It wasn't until the Victorian era that weaving became a gender-specific trade. The Industrial Revolution made garment production faster and cheaper than hand-woven products, leaving people with less time to knit and more time to work, causing fabric to lose its profitability (Barrago 20). In addition to being part of a lady's refined repertoire, weaving was seen as an acceptable way for women with personal needs to earn money. It was also considered a useful skill for the poorest members of society, and was taught in orphanages and poor homes.
The first recorded weaving schools were established in Lincoln, Leicester and York in the late 16th century, and hand-weaving for income continued in Yorkshire well into the 19th century. The Ackworth Quaker School in Yorkshire was established in 1779 for girls and boys who weren't wealthy. According to records, its students knitted 339 tights in 1821 alone. By the middle of the 19th century, so-called elegant fabric was flourishing as an elegant living room occupation.
After my partner Clayton passed away last year, I began knitting as a way to cope with my constant panic and anxiety. Knitwear has been found in the tombs of Spanish royalty, and it has also been an important part of religious attire for Spain. It is believed that all the first knitted fabrics have deteriorated beyond discovery, as they were traditionally made with natural fibers such as wool or cotton. In the Yorkshire Dales, where genderless weaving existed for much longer due to the remoteness of some Dales, a small child could be heard talking to himself.
The back and two front pieces were woven flat before stitching, with the abstract floral design imitating the look of silk fabrics. And if the old-fashioned weaver trope were anything to go by, you would continue to weave if you lived to be a hundred. With the invention of knitting machines, it was no longer necessary for merchants to spend all the years of training that were previously necessary to produce incredible products. A teacher would also have taught students how to sew and weave, since the instructions in those old books were difficult for anyone unfamiliar with the trade to follow. This painting from 1400 shows Madonna knitting, while this drawing from 1800 shows a male shepherd knitting.
Weaving has always been political; its history is intertwined with class and race; poverty and servitude or slavery. There is a sad doubt of most of the boys out there to knit, because of this strange gender taboo that modern society has developed. Nowadays, it is mainly thought of as a woman's hobby, although there are more and more men who are also picking up knitting needles. Professional and guild weavers were responsible for an incredible amount of clothing well into the 16th century.