Knitting for profit or leisure?

As I work on my Knitted Silk Cuffs, I have been thinking about the date that Miss Lambert published My Knitting Book, 1843. Around this time, I had thought that knitting could have been either out of necessity (to clothe yourself and your family), for profit (as a woman’s livelihood) or for leisure, depending on social class and wealth. But, it turns out that knitting for profit had declined significantly by the first quarter of the nineteenth century due to the invention of the knitting frame and the increased industrialization of knitting (Women Workers in the Industrial Revolution, Routledge, October 8, 2013, Ivy Pinchbeck, p. 229). According to Ms. Pinchbeck, by this time, some women were knitting to supplement their family income but could not support a family through knitting alone:

“In 1843, a clever knitter by working incessantly from ten to twelve hours earned 6d. (sixpence) a day, but on an average few women earned more than 2s. to 2s. 6d. a week and children from 6d. to 1s. 3d. according to their age.” (Women Workers in the Industrial Revolution, p. 229)

Miss Lambert’s My Knitting Book was priced at eighteen pence, which could have been several days wages for the women described above. I imagine that these women would have had other things to spend their hard earned money on and would not have splurged on a frivolous item such as Miss Lambert’s book.

Who was Miss Lambert’s target market, then? She does not give much information regarding her intended audience for My Knitting Book but does give a few hints.

The first hint is from the preface:

“Knitting being so often sought, as an evening amusement, by both the aged and by invalids, a large and distinct type has been adopted, — as affording an additional facility.”  (My Knitting Book, Preface)

To me, the term “evening amusement” does not seem applicable to those knitting out of necessity or for profit as they would have been hard working for much of the day and would not have had much time for evening entertainment.

The second hint is from the last section of the book, “Hints on Knitting”:

“It is easiest to learn to knit, by holding the wool over the fingers of the left hand; the position of the hands is more graceful when thus held.” (My Knitting Book, p.107)

I don’t think that grace would have been much of a concern for those women knitting out of necessity or for profit. I think they would have been more concerned with their speed and production rate.

Based on the price of the book and the hints in My Knitting Book, it seems to me that Miss Lambert’s book was aimed at providing knitting patterns for the use of women who knitted for leisure in the upper class. This calls to mind romantic ideas of manor houses, high ceilings, marble floors, large fireplaces and servants. Sitting on beautiful furniture, wearing elegant clothing, knitting gracefully while entertaining friends for tea.

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