About Weldon's Practical Needlework

From Interweave Press:

About 1885, Weldon’s began publishing a series of fourteen-page monthly newsletters, available by subscription, each title featuring patterns and instructions for projects using a single technique.

About 1888, the company began to publish Weldon’s Practical Needlework, each volume of which consisted of twelve issues (one year) of several newsletters bound together with a cloth cover.

Each volume contains hundreds of projects, illustrations, information on little-known techniques, glimpses of fashion as it was at the turn of the twentieth century, and brief histories of needlework. Other techniques treated include making objects from crinkled paper, tatting, netting, beading, patchwork, crewelwork, appliqué, cross-stitch, canvaswork, ivory embroidery, torchon lace, and much more.

From 1999 through 2005, Interweave published facsimiles of the first twelve volumes of Weldon’s Practical Needlework.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Project 5: Lady's Undervest

I don’t think my 9 skeins of Heilo is going to be enough for this project (guess I should have thought about that before plunging in), so I’m on the lookout for more in this color and hope the dye lots are not too different.

I’m about 3/4 done with the front, working on the bust dart (which is an interesting technique, you increase one of the ribbing columns from 6 to 20 stitches, then back down to 6 for each dart). I’m curious to see how those bust darts look on 21st century boobs :-)
Not to mention that wasp waist.  Luckily, this sweater is quite stretchy, so it should fit a non-corseted lady just fine.  
I'm also looking forward to knitting the sleeves.  It will be interesting to see if the 1890s sleeves and armholes vary much in size from today.  From what I've read, these areas had much less ease than we are used to, but perhaps in a ribbed "undervest", the designer took comfort into account.  We shall see.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Project 5: Lady's Undervest

This week's project (which may spill over into next week), is "Lady's Undervest with Moderately High Neck and Long Sleeves" from Weldon's Practical Knitter, Twenty-Eighth Series (published in 1895), included in Weldon's Practical Needlework Volume 10.

"The Pretty undervest shown in our engraving is so elastic as to be capable of fitting almost any figure, and moreover, plenty of space is afforded on the chest by means of bosom darts.  The pattern is a wide rib.  The vest is 29 inches long from the shoulder to the bottom, and the sleeves are 17 inches long."

The original pattern requires: "8 ozs. of unshrinkable best wool of the best quality procurable, a pair of No. 10 long bone knitting needles, or No. 9 if a tight knitter or if an extra-sized vest is wanted, also a pair of No. 12 steel needles, and four pearl buttons."

I am using Dale of Norway Heilo yarn (DK weight) in Light Sheep Heather, and US #4 needles.  Here is my Undervest so far:

As I am an "extra-sized" lady, I am using the larger size needles for the undervest.  The bottom scallop edge is quite pretty.

I don't think I'll look like our engraving though.  I'm not planning on wearing a corset with this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Week 4: The Barrister's Wig

“Barrister’s Wig in Puffed Knitting” from Weldon’s Practical Knitter (Thirteenth Series), dated 1890.
“Our engraving shows the fashionable head covering known by the name of the ‘barrister’s wig’.”

I just found another picture of a barrister's wig, and I guess the Weldon's pattern DOES resemble this one.  Perhaps I shall redo it in silver at some point and see if I indeed look barrister-ish.  That picture of me modeling the wig looks more Queen Victoria bridling in horror.
The original pattern calls for “1 oz. light silver grey single Berlin wool and 2 ozs. of pale blue double Berlin, a pair of No. 9 knitting needles, and 2 yards of inch wide pale blue ribbon”.
The “puffed stitch” pattern is an interesting drop stitch pattern, where you do double yarnovers, then drop them the next row.
And it's done!  Okay, this isn't something I'm going to wear to the grocery store (unless you give me a hefty cash bribe), but I'll admit it is cozy and warm, also lightweight.  If I was a Victorian lady, I'd like it.
I'm not going to rewrite the pattern for this one, as I don't imagine there's a ton of interest in knitting it :-)  But if there's a demand, I'll write it up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Conquering the Crochet Monster

I've been a knitter for almost 50 years.  And have never been able to master the art of crochet.  I don't know if it is because I'm left-handed, but crochet has always baffled me.  And I've avoided many projects because they included a bit of crocheting.

I could see this was going to be a problem with my Year of Weldon's, as many of the lovely knitting patterns are edged with crochet.  Including this week's project, "The Barrister's Wig".

