Vintage Patterns

Vintage knitting and crochet pattern recommendations from our crafty community
Profile picture for user stmorris

Vintage knitting and crochet patterns are one of the many treasures to be found in Trove. The early twentieth century gave Australian knitters their pick of patterns with regular features in magazines - like the Australian Women’s Weekly and the Australian Women’s Mirror - and newspapers, and the publication of thoughtfully curated knitting pattern books. Thousands of these digitised vintage patterns are freely accessible through Trove - modern knitters rejoice! 

With the recent resurgence of knitting and all things vintage, we asked the Trove knitting community to text correct vintage knitting patterns and share some of their favourites. 

cover of the Australian Women's Mirror showing a women wearing a knitted beanie and mittens
Cover of The Australian Women's Mirror, 23 June 1954,

Meet a maker 

Katalin Mindum is a long-time Trove user and volunteer, and an enthusiastic knitter/crocheter. As a librarian of over 30 years, Katalin is well versed in the importance of text correcting to improve accessibility for digitised collections. 

I've been text correcting in Trove since 2011, correcting articles as the fancy takes me. Over the years my corrections have often been based on the research needs of people I've been supporting in my work. For example, while I was at the Vision Australia Library, I corrected material relevant to my work, such as articles about the life and works of Tilly Aston, and the invention of the Braille machine by a Melbourne woman in 1934.  

More recently, Katalin’s focus has been on text correcting articles relating to her hobbies, including knitting and crocheting. 

I love text correcting and I tend to try and edit earlier texts rather than more recent ones. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can be quite a fickle thing, and it is great to be able to correct the record, particularly when the text is so wrong as to be utterly unsearchable, or, in the case of patterns, they are unusable.  

Patterns to get you hooked 

Amongst Katalin’s favourite Trove knitting patterns are two woollen jumpers from the 1930s. Both published in the Australian Women’s Weekly, this gorgeous Smart Jumper boasts versatility and Art Deco elegance.

detail of article with knitting pattern and illustration of women wearing the knitted jumper
'Imagine Yourself In This Smart Jumper', The Australian Women's Weekly, 14 March 1936,

While Exotic Charm in a New Neckline by Margaret Eton is sure to make you ‘look your loveliest’ for special occasions.

Katalin Mindum wearing the knitted jumper she made using a pattern from Trove, side-by-side with the image from the original pattern
Katalin Mindum, wearing her adapted version of Exotic Charm for a special occasion, 2017; The original pattern as seen in The Australian Women’s Weekly, 8 May 1937, 

For crochet-lovers, Katalin suggests trying your hand at this adorable child’s petticoat, The Work Table.

Petticoat crocheted by Katalin Mindum; side-by-side with a snippet of the pattern in a newspaper
The Work Table crocheted by Katalin Mindum; 'The Work Table', The Colonist (Launceston, Tas. : 1888 - 1891), 14 April 1888,

Patterns for all sizes 

A sentiment expressed by some Trove knitters, Katalin Mindum included, is dismay at the sizing of vintage patterns.  

One thing I noticed about the early patterns is that there are very few that are suitable for the "fuller figure" and the naming of these is somewhat discouraging. Take for example, the Matron's Cardigan or the Outsize Silk Jumper

To assist the community, Katalin has compiled a Trove list of larger knitting & crochet patterns for women

Knit-fits for a soldier 

During wartime, knitting became a popular and useful way for those at home to support the troops abroad. In both world wars, knitting patterns for “lucky” soldiers were printed in magazines, like The N.S.W. Red Cross record, and specialty booklets, like this Lux book supplement from 1941.

cover and double-page spread from Lux Supplement Booklet
1941 Lux book supplement: is your man one of the lucky ones?, Sydney : Lever Bros. Pty. Limited, 1941, nla.obj-130937925

In addition to sharing their must-make pattern discoveries, our online community also reminisced about their experiences knitting for past (and more recent) war efforts. While one community member shared how they crocheted 120 beanies for soldiers going to Afghanistan, another shared this story: 

When I was at school, we all had to knit a square foot. They were to be joined and supplied to the Australian Comforts Fund, as rugs for the troops. I remember I wasn't very good at it. 

New socks, mittens and balaclavas were just the ticket for most war-torn soldiers. However, one community member did share this frightful story with us:  

An old digger recalled for me that he received an ACF parcel with woollen socks, mittens, and balaclava - the last things he needed while he was serving in the tropics! It also included a fruit cake which was full of weevils! 

And yet another community member, inspired by this Balaclava pattern for troops in 1900, returned to Trove to find out more about wars at the turn of the 20th Century.

illustration of a balaclava
Illustration from 'The Balaclava Helmet', The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), 3 March 1900,

Join our tight knit community 

Looking for your next big project? Explore our knitting and crochet collection feature to discover vintage knitting and crochet patterns. This collection feature brings together thousands of knitting and crochet patterns - that have been tagged by our community of Voluntroves - for you to search and explore. 

You can also connect with and stay up to date with the Trove community by: 

Vintage knits 

Drawing on Trove’s collections, Vintage Knits (published by the National Library of Australia) presents a curated selection of these patterns from Australian publications of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Each pattern has been tested and updated to make them practical for today's knitter. 

The book features vintage material from the original publications with contemporary full-colour photographs of the garments as they have been recreated today. Interwoven throughout the book are sections reflecting on the social and cultural history of knitting in Australia. 

cover of Vintage Knits book