Sunday, 23 August 2020

Updated biography for France Lambert (2020)

Esther Potter refers to Lambert as ‘one of the most popular of the early writers’ and that there was an ‘enormous demand’ for Lambert’s books, quantifying ‘phenomenal success’ as 34,000 copies published of My Knitting Book with continental translations. Richard Rutt, writing 32 years later, expands slightly on Potter adding remarks about Lambert’s knitting needle gauge, then finished the half-page section with a direct quote from Potter (un-cited by Rutt) appending ‘We know no more.’  Both Potter and Rutt extracted data from the preface of Lambert’s books pulling out shop addresses and that she was 'embroideress to the Queen' with no further follow-up or investigation. Potter and Rutt both continue on to discuss a wider range of information about other successful authors of knitting books who published multiple titles and copies. Rosemary Mitchell lists Lambert, along with Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland, and Elizabeth Stone, as ‘neglected figures’ whose importance as non-fiction authors has only recently begun to be understood and appreciated. The prior difficulty of locating and cross-referencing primary source information resulted in little being known of Lambert even though she was a successful author, accomplished embroiderer and seemingly successful shop owner. A deeper dive into the data present in her books, combined with the increased availability of primary sources and library catalogues, has widened the body of knowledge of Frances Lambert. 

Frances Lambert's death certificate lists her birth as 1799. I'm still searching for information on Frances' formative years. Currently the earliest pieces of evidence are entries in 1832 in a business directory, and in a newspaper advert, listing Frances working with her sister Catherine teaching drawing and fancy work from 9 St George Street, Hanover Square, London. The same year Catherine marries Charles Thomas Mears and moves to Broadway, New York, where newspaper adverts show Catherine continues to teach.

In 1835 Frances moves premises around the corner to 7 Conduit Street and drawing disappears from the adverts. Frances is sharing the property with O'Hara, a bootmaker. 

On 30 April 1836 Frances Lambert marries John Bell Sedgwick (College Bedell, Royal College of Physicians) in Saint Martin in the Fields, Westminster. Frances signed the preface of her books "F.S." for "Frances Sedgwick". 

In 1837 Frances is awarded a Royal Warrant for 'embroideress in general and fancy needle work woman in ordinary to her majesty'. Demonstrating her business and marketing acumen the business directory and newspaper adverts now included 'embroideress to the Queen and repository for fancy needlework' promoting the Royal Warrant and the increase in business trade from just teaching to being a retail outlet. 

In 1838 husband John takes over the fire insurance for 7 Conduit Street in 1838, previously held in Frances' name.  

In 1839 the business description expands to 'fancy needlework, fancy cabinet and upholstery work, English and foreign fancy goods and textiles for the work table' and relocates two streets south to 3 New Burlington Street in 1840.

In 1842 Frances starts her publishing career producing books on fancy work with the renown publisher John Murray, writing under her maiden name which she explains in the preface 'as being that by which I am more generally recognised in my avocation'. Her first book The hand-book of needlework (copy in the British Library) is not the first published book containing knitting patterns (Gaugain and Watts both published in 1837) however this is the first work to contain subject history and methodology in addition to patterns. Frances explains in the preface that the intention is 'to render them more generally interesting than a mere Manual of directions and examples'.

My knitting book parts 1 and 2 followed in 1843. Part 1 sold 34,000 copies by 1846 according to the 1872 edition of Dictionary of authors. Frances promotes her invention 'created some years hence' of a 'standard filière' or knitting needle gauge to measure the size of knitting needles, which she sells from her business premises and through other Berlin wool houses.

1844 sees the publication of Church needlework, My crochet sampler and Ladies' Pocket-Book of Knitting

In 1847 Frances publishes Practical Hints on Decorative Needlework and closes the business premises in New Burlington Street. 

In 1848 Frances publishes the second series of My crochet sampler.

In 1849 John retires from 20 years as College Bedell and purchases a property on Haverstock Hill, Hampstead in 1849. 

