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The University of Southampton

Polar and sports knitwear in focus at international event

Published: 30 August 2012
Polar and sports knitwear
Polar Ice Mittens, Montse Stanley collection

The role of knitwear used by polar and Himalayan explorers through the ages and knitted garments worn by top sports competitors of the past will be just some of the topics discussed at an international conference organised by the University of Southampton.

In the loop 3: the voices of knitting (Winchester Discovery Centre, 5-7 September) will attract knitting experts from as far and wide as Australia, the United States and Denmark to discuss themes such as; knitting in sport, exploration, literature and film; knitting and well-being; and knitting adornment.

Organiser Linda Newington from University of Southampton Library says, “We have attracted some of the most experienced names in knitting, a craft which has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years – with stars like Bradley Wiggins, Roger Federer, and the Duchess of Cambridge dressing to impress in knitted garments.

“Those speaking at the conference come from across the globe, bringing a diverse range of experience from the world of knitting – from local craft clubs, to experts on traditional patterns and looking forwards to knitwear design of the future.”

The conference is dedicated to the late Richard Rutt, popularly known as the Knitting Bishop, and author of A History of Hand Knitting. Linda will use examples from the University’s Knitting Collections to illustrate her presentation on the Decorative Art of Knitting.

Other keynote speakers are:

  • Historian Dr Carol Christiansen, examining the use of British-made woollen garments worn by polar and Himalayan explorers.
  • Dr Martin Polley from the University of Southampton, exploring the links between knitting and the Olympic Games, from sports clothing to the Cultural Olympiad.
  • Hazel Hughson, of Shetland Arts, discussing the culture, significance and future of knitting on Shetland and questioning its meaning in 2012.
  • Dr Jonathan Faiers from the University of Southampton who will speak on the subject of knitting and catastrophe, as represented in literature, film and other media.
  • Dr Jessica Hemmings from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, exploring introversion and knitting – questioning negative associations often attached to it as a solitary activity.

Southampton’s Dr Martin Polley says, “Knitting might not be the most obvious subject to link to the Olympics, but it has a rich and diverse history – from competitive knitting at the Wenlock Olympian Games, through to modern Cultural Olympiad projects, via competitors' clothing.”

Other topics include: art deco wool-knit bathing costumes, ‘guerrilla’ knitting, innovation in knitwear design, knitwear for enhanced sports performance, and knitting and the internet.

The conference takes place at the Winchester Discovery Centre on 5 – 7 September, with hands-on workshops on both the Fair-Isle pattern (6 September) and colour in crochet (8 September) which can be booked in advance.

For more information about In the Loop 3: the voices of knitting or for instructions on how to register or book workshops visit:

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