Friday, February 25, 2011

friday night with Rutt

yes, i'm aware i have NO life.  so here i am discussing chapter 1.  chapter one is called definitions and techniques.  for the most part, let me say in advance that i agree with rutt's definitions.  the chapter is mostly straight forward and pretty easy to understand.  initially be provides what i'd generally consider to be a good definition of knitting--except of course, he fails to do anything in this definition to eliminate naalbinding that is identical to cross-stitch knitting.  in order for his definition to be truly accurate it is reasonable to require that the fabric be produced with either a frame or multiple needles, or something.  otherwise, the definition will include some naalbinding.  oops.

then he goes on to discuss various other methods of producing fabric that is similar to knitting and might be mistaken for knitting.  he leaves out one notable technique that when viewed from the front only looks almost identical to knitting--soumak weaving.  on the front soumak weaving produces the vs of knitting, and only when viewed from the back can one tell it is not knitting simply by looking at it.  this is important to note ecause later he discusses items where the back cannot be seen and simply concludes that they are knitting without further discussion. 

Rutt then  moves on to a discussion of actual knitting.  in this he proceeds on with more linguistic discussion that makes absolutely no citations, so it's hard to tell where he got his info from, or if it is simply his own supposition.  for example, he states that the term stockinet was probably derived from "stocking net", while this seems to be generally accepted in the dictionaries that i looked at, it would be nice to see where he concluded that.  additionally he proceeds to put forth the claim that the spelling stockinet is older and better, again with no explanation.  this utter lack of explanation is very frustrating. footnotes would have been most helpful, and done little to make the book less readable. 

moving on the the casting on and binding off discussion--it apears that he fails to address longtail cast-on which is probably the most commonly used cast-on today.  this seems like a bit of an odd omission.  he also only discusses a single bind-off method and in such terminology that it's difficult to know which bind-off he's actually referring to.  all throughout this, there are lots of comments that fail to give any evidence of why they are true, occassionally just referring to other books that he states have no justification either.  this is shoddy research at best.  if there is no evidence (for example) of what bind on was mostly commonly used in england until the 20th century, it would best to not try to explain, especially not when what evidence is suggested exists, is not given. 

when discussing handling knitting needles, there are again lots of holes in the research.  there are comments like: "The cottagers could 'knock off the loops' of their coarse stockings, but the ladies usually worked with silk or fine Berlin wool to produce delicate items.  They thought of their work as artistic and refined."  all of these comments may be accureate.  perhaps cottage knitters did 'knock off the loops' of their coarse stockings, perhaps ladies worked with silk or fine Berlin wool, and produced delicate items, and perhaps they thought of their work as artistic and refined, but Rutt offers NO evidence of any of this.  none.  research claims like this should have some source to back them up.  it brings up further questions about whether Rutt simply published his own thoughts, or whether there wsa actual research that this was based on.  some simple footnotes would make the book a much more usable research item.  unfortunately as it stands, one can't even go and find where Rutt reaches his conclusions, or why.  makes for not good research. 

furthermore, he then states that the "older way to knit" involves holding one needle still and moving the other.  it is likely that he is correct (the oldest evidence of how knitting was done is later in the book in the knitting madonnas.  it is unfortunate that he fails to explain how his conclusions were reached.  most of the rest of the chapter seems largely irrelevent, discussing such things as knitted wire and whther knitting should be considered an art or a craft. 

it is understandable that Rutt did not feel like publishing footnotes or giving explanations of his conclusions, the problem is that his failure to do so makes the book almost unusable as a research tool.  short of simply purchasing all the books in the bibliography and going through each one and hoping that the same conclusion is reached that Rutt reached, the book is simply "fun reading" if one likes that sort of thing.  what is most disturbing is the way that Rutt's book has been heralded as the current go-to book on the history of knitting.  this is fine, as long as being able to research for oneself is unimportant. 

tomorrow, before 1500.

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