Victorian Needlework

Victorian Needlework

Victorian Needlework

Victorian Needlework


Victorian Needlework explores these ubiquitous pastimes - their practice and their meaning in women's lives. Covering the period from 1837-1901, the book looks specifically at the crafts themselves examining quilting, embroidery, crochet, knitting, and more. It discusses required skills and the techniques women used as well as the technological innovations that influenced needlework during a period of rapid industrialization. This book is unique in its comprehensive treatment of the topic ranging across class, time, and technique. Readers will learn what needlework meant to "ladies," for whom it was a hobby reflecting refinement and femininity, and discover what such skills could mean as a "suitable" way for a woman to make a living, often through gruelling labour. Such insights are illustrated throughout with examples from women's periodicals, needlework guides, pattern books, and personal memoirs that bring the period to life for the modern reader.


There are many women who persuade themselves that the occupations particu
larly allotted to their sex are extremely frivolous; but it is one of the common
errors of a depraved taste to confound simplicity with frivolity. The use of the
needle is simple, but not frivolous.

Ladies’ Needlework Penny Magazine


Needlework was important to a woman’s identity during the nineteenth century. Mothers taught their daughters how to sew at a very early age, often as soon as they could hold a needle. Activity for women almost always engaged some form of needlework. One writer proclaimed in December 1849 that “never were fingers more actively engaged than those of the rising female generation; braiding, embroidery, Berlin work, knitting, netting, and crochet have been successively exhausted.” Needlework was the most significant of a young, middle- to upper-class woman’s accomplishments. Part of her complete education might also include singing, playing a musical instrument, painting, drawing, making various crafts, reading light literature, and acquiring a basic knowledge of mathematics, French, and geography. A healthy demonstration of these achievements served as a testimony to a potential suitor that the girl had the temperament to be properly feminine in her behavior after marriage. Young women could only rise in society through marriage or inheritance, whereas young men could rise through education or employment. Marriage to a suitably stable . . .

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