Inspired by Vintage Needlework

In spite of the availability of ready-to-wear and store-bought items, needlework arts for fashion is continuing to enjoy a following. According to the Craft Yarn Council, knitting and crochet are practiced at daily by 58% of survey respondents, with over 45% mainly crocheting. A whopping 84% said they knit or crochet weekly. 

There are numerous books, magazines, videos and online tutorials to expand skills, explain technique and obtain patterns. One niche is devoted to the handwork of earlier generations. Retro, vintage and even antique patterns are followed verbatim or modified to make use of modern yarns and tools.

As you navigate the sea of handmade options, remember that inspiration can come from work completed in past eras.  Our techniques are often the same as those who developed them centuries ago. There is some advantage to slowing down and opting for the intricate, just take a look:

Needlepoint Lace

Tambour Lace

Shetland Lace

One resource I enjoy are online newspapers, books and out-of-print publications for vintage patterns. Often the yarn is much finer than the majority of what I work with so there are usually modifications that need to take place. My approach is to read through the pattern to envision the process. Then I create a schematic of the work and, if available, the measurements for the finished piece that coincide from the pattern. If those are missing, I will reference a ready-to-wear item or a modern pattern for sizing data. Then I swatch the yarn to be used and rework the calculations of the pattern to fit my tension/gauge.

Other times I will choose a pattern that can vary in size quite a bit, like the crocheted baby bib below.




I chose a standard DK weight yarn in a washable cotton-acrylic blend and a size D, 3.25 mm, crochet hook, adjusting the number of stitches in my starting chain as needed. The original was done with fine crochet cotton and a smaller hook. The modern bib is still dainty and I love how it turned out!

What projects have you worked on , or are you working on, that give a nod to the master workmanship of yesteryear's needlework? 

If you haven't crocheted in awhile, go ahead and get some hooks and get started!

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