Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Chapter 2: Before 1500

Chapter 2 starts with a discussion of myths and legends that include knitting references.  or more importantly the lack there of.  one of Rutt's favorite things, it appears, is to poke holes in other research, but back it up with nothing.  for example, Mary Thomas apparently tells a Yemeni story about Eve knitting the pattern on the snake's back.  Rutt's response is that she gives no verifiable source (pot meet kettle) and then states that even if it is real, it's trivial and therefore proves nothing.

One of the most objectionable things about Rutt is his own sense of self-importance.  He regularly calls out other authors for not bothering to give sources, etc, but gives none of his own.  he makes comments like "the words obviously mean..." and "the pious william felkin..."  ad hominim attacks disprove nothing. 

his comments about Christ's garment that was diced for, might very well be correct.  it seems likely that a bishop might actually know a lot about biblical references, to bad he doesn't share them. 

The Esch fragments and a word about words.  Rutt states:  "the oldest datable pieces of what is claimed as knitted fabric were found...."  the word claim comes with quite a lot of baggage unfortunately.  claim implies disbelief.  so these fragments--they were found in a 2nd century grave in southern Holland.  in 1966 the two fragments were examined by a textile technologist, J. E. Leene.  J. E. Leene appears, from a quick search on Google to be a well respected textile scientest, so it seems legitimate to trust JE's conclusions.  JE concluded that indeed they were structurally stockinet, altho they were attached to a backing of some sort. 

Rutt's response is typical.  they don't fit well into his theory of when knitting began (much much later), so he discounts them as perhaps unique, or not actually knitted items, "they must have been made by hand, but we cannot say what tools were used." 

Nalbinding discussion.  what follows is a fairly long discussion of nalbinding from the Middle East.  it's important to consider several things when discussion nalbinding.  if as is at least possible, knitting developed OUT of nalbinding, then some of the discussion is irrelevent.  the discussion primarily involves a piece of nalbinding  found in 1933.  or 3 pieces.  altho two are completely ignored by Rutt, the one, which is apparently rather sizable, includes a decrease technicque that Rutt asserts is not convenient with knitting, but is convenient with nalbinding, and therefore the piece must be nalbound.  in spite of this claim, Barbara Walker, in her Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns gives the Dura-Europos patterns, which are quite knittable.  Rutt again makes statements that are questionable here:  the work was probably done in the round (why does he think this?) and may be part of a sock (why again?). 

moving on to Romano-Egyptian socks.  there are several collections that house these socks. they certainly appear to be nalbound (one of the easy ways to tell is the numerous yarn joins that are round in nalbinding but not in knitting), and recent discussion seems to agree that these are nalbound.  with an entire piece it is much easier to establish whether an item is knitted or not because of those pesky joins. 

in his discussion of Mediaeval Egypt Rutt discussing a fragment that was part of a swiss textile experts collect (his name was Fritz Ikle).  a photgraph of the fragment is published in Mary Thomass Knitting Book (1938 p91).  unfortunately the fragment is no longer extant.  Ilke dated the fragment to 7th-9th centuries, but as typical, Rutt simply discounts it since it is not extant.  This piece is in crossed stockinet.  the next pieces are not.  the blue and white Islamic socks and fragments of knitting that are generally accepted as dated to between 1000-12000 AD of Egyptian finds.  none have been carbon dated, so it is impossible to know specific dates.  the pieces which are all relatively similar and very unlike the nalbinding that predates them, are likely the oldest knitting extant. 

Rutt states at this point that nalbinding has given way to knitting sometime between 500 and 1200 AD.  a darned long time that.  and moreover, if the colorwork pieces that are extant are the earliest examples, it is clear that knitting started substantially before these pieces were made.  any knitter could attest to the fact taht this involved colorwork knitting, with detailed colorwork was clearly not a "first generation" of knitting.  it is unlikely, actually, that these pieces were even in the first hundred years.

tomorrow, moving on to the cushions of Las Huelgas....the earliest dated European knitting examples. 


Mariah said...

I am truly enjoying your discussion of this book. I wish that I lived closer so I could be part of your knitting group. As it is I'll live vicariously through Kelli. And if I'm wishing, I might as well add my wish to have my knitting group compriseof women (or men) who can think critically and can discuss topics with a critical eye.

rita n/ said...

i'm glad someone's reading. i had kind of figured that this was just an exercise i was doing for my own edification. ...it sounds like you should move to rapid and be part of our group!

Chris Laning said...

P.S. I can testify from personal experience that Barbara Walker had never heard of nalbinding -- had no idea it existed -- until 2009. ;) So I'm not surprised that she didn't consider it as a possible explanation when she wrote the Treasury.

Chris Laning said...

P.S. There are nalbinders who claim that knitting the Dura-Europos fragment pattern does not correctly reconstruct several features of the original. Also, there is at least one nalbinder who has made a convincing reconstruction in nalbinding of the Iklé fragment with birds.

rita n/ said...

good to know about the naalbinding. i'm not saying that barbara walker's reconstruction is right. i haven't tried it, but if he had used citations it would have helped make things clear. my intention to not really to discuss the facts as much as to discuss his research techniques. he is incredibly frustrating because he fails to explain where a large portion of his conclusions come from. ERG.