Richard Rutt – The Knitting Bishop

6 August 2011

This morning I visited a Knitters’ Guild group in Sydney and the subject of Richard Rutt came up.  Now you may have never heard of him, particularly if you’re not a knitter, but he was really the world authority on the history of knitting.  Two hours after this conversation, I discovered that he died yesterday.

I first came across him about 25 years ago when one of the UK Sunday colour supplements ran a story about him.  He was a formidable knitter AND an Anglican Bishop (the Bishop of Leicester), who knitted all his “Bishop’s clothes” as well as altar cloths – and they were all stunning.

I believe he left the Anglican church as a protest against the ordination of women (well, I didn’t say he was perfect – just a great knitter and historian) and, despite being married, became a Catholic priest (the Catholic church in the UK did some sort of deal with priests leaving the C of E).

A collection of his books, magazines, patterns etc is held at the University of Southampton Library.  

He led an extraordinary life – he was for 20 years a missionary in Korea and wrote a number of books on the culture and language – but for me he’ll always be remembered as someone who contributed immensely to our knowledge of knitting, its history and the way it’s been adapted and adopted over the centuries.



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  1. I remember seeing a photo of him in a knitted cope and mitre, but can’t find any pictures of his work online, just information on his history of knitting collection.

  2. His work on the history of knitting is very entertaining, but, like a lot of what priests and bishops say, need not be taken ‘as gospel’.

    Vale to a great advocate of knitting.

  3. Thanks, Sally. I didn’t know he had died, but I have read his book on the history of knitting.

  4. When I was Head of a city School in Leicester during the 8o’s, The Knitting Bishop used to visit the school occasionally. He was very good with children and was always on the lookout for someone with a nice knitted pullover. He would take note of the pattern etc. He told me about his knitted mitre for which he had used gold thread.
    A very nice man in spite of not agreeing with women priests in the Anglican Church.

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