i historisk perspektiv (eds. Ture Damhus, Anita Kildebæk Nielsen og Christian B. Knudsen, Kemi & Klæ’r), Historisk-kemiske skrifter, Nr.20, Copenhagen: Dansk Selskab for Historisk Kemi, 2011, p. 39 – 51.

Ringgaard, M. & A, B. Scharff, “The Impact of Dyes and Natural Pigmentation of Wool on the Preservation of Archaeological Textiles”, in: North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles X (eds. E. Andersson Strand, M. Gleba, U. Mannering, C. Munkholt, M. Ringgaard), Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2010 p.221-224.

Ringgaard, M., “En silkestrikket spædbarnstrøje fra Lossepladsen“, in: Dragtjournalen, årg. 4, nr. 6, 2011, p.37-41.

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