The 1851 census shows that Frances' sister Catherine's American-born sons, Charles (13) and Thomas (12) Mears, are living with them. 

In 1861 Frances and husband have moved to 1 St Andrews Place, St Marylebone.

In 1880 Frances died at home of ‘hepatic disease ascites’, on the 1st August, aged 81. No will or probate has been located for Frances, though likely as a married female in 1880 it was taken as granted that John immediately inherited. 

In 1884 John married Louisa Moir (aged 54). Lousia dies the next year.

In 1895 John died, aged 86. John bequeathed £7000 to Frances' nephew Thomas Lambert Mears (now a lawyer in London) and £500 his cousin William Sedgwick (a lieutenant-colonel in the royal engineers). John bequeathed £300 to the Royal Institution, in aid of the fund for the promotion of experimental research. £200 to Middlesex Hospital. £100 to St. Marylebone Charity School for Girls. The rest of the estate was shared between Thomas and William, including 1 St Andrews Place. Thomas subsequently moved into 1 St Andrews Place with his family.

There is a photo of the Middlesex Hospital garden in February 1947 in an NHS publication with the description "The fountain in the garden was donated to the hospital by John Bell Sedgwick, who was deputy chairman, 1879-1895." University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Inside Story January 2010, p8.

This is possibly a photo of John. It is of a "John Bell Sedgwick" held in the University College London Hospitals art collection.

There are many examples of knitted and crocheted items from Frances Lambert's pattern shared on Ravelry -

Full References

If you are interested in the full details of the research, with references, they are available in my MA History dissertation 'Knitting as a leisure activity for early Victorian middle-class women 1837-1851'.  

Partial References

Potter, Esther, ‘Knitting and Crochet Books’. 29

Rutt, Richard, A History of Hand Knitting. 113

Mitchell, Rosemary, ‘A Stitch in Time?: Women, Needlework, and the Making of History in Victorian Britain’, 189.

Copies of France Lambert's books

British Library

Lambert, Frances, Church Needlework, with Practical Remarks on Its Arrangement and Preparation (London, 1844), British Library
———, My Knitting Book, 4th edn (London, 1844), British Library
———, My Knitting Book, 2nd edn (London, 1846), British Library
———, Practical Hints on Decorative Needle Work, 2nd edn (London, 1847), British Library
———, The Hand-Book of Needlework (London, 1842), British Library
———, The Ladies’ Complete Guide to Needle-Work and Embroidery (Philadelphia, 1859), British Library

Hathi Trust 

Lambert, Frances, The Hand-Book of Needlework (New York, 1842), Hathi Trust <>

Project Gutenberg

Lambert, Frances, My Knitting Book (London, 1843) <>

University of Reading

Lambert, Frances, The Hand-Book of Needlework, 2nd edn (London, 1843)
———, The Hand-Book of Needlework, 3rd edn (London, 1843), University of Reading Special Collections

University of Southampton

Lambert, Miss., My Crochet Sampler, (London, 1846)
———, My Knitting Book, 7th edn (London, 1844)
———, My Knitting Book, (London, 1845)
———, My Knitting Book, (London, 1847)
———, The Hand-Book of Needlework (London, 1842)

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Fancywork and needlework as leisure activities for middle-class Victorian women

Leisure time is generally considered to be time spent on activities with no financial return or reward. During the seventeenth and early eighteenth century leisure time was only available to nobility and aristocracy whose income came from inherited land ownership or other investments. During the eighteenth and nineteenth century the development of the Victorian middle-class brought with it an increase in perceived leisure time for middle-class women. Domestic magazines were produced informing women of the appropriate activities for their leisure time. The lowering in production costs and increase in potential readership through increased literacy for women was in part a driver for the increase in available publications. A by-product of the increase in titles was the increase in roles for women writing and editing the magazines, therefore adding authorship to the list of acceptable leisure activities. The magazines were followed by books, narrowing in genre and focus as the public appetite and buying power increased. 

