The Taxonomy of Sweater Structures and Their Origins

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Title: The Taxonomy of Sweater Structures and Their Origins
Author: Lambert, Gail Ann
Advisors: Susan Brandeis, Committee Member
Dr. Traci May-Plumlee, Committee Member
Dr. Cynthia L. Istook, Committee Chair
Abstract: Evidence of knit apparel has been traced back to at least AD 1000-1200 when the remains of knit cotton stockings were uncovered in Egypt. Children's socks from Antinöe Egypt have been dated back even earlier to AD 600. Due to the fragile nature of the materials used to produce a knitted garment, the earliest examples have long deteriorated, making the study of the origins of hand knitting difficult to trace with complete certainty. Adding to the challenge, written instructions for the earliest knit garments are not available. Ideas and patterns were originally handed down by word of mouth and often kept secret within families or other cultural institutions. The aim of this research is to gain a better understanding of the early foundations of sweater design, and to discuss it in regards to sweater construction. This thesis focuses solely on the construction of the hand knit sweater. There are many other facets to the art of garment knitting that have been set aside for the purpose of this study. An extensive literature research follows the line of sweater evolution from the earliest existing example of a completely intact knit sweater (the waistcoat of King Charles 1, 1649) to where the major branches of sweater design lead. In the data section of the paper, a series of schematics, graphs, and photographs will lead you through the construction elements of individual sweater designs. The combination of these will show how variations from the earliest sweater designs evolved. In some regions, the shaping and practicality of a garment was of foremost concern, while in other areas, highly developed patterning and color design took precedence. Unraveling the elements that go into the design of a hand knit garment explains what makes a Fishermen's Guernsey different from an Aran. It illustrates why some sweaters were knit in the round with armholes cut in and why some are shaped as they were knit. It also points to areas where several facets of the textile world join together in the creation of a sweater design. The format of the data analysis section of this thesis gives the reader a clear and concise evaluation of different examples of sweater design. Each sweater has a schematic of the shape of the garment and most have graphs and hand knit examples of the patterns that define each region. It was designed to involve the reader with the historical information in the literature review and the visual information in the data section. Both sections combine an exhaustive amount of data and synthesize it to essential elements. There is an 'at a glance' and accessible reference element that makes this work a valuable tool in the study of sweater structure and design. Sweaters like people come in many shapes and sizes; each with their own history. This work will illustrate how history and necessity have played a role in the sweaters we wear.
Date: 2003-11-11
Degree: MS
Discipline: Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management

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