*Erasmus by the workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Knitting in Modern Early Europe: Research Database

The Knitting in Early Modern Europe is an ongoing research project which began as an EU-funded Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship at the Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen. The main focus of the project was knitted caps from the 15th to the 17th centuries (see below for research results so far). It has now expanded to look at other knitted garments as part of The Tudor Tailor’s publication plans, including knitting instructions for garments typical of lower class people in the early modern era.

A key part of the production process for knitted goods in the early modern era was fulling (beating the fabric and raising a nap) to thicken it and improve its surface. Key to successful fulling was the appropriate choice of yarn. The search for a 21st century fleece which makes a good substitute for the raw material used in the early modern era continues.

*A painting of one of the most famous knitted caps of the early modern era, as worn by Erasmus (1466/1469-1536) in his portrait dated c1532 by the workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession number: 1975.1.138; Robert Lehman Collection, 1975)

How to get involved

If you would like to join the KEME Team, take part in the experimental archaeology, and/or follow the progress of the research, there are three ways to participate.

Get knitting!

Knit and full a modern yarn to see how it performs compared to an early modern yarn – select a sheep, grab your needles and find a mallet.

Review the evidence

Visit the online database to find details about knitted caps from the 15th to 17th centuries, review the evidence, and comment on it.
Visit the database

Stay in the loop

Sign up for The Tudor Tailor’s eNewsletter, which reports all the latest KEME activity, including events and publications.
Publications from Knitting in Early Modern Europe (KEME) so far include:
The 2018 issue of the Archaeological Textiles Review celebrates the archaeology and history of knitting with more than ten articles devoted to extant evidence from the era and proposes a new protocol and terminology for the scientific recording of it. To order, your copy, please visit the subscription page.
Malcolm-Davies, J (2018) Knitting virtual tribes together: new audiences for cultural objects. In Florence Heri-Tech – The Future of Heritage Science and Technologies, IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 364, 012031, 1-9, available at: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1757-899X/364/1/012031/pdf
Malcolm-Davies, J (2018) “‘Silk’ Hats from a Sheep’s Back: how 16th century craftspeople created legal luxuries” in Bravermanová, M, Březinová, H, & Malcolm-Davies, J (eds) Archaeological textiles - links between past and present, NESAT XIII. Liberec: Archaeolingua 34, 187-195 & 339
Malcolm-Davies, J (2017) “Cutting edge technology: knitting in the early modern era” in Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port, Proceedings of the 15th Biennial Symposium, Textile Society of America, Savannah, 19-23 October, 325-334, available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1990&context=tsaconf
Malcolm-Davies, J (2017) “Shedding light with science: the potential for 21st century studies of 16th century knitting” in Journal of Dress History, 83-91, available at: https://www.dresshistorians.org/volume-1-issue-1
Malcolm-Davies, J (2016) “An Early Modern mystery: A pilot study of knitting, napping and capping” in Archaeological Textiles Review, 58, 57-74, available at: http://atnfriends.com/download/ATR58compressed.pdf
Kruseman, G, Sturtewagen, I & Malcolm-Davies, J (2016) ”Erasmus’ muts” in Kostuum: Nederlandse Kostuumvereniging, 72-89
Malcolm-Davies, J (2017) “Handwerkgeheimen: Gebreide muts uit 16de-eeuws Dordrecht draagt bij aan internationaal onderzoek” in Culthure, Dordrecht Museum, April, 25-27
Malcolm-Davies, J. & Davidson, H. (2015) ‘He is of no account … if he have not a velvet or taffeta hat’: a survey of 16th century knitted caps. In Grömer, K. and Pritchard, F. (eds), Aspects of the Design, Production and Use of Textiles and Clothing from the Bronze Age to the Early Modern Era, NESAT XII (North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles), Hallstatt, Austria, May 2014