That’s what they called it, though. Weldon’s Practical Crochet. We’re publishing the Ninth and Tenth Series, and I have to say, I had to dig deep for the “practical” part. You’ve got your Toilet Tidy. Your French Hat for a Baby boy, which looks something like a dead parrot made out of yarn. Your Pilch, which my spell-check tried to change to filch, or pooch, or zilch (when all it really is is a crocheted contraption for sopping up baby urine – well, at least that is practical).
What did these Victorians know about practical? What were they thinking? Were the Weldon’s Practicals designed to keep their minds off conjugal matters or women’s suffrage? I imagine these women being expected to sit around all day in a sweaty fervor crocheting covers for the exposed legs (or limbs) of their Queen Anne chairs.
Okay, I do have to give Weldon’s some credit. The Nightcap Antimacassar would come in handy. No, that’s not an alcoholic beverage—that would be an Antimacassar Nightcap, and would involve a little rum. It’s a protective cover for the back of a chair, designed not to slip off, no matter how hard you try. You could shortcut the process by just putting it over your husband’s oily pate. Problem solved.
Seriously, seriously: there are some lovely, useful crochet patterns in these two eBooks. The Trimming for a Chemise in Series Ten is a charming insertion edging—I would work that as a border around a simple baby blanket which would then become an heirloom. There are Gentlemen’s Mittens, essentially fingerless gloves, that my husband would love because his hands are always cold. They’re crocheted sideways and look a lot like knitting—very sturdy and practical. Several patterns are worked in “tricot” crochet, which seems to be the same as Tunisian crochet, a quick and practical technique that yields a firm fabric suitable for embroidery embellishment.
But even if you never use a single pattern from these booklets, they are worth the price in entertainment value. They’re a window into the lives and tastes of our great-grandmothers (if you’re of Western European origin). It’s just not that long ago.
Linda Ligon is a cofounder of Long Thread Media.
Originally published January 16, 2015