Historical Crochet from Victorian England

I have a hoard of crocheted doilies. These have come down to me from my great-aunts, my grandmothers, my great-grandmother. I keep them hidden away in boxes and drawers because there's nothing in my home or lifestyle that says "doily." I treasure them nonetheless.

My great-grandmother brought some of these doilies in a wagon (not covered) when she moved with her family from Tennessee to Oklahoma for the 1889 land run. The family lived for a time in a dugout, and then upgraded to a sod house, doilies and all. Much later, my grandmother had huge numbers of tiny doilies made especially to go under the glasses of iced tea on her bridge club tables in the 1940s. My other grandmother used her large pineapple-pattern ones as antimacassars on the arms and backs of her worn plush chairs until she died in 1960. However they were used, these lacy doilies provided grace notes to modest lives.

 Crocheted doily from Weldon's.

And Then There's Weldon's
I love looking through old volumes of Weldon's Practical Needlework to match up my doilies with the patterns in their dusty pages.  These nineteenth-century collections of needlecraft patterns offer a trove of insight into how our foremothers lived. Their clever, busy fingers made far more than doilies: caps, mittens, scarves, vests, underwear, toys, curtains, swags, tassels, fans, doorstops, child restrainers—on and on.

Crocheted child's pelisse
from Weldon's.

We've been busily scanning these fragile old documents into electronic form so they can be downloaded, enjoyed, and used. The latest batch, Weldon's Practical Crochet, focuses on crochet, but earlier releases include knitting and bead embroidery patterns. You can add these to your resource library with a simple click, which would have made my dear great-grandmother gasp, or maybe faint.

Some of the Weldon's volumes are available as facsimile hard copy editions, too, in the event that you hoard books like I hoard doilies. In fact, there are even some copies available for great discounted prices in our semi-annual Hurt Book and Overstock sale. (And in case you're wondering what constitutes a Hurt Book, it's one that has somehow gotten dinged or scratched or otherwise besmirched. We could call them Fallen Angel books, perhaps.)