Regency Crochet?

Regency Crochet?

When I was contemplating this month’s blog post, I considered several ideas, forgetting most of them by the time I got to the computer and discarding the rest as too deep to get into. Finally, as I sat watching a Thursday night football game (slow and BORING!!!), crocheting on a sweater that I started something like three years ago, I wondered if crochet was something that women did in Jane Austen’s day. Imagine my surprise when I learned that it was still a new craft back then!



Crochet’s history is murky. No one really knows where it came from, but according to the Crochet Guild of America, it came out of a craft known as Tambour, which involved stretching fabric over a frame (I had heard of tambour frames before but never connected it with an actual craft) and using a needle with a hook on it to pull thread through, resulting in downward-facing loops. The guild goes on to say that crochet gained a foothold in Europe in the early 1800’s. Some websites that describe Regency-era crafts indicate that Irish Crochet became popular in 1820, which is near the end of the Regency period. I can imagine Mrs. Bennet having a fondness for Irish lace, and adding it to the collars and cuffs of her gowns.

Personally, I can’t imagine not crocheting. In Pride and Prejudice, Bingley comments that he has never heard a lady mentioned without her being described as accomplished, and mention was made of netting purses and painting screens. Both worthy activities, but…crochet can be used for more than decorating your home. I dug a little deeper. What about knitting? Not as enjoyable as crochet, but still works with yarn and makes sweaters.

My relief was great to find out that, yes, ladies in the Regency were often knitters! Some websites indicate that it was left to lower class women, but since they don’t all agree, I’m going to assume that no one really knows. Don’t be surprised to find a reference to the craft in one of my books. 😉


Regardless of its existence in Regency times, crocheters today have created patterns to imitate projects that may have been done back then. I have a book that I bought a year or so ago called Austentatious Crochet.  I have yet to start one of the projects in the book, but they do look interesting. If and when I get to it, I’ll be sure to share pictures with you. In the meantime, I need to get this sweater done so I can wear it this year! 😀








17 Responses to Regency Crochet?

  1. That book cover is sort of funny. The crochet design is kind of nice. That book would have been mad-popular in the 1970s!

  2. Fascinating! I learned to crochet as a pre-teen, but my mom didn’t do it, and she didn’t encourage me much, so I never got really good at it. Being left-handed, I often found it difficult to follow patterns which were illustrated for right-handed people, and eventually I gave it up. I tried to learn to knit too, but I couldn’t ever find a lefty to teach me and gave that up too. I spent a couple of decades thinking crochet and hand-knitted things were sort of tacky, but in recent years I’ve come to love them and wish I had stuck with it as a girl. I was surprised that crochet is relatively new too.

    • Diana, I am seeing more and more left-handed instruction books on the shelf. And many companies are publishing instruction books with both right and left hand instructions. Several years ago our school was doing a reward session in one of the Family and Consumer Science Classes [what we used to call the Home Economics Class]. We were teaching the kids to knit and crochet. Some were left-handed and my poor brain was a bit messed up as I attempted to teach left-handed. I practiced endlessly so I could help them. I got to where I could do it fairly well. I hope you will have a chance to do it again.

  3. I take crafting in spells, I have quilted, crocheted, and knitted. However, I have put those things away [for not] so I could read. Since I retired, the only thing I’ve wanted to do was read all those books I have lusted after in my TBR pile. I figure at some point I will arrange time to get back to needle work.

    Note: in the 30’s movie of P&P, I believe Mrs. Bennet was knitting. Jane, recovering from her illness, wore a wrap or a shawl that looked knitted or crocheted. I will have to go back and look at it again. The creative work in that movie was amazing. The trim of the hats, the basic dress pattern and just how many different ways they could decorate then was amazing. It makes Lydia’s comments about trimming her hat afresh more relevant. That movie made me really look at how clothing and accessories made the outfit. But, after reading this post, I believe I remember Mrs. Bennet knitting.

