Call for Knitters: 19th Century Lace Patterns

Published on: Author: christelle 10 Comments

How do you define authentic traditional knitwear?  Does knitting have to be done in its cultural birthplace by indigenous people to be authentic?

The University of Glasgow and Shetland Museum and Archives are working on a joint project looking at published knitting patterns identified as ‘Shetland’ in mainland Scottish and English publications from the 1840s to the 1870s.

Most early patterns did not have an illustration so it is difficult to know if, or how much, the patterns resemble actual Shetland lace articles in collections.  The only way to find out is to knit them.  To this end we are looking for volunteers to knit samples from a selection of early knitting pattern books.  The finished samples will form the core of an exhibition at Shetland Museum and Archives about the connection between 19th century patterns published nationally and knitwear made in Shetland of the period.


  1. The patterns should be knitted as they are instructed in the book.  The pattern will be provided as a pdf.  Any text not related to the pattern to be knitted has been covered over.  This means that there may be blank spaces on the sheet.
  2. The sample should be knitted to approximately six inch square (or three pattern repeats if six inches is two pattern repeats or less).
  3. For the samplers we are less concerned with needle size although if the pattern specifies a needle size and you have needles of that size (or close), this would give us a clearer indication of the intention of the pattern writer.  As for yarn, all we would ask is that the yarn is not too thick or fluffy, so that we can see the pattern clearly.
  4. It is impossible at this point to say which patterns are easy or difficult.  As such volunteers will be sent a random pattern to knit to sample.  If you find the pattern too challenging but still wish to participate, we will be happy to forward a further pattern.  Volunteers can request as many patterns to knit as they wish.
  5. Unfortunately we are on a very strict, and limited, timeline.  We appreciate that many knitters will be in the throes of Christmas knitting but hope that we can entice you to participate and knit a six inch sample(s) for us.  Many of the small patterns can be completed in a few evenings.  We would require the sample(s) to be knitted by 08 January 2016 at the latest, but we can arrange collection of them at any point prior to that date.

If you would like to participate, or if you have any questions please email in the first instance.

With many thanks

10 Responses to Call for Knitters: 19th Century Lace Patterns Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

    • Sorry, but the call for knitters is now closed….we have had a tremendous response from knitters, but thank you for coming forward!

  1. Would love to participate! Shetland lace is my favorite knitting project. My Grandfather’s family has Scottish heritage& I am always interested in all things Scot

    • Sorry, but the call for knitters is now closed….we have had a tremendous response from knitters, but thank you for coming forward!

  2. Hello, How can I see the results of these knit squares? My grandfather was born in Wass, and I have other grand-uncles who were born in other parts of Shetland. My grandfather immigrated to the US and started the Champion Paper Mill in Oh and North Carolina. My grandmother is pictured wearing a Shetland lace scarf for my mother’s wedding in 1940’s that is an heirloom that was passed down to her for that event from my grandfather’s side, I’m remembering an aunt from Shetland. The picture is black and white and too fuzzy to see details. The scarf has disappeared following the death of my grandmother. All possible relatives who would have it or who would have pictures that are clearer are dead. I would like to see pictures of the lace knitting around the late 1800’s. I am in WI, USA. Is there a link to collections such as these issues that you can lead me to? Thank you so much!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *