Those Weird Victorians: What is a Couvrette?

covered crochet Wicker chair

Wicker arm chair covered in a crocheted couvrette from PieceWork Presents Vintage Crochet with Mrs. Beeton from Beeton’s Book of Needlework eBook.

The word “couvrette” is not commonly used in today’s crafting communities, but Victorian needleworkers were familiar with the term. A quick Internet search revealed that today “Couvrette” is most frequently a surname, but that is not needlework related, so let us move on. In Victorian Needlework (2012) by Kathryn Ledbetter, a couvrette is defined as French for small coverlet. The Ladies’ Work-Book Containing Instructions In Knitting, Crochet, Point-Lace, etc. (London: John Cassell, n.d.) explains that a couvrette is tatted or crocheted and worked in the round from the center outward without breaking the thread. The finished object resembles a doily, but it is a different animal due to its construction. Yet, in Cassell’s Family Magazine (1891) there is reference to an embroidered couvrette. Most Internet references to the use of the word couvrette lead back to Beeton’s Book of Needlework (1870), which contains instructions for lovely crochet, tatted, and even appliqué-embroidery couvrettes.

Crochet couvrette

A couvrette in crochet featured in PieceWork Presents Vintage Crochet with Mrs. Beeton from Beeton’s Book of Needlework eBook.

PieceWork Presents Vintage Crochet with Mrs. Beeton from Beeton’s Book of Needlework eBook includes several patterns for crochet couvrettes, published just as they were in 1870 without alterations or corrections. The wicker arm chair covered in a crocheted couvrette pictured here is “fastened on the chair with woolen braid, finishing off with tassels of the same colour.” The second couvrette is a “very pretty pattern composed of separate circles representing dahlias in raised work upon an open centre.” The dimensional nature of the needlework is stunning!

These elegant coverlets are just the thing to add that vintage touch to your décor. Plus they will serve double duty as a conversation piece for your next needlework gathering. Ask your guests, “Did you see my new couvrette?” and help bring this Victorian term back into modern usage. If you happen to crochet a couvrette, please send us a photo (piecework@interweave.com). We’d love to see it!

—Elizabeth


Purchase your very own copy of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Needlework!

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