Having completed the knitting on the 'wig', I pondered trying to figure out how to work a knitted picot type edging around the edges.  Then decided to grit my teeth and give crocheting another try.  I went to my Vintage Knits inventory and pulled out "Learn to Crochet" by Coats & Clark's, a venerable "how to" book from 1946.  This little book has taught generations of beginners how to crochet, so I figured it could teach me too.  And it has "instructions for the left handed".

And I learned!  I can execute a chain, single crochet and double crochet!  Okay, my progress is pretty slow, but I picked up speed and confidence as I worked around the edges of the wig.  I ended up with a respectable lacy border for my new Victorian hood.

The Barrister's Wig is blocking right now, I should have pictures up in a day or so.  It's kind of silly looking, as many Victorian head coverings tend to be to our modern eyes.  But I have to admit, it's light and warm, and I may even wear it out in public once.  I tried to bribe Pia with a dollar to wear it to church, but she wouldn't bite :-)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Week 3: Necktie for Gentleman

The Necktie for Gentleman is done, and properly pinned with a lovely stickpin.

This is an easy project, and can be knit in either Moss Stitch (as shown) or in ribbing.  Both are mindless, and perfect for a project to work on while watching TV.

The free "modernized" pattern is here

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 4: Barrister's Wig in Puffed Knitting

This week's project is "Barrister's Wig in Puffed Knitting" from Weldon's Practical Knitter (Thirteenth Series), dated 1890.

"Our engraving shows the fashionable head covering known by the name of the 'barrister's wig'."  I was thinking it was going to be an exact replica of the wigs worn by British Barristers, as shown in this picture:

but alas, it's more of a hood. 

The original pattern calls for "1 oz. light silver grey single Berlin wool and 2 ozs. of pale blue double Berlin, a pair of No. 9 knitting needles, and 2 yards of inch wide pale blue ribbon".  I am using Dale of Norway Heilo yarn for the silver, and Knitpicks Swish DK for the blue, with US 5 needles.

The "puffed stitch" pattern is an interesting drop stitch pattern, where you do double yarnovers, then drop them the next row.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Week 3: Necktie for Gentleman

 The "necktie" (scarf, really or ascot) is coming along.  It's a wee bit boring, as Moss Stitch is inclined to be.  Good knitting project for those times when I want to read on my Nook and knit too (yes, I can do both activities simultaneously as long as the knitting is simple and the book's not too intense)  I really like the Koigu yarn I'm using for this project, it's a real pleasure to work with.

And since a proper Victorian necktie requires a stickpin to hold it in place, I just ordered this one from "Button It Jewelry" on Etsy.  It has my favorite orange!  When did that become a favorite color?  Don't know, but I love this orange/turquoise combo.

Also, I sent off my contract to Piecework.  I'll be doing 4 projects based on My Year of Weldon's for the magazine.  I'm very excited about this, it's a thrill to be a published author!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week 2: Knitted Knee-Caps Pattern is Ready

The knitted knee-caps earned a "two thumbs up" from our model, a high school runner.  She is negotiating a pair in return for her modeling chores.

You can download the free pattern here

Week 3: Necktie for Gentleman

My Week 2 project is finished, and I should have the Knee-caps pattern up later today (just waiting for photos, our model is a high school runner who loves them and has already requested a pair)

Week #3 is "Necktie for Gentleman" From Weldon’s Practical Knitter, Thirty-Fourth Series (c. 1900). “The most suitable colors are olive green, grayish blue, dark red, dark blue, and black. One ball of knitting silk, if it contains an ounce, will be sufficient for one necktie, so the cost will not be excessive. A pair of steel knitting needles, No. 14, will also be required.”
Scarf is knit in k2, p2 ribbing, or in moss stitch (as illustrated) “These neckties stretch considerably in wear, so it is well not to make them too long at first”
I am going to use a fingering weight yarn, will see if I have a silk blend I can use, and US size 2.5 (3 mm) needles.  I'm going to knit in the Moss Stitch rather than ribbing.

I didn't have any silk or silk blend yarns in the stash, but I found two skeins of Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino, a hand-painted fingering weight merino wool yarn.  The blue colors are very gentlemanly.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Week 2: Knee-Caps

I finished Knee-Cap #1 last night.  This is a pretty straightforward pattern, nothing fancy in the knitting.  And I think they are actually a pretty good idea for someone with achy knees.