    Thanks for all your hard work. Enjoy your new life. Also, just a point…when your hands are busy knitting…your brain is free to think or the subconscious can unlock those blocks that plague authors. Something about using the hands that way seems to free up the brain. Just saying.

  4. My mom spent our childhood knitting. We all had knitted “hoodies” long before they were in fashion. Of course there were hats, mittens and sweaters as well. When I’m sick in the winter I wrap myself up in the cardigan my mom made for me in the 70’s-it’s so warm!! My good friend and JAFF buddy is also quite talented with yarn. We have many afghans created by her over the years. About 5 years ago I bought her a regency pattern book and the next Christmas she gave me a beautiful scarf made from a pattern in the book. It’s beautiful!! Alas my only creative outlet is photo books and they wouldn’t win awards for creativity lol

  5. I have dabbled in crochet (blankets, afghans, and pillow cases) but never go into the more complex stitches. I have a rose colored granny square afghan I started 25 years ago I still need to finish. I prefer a good book and counted cross stitch.

  6. My sister and mother are both expert crocheters and I am a disaster with anything craft related. How I wish I could crochet and knit! After reading your interesting blog post, maybe I’ll consider taking a lesson!

  7. Oh, yeah, knitting is at least as old as Christ (apparently Mother Mary knit sweaters, or something, for him) and crochet is relatively recent. I’d be interested to find any actual patterns that existed at the time… well, to be fair, I probably ought to work the Civil War era stuff my husband got me first before seeking out new historical projects… I’m terrible about having a million works in progress.

    As far as knitting being the work of the lower classes, my understanding is that although it may not have been common for the upper class, your characters could do pretty much any crafty thing they wanted. The stricter convention seems to be that they couldn’t sell their wares; anything for personal or gift use was fine. So, your character may come across as a bit quirky to some of her peers, but certainly there are knitting patterns that require a good deal of accomplishment!

    • I am known for playing fast and loose with Regency convention, to be honest. Even if it was true that upper class women didn’t knit, Lizzy would…I’m that much of a rebel. 😉

      I have a collection of patterns, myself, most of which will never be completed. I had to ditch a large part of it seven years ago, and that broke my heart almost as much as pitching the books I could not keep!

      Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

  8. Who would have thought crochet was so new? I had no idea. That’s great information to work into a story. That book you posted a picture of looks very fun. I, alas, have no such skills, at all. I would be terribly unaccomplished, though maybe I could have drawn. My sister in law does have skills like you, and I beg her endlessly to make me things. I love her crochet winter hats because they stay on my head yet don’t hurt my ears (most hats press my ears, which stick out, against my glasses). Thank you for a fun post and I hope your sweater gets done for winter. It’s a beautiful color.

    • I was shocked to find that it was so new! And…I totally understand about the ears…happens here, too! I have around 12 rows left on the sweater. I have been doing a little bit every day…I want to be wearing it by Thanksgiving, at least! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! 🙂

  9. I do love to crochet and did many dresses and jackets for my daughter when she was a little girl. But nowadays I mainly do blankets, throws and baby clothes. My four grandsons all have their own blankets. The 3 year old loves his so much he even took it into hospital when he was poorly. The youngest two are 4 week old twins and were born early so are still in hospital and are unaware they have them yet! The picture on your book looks really nice. In the seventies I did a lovely halter neck sun too for my mum, my sisters in law and myself. They were very fashionable at the time (not so much now!) I also knit but only children’s clothes now. So I am quite accomplished as I can play chopsticks on the piano, I did learn languages at school (that was 50+ years ago so can’t remember much) however I do read extensively even if it is only Darcy and Elizabeth books now. Thanks for this lovely post and good luck with the sweater.

    • Wow…you are accomplished! 😀 I have made everything but clothes. This is my second sweater…the first I made twenty-five years ago or so. I designed the pattern myself. It’s very basic, in part because I do not have the patience for complicated. LOL But I have made toys and fridge magnets and Christmas ornaments, placemats and afghans of all sizes and shapes, and a lot more. 😀 Thanks so much for reading and commenting! 😀

Comments are precious!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.