The domestic magazine was the first printed media that gave instructions to middle-class women on how to run their household and suggested appropriate activities for leisure time not spent on housework or household management. The magazines began as a general domestic magazines with sections on cookery, household management and dress. The Lady’s Magazine (published 1770-1818) makes clear in the title of the publication who the intended audience is and the generic title enables the publication to cover a multitude of subjects. As a printed magazine, the target audience is people who can read. This immediately removed a large proportion of the population who were not able to read. Estimates of literacy in the 1750s is 30% female / 70% male with female literacy increasing to 50% by 1850, with little change in male literacy.[1] The number of publications increased as the literate audience increases and publication costs decreased. The variety of subjects covered in the titles widens, reflecting the naturally-occurring trends and changes in society as pull factors, and the industrialisation and product marketing developments as push factors. As circulation increased, the number of titles increased allowing titles on more specific subjects, such as The lady’s album of fancy work for 1850, The royal magazine of knitting, netting, crochet, and fancy needlework (1851-1852), and The royal Victoria knitting book (1853).[2] For those with needlework and knitting skills who could not afford to purchase a ready-made item, it was possible to use the images in the magazines as guides for creating homemade copies. The early knitting books reflect this, containing recipes for edgings and embellishments to dress-up existing garments.

'London Fashionable Walking and Full Dress', 1807

published in The Lady's Magazine
hand-coloured etching and line engraving, published July 1807
NPG D47528
© National Portrait Gallery, London 

Alongside the promotion of the socially-acceptable activities within the Lady’s Magazine, the magazine itself aided in the increased social acceptability of women writing content for magazines. Veblen notes the very delicate line that women were forced to tread in order to accomplish income from the activity of writing, which can be accomplished as a sole activity within the confines of the drawing room within the remit of a permissible leisure activity, to ensure ‘the good repute of her natural (pecuniary) guardian’, without ‘vulgar useful employment’ being perceived.[3] The research by Claes suggests that writing for magazines was a forerunner to the increase in female authorship of subject-specific non-fiction books.[4] The success of the domestic magazine, targeted at a middle-class female audience, provided guidance on socially-acceptable activities to fill periods of leisure time whilst surreptitiously providing a potential incoming-generating home-working opportunity.

The royal magazine of knitting, netting, crochet and fancy needlework by Rigolette de la Hamelin, Mdlle

University of Southampton's Knitting Reference Library

Both needlework and fancywork were promoted in publications of the time as desirable skills for women to aim to become accomplished at. Both Mitchell and Maitzen mention the references in Victorian fiction and non-fiction to the importance of needlework as a 'desirable feminine attribute'.[5] Ward analysed the specific needlework recipes present in different magazines targets at women and observed a correlation between the magazines targeting middle-class women and references to taste.[6] The magazine attempts to train the reader’s taste by providing recipes for items that the magazine writers and editor deem to be appropriate for middle-class women of the time. The naming of the variants of needlework indicates the level of complexity of the handmade item. The term ‘fancy work’ appears to distinguish everyday essential items from those items made for special occasions or for purely aesthetic enjoyment. A simple fabric blouse is an essential garment that can be handmade from a minimal amount of fabric and materials. The addition of a white lace collar adds quality and fanciness to the simple base garment. A lace collar takes hours to produce and can be moved from one garment to another. The addition of fancy embellishments is associated with attending church and special occasions for the working classes. For the flamboyant and wealthy aristocracy the level of fancy work on garments is standard and expected. For the middle-class it is an opportunity to demonstrate visually where on the scale of middle-classes the person was by the amount and quality of the embellishments. The ability to create high quality embellishments for your own garments was perceived socially as a desirable skill.

The decreasing cost of book printing and the increasing literacy rate during the nineteenth century resulted in magazines being scoured for ideas for book genres and subjects. The magazine publications were initially serialised into bound publications. Successful magazines that lasted a sufficient period of time to make it profitable started to produce bound annuals containing the magazines from the full year, often with the addition of a contents page or index. As with magazines, the increase in volume of book publications saw an increase in genres, and increasing niche subject areas and specialisations. Initially the wide genre was on domestic household matters, narrowing into separate genres for cooking and textiles.

