I picked up a book from my local library on hearing it mentioned.. I don’t remember where, but it felt like something right up my alley. This Golden Fleece: A Journey Through Britain’s Knitted History by Esther Rutter. It was published in 2019, so there’s no discussion of the plague times, which is rather a lovely pause from the present day.
This book looks at the knitting history of the UK in a really gentle introspective memoir style of writing. The author spends a year travelling around the UK picking a different aspect of knitting history and visiting museums and festivals, talking with people and working on a suitable knitting project for her months’ focus. (Seriously, how do I get a book deal for 12 months worth of exploration? Sheesh! Anyhow.) The author did grow up on a sheep farm, so she came into this experience fairly familiar with all things wooly, although she admits that her knitting skills were relatively beginner when she started. She did not, for example, have to learn to spin, even if she was woefully out of practice. For all my pre-1600 folks, fair warning that this book happily settles primarily in the hay day of knitting life in the UK, mostly the 18th and 19th centuries, but she does not forget early knitting, and she even touches on naalbinding and has a go at it!
I found it to be a lovely conversational read, with plenty of good solid research to go with it, the text is chock full of end notes and rarely was there a spot that I eyebrow raised and went ‘Cite THAT source, if you would’. You know those moments, when someone is writing on something you’ve spent a fair bit of time researching and they pull out the ‘as everyone knows’, and there’s no endnote to be found and you sigh at the spread of more myth and less fact. Basically none of that here. A couple spots that I went ‘hunh.. that feels a stretch’, and better, more than a few spots when I flipped to the endnotes and copied down her source to go read it myself.
The chapters are arranged by project and month, which makes it moderately a bear to use as a reference book, but at least it has an index, so there’s a hope of being able to find something again. I’m not sure I’m in a rush to go add it to my personal library, but I’m grateful that I can snag it from my local library. No regrets about the time I spent reading it.