The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits 2013
ONE EVENING ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO, my husband called to me, “Hey, you should check this out.” I did, and here we are. “This” was a rerun of an early episode of Downton Abbey, Season 1. We watched the remainder of that seasons’ reruns, but we had missed a couple of episodes, and by now had missed the entire
second season. DVDs of Seasons 1 and 2 glued us to the television until, by the time we finished them, it was nearly time for Season 3 to begin to air on PBS. That season was even better than we had anticipated, and we’re now impatiently counting the months until the fourth season comes to PBS in January 2014.
Beyond the show’s compelling story, interesting characters, gorgeous sets, stunning clothes, and the dichotomy between “upstairs” and “downstairs” is the historical context. Life in Britain during the years of Downton Abbey (from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 into the 1920s) changed dramatically. Things would never be same again.
More than 800,000 United Kingdom servicemen were killed during World War I (1914–1918); more than 200,000 British men, women, and children died in the worldwide flu epidemic of 1918. Aftereffects of the war touched all realms of life: the landed gentry increasingly struggled to pay escalating taxes; the Roaring Twenties ushered in a much freer lifestyle; women began to become enfranchised; and the automobile and the telephone, once mere curiosities, became ubiquitous.
It is within that historical context and with my personal affection for Downton Abbey that we bring you The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits, a special issue from Interweave’s PieceWork magazine. You will find articles that set the scene—from “The Life and Times of Highclere Castle” (the “real” Downton Abbey) to Beeton’s Book of Household Management (a must-have compendium for any downstairs cook) and “Knitting Comforts for the Troops” (knitters produced prodigious quantities of warm clothing and other items for servicemen and the wounded during World War I). And talented knitwear designers have created an exciting array of projects—twenty-seven classic patterns in all—for upstairs, downstairs, and wartime knitting, from a striking, t-for-a-countess Brocade Vestment (shown on the cover) to a vest for a footman and a hot-water-bottle cover for a recovering serviceman. Each design is as appropriate today as it would have been in the early twentieth century. Whether you want to dress up or down, dine in elegance or in the kitchen, attend the opera or a county fair, the patterns in these pages will provide you with innite options. Welcome to The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits. Enjoy!