Printed needlework patterns have a flourishing publication history. Between 1523 and 1700, over 150 different needlework pattern books were published in England and on the Continent.[7]

The mid-nineteenth century was significant for the book publishing industry as printing production costs decreased and literacy increased, and significant for the general public as barriers to accessing information were eroded. The publishing industry was gaining momentum and starting to adjust to being a commercial entity for the masses transitioning from a specialised market for the elite few.[8] Decrease in cost of printing results in decreasing cost to purchase books and magazines. The decreasing cost enabled an increasing number of female readers and increasing literacy. As the female audience increases, publishers increase the number of titles targeted specifically at women. This increase in publications results in an increase in authors of those publication. As authorship increased the number of women who were authors was also able to increase, followed by increases in female editors.[9] A result of the increase in the pool of available books and the increase in literacy was the erosion of the barriers of entry to access knowledge, referred to by Bennett as the ‘democratization of knowledge in Britain’.[10] Bennett points to the five-schilling Family Library books published by John Murray from 1829 to 1834 as being one of the earliest endeavours to provide cheap books to the working and middle-classes.[11] Belolan’s American-centric research found multiple adaptations of the same recipes appearing in magazines and book publications, most likely due to the editors of the work-table sections in the magazine also being the authors of books. Belolan found that many prolific contributors of recipes to magazines, including Mlle. Defour, Mrs. Jane Weaver, and Mrs. Pullan, continued on to have successful publishing careers on domestic-related subjects.[12] Publishing of domestic magazines and books contributed to an increased in female readers and authors.

The publishing of titles specifying the appropriate leisure activities for women resulted in a by-product of providing part-time employment for women writing content for the magazines, taking them away from the leisure activities they are writing about.

[1] R. S Schofield, ‘Dimensions of Illiteracy, 1750–1850’, Explorations in Economic History, 10/4 (1973), 437–54.

[2] Michael Wolff, John S. North and Dorothy Deering, eds., The Waterloo Directory of Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900 (Waterloo, Ont., 1977)

[3] Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class, 358.

[4] Koenraad Claes, ‘“due Encouragement”: The Consecration of Female Authorship through Reader Contributions and Extracts in the First Series of the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1819)’, Victorian Periodicals Review, 50/2 (2017), 319–35.

[5] Rohan Amanda Maitzen, Gender, Genre, and Victorian Historical Writing (New York, 1998), 65;

Rosemary Mitchell, ‘A Stitch in Time?: Women, Needlework, and the Making of History in Victorian Britain’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 1/2 (1996), 185–202.

[6] Ward, ‘“A Charm in Those Finder”: Patterns, Taste and the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’, 249.

[7] Footnote: Katherine Epstein, intro., German Renaissance Patterns for Embroidery: A Facsimile Copy of Nicolas Bassee's New Modelbach (1568; reprint, Austin, TX: Curious Works, 1994), 3. (Belolan 2011:326)

[8] Alexis Weedon, Victorian Publishing : The Economics of Book Production for a Mass Market, 1836-1916 (London, [England] ; New York, New York, 2016), 1–2.

[9] Marianne Van Remoortel, Women, Work and the Victorian Periodical: Living by the Press, 1st ed. 2015 edition (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, 2015).

[10] Scott Bennett, ‘John Murray’s Family Library and the Cheapening of Books in Early Nineteenth Century Britain’, Studies in Bibliography, 29 (1976), 140.

[11] Bennett, ‘John Murray’s Family Library and the Cheapening of Books in Early Nineteenth Century Britain’, 139–66.

