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The History of the Sweater (Part One)

The History of the Sweater (Part One)

As soon as the air starts to have a bit of a bite to it, many of us go scrambling. It’s sweater weather! In our neck of the woods, it is also the arrival of the Trailing of the Sheep festivities to the valley. And of course, we celebrate the four-legged creatures for being excellent producers of wool- especially great for making things… like sweaters!

In this 3-part series, we will dive into sweater history, types of wool, and lastly, sweater care. 

A long wooly past

Did you know wool hand knitting has been around for about 2,000 years? Knitted types of shirts first appeared in the 15th century near the English Channel Islands. The first types were heavy and created out of a need to keep fishermen and sailors warm. Constructed of natural wool with the oil intact, it protected them from the cold, even when damp.

In the following decades, the sweater would begin appearing on different athletes, at leisure activities, and eventually becoming an important garment of the Royal Navy mariners.

The early sweater designers

Pre-19th century knitwear manufacturers included the likes of Paine, Tyrwhitt, Compard, Sassao, Smedley, Johnstons of Elgin, Piana, Faloni, Wolsey, and one you might recognize- Piacenza Cashmere. Cashmere was founded in 1733 in Italy. He established the first wool mill in the town. To this day the company creates fine knitwear from virgin wool and other natural fibers. 

Sweater trivia:

  • A sweater is also called a jumper in British and Australian English. 
  • When designers Jeanne Lanvin and Gabriell (Coco) Chanel introduced sweaters into their collections in the 1920s, women began wearing the garment.
  • Lana Turner was known as the “sweater girl” after being discovered by a movie scout sitting at a soda fountain wearing a sweater in 1935.
  • The cardigan sweater was originally considered a men’s garnet. They moved more into the women’s circle during the late 1880s.

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