Knitters find inspiration in their surroundings, including the books they read and the shows they watch on television. England is a popular setting for novels, television shows, and movies. With its long history and interesting culture, England has provided inspiration for knitters as well as playwrights and poets.
Fashion in Jane Austen’s Day
Jane Austen lived from 1775 to 1817 and was a writer of romantic novels about the wealthy folk of her day in England. The fashions in her day were inspired by classical Greek sculpture, with empire waists and fabrics that drape against the body. Empire and Regency fashions were a reaction to the exaggerated wide skirts and restricting stays worn by women since Elizabethan times.
Knitters today enjoy making shawls, fingerless mitts, and men’s waistcoats that would look quite at home on one of Austen’s characters. This Jane Austen site offers period clothing and accessories to sew, knit, tat, and more. Interweave Press also offers an annual Jane Austen Knits issue with beautiful projects inspired by her memorable characters.
Inspiration from the Downton Abbey Series
The Downton Abbey television series on PBS has been popular with plenty of Americans despite (or perhaps because of) its English setting. Knitters naturally find the historical period fashions from the show interesting enough to copy with yarn and needles. Fans of Downton Abbey and of knitting can enjoy a collection of patterns inspired by the television series from Interweave Press.
Iconic British Knitters
Elizabeth Zimmerman, Alice Starmore, and Sasha Kagan are all knitting designers from Great Britain. Their books are in the libraries of advanced knitters all over the English-speaking world. Elizabeth Zimmerman is best known for her calm, patient teaching that led beginners (those she called “blind followers” of knitting patterns) to become confident knitters who measured their gauge, trusted their fingers and minds, and freely adapted designs and patterns to fit themselves. Alice Starmore is famous among knitters for her intricate Fair Isle sweater designs using dozens of colors. Sasha Kagan also designs colorful knitwear using the Fair Isle technique. Here are my recommendations for selected books from these master knitters:
- Elizabeth Zimmerman: Knitting Without Tears and Knitting Almanac;
- Alice Starmore: Tudor Roses and The Celtic Collection; and
- Sasha Kagan: The Sasha Kagan Sweater Book.
Just for Fun
As a parting gift to readers, I hope you enjoy these weird knitting facts. Like much of the world’s great knitting, these fun facts come from the United Kingdom. Now, get back to knitting those tributes to Jane Austen and Downton Abbey!