[12] Nicole Belolan, "From the Collection “The Blood of Murdered Time”," Winterthur Portfolio 45, no. 4 (Winter 2011): 321-352.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

How the economics of knitting has influenced the location and production of knitwear

The economics of the time taken for hand-knitting and spinning during the 15th and 16th centuries was one of the motivating factors for inventing the knitting machine. The small size of knitting wires for fine knitting, and the variable yarn gauge of hand-made yarn, results in knitting to a specific garment size taking a long and variable amount of time. To quantify the likely time taken requires data on the speed of hand knitting. There hasn’t been much research or statistical analysis on the average knitting speed of an adult. At a 2018 event for Shetland knitters, the majority of experienced knitters were able to produce over 200 stitches in 3 minutes, which is just over 1 stitch per second.[1] A jumper back consisting of 150 stitches wide by 400 rows long requires 60,000 stitches. At 1 stitch per second the back would take 16.6 hours of knitting. The ‘scale of stockings and socks’ chart at the back of the Knitting teacher’s assistant provides cast on stitch count and rows for several sizes of sock and stocking, which can be used to calculate a rough stitch count of 7,000 – 16,000 stitches for a stocking, and between 1,700 – 6,000 for a sock. At 1 stitch per second a stocking takes between 2-5 hours, and a sock 1-2 hours, however the 1 stitch per second does not allow for time taken to increase and decrease stitches, and the time taken to move between double-pointed needles. These figures are very rough estimates that give an indication of the amount of time that knitting requires. As O’Connell Edwards notes knitting ‘was never a well-paid occupation’ and the sparse records that exist indicate 18d was paid for a dozen socks in the 1720s, and 2s 6d per week income for a full-time knitter in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1840s.[2] 2s and 6d is so low as to not indicate any purchasing power according to the National Archives’ historical currency converter.[3] Knitting is an excellent method to create warm and comfortable garments for the knitter and their immediate family, but scales poorly as a viable economic activity due to the amount of time it takes to complete a hand knitted garment.

Photo taken at Framework Knitters Museum in Ruddington

During the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries increasing industrialisation of the textile industry and printing industry reduces the production time and cost of textiles, clothing and book manufacturing, moving knitting from the home to the factory. Industrialisation reduced the labour cost and production time for manufacturing knitted textiles resulting in increased profit and social unrest. The economic and political importance of the wool trade is evident in the woolsack that the Lord Speaker has sat on in the House of Lords since the fourteenth century.[4] Each stage of the textile industry transitioned from a hand-skill to a specialised machine. First scouring and carding, then spinning, and then the invention of the knitting frame by the Reverend William Lee in 1589.[5] Each advance in mechanisation resulted in thousands of home-working jobs being replaced with hundreds of factory workers. The mass unemployment resulted in riots so wide-spread and brutal that Parliament passed the Frame Work Bill.

Quote from Lord Byron in the Frame Work Bill: “During the short time I recently passed in Nottinghamshire, not twelve hours elapsed without some fresh act of violence; and on the day I left the county I was informed that forty frames had been broken the preceding evening, as usual, without resistance and without detection. [6]

Photo taken at Framework Knitters Museum in Ruddington

A competent knitter can adapt to knitting in a variety of physical environments, and tools were developed to support knitting whilst multi-tasking. There is a need to see the needles and stitches as a novice or if working a complex pattern. There is less need to see the needles as knitting experience increases. The blind were taught to knit both by hand and knitting machine, and because they are taught to knit by touch, have less reliance on good lighting.[7] Glass windows were expensive but knitting production is improved with good light, especially machine knitting. Knitting machine factories place the machines perpendicular to the windows to provide improved light, then squeeze the knitting machines as close together as possible to fit as many in as they can, which can be experienced at the Framework Knitters Museum in Ruddington.[8]

