It’s been a while since the last post and I’m uncertain about where best to resume the discussion. My initial intention had been to focus next on early descriptions of flat hooks used for shepherd’s knitting (now also referred to as basic slip-stitch crochet). Material and written evidence of this begins to appear in the 1780s, but a key text from 1800 also extends the discussion of the hooked knitting needles used by the Swiss knitter Dübois, introduced in the preceding post — so let’s start with that.
Johann Friedrich Netto was a drawing teacher from Leipzig who wrote several tutorial books on textile and needle crafts in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He appears to have been an experienced practitioner of many of the described techniques and his pedagogical background is reflected throughout. In 1800, together with Friedrich Leonhard Lehmann, he published Die Kunst Zu Stricken in ihrem ganzen Umfange (“The art of knitting in its full extent”).
This is generally regarded as the first narrative book about hand knitting but it also provides early descriptions of several other crafts (as they are now classified; Netto regarded them all as forms of knitting). I’ll be providing full translations of a number of these instructions in later posts, including all that discuss the techniques Netto ascribes to Dübois. I’m taking the first such translation out of the original order because it may suggest that Dübois did not use hooked needles solely as a quicker way to form conventional knit stitches, but also produced stitches on them that cannot be formed on smooth-tipped needles. I’ll explain why I feel that to be important in one of the coming posts, which will also provide greater detail about his basic technique (which is essentially what is now called Portuguese knitting) :
Knitting the largest man’s stocking in an hour using the method taught by Dübois
More than once in the company of several ladies, Dübois knitted a stocking from beginning to end in one hour. The yarn that he used in these cases was clearly of the heaviest sort. As noted above, a small hook was filed into the one end of his knitting needles, through which he pulled the yarn with the greatest speed and completed a row of stitches in a moment. He held the stocking vertically with the long heavy needle on the left side, and knitted close to his index finger, over which the working yarn was held ready. Without looking closely at it, he wrapped the yarn around the hook with his index finger and pulled, or rather lifted, it quickly over the tip of the needle held sideways to form the stitch.
This knitting, in which one inserts the needle in the side, has now become fairly common in Berlin, Dresden, and Hannover. Even with regular knitting needles without the hooks one can knit far more rapidly in this manner, finishing three stockings in the time it takes to make two by moving both needles. Knitting done by Dübois’s method is additionally far more elastic and has a much more beautiful appearance; also stitches will not as easily be dropped or slip off in the process. In short, the effort needed to get started with it will be richly rewarded in the end, when one has acquired a certain degree of proficiency with it.