Weldon's Practical Needlework was a monthly subscription newsletter printed in England in the 19th Century. Approximately one hundred years after their original printing, Piecework magazine re-published these patterns as facsimiles bound in twelve volumes. I have a personal connection to the newsletter, and so I purchased the entire set. Opening the cover feels akin to stepping in to a time machine... and I can lose myself reading about such historically evocative (and now defunct) patterns as bicycle stockings, knit fascinators, beaded penwipers, and toilet tidys. Unfortunately, the appeal of knitting from historic patterns is often lost when the modern knitter realizes that even the dodgy standards of modern pattern-writing were absent in those from the turn of the century. Yarn options were limited, most people knit with whatever needles they had in the home, and patterns, if shared at all, were as varied as knitters themselves.
When my eldest son took up rowing with a passion, I fixated immediately on a pattern from Weldon's Volume 11 (30th series), called rather pompously, the "Yachting Jersey." This knit was described as follows:
"The handsome jersey represented in our engraving is knitted all in one piece with strong white wool, and though specially intended for yachting and boating, may yet be worn for football and other athletic sports."
Though, as with many teenage boys, my son had long since refused to wear sweaters (even hand knits), I optimistically embarked on this challenge - convinced that given it's intended use, and his love of rowing, he might consent to its wearing.
Two years, and countless classes on historic knitting, later, I have at last completed the Yachting Jersey. And though by the time I finished it, my eldest had already outgrown it and it may never be worn, I feel the journey of learning was well worth the effort. I have made friends along the way, as I struggled to understand the antiquated language and make good-faith choices from contemporary knitting materials as substitutes for the old. Finally, sharing my experience by returning to my blog with the hopes of being helpful to others who may endeavor to make the Yachting Jersey (or any other historical knit) may be the most valuable aspect of this project and merits mention.
Stay tuned for Part II (Materials and Methods), Part III (Franklin Habit), Part IV(Some historic images and social history of the jersey), and finally Part V (Photos of the finished project)!