The history of the fine lace knitting industry in nineteenth and early twentieth century Shetland

Chapman, Roslyn (2015) The history of the fine lace knitting industry in nineteenth and early twentieth century Shetland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis tells the story of Shetland knitted lace. It is a history that comprises more than a series of chronological events which illustrate the development of a domestic craft industry; it is also the story of a landscape and the people who inhabited it and the story of the emergence of a distinctive textile product which achieved global recognition Focusing on the material culture of Shetland lace opens up questions about the relationships between the women who produce it, the men and women who sell it and the women who consume and wear it. In acknowledging these connected histories and by following Shetland lace over time and across, often wide, geographical spaces, Shetland knitted lace can be shown to epitomize and signify social relations.

This research takes a life cycle, or biographical, approach to Shetland lace in which consideration is given not only to the circumstances surrounding its production, but also to recognising the different stages in its development and how it moved through different hands, contexts and uses. Shetland lace exists within a set of cultural relationships which are temporally, spatially and socially specific and it carries shifting historical and cultural stories about its makers, traders and wearers and the worlds that they inhabited. Recognising these relationships as an integral element in the formation of historical and cultural narratives it is possible to see the role Shetland lace played in defining self and community within Shetland while acknowledging difference in an expanding national and international market. This understanding of the production, marketing and consumption processes demonstrates the multiple relationships between Shetland lace and its market and between the producer and consumer.

The focus on the highly skilled Shetland lace producers demonstrates the development of female enterprise and entrepreneurship in the Shetland lace industry in which local networks operated in an exchange of labour and goods, both as a barter and monetary economy. Identifying the economic and symbolic place of Shetland lace within Shetland society highlights the impact of external influences on the success, and perceived decline of this industry.

From this perspective this research engages with many of the key questions concerning a specialised form of textile production dominated by women, its place within the female economy, and its position within the world of trade and fashion. In this it aims to make a new contribution to our knowledge of women's work, of the operation of markets, and the perception of skill and value in the past and the present and provide an understanding of an industry which was a crucial element of household economics and female autonomy in these islands. It acknowledges the community of unknown Shetland women who, over generations, introduced, produced and sustained the Shetland lace industry and where possible identifies, and gives a voice to, previously unknown individual producers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to an edited version with 3rd party copyright material removed is available.
Keywords: Shetland, hand-knitting, knitted lace
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Abrams, Professor Lynn, Moskowitz, Dr. Marina and Christiansen, Dr. Carol
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Miss Roslyn Chapman
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6763
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2015 08:44
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2022 09:12
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.6763

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