What Were Knitters Knitting in 1849?
I am truly passionate about history and an avid reader, so it won’t be a surprise that I combined both in researching life in London in 1849. Why, you ask, was I doing that? It really was for a good cause—PieceWork’s newest electronic pattern book!
Ladies Needlework: Knitting; Tales and Poetry: A Melange of Instruction and Amusement was published in 1849 in England. This volume is delightful, but I wanted some background on the book’s editor and what life was like then. Here’s some of what I found:
In 1849, London, the world’s largest city with a population of about 2 million, was a teeming mass of humanity. And a study in extremes: from the unfathomably wealthy to those beyond poor, from opulent palaces to living in the open on the streets, from the very well educated to the multitudes who were illiterate. Yet in between the extremes was a rising middle class—people who could read and write, afford to buy magazines and books, travel, and hire household servants. Free public libraries were a thing of the future, but enterprising entrepreneurs set up subscription lending libraries; for a modest yearly sum, a borrower had access to the establishment’s offerings.
As it turns out, our book’s editor was one Mr. George Curling Hope of East Sussex, an area on England’s south coast about 50 miles from London. An advertisement for his Hope’s Marine Library states: “The Proprietor respectfully solicits the support of the Inhabitants and Visitors of Hastings and St. Leonards, assuring them they shall find him true to his motto—“Never Unprepared”—at least to do his best to furnish whatever they may require.”
Among the services Hope’s Marine Library offered were: The Reading Room, The Circulating Library, Bookseller and Stationer, and The Berlin Wool Department, which “Is in the shop adjoining the Library, and is conducted by Mrs. Hope and competent assistants. . . .A large, carefully selected, and well kept stock of Wools, Fleecies, Canvass, superior Purse twists, Floss, Crochet, and other silks, Cottons, commenced Needlework, and specimens, and patterns of the newest articles in the business.”
And the enterprising Mr. and Mrs. Hope also published books and at least one magazine on knitting, canvaswork, embroidery, netting, and crochet from about 1842 until 1867, including the one we used for our eBook, which contains the content from the original exactly as it was printed in the original. Do keep that in mind.
Among the 17 patterns included are a variety of very sweet edgings and insertions (I’m not so sure about “Favourite Shaded Opera Cap”—I think you had to be there!!). And there’s more—an enigma, a poem, a “household hint,” and a charming chart for “Magic Slippers.”
Order Ladies Needlework: Knitting; Tales and Poetry: A Melange of Instruction and Amusement eBook, enter our time capsule, and journey back to 1849 England! You’ll be creating exactly what they created.