Discoveries: Antique Pattern Library

Arts & Crafts, Bits in Spaaace!, Colors, Design & Designers, Fabrics & Materials, Inspiration

Antique Pattern Library is a non-profit project that collects and publishes old craft patterns online. The textile history nerd in me was immediately interested, so I spent some time browsing the site.

The purpose of the library is preservation and access:

“This ongoing project is an effort to scan craft pattern publications that are in the public domain, to preserve them, so we can keep our craft heritages in our hands. Most of these scans have been graphically edited to make the images easier for craft workers to see, and to reduce file sizes. They are available, for free, to anyone who wants them, for educational, personal, artistic and other creative uses.”

The site has several sections, including calligraphy, carpentry, drawing, paper crafts and sewing, and various forms of yarn crafts like crochet, cross-stitch, knitting, lacemaking and tatting.

Each section has a number of resources ranging from a handful to several dozen. Mostly they are pdf scans of old paper publications or detail images posted as individual webpages. Some patterns are available as either part of the pdfs or as separate webpages. Unfortunately, the resources listed also include things that are not yet published online. The woodworking section, for example, is almost entirely made up of placeholder thumbnails with basic accompanying metadata. It does look like items are added as they are processed, though.

I’ve included some favorites below to give you a tiny taste of what Antique Pattern Library can offer. First, a fancy bird from a booklet on handwriting, copyrighted in Pittsfield, Mass., in 1881:

Intro Real Pen-Work p30of54

Screencap from Introduction to the Real Pen-Work Self-Instructor in Penmanship, 1881; via Antique Pattern Library.


This handwriting guide has one of those quaintly over-long titles: Introduction to the Real Pen-Work Self-Instructor in Penmanship. (Phew!)

I was particularly impressed by the needlework resources. Below are three embroidered borders from a booklet drawn from Bohemian, Moravian and Slovakian museums, possibly from 1920s:

Czecho-Slovakian Embroideries p23of53

Screencap from Czecho-Slovakian Embroideries (DMC Library), ed. by Th. de Dillmont; via Antique Pattern Library.


Some of the patterns and color selections look surprisingly modern, like these snippets from a booklet on art nouveau designs (of unknown date):

Point de Croix Nouveau Dessins 6meSer p10of25

Screencap from Point de Croix Nouveau Dessins, 6me Série (Bibliothèque DMC), ed. by Th. de Dillmont; via Antique Pattern Library.


In general, many of the library’s publications come from northwestern or northern Europe, but some American works are also included. I have studied Nordic and German patterns in libraries and museums back in Europe. As I don’t have access to them at the moment, the Antique Pattern Library is a very welcome find. I especially appreciate being able to look at Slavic and Dutch sources, since I haven’t really had a chance before. It’s also nice, albeit a little intimidating, to be able to stretch my less-often used language muscles.

There’s so much on the site that I didn’t even scratch the surface. I definitely see myself returning to Antique Pattern Library again and again!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.