Museums and other places to visit

Most museums display only a fraction of their collections at any one time. Their associated website may show the extent of their holdings. If you want to see a specific item, check that it is currently on display before taking the time to visit; if an item is not on display you may be able to book an appointment to see it.

This list is by no means exhaustive, if you know of others which may be of interest do let us know by contacting our Guild Secretary using the contact form. Please use the same form if you think one of our current entries should be updated.

Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes contains the collection of Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby of knitted artefacts used in the Dales, including knitting sheaths.

Fashion Museum, Bath is one of the world’s great museum collections of historic and fashionable dress. The museum also holds an extensive archive of knitting and crochet magazines and patterns. January 2023: The Museum is moving to a new home in central Bath. See its website for opening details and how to access the archive collection.

Framework Knitters Museum, Nottingham lets you step back into another era, visit this Victorian time-capsule and see how the framework knitters lived and worked.

Future Museum, South West Scotland a collaboration between the local council and independent museums in SW Scotland and provides free access to the collections via its website. Plenty of information on Sanquhar knitting, patterns, images etc. Note that the Museum’s website is shown as insecure by browsers; the website does not ask you to approve anything or to enter information.

Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall Manchester has examples of knitwear in its collection and in 2013 hosted an exhibition – Knitted Elegance: Creative Fashion since the 1950s

Glove Collection Trust was established as a charity to advance knowledge of the historical, social and artistic value of gloves. In 2003 The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London gifted the Trust its collection of about 250 items, and since then the collection has expanded to over 2,000 items, which includes knitted gloves. The collection can be viewed online, and includes high quality images.

Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston has important collections and exhibitions of costume and textiles. January 2023: the Harris is temporarly closed for major construction work.

Knitting in early modern Europe [www.kemeresearch.com] is an online collection that results from a project that began as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship at the Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen The fellowship was awarded to Dr Jane Malcolm-Davies. The main focus of the project was knitted caps from the 15th to the 17th centuries. It has now expanded to look at other knitted garments, including liturgical gloves. The project makes freely available (for personal research only) two virtual collections of knitted artefacts, drawn from a variety of institutions: knitted caps from the 15th to the 17th centuries, and knitted liturgical gloves, the latter compiled by the Holy Hands project. It also provides a wealth of resources for anyone wanting to accurately study knitted items.

Knitting Reference Library (KRL) is on the Winchester campus of the University of Southampton. It includes the published works collected by Montse Stanley, Richard Rutt and Jane Waller. These comprise books, exhibition catalogues, knitting patterns, journals and magazines. Many of the items from Richard Rutt’s collection can be viewed online. The artefacts collected by Montse Stanley included knitted items and postcards and these can viewed by appointment in the Special Collections of the Hartley Library on the Southampton Highfield Campus.

Museum of London has some modern pieces as well as a host of historic items, tudor caps, mittens etc. The London Wall branch closed at the end of 2022 and will re-open in West Smithfield in 2026. KNitted items can be viewed online, but research visits are currently suspended (January 2023); it is hoped that they will recommence in 2025. Some of the historic material has been studied in depth. The caps are included in the Knitting in early modern Europe database (kemeresearch.com) and construction of the stockings was discussed in an article in issue 60 of the Archaeological Textiles Review by former Slipknot editor Lesley O’Connell Edwards, which is freely available online.

Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther (ganseys). This webpage provides a link to the online gansey collection which shows the fifty or so ganseys in the museum’s collection in great detail, including construction details and photographs of the stitch pattern. There is also a link to the ‘knit the herring project’ which includes historic photographs, and instructions to create a gansey.

Sheringham Museum has a large collection of ganseys and knitting tools. In 2020 it acquired the knitting collection of the late Michael Harvey, which includes both artefacts and research papers.

Shetland Museum & Archives has a substantial collection of lace and Fair garments. It also holds an extensive photograph library providing information on the history and life on the islands, which is scheduled to come back online in early 2023.

Victoria & Albert Museum has a world famous collection of all decorative arts & textiles, including knitting. The V&A website showcases many of their knitted items. The Clothworkers Study Centre allows personal study access to knitted items not on display in the galleries, but it is currently (January 2023) closed and is scheduled to re-open at the new V&A East Storehouse in 2024.

Exhibitions

Here is a selection of upcoming exhibitions that we know about.