Looped Fabric

New article on the history of the slip stitch

I am pleased to announce the publication of the article “Three objects catalogued as vantsöm in the collections of the Museum der Kulturen in Basel, Switzerland,” in the Archaeological Textiles Review No. 64 (2022).

It was coauthored with my friend Anne Marie Decker after a joint visit to the museum to examine the described material. Anne has made a corresponding announcement of the publication on her own blog, Nalbound. The complete ATR volume in which the article appears is freely available for downloading here, and this blog’s document repository includes an offprint. Here is the abstract:

The looped structure termed a slip stitch in the craft glossary of crochet can be produced both with a hook and an eyed needle. These implements are not equally amenable to working that structure into complex constructs such as the toe and heel of a sock. This article describes the examination of three objects that have been misidentified as nalbinding. Two of them are certain to have been crocheted and the third is highly likely also to represent that technique. The provenance of the objects is recorded as “Coptic Egyptian” on anecdotal evidence and without ascription of specific dates. If scientific dating were to establish that any of them approaches even the youngest age this might imply, the accepted date for the advent of crochet would require major revision.

Musical Instruments

New article on the history of the autoharp

NOTE: The initial version of this post appeared before a publication date had been set. It has now been revised to reflect the actual release.

I am pleased to announce that my article “Northern European Contributions to the Development of the Autoharp” has been published in the The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 76 (2023). As noted in an earlier post, that is where my first research article appeared fully fifty years ago and I contributed to the journal regularly for a long while thereafter. Readers of this blog who are interested in the history of musical instruments but are unfamiliar with that publication will find it worthwhile to visit the website of The Galpin Society.

Here is the abstract of the article:

Several means for simplifying the playing technique of the concert zither were devised during the latter decades of the nineteenth century, some significantly changing its physical design. The autoharp has its roots in that process and was greeted by the zither establishment with particular scepticism. It was a popular success notwithstanding and numerous patented variations on its definitive system of damping bars appeared in rapid succession. There are blurred lines between original invention and plagiarism, and assigning priority for the seminal innovation is itself problematic. The contending instrument makers were Charles Friedrich Zimmermann and Karl August Gütter. Both were born and trained in Germany, but Zimmermann subsequently relocated to the US and became a naturalized citizen. They appear to have tracked each other’s work closely. This article reviews the basis for the uncertainty and attempts to clarify it. The persisting popularity of the autoharp in the US has diverted attention from European involvement in its development. Although Gütter’s initial role has been recognized, his engagement in the instrument’s subsequent development is less well known, as is that of other autoharp makers known only for their production. Swedish contributions are discussed as a case study in the broader northern European participation.

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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.

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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:

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Looped Fabric


Soon after placing yesterday’s post about the Chronology of loom knitting online my attention was called to a significant error in one of the points it made. Socks can be knitted on a peg loom both downward from the cuff and upward from the toe. The knitted tubes made in Egypt beginning around the 5th century CE and the fully shaped socks that began to appear there several centuries later can therefore all have been made either on a loom or with knitting needles.

This assessment remains subject to modification pending the identification of construction details, secondary structural attributes, and production mistakes that are specific to the respective techniques. The difference between cross-knit nalbinding and true knitting in early Egyptian practice was identified in that manner. Insight gained about needle knitting during that discussion should easily seed a similar comparison with loom knitting.

I’ve modified the initial wording of the preceding post accordingly but anyone with particular interest in the topic may wish to reread it.


Looped Fabric

The costs and dividends of blogged loopography

Without originally intending to blog at regular intervals, I’ve long since settled into a fortnightly rhythm. I had every intention of maintaining it with a post this past Sunday despite being at the Textiles from the Nile Valley Conference in Antwerp through the weekend.

I had a nearly completed draft of the intended post with me, expecting easily to be able to finish it during spare moments. However, my time and attention were thoroughly captivated by the proceedings and informal discussions about shared interests with the other participants — both old friends and new.

I knew that time for blogging would also be scarce after my return home. On the eve of my departure, I acquired a second formal publication deadline to meet by the end of November. Both texts will build on material sketched in previous blog posts. However, additional unreported information that I would like to include requires traveling on short notice to examine pivotal objects and documents elsewhere in Europe.

This all means that the likelihood of my being a diligent blogger during November is quite low. On the other hand, the reason for it is the preparation of material that will be more detailed than usual. What I will be missing is the mid-month celebration of the 100th post appearing on the 3rd anniversary of the 1st one. But I had also intended to use that occasion to announce a break in the production of new material while reviewing the First Hundred both to refresh my own memory of what I had written and reedit them for consistency where necessary.

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.