Knitting Book Reviews

Victorian Lace Today
by Jane Sowerby

My first glimpse of the designs in Victorian Lace Today was at Stitches East in November 2006. One of the highlights of the convention was the fashion show featuring the incredible shawls from the book along with Jane Sowerby’s commentary on the development of lace knitting during the Victorian era. As the models showed off the gossamer-thin shawls and scarves of mohair, wool and silk, I grew more and more convinced that these elaborate designs were something I would never be able to accomplish.

Months passed and these gorgeous shawls kept popping into my mind until I finally had to pick up a copy of Sowerby’s book. Much more than just a book of patterns, Victorian Lace Today “explores the development of lace knitting in England through the work of a few pioneering ladies.” Tracing the development from the simple patterns from the books of Miss Watts and Mrs. Gaugain, the patterns quickly become more elaborate and detailed, as styles and dress shapes changed throughout the Victorian period. Sowerby transforms the sketchy instructions found in these early knitting books into charts and patterns which can be enjoyed by modern knitters. The final twenty pages are devoted to tips and techniques.

Sowerby’s introduction indicates that knitters new to lace should begin by reviewing her section on understanding lace and charts and then undertake one of the projects recommended as a first lace project. As she explains, she “began this book as a knit/purl sweater knitter, with some trepidation, a lot of curiosity, and a determination to succeed…So please, don’t hesitate to begin at the beginning, just as the Victorians did, and welcome to a wonderful knitting adventure.”

And so filled with trepidation, I will embark on my own lace adventure. I’ve already chosen the yarn, now I have to determine which of the stunning scarves it wishes to become - perhaps one of the wide-bordered scarves which are “of particularly pleasing appearance, being light and lacy, and yet not difficult of accomplishment.”

Reviewed by Janelle Martin

Janelle is an addicted reader and a book reviewer for Armchair Interviews. A passionate knitter in what remains of her free time, she wonders, "Why can't we knit at work?". Her blog can be viewed at

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