Knitting of the British Isles: A Hands-On History

Short course

+44 (0)20 7942 2000
  • Wednesday 7 February 2024 – Wednesday 13 March 2024

  • V&A South Kensington

    Cromwell Road
    London, SW7 2RL

  • Creative Studio

  • Course price £450.00

Sold out

While the origins of knitting are unclear, we know it has been practised in many different parts of the world, over many centuries, producing objects of great beauty as well as items fulfilling practical needs.

Over six weeks we’ll explore the history of knitting in the British Isles, covering specific objects in the collection, as well as the influence of silk, debunking the myths of Shetland lace and unravelling histories of hand-knitting from the Indian subcontinent.

In this six-week knitting history course you’ll dive into a different history and technique each week to gain a deeper understanding of the craft through a mix of lecture-based learning followed by a practical hands-on session with textile practitioner Rachael Matthews.

This course is fully sold out but should you be interested to join the waiting list please email

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course photo
Portrait of V&A Academy  Course contributors

V&A Academy
Course contributors

Susan North, Rachael Matthews, Dr Philip Sykas, Barbara Smith, Roslyn Chapman, Pragya Sharma, Prof Sandy Black

The course exceeded my expectations. Not only did I learn techniques, as expected, but I discovered a greater confidence in my painting skills. Previous Academy student

Course overview

Week One: Stocking Stitch
Stocking stitch is often a knitter’s comfort stitch, but deeper investigation of how the loops work can help us to understand the full complexities of the craft.

Week Two: Knitting with Silk
In week two we will take the needle size down to make tiny samples with fine silk threads. The slow satisfaction of fine silk knitting gives us a mind-boggling insight into the way textiles used to be made.

Week Three: Aran Knitting
With bigger needles and heavier wool, we will twist our stitches in robust vertical repeats. The hardest part of Aran Style knitting is choosing a design from its rich history.

Week Four: Sheltand Lace
Learning to knit Shetland lace with Shetland wool is a sublime experience. This lightweight fabric full of rhythmic holes is warm, delicate and substantial.

Week Five: Hand-knitting from the Indian Subcontinent
Taking inspiration from the multi-cultural provenance of Indian hand knitting, we will create paisley motifs using a wide selection of Shetland yarns.

Week Six: Working on chunky needles, we will transform knitting from the functional to the performative live in the galleries.


By the end of this course you will:

Feel confident moving away from the knitter’s comfort stitch of knit and purl. Be able to increase, decrease and fix mistakes in the rows. Have comprehensive knowledge of pattern abbreviations, charts and tension squares.

Enrol now

Short course: Knitting of the British Isles: A Hands-On History

7 February 2024 - 13 March 2024


Sold out

Need help enrolling? Talk to the admissions team:

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Open 10.00 - 13.00, Monday to Sunday (closed 24-26 December)

Related events

Header image: Jacket for a man or woman, hand-knit of coral pink and silver-gilt silk, 1630-1700, Italian