New thesis: Finery for fashionable ladies
11 May 2021
When the first descriptions of knitting and crochet were published in Swedish, in the mid-19th century, such handiwork was described as the finest of all feminine handicrafts, for the benefit and pleasure alike of the trend-conscious, diligent middle- and upper-class woman. Within a few decades, the patterns had moved into fashion journals. A new thesis from Uppsala University examines how these changes affected handicrafts.
These days, in the early 21st century, knitting and crocheting are in fashion. Making things by hand is more popular than ever. In social media groups, patterns are disseminated and images of handicraft projects shared, and ideas for solving problems discussed.” In bookshops, too, there are countless books and magazines containing patterns and instructions both for beginners and for the more experienced.
“All the same, there’s extremely little research on the role played by pattern models in how style trends, practical methods and perceptions of textile handiwork were established, disseminated and changed. The contribution of this thesis to the academic research field is that it begins to fill that knowledge gap,” says Hanna Bäckström, PhD student at the Department of Art History at Uppsala University.
Enjoyable pastimes for the trend-conscious
In her thesis, Bäckström examines how publishing of knitting and crocheting patterns and instructions in books and magazines arose and developed during the first half and middle of the 19th century, when these handicrafts enjoyed a boom in popularity.
In the 1840s, the first knitting and crocheting manuals were published in Swedish, and patterns for these handicrafts also started featuring prominently in the fashion journals of the time. In these media, knitting and crochet were highlighted as beautiful and enjoyable pastimes for the trend-conscious and diligent middle- and upper-class woman. Analysis of attitudes to knitting and crochet expressed in the manuals’ prefaces shows that perceptions of them as feminine occupations grew stronger and were passed on, while the background of knitting as a male-dominated guild craft was ignored.
Mediation of printed patterns for knitting and crochet changed in the mid-19th century, for reasons that may be summarised in the following three factors:
- the scope and limitations of printing technology
- how the sales market for pattern models was organised
- publishers’ perceptions of the target group's handwork skills, habits and tastes.
Large market for patterns
To understand the design of the manuals and fashion journals published in Swedish, Hanna Bäckström compared them with those issued in other countries. Among those interested in the history of knitting and crochet, the emergence of a large market for patterns for these handicrafts in mid-19th century Britain is a well-known fact. On the other hand, the Swedish patterns turn out to have been largely translated from German publications. An extensive search for handicraft publications in bibliographies showed that publication of knitting and crochet patterns in the German-speaking area was also extensive, and began several decades before the genre was established in Britain.
Characterised by innovations and traditions
The thesis covers how pattern design was characterised by innovations and traditions in the art of book printing, and by how the market was organised. Bäckström also studied how the specific terms and systems used in knitting and crocheting developed in the 19th century.
“In the first Swedish crochet manuals, varying and fairly complicated terms were used for chain stitches and trebles, such as ‘uppåt löpande dubbla kedjemaskor’ (rising double chain stitches). By the late 1840s, the terms ‘luftmaskor’ (chain stitches) and ‘stolpar’ (trebles) had become established,” says Hanna Bäckström.
In the course of her work, Bäckström had to work out a new method for handicraft research. By following the instructions herself, she sought to find out what skills and prior knowledge users required to understand the patterns.
“In trying to knit and crochet according to the patterns, I noticed how many printing errors they contain. These errors are hard to avoid, but there are so many of them, and they have a major bearing on whether the patterns can be used at all. They show that rapid publication was more important than quality control.”
Thesis: Bäckström H., The Mediation of Patterns for Knitting and Crochet: The Publications, the Market and the Target Group in Sweden in the mid-nineteenth century (in Swedish), Gidlunds förlag, http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-434887
History professor given prestigious assignment
22 januari 2020
Maria Ågren, professor of history, has been awarded a distinguished professor grant of SEK 50 million over 10 years by the Swedish Research Council. The council awarded grants totalling some SEK 380 million to eight applicants.
Winner of the 2019 Geijer Prize Named
14 januari 2020
The Geijer Prize for history 2019 has been awarded to Mia Kuritzen Löwengart for her doctoral thesis A Matter of Social Urgency: The emergence of a symphony orchestra and concert house in Stockholm, ca. 1890-1926 and Hedvig Widmalm for her doctora...
