Looped Fabric · Musical Instruments

Five and fifty years ago

The inaugural post on this blog appeared five years ago today, and has since been joined by over 130 more. I managed to prepare them with near fortnightly regularity until six months ago, when the preceding post went online. The one initially intended to follow it has yet to be finished and deals with a German gauge system for wire knitting needles.

One of the source documents consulted during its preparation reminded me about the relationship between the drawing of wire for such implements and for musical instruments. Music wire was a central concern in an earlier phase of my museum-based research and the pending post turned my attention back to it. That is also where the blogonym stringbed originated; a term used to designate the planar array of strings on an instrument such as a piano or zither. This all triggered an interest in once again writing about topics more closely related to its literal sense.

As it happens, next year marks a few other personally significant decadic anniversaries. It will be 50 years since the publication of my first article in a peer-reviewed journal, and 70 since I first played a musical instrument — the autoharp — which (soon followed by the clarinet) set me on my career path. The Music Museum in Stockholm (now the Swedish Museum of Performing Arts), where I was curator of the musical instrument collections from 1972 until 1992, holds a number of autoharps made in Sweden with innovative details illustrating the country’s largely unrecognized contribution to the development of that instrument. A homecoming article now in progress presents and discusses them, just as my first article was about the woodwind instruments housed at the same museum.

As with the article on the history of crochet that provided the upbeat to this blog, research for the one in gestation is turning up quite a bit of historically interesting information that will not be included in the formal publication. I haven’t decided whether to put that material forward in blog posts but, if I do, they will likely be sharing the present platform. There are quite a few draft posts about loop-related topics still in the queue but if I start a separate second blog it risks becoming the sole focus of my attention for a while to come. Continue reading “Five and fifty years ago”

Looped Fabric

New article on the history of knotting and tatting

I am pleased to announce the publication of my article, “Knotting and Tatting: The Dual Role of the Shuttle as a Fashion Accessory and Instrument of Decoration,” in the Early Summer 2021 issue of The Journal of Dress History.

It is a totally reworked and expanded successor to a preliminary report on Early Tatting Instructions that was previously available via this blog but was taken offline quite a while ago. Here is the abstract of the new article:

The diversionary craft of knotting is known to have been practiced at least from the mid-seventeenth century, employing a handheld shuttle to embellish thread for separate decorative applications. Knotting provided impetus to the development of a form of lacemaking evidenced toward the end of the eighteenth century that was labeled tatting early in the nineteenth century. The continuity between knotting and tatting has been questioned but is supported by the historical sources examined during this study. The accoutrements of knotting appear in portraiture, designed to harmonize with the sitter’s clothing. Prototypal tatting can also be seen in such representations but illustrations of that craft then yielded to the woodcut engravings focused on technical detail that characterize the Victorian fancywork literature. Such texts also prescribed a long crochet hook as an alternative to the tatting shuttle, but the earliest descriptions of knotting indicated that a hook-tipped implement predated its shuttle.

Looped Fabric

New article on flat-hook crochet

I am pleased to announce the publication of my article, “Evolution in Early Crochet: From Flat-Hook Knitting to Slip-Stitch Crochet,” in the Winter 2020 issue of PieceWork. The downloadable electronic edition is now available via that link and a printed copy can be ordered there, as well. The newsstand date is 27 October.

PieceWork 2020 cover

Readers of this blog may have noticed that a number of posts with headings related to the title of article were replaced some time ago with the message:

This post is temporarily offline

I’m currently preparing an article for publication about the broader topic covered by this post. When the article has appeared, I’ll place a link to it here, with the initial text of the post edited to provide supplementary information.

It will take a while to follow through on that promise but the link is the one indicated above. I’ll be starting by adding the new article to the list of publications that have been spawned by preliminary essays initially appearing as blog posts here.

The one I had been planning to release today was preempted by the publication of the latest issue of PieceWork and this announcement of it. The next few days will be spent with some of the housekeeping noted above but the displaced post will be back on track a week from now at the latest, and the blog’s fortnightly rhythm will then resume.

Looped Fabric

Archaeological Textiles Review

NOTE: The issue announced below is now available in a digital edition at no cost.


The body of scholarly writing on the history of knitting is about to increase significantly, with the impending publication of the diamond issue of the Archaeological Textiles Review. It will be devoted to Early Modern knitted items with contributions from nine experts in that field. A detailed list of its contents is located here.

It is available by subscription and the number of copies to be printed will be determined by expressions of prior interest. Anyone interested in ensuring one of their own can subscribe via the University of Copenhagen’s Webshop.