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The University of Southampton

Knitting loops back into fashion

Published: 11 June 2008

Knitting is, once again, enjoying a huge surge in popularity. The relevance and beauty of this craft is being celebrated by the launch of a significant collection of knitting resources and a three-day international conference exploring the vitality of knitting today.

In the Loop: knitting past, present and future' takes place at the University of Southampton's Winchester School of Art (WSA) from 15 - 17 July 2008.

It will cover a broad range of approaches to knitting, including digital versus handcraft, history, fashion and technology and 'new wave' knitting.

Subjects as varied as chick knit lit, a term coined by Dr Jo Turney to describe fiction with knitting as its central theme, inspiring collectors and their collections, and sportsmen and their sweaters will be explored. Sports historian Martin Polley of the University of Southampton will look at how cultural historians can use knitting to learn about materials and technology, disposable income and household economics, as well as class, identity and gender.

Twenty-eight speakers from the UK, Australia, Europe and North America are taking part, including Professor Sandy Black of the London College of Fashion; Liz Collins, designer and assistant professor of knitwear at the Rhode Island School of Design; New York City-based artist and author Sabrina Gschwandtner, and Barbara Burman, honorary visiting research fellow, Textile Conservation Centre.

Dr Jessica Hemmings of the University's School of Art, one of the conference organisers, explains: "The conference is inspired by the University's acquisition of nationally important collections focused on knitting history, practice and technique compiled by Montse Stanley, Richard Rutt and Jane Waller. These collections include beautiful knitted objects, as well as fascinating patterns, postcards and photographs, fiction and non-fiction, magazines and journals all related to knitting.

"This event acknowledges the range of approaches contemporary knitting is currently enjoying. The conference is aimed at all those, however experienced or proficient at knitting, who are interested in the craft from both a practical and conceptual perspective," she adds.

During the conference the University will formally launch the Knitting Reference Library based at Winchester School of Art, comprising a rich and unique range of resources covering many aspects of the history and practice of knitting. The resources provide a specialist legacy for makers, designers and scholars from a variety of disciplines.

This cap originates from Bolivia in the mid to late 1900s, part of the Knitting Reference Library.
Handknitted man's Andean cap

Linda Newington, Head Librarian at Winchester School of Art, who is both one of the conference organisers and curator of the Knitting Reference Library, says: "This is a unique and significant body of resources providing historical and contextual information about the craft of knitting. Our aim is to make the reference materials accessible to everyone and they will undoubtedly inspire hobbyists, professional makers, students and researchers both at the School of Art and within the wider community."

A knitting lounge will be open to delegates throughout the conference, providing a space to converse and enjoy complimentary merino/angora wool and knitting needles.

'LOOP', a solo exhibition of work exploring the relationship between knitting and technology by American artist Rachel Beth Egenhoefer will also be on show in The Winchester Gallery throughout the conference.

To register for the conference or for more information, contact conference administrator Judith Horgan, email: or 02380 596986.

Visit for more information.

'In the Loop' is a collaborative event involving the University's School of Art, Textile Conservation Centre and Library.

Notes for editors

  • A range of digital images of items from the keynote papers and the University of Southampton's knitting reference collection are available from Communications on request.

  • The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship.

    This is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine, and home to a range of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

    We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

    As one of the UK's top 10 research universities, we offer first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering.

    We have over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover in the region of £325 million.

  • Winchester School of Art merged with the University of Southampton in 1996. Founded in 1863, WSA has an international reputation for research and teaching in art and design.

  • For further information
    Sue Wilson, Communications, University of Southampton,
    Tel. 023 8059 5457, email:

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