Frankly, The Folksy Magazine

Vintage Knitting Patterns at the British Library

by Emily. Average Reading Time: about 2 minutes.

“Getting what you want?. Well he usually does: Look at his sleeveless pull-over for instance. It’s a grand piece of work.”

You’ve got to love a good vintage knitting pattern (and the copy that goes with it). Well, that’s exactly what got a hoard of keen knitters to the British Library last Saturday for part of their five day Spring festival.

Vintage Knit Work was a 2 hour event at the library designed to give participants the opportunity to knit their own accessory from one of two vintage Patons & Baldwins booklets. Knitwear designer, author and fashion historian Susan Crawford was on hand to get us started – though I’ll admit to taking up most of her time chatting about her personal archive of 1930’s knitting magazines (swoon).

The “main event” for most people was the opportunity to see some of the Library’s pattern collection – yeah, that bit was a little bit brilliant. Admittedly it wasn’t the teeming “treasure trove” I’d expected – they had selected a mixture of 16 pattern booklets and knitting books which were ‘displayed’ across tables in a side room. And photos weren’t allowed so it really paid to take my time and look through each piece carefully. I was particularly taken with James Norbury’s “Knit with Norbury” from 1952 – still available on amazon if you’re quick, and the Mary Quant “Lister Bel Air Starspun” – oh to be able to crochet my own stockings….

I’ll also admit to being surprised that the average age of attendees must have been over 50 – I thought there would be a tonne of young, fashion conscious knitters desperate to get their paws on patterns from the 1930’s-70’s. How could you not want to see the pattern for a 1970’s cross-over jumper and matching woollen hotpants?

If the British Library run this event again (and I hope they do) it’d be worth the visit for the few patterns you’ll get to see (more please next time!). Those who can’t wait are able to apply for a Readers Pass which will allow you access to the patterns for research purposes (just take proof of home address and signature to the Library).

See more from the event here.

You can keep in touch with the British Library by signing up to their e-newsletters or by following Frances Taylor (Marketing Manager for Creative Industries) on twitter. I might just mention that she’s ace.

If you’re keen to get some vintage knitting patterns for yourself there are lots available online. Patterns Galore and Skiff would be a good place to start.

And if you don’t knit but can’t get enough of that vintage look you’d do well to have a gander at Folksy shops Kissed Wrist Clothing, Kee Boutique and Plum & Pigeon.

Thanks to Fran Taylor for letting me come along and to the cake deprived Luca Sage for the wonderful photographs of the event.