Check out this fun print! It’s called Shepherd Resting on Stilts and Knitting and is in the digital collection of the New York Public Library. Artist and date are unknown, but I did a little internet sleuthing, and I think (could be wrong of course -internet sleuthing isn’t always foolproof) that it’s from mid-19th century France. Shepherds in a region called Landes in the southwest would get around on stilts, the better to see their large flocks of sheep, and to move quickly over swampy land without getting wet.

Image source

I’ve been starting a bit of amateur research on the history of knitting. Before these days of running Yarn Birdy, and being a wife and a mom, I used to study European art and cultural history. That stuff is still really exciting to me. About this print, for example, I want to know, who created it, and for what purpose? Was the print meant as documentation for a book about the region, or as an image for tourists, highlighting this unique regional way of life? What about the relationship between gender and knitting in this time and place: did both men and women knit, or did women have other tasks? Was knitting held in high esteem in Landes or seen as a tedious job for the menial classes?

I probably can’t answer these questions without access to a university library and archives. Sigh. Nonetheless, I’ve been digging around, and I’ve found a couple books written on the the history of knitting which may give me a good start: Knitting Around the World: A Multistranded History of a Time-Honored Tradition by Lela Nargi and Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to High Art by Susan Strawn.

Check it out, it’s me, only, a century and a half ago!
Johannes Albert Neuhuys Knitting Mother and her Child, 1878
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Have you read any other books on knitting history that you could recommend to me?

P.S. Unrelated, but a sneak-peek at what I’ve been working on; more to come on Thursday: