The Online Knitting Reference Library

You probably all know about by now. (As I write this post, 5105 Ravelers are online, on a Tuesday afternoon.) Ravelry is where I usually find my pattern inspiration, and I suspect that I likely spend more time browsing Ravelry than I do actually knitting.

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Believe it or not, I’ve actually been quite selective about my Ravelry favorites.


But this post isn’t about Ravelry. I recently received an email about another fascinating resource: The Knitting Reference Library. This online database is a project by the archivists at University of Southampton in England, who have scanned and uploaded 164 books, magazines, and pattern booklets since December 2015. The oldest item I’ve come across so far was published in 1847, but the collection also includes some amazing patterns from the 1970s and ’80s. (Oh yes. They’re glorious.) Most of the items are only the cover photo, but a few of them are complete patterns that can be downloaded as PDFs.

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While I don’t think I’ll forsake Ravelry for the Knitting Reference Library just yet, it is amazing to see the evolution of styles (both sweater and hair) over time, and it is lovely that University of Southampton is recognizing the value of knitting and its history. This is a website I will be checking up on periodically as the project continues. You can visit The Knitting Reference Library here, or check out a great article about the collection by Ayun Halliday on I especially love Halliday’s suggestion that “[s]ome enterprising librarian should get cracking on a sub-collection, Fashion Crimes Against Male Knitwear Models, 1960-1980”. There are photos, and you should see them. Just maybe don’t knit those ones.

Written by Jennifer Woodman

One Comment on “The Online Knitting Reference Library

  1. You know the saying, “Everything old is new again?” Or maybe, “There’s nothing new under the sun?” Some of these old patterns are fabulous if you just update some of the colors, but I have to say I’m not a fan of the bushy mustaches on the men. Definitely worth looking at. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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