Or, Yet Another Example of How Women Did Not Have a Renaissance.
According to the East Midlands Knitting Industry heritage website, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, sponsored NOT ONLY a significant troupe of actors, but also the man who invented England's first knitting frame: William Lee. Hunsdon sponsored Lee in his quest to get a patent from Queen Elizabeth, but she refused because of pressure from the hand-knitters who didn't want to lose work and also because Lee's knitting frame produced stockings that were too coarse. He refined his design, but Hunsdon died before Elizabeth agreed to give Lee the patent.
Lee went to France, where he set up shop and continued to refine his design. After Henri IV died in 1610, though, things went south for Lee, and he died penniless in 1614. His son James packed up their remaining frames and men and headed back to England. He sold the frames in London, then went back to Nottingham, joining forces with one of his father's colleagues who had also been refining the frame's design. By the time of the Restoration, Nottingham had become one of the major centers of the stocking-knitting industry.
What is typical about all of this is how much it focuses on men. The history of the knitting industry may also include these stories about the Lee men and their Industrial-Revolution-style improvements in productivity, but what about sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women who knit? Where are their stories? It seems counterintuitive to be demanding for more representation of women in the history of knitting, and yet, that's what we see.
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