The Online Knitting Reference Library: Download 300 Knitting Books Published From 1849 to 2012

Mother's Knitter

No need to scram­ble to the fall­out shel­ter, friends.

That mas­sive boom you just heard is mere­ly the sound of thou­sands of crafters’ minds being blown en masse by the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­hamp­ton’s Knit­ting Ref­er­ence Library, an exten­sive resource of books, cat­a­logues, pat­terns, jour­nals and magazines—over sev­en­teen decades worth.

Viva la Hand­made Rev­o­lu­tion!

The basics of the form—knit­ting, purl­ing, increas­ing, decreas­ing, cast­ing on and off—have remained remark­ably con­sis­tent through­out the gen­er­a­tions. No won­der there’s an endur­ing tra­di­tion of learn­ing to knit at grandma’s knee…

What has evolved is the nature of the fin­ished prod­ucts.

Miss Lambert

Miss Lam­bert’s “Baby Quilt in Stripes of Alter­nate Col­ors” from her 1847 Knit­ting Book could still hold its own against any oth­er hand­craft­ed show­er gift, but even the most hard­core mod­ern crafter would find it chal­leng­ing to find tak­ers for her “Car­riage Sock,” which is meant to be worn over the shoe.


Dit­to the “Woolen Hel­mets” in Help­ing the Trawlers, a 32-page pam­phlet pub­lished by the Roy­al Nation­al Mis­sion to Deep Sea Fish­er­men. The hope was that civic-mind­ed knit­ters might be moved to donate hand­made socks, mit­tens, and oth­er items to com­bat the chill faced by poor work­ing men fac­ing the ele­ments on freez­ing decks.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the eager vol­un­teer knit­ting force grav­i­tat­ed toward the pamphlet’s most baroque item, putting the pub­lish­er in a del­i­cate posi­tion:

Owing, per­haps, to their nov­el­ty, a great many friends com­mence work­ing for the Soci­ety by mak­ing these arti­cles and the Uhlan caps, and we are apt, on this account, to get rather more of them than we require for our North Sea work. The Labrador fish­er­men val­ue the hel­mets equal­ly with their North Sea breathren, and thus there is an ample out­put for them, but we shall be glad if friends will bear the hint in mind, and make some of the oth­er things in pref­er­ence to the hel­mets and Uhlan caps.

Woollen Helmets

All of the books in the Knit­ting Ref­er­ence Library are open access, though many of the pat­terns and mag­a­zines are depen­dent on copy­right clear­ance. Give a prowl, and you’ll find that a few of the old­er pat­terns are avail­able as down­load­able, print­able PDFs , such as this hand­some gent’s cable knit pullover or the tricky 50’s bison cardi­gan, below.

Bison Cardigan

Even with­out step-by-step instruc­tions, the pat­tern envelopes’ cov­er images can still pro­vide inspiration…and no small degree of amuse­ment. Some enter­pris­ing librar­i­an should get crack­ing on a sub-col­lec­tion, Fash­ion Crimes Against Male Knitwear Mod­els, 1960–1980:

Knitting Crime 1

Knitting Crime 2

Knitting Crime 3

There’s even some­thing for the lat­ter day Labrador trawler...


The entire col­lec­tion can be viewed here. For view­ing and print­ing pat­terns, we rec­om­mend select­ing “PDF” from the list of down­load options.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The BBC Cre­ates Step-by-Step Instruc­tions for Knit­ting the Icon­ic Dr. Who Scarf: A Doc­u­ment from the Ear­ly 1980s

See Pen­guins Wear­ing Tiny “Pen­guin Books” Sweaters, Knit­ted by the Old­est Man in Aus­tralia

The Whole Earth Cat­a­log Online: Stew­art Brand’s “Bible” of the 60s Gen­er­a­tion

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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