Oh MyThose Victorians

In the late 1990s, we purchased 30 original volumes of Weldon’s Practical Needlework, English publications from the late 1880s. Since then we’ve published facsimile editions for the first 12 volumes and numerous electronic pattern books using some of the knitting, crochet, and bead embroidery content.

Baby's Spencer from Weldon's Practical Knitter Tenth Series.
Fancy Basket from Weldon's Practical Knitter Tenth Series.

Every time I look at Weldon’s I can’t stop myself from grinning. Those Victorians were so incredibly passionate about adornment—adorning themselves, their furniture, their walls, even receptacles for holding their needlework supplies (see the Fancy Basket at left!).

Okay, some of the patterns don’t translate to twenty-first-century knitting, but many, many do. One that does is the very sweet Baby’s Spencer. And regardless, they all provide a glimpse into Victorian life.

Gentlemen’s Sock Knitted in Railway Stitch from Weldon’s Practical Knitter Tenth Series.

And some are just down right intriguing: the Gentlemen’s Sock Knitted in Railway Stitch is one example. Another is Cockle-Shell Knitting. Both of these are included in Weldon’s Practical Knitter Tenth Series, now available as a PieceWork eBook. There’s no illustration to accompany this pattern, so here are the instructions exactly as they appeared in the original from the hands of a Victorian to you. If you make Cockle-Shell, we’d love to see it! Email us at [email protected].


Cast on 9 stitches for each pattern, and 2 stitches over for the edge;  the two edge stitches are not mentioned in the following directions, but are to be knitted plain at the end of every row. 1st row—Knit 2, purl 1, knit 5, purl 1, and repeat. 2nd row—Knit 3, make 1 and knit 1 six times, and repeat. 3rd row—knit 2, purl 13, and repeat. 4th row—Knit 2, slip 1, knit 1, pass the slipped stitch over, knit 9, knit 2 together, and repeat. 5th row—Knit 2, purl 2 together, purl 7, purl 2 together (these last two stitches should be turned before being purled together so as to make them preserve the raised perpendicular stitch in the knitting), and repeat. 6th row—Knit 2, slip 1, knit 1, pass the slipped stitch over, knit 5, knit 2 together, and repeat. Repeat from the first row for the length required.

Happy Victorian knitting!

P.S. The first 9 series of Weldon’s Practical Knitter also are available as PieceWork eBooks. More Victorian knitting!