Knitting in Victorian and Edwardian Times

Pattern for dolls Victorian drawers
© F H Powell 2014

Although knitting started to become popular in Victorian times with the advent of Women’s Magazines, many of the materials were not easy to obtain.
In the early Victorian times wool specially designed for knitting was not readily available, so people would often use wool designed for tapestry. This was very fine, usually 2-ply, and thus required fine needles to work it. Shops did not stock manufactured knitting needles so it was often down to the local blacksmith to produce knitting needles. As no one was sure what these looked like they were often blunt ended (i.e. a piece of wire cut and cleaned up so there were no jagged edges). In later Victorian times knitting needles and wool were manufactured and became readily available.
Early patterns were often rather short and abbreviations varied greatly, as did stitch names and techniques. Knitting patterns, in the format we know them today, evolved during the 1900’s. Early knitting patterns were a series of instructions detailing the whole pattern, stitches used in a single short paragraph. Much was left to the knitter to fill in. If a picture was included it was in the form of an engraving, which gave a general idea of shape, but was not much use to someone making a first attempt at knitting.
These early patterns usually knitted garments in one piece and using two needles. A jumper would start at the front and continue up over the shoulders down to the back, with stitches being cast on and off as required for the neck. If sleeves were required stitches would be picked up at the armholes and the sleeves knitted down to the cuffs. Knitting patterns retained this format and method of knitting until the 1930’s, when garments became more figure hugging and so required more shaping within the pattern.

Pattern for dolls vest
© F H Powell 2017

In early Victorian times, scarves, underwear, shawls and gloves were popular knitting projects, as were small items for the house such as cushions and antimacassars (chair backs, to protect the furniture from the hair oil favoured by men at this time). Baby and children’s clothes soon followed with patterns for cardigans and coats becoming popular by the turn of the century. By the end of the nineteenth century wool, knitting needles and patterns were readily available to all.
It must be remembered however that although knitting was common by the second half of the Victorian age it was done on very fine needles (the same sizes as we use for miniature work today) with 1-ply or 2-ply wool, so this does not always work well in miniature, as the knitting can look very chunky in 1/12th scale. We have tried to design our miniature patterns in the same way that our Victorian ancestor’s would recognise to make things look more authentic.
Our Victorian knitting patterns currently include a set of ‘open’ drawers and vest for a lady c. 1880’s and baby bib and bonnet from the same period. All are knitted, as they would have been in Victorian times; so they will give a true Victorian feel to your dolls house.

Pattern for dolls bib
© F H Powell 2014