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Downton Abbey, Knitting & History

Sep 3, 2013

The time: the early decades of the 20th century; the place: England. More specifically, it’s a castle in Hampshire, England, filled with lords and ladies, maids and footmen, butlers and chauffeurs. Have you guessed yet?

I bet many of you have. It’s that wonderful fictitious television world called Downton Abbey.

While I didn’t discover the show until Season 2 was well underway, I caught up quickly. My husband (a very unlikely fan!) and I bought the first two seasons on DVD, spent hours glued to the television, and finished just in time to watch Season 3 when it aired last January. We’re counting the months until the fourth season comes to PBS in January 2014.

Beyond the show’s compelling story, interesting characters, gorgeous sets, stunning clothes, and the dichotomy between “upstairs” and “downstairs” is the historical context. Life in Britain during the years of Downton Abbey (from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 into the 1920s) changed dramatically. Things would never be same again.

It is within that historical context and with my personal affection for Downton Abbey that we bring you The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits, a special issue from Interweave’s PieceWork magazine! It’s available for pre-order now.

Upstairs: Scrollwork Traveling Coat by Vicki Square. Photos by Joe Hancock. Upstairs: Garden Bouquet Shawl by Kyoko Nakayoshi Upstairs: Dressing for Dinner—Lady's Waistcoat by Sarah Wilson

You will find articles that set the scene—from “The Life and Times of Highclere Castle” (the “real” Downton Abbey) to Beeton’s Book of Household Management (a must-have compendium for any downstairs cook) and “Knitting Comforts for the Troops” (knitters produced prodigious quantities of warm clothing and other items for servicemen and the wounded during World War I).

Downstairs: Felted Cloche Hat by Eileen Lee Downstairs: Footman's Vest by Anne Modesitt World War I Hot-Water Bottle Cover by Susan Strawn

And talented knitwear designers have created an exciting array of projects—twenty-seven classic knitting patterns in all—for upstairs, downstairs, and wartime knitting. The photographs included here provide a glimpse.  

Whether you want to dress up or down, dine in elegance or in the kitchen, attend the opera or a county fair, the patterns in these pages will provide you with infinite options.

The entire team who worked to bring you The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits welcomes you. We so hope you enjoy our venture into another time and another place.

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