However, they are not designed for someone with CHUBBY legs.  Too small for me.  I'm sure they would fit a Victorian leg just fine, and most likely someone with slim legs (or not fat ones anyway) would be able to wear them.  But a Chub-Deb?  Nope.

I'll knit the second one today, and find a suitably slim model to show how they fit.  I couldn't find any crimson yarn in the stash that worked, so went with gray Morehouse Farm Merino 3-Strand Wool, which is nice and soft.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Yarn to Choose?

Figuring out the appropriate yarn to use for a Victorian era knitting project can be a real challenge.  Gauge is seldom given, and pattern books tend to use names like "Berlin", "Fleecy", "Pyrenee" and others that were known and readily available at the time but not familiar to modern knitters.

Robin Stokes has provided some valuable information on her blog, with descriptions from period pattern books.  Piecework Magazine often has articles about textiles and yarns of the Victorian Era.

Needle size is a clue to yarn weight, too.  These patterns use the "Old UK" system of sizing needles and here is a link to Yarn and Fiber Co.'s handy conversion chart.

I'll be experimenting through the year with various yarns to try to match the ones used in Weldon's patterns.  Natural fibers (wool, cotton, cashmere, angora) will be the ones I'll use, no acrylics in the 1890s!

Here's another link to a list of equivalent yarns: String or Nothing Vintage Yarns.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week 2: Knitted Knee-Caps In Red Wool

I am still "easing into" the projects by choosing some simpler patterns to start with.  This week's project is "knee-caps", which will be knit on US #4 needles, in worsted weight yarn.  The original pattern calls for "Crimson 3 thread superfine fleecy wool" which is roughly equivalent to worsted weight.

I tried Cascade 220 yarn but it was too thick for the #4 needles.  So I'm using Merino 3 Strand by Morehouse Farm, which is nice and soft, as I imagine a fleecy wool would be.  It's not crimson though, I only have gray.  Sad, I wanted red knee-caps!

What ARE knee-caps?  If you are of a certain age, you have experienced those days when your knees complain with an arthritic kind of ache.  You may have spent a long day on the ski slopes, or running a 10K race, or gardening...or some other activity that put stress on the old knees.  Knee caps are just the thing to coddle and soothe your achy joints!

Victorian houses lacked central heating and older folks would have been especially susceptible to drafts and cold air.  Things like knee-caps, wristers, mitts and night caps would have been handy to keep warm.

Week 1: Lady's Mittens with Thumb Pattern Now Available

Project #1 is done!  I knit the mittens in two color schemes: the pink & black version was knit with Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport yarn and the blue & brown version was knit with Rowan Felted Tweed.    Needles used were US #5 for the pink version and #4 for the blue version.

My first thought was to convert the pattern to knit in the round, but I was quite pleased with the original instructions, which were knit flat and seamed.  It made a nicely fitting mitten with the thumb in just the right place.  

This is a very stretchy mitten, so will easily fit a wide range of hand sizes.  You may wish to adjust the number of rows in the mittens to suit the hand size of the wearer; our model has medium size hands.  The thumb was a tad long for her, it would be perfect with perhaps 4 rows of main color rather than the 8 rows specified in the pattern.

Free "updated" instructions for knitting this circa 1888 pattern can be found here

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lady's Mittens: Back to The Drawing Board

Sometimes the project just doesn't want to be finished...

I pondered the mitts last night and the original picture.  And decided the cuff needs to be shorter, like half the length.  So I'm redoing them.  Which is just as well, since I realized I had only cast on 40 stitches for mitt #1 instead of 48.  Must be the Nyquil.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lady's Mittens: One Done

I know I promised "no cell phone pix", but I'm at Lois' and I have no camera.  So you  get what you get and you don't have a fit :-)

Finished Mitten #1 today, very easy pattern, which took me just a couple of hours.  The hardest part?  The 3 rows of embroidery on the back of the mitt.  I haven't done embroidery in about 30 years, so my work is a bit sketchy.

I am making these per as the original instructions, knitting flat and seaming. Could easily be knit in the round though, and when I rewrite the instructions I will probably do them in the round.
These mitts are done in k1,p1 ribbing so are very stretchy. The finished mitten has quite a long cuff, they would be nice and warm under a jacket.

Original colors are blue with brown contrasting color; mine are bright pink with black. I may knit a second pair in the original colors, haven’t decided yet.

3 rows of Herringbone embroidery is done on the back of the mitts. Instructions for working this stitch can be found at this site