Knitting During the 1860's

Knitting is one of our most common period textiles. It was used to craft many items, including clothing, decorative laces, and accessories. Patterns appear in fashionable magazines and books of the time. That being said, to make period reproductions, we have to do careful research into proper patterns, materials and terminology. So, let’s jump in!

Making Things Look Historically Accurate

  • Use proper materials

    1. If it says silk, use silk! Silk is durable. A cotton miser purse will not hold up as well as silk, and it will never look right, because it isn’t!

    2. If it says wool – Use 100% wool. Acrylic yarn does not have the elasticity, warmth, or appearance of wool.

  • Use the proper weight of yarn

    1. Worsted – in a period pattern refers to how an item is spun, not the weight.

    2. Cotton – varying weights of cotton existed. However, in lace and collars, a size 10 will look chunky.

    3. Andulasian – fingering – sport weight wool, by today’s standards

    4. Berlin – Merino wool, that came in four thread (fingering) and eight thread (sport/dk) during the period. Modern equivalents in parenthesis.

    5. Pyrenees and Shetland – Lace weight wool yarn. Pyrenees has a tighter twist.

    6. Zepher – Also wool, came in various weights. If you see single or double, refer to the rules for Berlin weight options.

    7. Crochet silk (purse silk) – lace weight silk. I recommend something in the 100 grams/800 yards territory

    8. Fleecy – a cheaper wool that came in varying weights. Gauge weight off needle size and other pattern hints.

  • Use proper tension.

    1. Change needle sizes for proper gauge, you do not want loose stitches

  • Buy nice yarn

    1. Skip JoAnn’s and save up for the local yarn shop, or a more affordable option like KnitPicks. Your item is going to look so much nicer!

  • Don’t skip the trims

    1. The trims and finishing touches really make the item look right! Adding that Dorset button or ermine, shell, or fringe border is worth it!

  • Find a period pattern or original to reproduce.

    1. Don’t guess and make. A double crochet sontag pattern, in a period source hasn’t been found, and it doesn’t look right! That is an item meant to be elastic and hug the body. Knit or Tunisian are ideal.

  • If it is a fitted item, make sure it fits!

    1. it needs to actually fit to look it’s best! Many historical clothing, was fitted and crochet and knitwear were no exception.

  • You don't need homespun, or hand dyed yarn

    1. Mills were professionally spinning yarn, and brilliant colors existed. I know at many historical sites we have interpreters that spin, but during the 1860’s most women went to the store to buy yarn.