Canadian Fashion Connection – Monarch Knitting Company

Bathing suits, 1919

The Monarch Knitting Company was founded in 1903 in Dunnville, Ontario. They specialized in creating spun worsted knitting wool for hand knitters, as well as machine-knitted garments, primarily sweaters and swimwear. The company expanded rapidly, opening another plant in St. Thomas, Ontario in 1908, followed by another plant in St. Catharines. In 1910, the company expanded into the U.S., opening ‘The First and Only Sweater Mill in Buffalo.’

Monarch pattern for knit suit, c. 1936

During both World Wars, Monarch took on sizeable wartime contracts while also producing huge amounts of military coloured yarn for civilian hand knitters to make gloves, balaclavas, hats and scarves for the armed forces. Between the wars, the company developed pattern booklets to promote the sale of yarn for home knitters, and held the contract to supply hockey jerseys to the NHL.

Monarch was the largest manufacturer of yarns in Canada until after World War II when intense competition from other manufacturers forced Monarch to consolidate operations to just its Dunnville facility and Toronto head office. Monarch failed to adapt to modern tastes and a waning interest in knitting forced the company to close in 1967.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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