Knitting for Living History

Working in the Ohio Village, a lot of volunteers have wondered where to find historically accurate patterns that they can work on while in costume and later incorporate into their personal wardrobes.

If you are looking for historically inspired patterns, then there are hundreds of sources online (check Ravelry first!) that house recreations of historical artifacts and projects inspired by period photos, paintings, and other records.

Somewhere between history and imitation is Knitting Traditions, a magazine put out by Piecework. Each issue has a theme and is geared toward the examination of the historical and cultural knitwear of a particular time or place. The most recent issue (fall 2014)  even had a focus on the American Civil War, which is the period that the Village is set in. Perhaps even more valuable, this issue also includes a key for translating historical yarn weights to their modern equivalent.

If you are looking for actual patterns from the time, then fret not, as there are many sources available! Recently Interweave has republished 6 volumes of Weldon’s Practical Needlework. Published between 1885 and 1915, it includes projects for a variety of handcrafts.

For a more all-around feel for the fashion of the day, Amazon not only has reprints of Weldon’s Practical Needlework, but also Weldon’s Practical Knitter. In addition they also have Kindle versions of Godey’s Ladies Book for $2.99 or less, with some even available for free. Also available for free is the Kindle edition of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine vol 1-98, which covers the entire later half of the 19th century.

Another great source is your local library. You likely won’t have much luck if you simply ask a librarian for Civil War era knitting patterns, but if your library has local papers on microfilm from the era then you can try searching there, first. The Sanitary Commission (which eventually lead to the creation of the Red Cross) published patterns for socks, caps, mittens, and other items for soldiers in the paper. Also check to see if there are microfilm, digital, or hard copies of some of the magazines mentioned above. It the local city library doesn’t have them, then a nearby research library (such as attached to a university or museum) might.

Hopefully this will help anyone searching for something to knit!