» Skip to content

Published: 21 May 2022

By Andy Ross

Recent articles

View all stories

Knitwear crossing boundaries

A knitwear designer, Dulcie Svendsen, created a series of garments in 1975 for knitting at home, basing the patterns on Maori design. 

Entitled Maori Design Knitwear, the booklet that features these garments is now in the collection. Miniskirts with tops, cardigans, jumpers and dresses are shown in delightful photographs, one of which, Poutama, you can see on this page. The same booklet is held in the National Library (record here). 

One (possibly apocraphyl) story about the Cowichan sweater of the Coast Salish people of British Columbia has it that a Shetlander taught local women to card,  spin and knit in the late 19th Century. From that a distinctive style of knitted jumper has emerged; one that is instantly recognisable. In situations like these, local people learn and adapt, bringing a different sensibility to the final products and owning what that output looks and feels like. 

The Hot Topic of recognition versus appropriation is one that needs to be treated with caution and respect but I am interested in how this has played out since the 1960s in textile design. If anyone has any information or knowledge of the subject, please email for me to share on the blog.