Knitted Quilts: Practical and Pretty

It’s well known that Victorian women were obsessed with adornment. From their clothing to their homes, more was more. Judging from the abundance of patterns available for edgings, insertions, and trims of all sorts, knitters of the era obviously followed the same philosophy. Anything that could add just one more layer of frill and lace! What I find hilarious is that these patterns were often marketed as “practical,” and technically many of them were, but they were ultimately fancy. I guess for the affluent middle-class Victorian woman, a fine cotton bedspread knit on size 000 or 0000 needles could be considered practical—it’s slightly warm and you put it on a bed, right?

Square for a Quilt, Corinthian Pattern from Weldon's Practical Knitter Ridged Hexagon for a Quilt from Weldon's Practical Knitter The Lily Pattern Quilt from Weldon's Practical Knitter

Counterpane Blouse by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, Interweave Knits Summer 2010

Knitted bedspreads are the perfect combination of practical and pretty, which would probably explain why they were at the height of popularity during the mid-nineteenth century. Weldon’s Practical Knitter has some especially lovely patterns for knitted quilts, and now you can find the Seventeenth Series, “How to Knit Pretty Designs for Quilts and Borders,” at the click of a mouse thanks to PieceWork’s newest eBook. You’ll find quilt blocks and counterpanes featuring funky ribbed patterns, bobbles, and leaves, and insertions with panels of cables and lace. There are also patterns that emulate sewn quilt blocks, such as the Lily Pattern, which creates an optical illusion when the blocks are joined.  As a beginning quilter, I can certainly appreciate the concept of a knitted “quilt.” There’s no tedious cutting or measuring; all you need is a bit of yarn and your needles, and you can watch each block form before your eyes. The result can be very fancy indeed.

If you’re not interested in knitting with microscopic steel needles like those used by the ladies of yesteryear, why not try a slightly heavier yarn? But don’t limit yourself to just bedspreads! Any knitter worth their salt could take these vague instructions as an opportunity to create something beautiful that is all their own. Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark’s Counterpane Blouse is a perfect example of knitting innovation inspired by the traditional designs of the Victorian era. The sky is the limit!

Happy knitting,