Legendary runestone bears witness to climate anxiety 1,200 years ago
08 januari 2020
After more than 1,000 years, one of the greatest mysteries of the early Viking Age, the Rök runestone which bears the world’s longest runic inscription, appears to have been solved. According to four Swedish researchers, the puzzling inscription h...
Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize goes to Afaf Doleeb and Patricia Lorenzoni
21 november 2019
The Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize is Uppsala University’s foremost award for contributions to the promotion of human rights and liberty. This year’s prize is shared by graduate student Afaf Doleeb and researcher Patricia Lorenzoni for their com...
Large-scale cadastral maps on parchment digitised
08 november 2019
Uppsala University Archives holds a large collection of hand-drawn seventeenth century maps on parchment. These maps are of significant historical value and a valuable source of information on the University’s agricultural properties at the time.
New Honorary Doctors Appointed at Uppsala University
21 oktober 2019
The nine faculties at Uppsala University have decided on who they wish to appoint as honorary doctors this academic year. The new honorary doctors include researchers in fields as diverse as string theory, maternal healthcare, evolutionary biology...
Excavation documentation from Labraunda digitised
21 oktober 2019
Uppsala University Library's part of the project Mötesplats Medelhavet ("Labraunda") - a research platform for digitised archaeological collections and archives at the Swedish institutes in Athens, Rome and Istanbul, is now being started. The aim ...
Aristocratic family trees became scientific model
01 oktober 2019
Before the French Revolution, family trees were reserved for the feudal upper classes, who used them to consolidate their social status. While feudalism broke down and family trees lost their old roles, the trees gained new functions as scientific...
Uppsala philosopher elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
19 september 2019
Folke Tersman, professor of practical philosophy at Uppsala University, has been elected as a member of the class for humanities and for outstanding services to science at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Johan Ihre’s dissertations now in digital form.
06 september 2019
Johan Ihre (1707-1780) was professor of Rethoric and Politics at Uppsala University for 42 years. During this time he managed no less than 453 dissertations, the theses of the time. These dissertations are currently a widely used source material i...
Sustainable urbanisation requires collaboration
10 juni 2019
On Sunday, 30 June, six seminars on sustainability and urbanisation focusing on India and Sweden will take place in Almedalen. To find out more, we talked to Swaminathan Ramanathan, visiting research fellow, and Owe Ronström, professor of ethnolog...
Races for women play an important role
06 maj 2019
Participating in a race for women plays an important role for women and increases self-confidence among participants. Women aim to perform as well as they can, and they place most emphasis on their physical performance, despite the organisers’ oft...
Award for research and teaching on the Holocaust
11 april 2019
Tomislav Dulić, Senior Lecturer in History and Director of the Hugo Valentin Centre, has been awarded the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Award 2019.
Diplomatic wives’ political clout often overlooked
07 mars 2019
Many 20th-century accounts of international relations and diplomacy often leave out the role of women. Diplomats’ wives were not officially employed, but diplomacy was frequently based on couples working together.
Ola Larsmo awarded Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize
16 november 2018
The Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize is Uppsala University’s foremost award for efforts to promote human rights and liberty. This year’s prize is awarded to author and honorary doctor Ola Larsmo.
New light cast on Scandinavia’s most important Bronze Age site
09 oktober 2018
Håga, Scandinavia's most significant Bronze Age site, is relatively unknown. But in a new book, archaeologists at Uppsala University have brought together what is known and placed Håga in a larger context.
New study shows virus traces in historical skeletal material
06 september 2018
A new international study shows the importance of studying historical skeletal material to increase knowledge about how viruses develop.
Large-scale whaling in north Scandinavia may date back to 6th century
13 juni 2018
The intensive whaling that has pushed many species to the brink of extinction today may be several centuries older than previously assumed. This view is held by archaeologists from Uppsala and York whose findings are presented in the European Jour...
Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson to receive King’s Medal
08 juni 2018
H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf has decided to award Uppsala University’s Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson and Johan Svedjedal, Professor of Literature, H.M. The King’s Medal.
This year’s Distinguished Teaching Award winners chosen
04 juni 2018
The 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award winners at Uppsala University teach subjects related to art history, informatics and media, pharmaceutical biosciences and information technology. The free Distinguished Teaching Award was presented to Senior ...