Teresa Whitfield

Woollen Stockings for the Mending Girl

Victorian women had been wearing machine-knitted worsted stockings, made on a circular machine, since the late 1800s but the circular stocking knitting machine at Sunny Bank Mills was not used to make stockings but to create small, knitted swatches of new dyes for Worsted woven cloth for men’s suits.

However, in this drawing the artist imagines illicit use of this machine to make a pair of woollen stockings for one of the female millworkers, many of whom were employed in the Mending Room at the mill.  Their relatively menial role in the production of this fabric for men to wear echoes the inequalities often encountered in the textile industry. When looking at archive photos of these women workers at Sunny Bank Mills, one wonders about their living and working conditions but also, in relation to this drawing, what kind of stockings they were wearing under their floor length skirts.

In Theresa’s work, the act of drawing is a way of exploring, researching and familiarising herself with an object. Here she also demonstrates that drawing knitted clothing is very similar in rhythm and mind-set to the act of knitting itself – repetitive and meditative in a way that fulfills the need to focus the attention and calm the mind.