Photo taken at Framework Knitters Museum in Ruddington

Shetland knitters took their knitting outside to take advantage of the natural light. There is a marked difference between multi-tasking Shetlanders and shepherds knitting whilst working to maximise their individual output, compared to the middle-class work-table knitting activities in the drawing-room conducted as a leisure activity due to the luxury of time. The light-weight and minimal tools required for knitting enabled Shetland knitters and shepherds to knit as they walked between work locations or whilst herding animals.[9] The use of a wooden knitting sheath tucked into the belt holding one needle in place frees one hand to be used to work whilst the other hand knitted.[10] Black notes that searching for evidence of the physicality of knitting requires sifting through ‘incidental’ information in ‘documentary and literary sources’ for mentions in passing of knitting activity.[11] MacDonald conducted a thorough analysis of a collection of diaries and letters written by Colonial women in American providing a colourful and detailed insight into the methods and ingenuity often required to enable knitting of socks and stocking to continue whilst travelling across the United States by horse and cart in the first half of the nineteenth century.[12] Hartley and Ingilby conducted their research by asking people first-hand for their recollections, but the passing of time makes this approach no longer viable for current research. The approach taken by MacDonald of finding nuggets of data within primary sources was in part the inspiration for revisiting the knitting manuals of the nineteenth century. The limited pool of research that has been conducted on the history of knitting practices demonstrates the wide range of environments within which knitting can be accomplished.


[1] ‘How Do You Compare to the World’s Fastest Knitter?’, Interweave, 2018 <>.

[2] O’Connell Edwards, ‘Working Hand Knitters’, 74.

[5] Chris Aspin, The Woollen Industry (Oxford, 2011), 22.

[6] ‘Frame Work Bill (Hansard, 27 February 1812)’ <>.

[7] Frances Lambert, The Hand-Book of Needlework (London, 1842), 186, British Library.

[9] Sandy Black, Knitting : Fashion, Industry, Craft (London, 2012), 51–56, 104.

[10] Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby, The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales (Yorkshire, 1969), 77–80.

[11] Black, Knitting : Fashion, Industry, Craft, 104.

[12] Anne L. MacDonald, No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting, Reprint edition (2010).

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Prefaces in Victorian knitting books

MA History dissertation finally finished. The submitted title was "Knitting as a leisure activity for early Victorian middle-class women 1837-1851". The research confirmed the initial peak of knitting book publishing was in the 1840s, with the exception of the 'Knitting Teachers Assistant' which seems to have first been published in 1817. The digitisation of books over the last 20 years, and the increase in catalogued archive contents has increased the availability of copies of knitting books from the nineteenth century. There were several books published that included reference to Queen Victoria and the Great Exhibition in their title. There seems to be a correlation with the most prolific and successful authors of knitting books also being being shop owners for wool warehouses that also teach knitting and crochet. I've found lots of interesting information about the author Frances Lambert, and found no evidence that Miss Frances Lambert is related in any way to Miss A Lambert. Now the dissertation is written and submitted I'm going to work through the notes to write a less-academic, more everyday-readable version of the interesting findings. Some I will submit to the Knitting and Crochet Guild newsletter, and others will appear here. What I certainly found is that the prefaces of Victorian knitting books contain a wealth of information about the authors and the social changes occurring at the time, and I would encourage their use for other researchers to ponder.

Here are a few prefaces that can be read online:

The ladies' knitting and netting book, 1838

The lady's assistant for executing useful and fancy designs in knitting, netting and crotchet work, Mrs Gaugain, 1840

My knitting book, Miss Lambert, 1844

The illuminated book of needlework: comprising knitting, netting, crochet and embroidery, Mrs Henry Owen, 1847

The workwoman's guide, containing instructions to the inexperienced in cutting out and completing those articles of wearing apparel, &c., which are usually made at home; also, explanation on upholstery, straw-platting, bonnet-making, knitting, &c., by a lady, 1838

Saturday, 20 April 2019

France Lambert's Opera Cap

Knitting an Opera Cap

As part of my MA History research I've been looking at a 1843 copy of Miss France Lambert's The hand-book of needlework (John Murray: London) held in the Valda Cowie collection within the University of Reading Special Collections. The book contains several wood-cut illustrations. In order to understand how realistic the illustrations are, I've followed the recipe for knitting an Opera Cap that has this illustration taken the from New York Public Library copy digitised by Google and available via the Hathi Trust website:

There are multiple digital copies available on the internet. The New York Library digitised copy via the Hathi Trust website:;view=2up;seq=400 The recipe for the Opera Cap is on pages 375-8 in the New York Public Library edition.

