The revitalisation of a craft economy: The case of Scottish knitting

Jade Halbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the 1980s, Vivienne Weir knitted for money at home, her skills – little remunerated – realising in luxurious yarns the fashionable imaginings of a local designer. In 2018 Kate Davies knits at home, her skills the foundation of a successful eponymous knitwear design, yarn production, and publishing business. What separates these women is more than time – in contemporary Scotland, knitting is a valid and valued entrepreneurial pursuit, and so-called home knitters form part of a vast network of crafters whose turn from home craft to design-focused entrepreneurship represents a significant contribution to the £1billion per annum that the fashion and textile industries generate for Scotland.

Through analysis of the business activities of both women, collected through personal testimony interviews, this article examines the revitalisation of knitting in Scotland as a viable and lucrative entrepreneurial activity. It compares and contrasts the historical case study of Vivienne who was not afforded the opportunity to realise her potential and make a business from her skills, with the contemporary story of Kate who has translated her skills in hand-knitting and passion for design into a profitable enterprise.

It argues that the revitalisation of the craft economy of knitting in Scotland has been galvanized by the rise of a new generation of knitters determined to rewrite the Scottish aesthetic lexicon in knitwear design, a new appreciation for the heritage and tradition of skilled knitting, and a new-found understanding of the economic, social, and cultural value of knit craft. In an age of increasing automation in fashion and textiles, and concerns around the social and environmental impacts of mass-manufacturing, this article demonstrates the importance of a dynamic craft economy in knitting to the Scottish fashion and textile industries.

The article, and the research undertaken, focusses on the particularities of Scottish hand-knitting through the two case studies and the specific context of Scottish developmental initiatives. However, it has also intended to indicate the resonances of this specific research to other instances of the burgeoning of ‘traditional’ craft practices and products (often undertaken by women) as marketable within a global environment. Such marketability involves complex interactions between notions of the ‘traditional’, of cultural identity or affiliation and how these might be displayed or affirmed in clothing (by designers/producers and consumers). The notion of ‘authenticity’ and how this interacts with ideas of innovation and the fashionable are also explored, along with the importance of the Internet and social media to the success, or otherwise, of such entrepreneurial endeavours.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-195
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Studies in Fashion and Beauty
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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