Marrying two exceptionally popular topics—needlework and women's history—this book provides an authoritative yet entertaining discussion of the diversity and importance of needlework in Victorian women's lives.
An accomplished, properly feminine Victorian girl was expected to work magic with her fingers. Her needlework demonstrated beauty, creativity, femininity, Christian charity, social engagement, and intellectual ability. Depending on her class, it might also mean economic survival. Skill with a needle was critical to a Victorian woman's identity—and it provides modern readers with an important key to her culture.
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 this 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 grueling labor. 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.
• Patterns and illustrations from women's periodicals and pattern books of the time provide a window into Victorian life that will be especially intriguing to the legions who practice these crafts today
• Quotations from memoirs, works of fiction, and poetry allow readers to share the experiences of women of the period
• Offers the first inclusive study of the relevance of needlework to Victorian women of all classes and skill levels through all the decades of the British Victorian period
• Covers the types of needlework practiced by Victorian woman, as well as their tools, available resources for patterns and inspiration, and changes over time
• Describes with clarity and detail techniques of specific genres, such as crochet, knitting, lacework, Berlin wool work, embroidery, patchwork, and quilting
• Explores literary contexts and examples of needlework in the Victorian novel