Framework Knitters Museum
The Experience Nottinghamshire team visit the Framework Knitters Museum in Ruddington.
I’ve heard of the Luddites and I walk through Nottingham’s former Lace Market every day, but little did I know that the fabric of the UK’s textile industry was made just outside the city in Ruddington. The quaint village was once deafened by the noise of hundreds of knitting machines at work, making some of the earliest machine knitted garments. In 1851, about 50% of Ruddington households were engaged in the industry in some way.
The museum itself exists within the tiny cottages where the knitters ate, slept and worked hard for their meagre keep. We began our tour by watching the museum’s award-winning film, where we learned that the phrase ‘as poor as a stockinger’ came about due to the exploitative wages that the knitters had to live on.
Further exploration around the site showed us the hot, cramped working conditions and the difference in quality of the workers and managers living quarters. In spite of this, we learned about how skilled the knitters were to be able to use frames and how each machine was unique to the person who used it. A demonstration from the museum’s textiles apprentice showed us the intricate pattern of steps followed to make just one stitch.
Every last detail of the experience has been considered, through sight, smell, sound and touch – taste too if you count the quaint little tearoom! I especially liked the invitations to look inside drawers and cupboards, as well as being able to sit in one of the workrooms and one use the smaller machines to knit your own scarf. The museum is a uniquely hands on way to learn about the area’s equally unique heritage.
The Framework Knitter’s Museum is an absolute hidden gem of a museum! Tucked away in Ruddington, the museum’s historic work cottages and Framework knitting rooms tell the story of its 19th century workers and its connection to the Luddite rebellion of textile workers.
The fabulous tour starts with a video about the lives of the people that worked at the factory in Ruddington, with lots of interesting context about how the Luddite movement began. Alongside the beautifully restored workers/managers cottages, the museum has a fantastic room where all of the remaining frameworks knitting machines have been kept as they were since they were last used by their workers. These were incredibly impressive, and we even got to have a go at making socks on one of the museum’s circular knitting machines!
The Museum has a charming tea room for anyone that fancies a stop-off for coffee and cake, and if you’re interested in seeing the kind of products the framework knitters created, the museum also has a collection of stockings through the ages which are a must see, including Queen Victoria’s own stockings!
Framework Knitters Museum is a truly charming place, where past comes to life as you explore different buildings and rooms with your tour guide. The museum really transports you back in time showing how people used to live in the old Framework Knitters England.
I really enjoyed the fact that the museum lets visitors get a hands on experience and knit their own little piece. As we explored the buildings we also got to watch a short film introducing us to the Framework Knitting history and explaining the background, we learned how the old manual knitting machines work, we were shown the new area where the museum is planning to expand, we went on a shopping spree in the cosy shop and much, much more.
I can’t wait to go back as every time I visit this hidden gem I learn something new. It’s definitely not a one-time visit attraction.
Before I went along, I didn’t find the idea of a museum dedicated to knitting a particularly inspiring prospect. But the reality is that the Framework Knitters Museum is about so much more, and it’s the stories of the people behind the machines that really shine through here, and make it a fantastic visit.
Whether it’s the workers who would be heart-breakingly exploited by the owners of the knitting machines, or the stories of the Luddites, who smashed machines in a bid to protect worker rights, the displays show off exactly the right amount of human interest, grim history and even humour.
The different species of mould that have been painstakingly painted on the walls – to show reflect living conditions of days gone by – also reveal the lengths to which the museum curators have gone to, in order to authentically bring the past back to life. With exciting plans for expansion also afoot, the future looks just as exciting for this wonderful little museum.