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Shaker Museum

The Commercialization of Shaker Knits (2023)

Curated by Bode designer and two-time CFDA American Menswear Designer of the Year, Emily Adams Bode Aujla, The Commercialization of Shaker Knits explored the evolution of Shaker knitting, from 19th-century craft to profitable commercial practice, and its distinct and long-lasting impact on American athletic wear and fashion.

With this exhibition, Shaker Museum looked closely at the turning point within the Shaker community when, in 1886, sisters in the Canterbury Shaker Village received an order for 60 dozen pieces of knitwear. Though the communities had long utilized hand-knitting techniques and knitting machines, this particular order inspired the purchase of both a single web knitting machine and exclusive, high-quality yarn. The resulting combination was characterized by a heavy, tightly knit, ribbed pattern which was malleable without sacrificing strength, leading to the product’s rapid rise in popularity among Northeastern Ivy League athletic programs. Today, the term “Shaker Knit,” now used to refer to any knit that embodies the dense, durable pattern and quality of original Shaker knits.

The Commercialization of Shaker Knits featured dozens of items from Shaker Museum including a dark blue wool machine knit
sweater by the sisters at Canterbury Shaker Village, a white wool knit sweater coat produced by the Shakers at Enfield, a Lamb knitting machine used by the Shakers, knit mittens, clothing labels, and more. Over twenty Shaker knit sweaters, dating between 1920-1981, and various archival photographs from Bode Aujla’s personal collection will be on display, along with two contemporary Bode knit pieces, which utilize and interpret the traditional Shaker knit.

The exhibition was previously on view from March 17-May 28, 2023, at the Kinderhook Knitting Mill at 8 Hudson Street, Kinderhook, NY.

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Shane Rothe

Curatorial Associate

Shane Rothe (they/them) joined Shaker Museum in July 2023, working with independent curator Maggie Taft on an exhibition for the new museum space in Chatham. Shane is an artist as well as a curator and continues to create in the mediums of painting, sculpture, writing, and performance. Shane holds a BFA from CalArts and an MA in art history and curatorial studies from the University of Chicago.