I love vintage, antique and retro patterns...there is something about the almost timeless style and feel of old patterns that just brings me a nostalgic kind of joy! The pattern in this picture is one I found at an antique store in Lakes Entrance! Most of the knitting needles and the fabulous Girdle container that they are stored in belonged to my beautiful Sister in Law Karen's , mother - the wonderful and very missed May.
Did you know that the oldest known published crochet pattern was in 1846 by Mademoiselle Riego de la Branchardiere. The daughter of a French father and an Irish mother, she is known as the mother of crochet and said to be the creator of the Irish crochet style! At 18 she published her first book about fibre and needlework.
Mademoiselle Riego figured out how to crochet lace that resembled Venetian needlepoint but instead of taking 200 hours to make (as needlepoint would), the labour would be reduced to 20 hours with crochet. Mademoiselle Riego didn't invent crochet but she was instrumental in getting the technique to a wider audience in print.
The first manuals for knitting were printed in the 1830s and these are widely regarded as the precursor to the knitting patterns we know today!
Although if you looked at some of these earliest instruction booklets you might find them a little hard to decipher! They bear little resemblance to what we might understand as a pattern!
Mademoiselle Riego de la Branchardiere also wrote books on knitting, tatting and needlework and you can find links to some of her amazing patterns on Ravelry!
This is one is D'Oyley Number One (don't you love the spelling) and you can download a scanned copy of the original pattern!
The arts of crochet and knitting are a lot older than the dates of the first published patterns but that is a whole other lot of research (there is evidence of knitting in 11th Century Egypt and Nalbinding is thought to be the earliest version of knitting circa 3-5th Century)!
I was chatting with the fabulous Karen recently after she bought some beautiful vintage crochet patterns to pop into our free shared craft book library at The Yarn Me Calm Fibre Art Studio about creating using these patterns. She mentioned that she isn't able to use the super fine crochet thread that is recommended in the pattern due to various different reasons. My response was the recommended yarn is always optional! Rules are definitely made to unpick, pull apart and find loopholes (not always for breaking)!!!
I love crocheting up vintage patterns in new, thick yarns to create a whole new and more modern look to the pattern! Don't let your creativity be restricted by a yarn that is recommended, especially in an old pattern as it is possibly/likely to be discontinued!
I created my Puritan Bedspread Block by Cecilia Vanek in an 8 ply pure wool rather than a fine crochet thread. The pattern was first published in Star Book No. 11, Bedspreads and Tablecloths by The American Thread Company in 1940.
It was called the Puritan bedspread because it was designed using The American Thread Company’s ‘Puritan’ Mercerised Crochet Cotton.
The pattern is available at Free Vintage Crochet, they have some phenomenal vintage patterns to download!
Part of the reason that I created the free shared craft book library at The Yarn Me Calm Fibre Art Studio was to ensure these gorgeous patterns had a home and found a new life with someone who would love and appreciate them! You can pop in and add to the library or take some home with you without needing to return them!
There are already some phenomenal patterns there (some I plan to make use of myself!).
Here in Australia we primarily used patterns from England, Ireland and the USA. Although Margaret Ann Field did have her book, Australian Lace Crochet, published in London in 1909. Maggie, as she was known, accomplished her work whilst rearing children in the remote outback of Australia.
Mary Card from Castlemaine was an Australian Designer and Educator and had many of her patterns published, mainly in the USA.
Recently whilst visiting the Bellarine Historical Society In Drysdale I came across the Red Cross Knitting Book. These were from WW1 and WW2 when knitted goods were sent off to our soldiers with regularity in care packages. Unfortunately heavy woollen socks, beanies and mittens were often packed off to our Armed Forces in climates where these things weren't always helpful according to the sensational volunteers at the Bellarine Historical Society!
To find out more about knitting during war time in Australia, contact the your local Historical Society or the Royal Historical Society Victoria.
From the 1940's we started designing and publishing a lot more patterns here in Australia with an absolute explosion of creativity from the 1950's to the 1980's.
There was a little bit of decrease in popularity for a couple of decades until more recently where we see some of the most talented fibre artists making their mark not only in printed works but also online.
So many gorgeous patterns now find their origins in earlier versions. I made my fabulous Aunty Peppy a Marlene D. Cloche (designed by Janina Winkler) last year. This patterns origins are from the 1940's but designed for now and it is absolutely timeless (especially in red!!!).
You can now find not only fabulously talented contemporary patterns everywhere but you can still find so many old treasures just waiting to be given new life!
One of the creations I love seeing is using vintage doily patterns and making them up using thick, chunky cotton yarn! This is a fabulous option for a super funky but intricate floor rug such as the Jupiter Rug by Sweet Nothings Crochet!
If you want to check out some antique patterns with a bit of a twist, then jump on to Youtube and follow Just Vintage Crochet.
She has some amazing video's but my absolute favourite are her Mystery Crochet Patterns! She has a copy of a book from 1846 - knitting and crochet (I wonder if it is by Mademoiselle Riego de la Branchardiere?) and her son has removed all the knitting patterns and blacked out the name of the pattern so she can't guess what she is making! She randomly picks a pattern by matching a number on the page with numbers she has in a bowl and then proceeds to make the item with no idea what she is making! I often have this on at the Yarn Me Calm Fibre Art Studio and it has been the cause of me being totally distracted from getting other things done!
Some of my favourite places to find online vintage and retro patterns:
- The National Library of Australia - Crochet - Knitting.
- Free Vintage Crochet
- Free Vintage Knitting
- Antique Pattern Library
- Antique Crochet Patterns
- Vintage Patterns Dazes Post
- Wearing History
- Internet Archive
- Project Gutenberg
- Hathi Trust Digital Library
So drag out or track down some of those gorgeous vintage and retro patterns and enjoy the resurgence of our fabulous yarny crafts...it's true you know, everything old is new again!
Hopefully you are inspired to create something using a vintage pattern. If you do I would love to see them so please share them on Yarn Me Calm Community or on tag #yarnmecalm on Instagram!
Take care and enjoy.