Out web-walking again, I’ve stumbled across a treasure trove of books on spinning, weaving, and other textile arts. It includes historical and recent works on lacemaking, embroidery, tatting, knitting, crochet and some other less practiced crafts, as well as ethnographic material, periodicals, and academic papers. I’m sure I’m the last to find out about it, but I share the reference all the same.

This textile-related archive is maintained by the University of Arizona. Its collections are available on-line, with the individual works so distributed either aged out of copyright, or presented with the authors’ permission. There are thousands of items – mostly geared to industry and manufacture, but with a healthy smattering of works detailing hand production. Scans are available as PDFs, with the larger books broken out into smaller segments of under 15MB. Not all are in English.

Among the works I found that are of greatest interest to me in specific are:

Whiting, Olive. Khaki Knitting Book, Allies Special Aid, 1917, 58 pages. PDF

This compendium of knitting patterns presents sweaters, wristlets, socks, scarves, mittens, hats, caps, and baby clothes intended in part for troops overseas during WWI, and for the comfort of refugee families displaced by the war. Patterns for knitting and crochet are both included. The socks shown mostly knit top-down, some have a gradually decreased instead of grafted toe. Some of the socks are worked on two needles and seamed. One pair in particular (marked as a pattern from the American Red Cross, p. 13) seems to include a written description of a grafted toe, but it does not name the technique. Directions are a bit more detailed than is usual for pre 1940 knitting booklets. Fewer than a quarter of the patterns are illustrated with finished item photos. Aside from a list of abbreviations in the front, there are no how-to or technique illustrations.

Nicoll, Maud Churchill. Knitting and Sewing. How to Make Seventy Useful Articles for Men in the Army and Navy, George H. Doran Company, New York, 1918, 209 pages. PDF

This book is a bit more detailed than the previous one. It also contains a rundown of standard troop knitting patterns – hats, mufflers, balaclavas (called helmets), mittens, socks and the like. Every project is illustrated either with a photo or a line drawing of the finished product. Instructions are written out in a fuller format than in the Khaki Knitting Book. It also has some valuable bits of instruction including a list of yarn substitutions, plus two full size color plates showing the wools used, identified by name; a small stitch dictionary section,

Of special note are some unusual mittens (including a mitten with truncated thumbs and index fingers – p.68), half-mittens – p. 77, “doddies” or mittens with an open thumb, p. 80, and double heavy mittens intended for seamen or mine sweepers hauling cables – p. 94). The grafting method of closing up sock toes is clearly described AND illustrated, but it is called “Swiss darning” (p.131). I’ve heard that term used for duplicate stitch embroidery on knitting, especially when the decorative stitches are sewn in rows mimicking actual knitting, rather than being stitched vertically, but I have never before seen it applied to actual grafting. The entire section on socks and stockings is particularly clear and useful. There are even a couple of crocheted and knit mens’ ties in the sewing section.

Finally, the sewing section (about a quarter of the book) might be useful to people doing historical costuming or regimental re-creators who are looking to augment their kit. The one drawback is that most of the sewing patterns are predicated on Butterick printed patterns, and the schematics are not provided in the book. Among the offerings are money belts, a chamois leather body protector and waistcoat, various types of shirts and undergarments, pajamas made from heavy blanket fabric, and a book bag (like a messenger’s bag).

Egenolf, Christian. Modelbuch aller art Nehewercks un Strickens, George Gilbers, 1880, 75 pages. Note: Reprint of 1527 book. PDF

Ostaus, Giovanni. La Vera Perfezione del Disegno [True Perfection in Design], 1561, 92 pages. Note: 1909 facsimile. PDF

These are two modelbooks of the 1500s. There are several others in the collection, but they are mostly books of needle lace designs. Ostaus also offers up mostly patterns for the various forms of needle lace, plus some patterns that can be adapted to free-hand (as opposed to counted) embroidery, plus a large section of allegorical plates to inspire stitched medallions, slips, and cabinets. One thing I’ve always liked are some of his negative/positive patterns. These are designs that if laid out on a strip of thin leather or paper and cut can be separated longitudinally into two identical pieces. There are several of these scattered around the middle of the book.


Starting around page 73 or so there is a section of graphed patterns, a number of which landed in my New Carolingian Modelbook collection.

The Egenolf book also is mostly line drawing suitable for freehand embroidery. Some are pretty cluttered, but some are very graceful. The oak border on p. 32 has always been one of my favorites. There’s one plate with a counted pattern, on p. 72.

. Priscilla Cotton Knitting Book, Priscilla Publishing Co., 51 pages. PDF1, PDF2, PDF3, PDF4, PDF5, PDF6.

This books is obviously a seminal source behind many of today’s reference books on knitting technique and patterns. Notation is sparse and “antique” with n (narrow) being used for k2tog, and o for yarn over, and other oddities. There’s a fair bit of circular doily knitting, but it is of the knit radially and seamed variety seen also in Abbey’s Knitting Lace. In fact many of the doilies appearing in Abbey appear to have been adapted directly from this work. You’ll also recognize many Walker treasury edging patterns in these pages.

In addition to the stitch texture and lacy knitting sections, there’s a bit on “cameo knitting” which appears to be another name for stranding (in PDF2). The section on filet knitting (in PDF3) is relatively extensive, and clearly shows both the strengths and weaknesses of this rarely described style.

. Priscilla Irish Crochet Book No. 2, Priscilla Publishing Co., 52 pages. PDF1, PDF2, PDF3, PDF4, PDF5, PDF6, PDF7, PDF8.

This has got to be the single most complete and eye-popping source I’ve ever seen on Irish crochet. Not only does this contain an amazing amount of eye candy, it also gives directions on how to create it, offering up pattern descriptions for the individual motifs, the joining brides and grounds, and the working method of fastening the motifs to a temporary backing while the grounds are being worked.

. Egyptisch Vlechtwerk [Sprang], Holkema & Warendorf, 36 pages.PDF1, PDF2

As an example of the depth of the collection, here’s a work on Sprang, one of the lesser known fiber manipulation crafts sometimes mistaken for early knitting. It is in Dutch and appears to be from before WWI, but it is illustrated with photos of finished pieces and works in progress.

These are just a small sample of the hundreds of works available at the University’s website. Again, most are on the industrial aspects of the textile arts, from fiber acquisition (including sericulture and sheep raising) through spinning, and weaving, but a goodly number are of direct interest to hand-crafters. Topic lists exist for knitting, crochet, embroidery, cross stitch, lace, tatting, and a multitude of other subjects. Support this valuable resource by visiting and using it. I know I’ll be combing through here for years…

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3 responses

  1. Wonderful, wonderful! Thanks for sharing this resource and for going over some of the treasures you found.

  2. Thanks for another place to look for vintage patterns. The samples shown (and the ones on the website ) can also be found of the entire book on the Antique Pattern Library. They have a large selection of Irish Crochet, and Crochet in general, along with the other types of needlework. A vertible treasure trove of downloadable books!
    For the Godey’s and Peterson’s books of the 1800’s, you can find those in the Hathi Library, where you can copy individual pdf pages. Some volumes can have multiple pages downloaded at the same time.

  3. The university seems to have moved these holdings inn the past few years so most of the links are broken. Try adding a 2 after the www in the URL and it usually gets you there.

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