Museums for Family Historians – Weaving and Knitting

Knitting reached Scotland in the 18th century. Originally a male dominated occupation, it was taken up in succeeding centuries by men, women and children. Machine knitting was introduced in the 17th century and by the 19th century, knitting factories proliferated, with Hawick at the centre. Only Shetland produced hand-knitting on a commercial basis. Regional variations appeared across Scotland – Sanquhar, Fair Isle and ‘gansey’ knitwear from east coast fishing communities. From the 1830s, knitting became a fashionable hobby for Scottish women and, although enjoying a revival during lockdown, it has never really gone out of fashion.

In 1795, a handloom weaving village was set up outside Glasgow – the Calton Independent Village. The technology improved during the century and weavers were highly respected members of the community. In 1787, the Calton Weavers went on strike for higher wages and in a resultant bitter confrontation, three of them were shot by troops. Into the 19th century, power loom factories threatened the livelihood of the handloom weavers. In increasingly desperate straits, Scottish weaving communities formed emigration societies, taking advantage of government grants to move to Upper Canada and finding work in the local woollen mills.

Borders Textile Towerhouse

New Lanark Visitors Centre

  • Address:  New Lanark Rd, Lanark ML11 9DB
  • Tel: 01555 661 345
  • E-mail: (Contact form online)
  • Website:

Paisley Thread Mill Museum

Shetland Textile Museum

  • Address: Bod of Gremista, Gremista Industrial Estate, Shetland ZE1 0PX
  • Tel: 01595 694386
  • E-mail: (Contact form online)
  • Website:

Sma Shot Cottages

Stanley Mills

Verdant Works

Weaver’s Cottage

[Photo by A R on Unsplash]

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