The image shows a scalloped edge surrounding 7 pattern repeated stripes in two colour. After following the recipe the finished cap looks like this:

There is similarity to the illustration though if I tried to replicate the illustration without the recipe then the resulting cap would use a completely different recipe.

As with most Victorian knitting instructions there is an element of experimentation and knowledge expected. The instruction to hem the fancy edges created a yfk2tog picot trim that is common in patterns today, but not yet standard terminology back in 1843. Here is a photo of the reverse of the edge showing the picot edge hem, the reverse of the lace pattern, and one of the braids attached to a corner.

Keeping with the heritage of the project the yarn used is Cochno Farm wool available from the University of Glasgow shop. The wool was created as part of the University's Knitting in the round: hand-knitted textiles and the economies of craft in Scotland project.

Here's a copy of my translation of the pattern

4mm knitting needles (strictly speaking no. 10 is 3.5mm but used 4mm as that works best with the DK yarn I’m using).

Double-knit wool – I’ve used 2 balls of 50g Cochno Farm wool in natural and pink. 

Cast on 74 stitches in white

Purl (74)
Knit (74)
Change to pink. Purl (74)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (74)
Change to white. Purl (74)
Knit (74)
Purl (74)
Knit (74)

1st division (pink)
Purl (74)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (72)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (72)

2nd division (white)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (70)
Knit, decreasing 2 stitches at each end (66)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (64)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (64)

3rd division (pink)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (62)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (60)
Knit (60)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (60)

4th (white)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (58)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (56)
Knit (56)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (56)

5th (pink)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (54)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (52)
Knit (52)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (52)

6th (white)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (50)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (48)
Knit (48)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (48)

7th (pink)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (46)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (44)
Knit (44)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (44)

8th (white) 
Purl (44)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (42)
Knit (42)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (42)

9th (pink)
Purl (42)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (40)
Knit (40)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (40)

You should have 40 stitches

Pick up 30 stitches each side (30 + 40 + 30). Knit a border along all three remaining sides to match the border along the cast-on edge:

Change to white. Knit
Change to pink. Purl
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end
Change to white. Purl

Cast-off loosely

Wash, block and steam.
Make up the cap by folding over the edge at the yf2tog row and sew edge to body to make a picot-edge hem.
Make up plaits or use ribbons and attach at the 4 corners. Place over the head and tie behind and under the chin.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Knitting Teacher's Assistant

The Knitting Teacher's Assistant is a small 32 page booklet that was produced in the nineteenth century to aid teaching knitting in schools. The booklet uses a question-and-answer dialogue to discuss all the instructions and actions required to complete a knitted sock. There is a table at the back of the booklet with multiple sock sizes with the required stitch count in order to achieve each size.

The booklet was published by Hatchards, who have an archive, but haven't responded to my requests for information about when the booklet was printed and how many copies were produced. Therefore, the data is patchy, and based on copies that exist in libraries and archives that have been catalogued.

The earliest copy that I have seen is a facsimile of an 1817 publication that was produced by Robin Stokes (sadly the website no longer exists). The added information page at the front of the copy noted that this was a facsimile of Robin's personal copy (location unknown).

According to the library catalogue at the University of Melbourne, Australia, they have an 1819 edition.

The University of Reading has an 1836 publication of the seventh edition of Knitting Teacher's Assistant in the Special Collections held at the Museum for English Rural Life in the Children's Collection. The British Library also has a copy with the same year and edition.
V&A Museum

The V&A Museum has what looks to be the same content, with the title The National Society's Instructions on Needlework and Knitting and it contains a knitted sampler. The summary suggests it 'was the first British publication of this type on knitting' but their copy is 1838 and second edition, whereas the University of Reading copy is 1836 and seventh edition.
University of Southampton

The Knitting Reference Library at the Winchester campus of the University of Southampton has an 1881 publication from Richard Rutt's collection which has been digitised and is available through

If you know of any earlier copies, please leave a comment with the details.