Lost and Not Lost in Translation

PieceWork’s eBook offerings include the first twelve series of knitting patterns from our collection of Weldon’s Practical Needlework. The original books were published between 1886 and 1890 in London.

The antimacassar from the 11th series of Weldon's Practical Knitter.

Each series is titled Weldon’s Practical Knitter and includes a subtitle: How to Knit Useful Articles for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children, How to Knit Useful Garments for Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children, and How to Knit Useful Edgings and Insertions for all Purposes. And there are indeed articles, garments, edgings, and insertions but there’s a whole lot more, although I strongly question the “useful” quality of some of them!

The “Cosy Antimacassar” featured in Series 11 is a case in point. In the Victorian era, one needed an antimacassar to protect furniture from the copious quantities of oil that fashionable men put on their hair. For many, the best product was macassar oil imported from India; hence, the word “antimacassar.” Here’s what the Weldon’s editors had to say about this project:

The egg cozy from the 12th series of Weldon's Practical Knitter.

This antimacassar is something in the shape of a cosy, although not so much rounded at the top, it is worked in the same pattern at the back as at the front, and fitting closely upon the back of a chair, cannot easily be displaced, a very desirable qualification, as antimacassars so frequently fall off or get awry and look untidy.

While the text accompanying “Reins for Children” says they “afford a great deal of amusement to children, besides being capital exercise,” they look a lot like a restrainer to me. For more on this, Franklin Habit’s article, “Practical Insanity: A Giddy Whirl through the Pages of Weldon's Practical Needlework,” in the January/February 2011 issue of PieceWork, will make you laugh out loud.

The "Jersey Jacket" from the 11th series of Weldon's Practical Knitter.

And there is something lost in translation—or at least in the illustration—of the “Egg Cosy, Fluted Pattern.” No wait—maybe they just had really, really large eggs in Victorian England??

Apple-Leaf pattern for a quilt square from the 2nd series of Weldon's Practical Knitter.

These examples aside, there are tons of useful projects in these eBooks. Included in the more than 300 knitting patterns in the twelve series are lots and lots of items for baby, socks galore, beaded cuffs, sweaters, scarves, hats, mittens and gloves, edgings, insertions, counterpanes, and so much more—almost all of which make the journey from Victorian England to the 21st century quite well. One that I adore and have now put on my to-do list is the “Jersey Jacket”—nothing lost in translation here.

Take advantage of our eBook sale and delve into Weldon’s; maybe you actually do need a knitted antimacassar!