Victorian Knitting

clock on doily

During much of the 19th century, Victorian knitting defined the craft for ladies of privilege. Many of these patterns have survived until today, allowing modern knitters to step back in time and knit the same items.

Victorian Patterns

You won't find chunky sweaters or bobble scarves among Victorian knitting patterns. Instead, you'll see a lot of:

  • Shawls
  • Tea cozies
  • Small bags
  • Cushions
  • Doilies

A huge variety of lace was incorporated into these items. The needle sizes that Victorian ladies used were almost always on the tiny side. Small, intricate stitches executed to perfection embodied knitting during this period.

Knitting in the Victorian Age

Certain characteristics of Victorian knitting stand out, such as:

  • Intricate detail work
  • Heavy on home décor
  • Shawls
  • Lots of lace
  • Lack of detailed instructions

Queen Victoria, one of England's most popular monarchs, was an avid knitter; when she showed an interest in something, waves of ladies followed suit. During this time, knitting pattern books were published and sold. Previously, the instructions had mostly been handed down in families.

Victorian Knitting Resources

Don't think that just because the Victorian age is a bygone era that patterns from that time period no longer exist. Books containing Victorian knitting designs feature updated instructions. Through the magic of the Internet, Victorian patterns are a click away.

Books

  • Victorian Lace Today: This beautifully photographed book features a little bit of knitting history along with gorgeous patterns. The stories behind the patterns and the ladies who wrote them are as interesting and varied as the designs.
  • Traditional Victorian White Work: Featuring designs for popular Victorian items like bedspreads and tablecloths, this book delves into history as well and explains what white work was.
  • Lace from the Attic: In this book, readers can learn about one particular Victorian era knitter, as well as knit a dizzying array of lace items perfect for the home.

Websites and Internet Groups

  • Vicknit: Victorian Knitting and Needlework: This Yahoo group was created for the 19th century knitting enthusiast. Patterns are explained and a general love of old needlework is appreciated here.
  • All Free Crafts offers some Victorian era patterns such as a neckerchief and curtains.
  • Victoriana: This charming site discusses some Victorian history and provides images and pictures from the era, including the kinds of items Victorian ladies most liked to knit.
  • Victorian Embroidery and Crafts: This site is dedicated to preserving Victorian history and patterns, with updated instructions for today's modern knitters.

Learning About History

You don't have to be a history buff to appreciate learning a little about Victorian era knitting. Most knitters are fascinated to realize that they are performing the same movements as knitters in times past. If you so desire, you can create replicas of some of the most beautiful, technically difficult designs ever created, in patterns tweaked for modern times.

If you're a true vintage fan, you may want to try reading and following the original patterns, which were notoriously ambiguous at times. There was none of the step-by-step handholding in patterns you'll find today. In earlier times, it was assumed that the knitter knew how to decrease or increase or turn a heel. Few of the technical aspects were explained. Gauge was also left up to the knitter to figure out. While this can be confusing to knitters who are used to pages and pages of written patterns, a little dedication can yield a project worthy of pride and awe.

By delving into history, even modern knitters can update Victorian knitting patterns into timeless designs.

Victorian Knitting