Saturday, 15 February 2014

Flora Klickmann - Domestic Doyenne and Queen of the Needle

Amongst my burgeoning collection of vintage knitting, crochet and needlework books are three treasured volumes by Flora Klickmann. I had never heard of her before purchasing one of her books on ebay recently, but her books are wonderful for anybody interested in vintage linens and how they were made.

Wikipedia gave me the following information about her.
She was an English writer, journalist and editor, for many years editor of "The Girl's Own and Woman's Magazine".

 She also published popular novels for women and girls, such as the "Flower Patch" books. She edited many books on needlework published between 1900 and 1920.

The first book I purchased was this little gem, "The Little Girl's Sewing Book":

This delightful little book was published in 1915, and as the title suggests, it is an introduction to sewing aimed at small girls. It is full of simple instructions for gifts and dolls' clothes. Many of today's adults would be challenged by skills which even small girls were expected to have in Edwardian times.

As a bonus, it features beautiful pen and ink illustrations, although the illustrator is given no credit, probably an artist doing hackwork for the magazine.

As well as instructions and patterns there is also plenty of covert moralising going on in this book, as was the custom in those days. Klickmann included  little poems she wrote for the edification of her readers:

Here are some of the adorable dolls' clothes she gives instructions for:

And their owner

This book has been republished and there are quite a few copies for sale on ebay international, though I have yet to see another original edition.

This book got me interested in Klickmann and I started searching for her other books. As well as her novels, I have found a few other original editions of her needlework books. So far, I have acquired "The Home Art Book Of Fancy Stitchery" and "The Modern Crochet Book".

You have to love the Victorians and the Edwardians for their ability to create an interminable subtitle.

If you ever wondered what to do with all those old hankies now that you use tissues, here are some ideas:

I was awestruck by the suggestions for chemise trims. Much of this lace would have been made by gaslight or candlelight. My eyes struggle with the brightest electric light, and that's just for knitting! It's also amazing for us today to think of the time and effort that people put into making everyday items beautiful. Today, we buy it machine made and throw it away when it needs the simplest mending (not me, I have an enormous mending pile, it's a bit like a Black Hole, items disappear into it, never to be seen again - Not quite, they do eventually surface for a new lease on life, albeit months later).

The ads in these old books are particularly entertaining and charming. Here are two of my favourites from Ardern's Crochet Cotton:

And I think that what was originally meant by a "brassiere" is not what we would mean today:

 Surely, they would not do all this beautiful fine work and then hide it on their underwear?

I also have "The Modern Crochet Book", also with an impressive subtitle:

I was pleased to find a pattern for swastika lace, or "Nazi lace" as my son calls it.

I have some old lace featuring this motif, but since the Nazis perverted the symbol it's hard to know how to market it these days. However, it seems to have been a popular design in its day.

Clearly, I have the lace upside down in the photo because the swastika is rotating in the opposite direction from the pattern above.

This crochet incorporates fancy braid. I've often wondered how such pieces were made. I think you would find it very tricky to find such braid these days, even if you had eyesight good enough to attempt this.

And finally, a divine petticoat trim. I wish I could see the finished garment.

In this book is an ad for another Flora Klickmann book which I would love to have. If I ever have to train a servant it will be invaluable to me:

While writing this article, I remembered that for several months I have had another of Flora Klickmann's books in my watch list on ebay, and writing this has inspired me to spend the money and buy it. I eagerly await the arrival of  "Beautiful Crochet on Household Linen". I hope I haven't inspired you all to start bidding against me for future Flora Klickmann books!

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