Festive Knitting

Festive Knitting

Festive knitting

Many of the festive symbols we take for granted each year have been passed down to us by our Victorian ancestors and those before them. As you will notice in Manchester Art Gallery’s collections, Victorians were very fond of this kind of symbolism, of bringing nature inside and of stories and related celebrations.

Christmas is the one time we can let our hair down and deck out our homes in full Victorian decorative splendour!

We’ll be making a few things to remember our Victorian past (with a colourful contemporary twist if you dare!)

Here are four patterns to get you on your way - they would all make excellent stocking fillers. With just very basic knitting skills you can knit up a pudding or a Christmas cracker using just knit, purl and a small amount of colour changing. You will find the stories behind Christmas pudding, crackers, trees and many other traditions in the accompanying fact sheet, along with some original Victorian knitting patterns.

If you are a more skilled knitter you may want to have a go at the more complicated (but not to difficult!) mini Christmas sweater, or the lovely little Christmas tree ornament. These patterns require a little shaping, picking up stitches (only the jumper) and some neat sewing up of seams.

To add a 2012 twist why not mix it up and knit with unexpected colours – pinks, purples and silvers are all right on trend this festive season.

Xmas Pudding Table decorations / choccy cosy.
A lovely little extra surprise for your Christmas dinner table.
(Pattern designed by ArtYarn)

Suitable for beginners


Yarn: Use dark brown and white DK yarn (you can also buy white yarn with a sparkle strand running through it)
Needles: 3.5 - 4mm needles.

Cast on:
18 sts and work 8 rows in socking stitch using brown yarn.

Change to white yarn and knit 2 rows - this will make a ridge.

Row 1. *K3, sl1, k1, psso* to last 3 sts. K3.

Row 2 Purl all stitches

Row 3 *K2 , sl1,k1,psso* to last 3 stst K3.

Row 4 Purl all stitches

Row 5 *K1, sl1, K1, psso* to end.

Row 6 Purl 2tog all across.

To cast off:
Cut off yarn and leave a long tail.

Thread darning needle on to the end of the yarn and feed through all remaining stitches on the needle and remove the knitting needle.

Pull tight and sew side seam, knot and tie off.

Stuff with toy stuffing and sew up bottom, or place a Ferrero Rocher inside and leave bottom open.

Finish off with a little fabric holly motive, which you can buy from a haberdashery!

Knitted Christmas Cracker
Suitable for beginner plus

Pattern designed by: Frankie Brown (via Ravelry.com)

To knit this cracker you can use any yarn and the appropriate needle size for your chosen yarn.
The sample is knitted in Double Knit yarn on 4mm needles.

Choose 2 Christmassy colours of the same thickness of yarn.

C1 = Colour 1

C2 = Colour 2 (this will be the main colour of your cracker)

NB: You can either carry both the colours up the side of the work throughout, or detach after using each one and tuck into the centre of the cracker at the end.


C1 = Cast on 15 sts and K1 row for the edge.

C2 = Work 6 rows in stocking stitch (K1 row, P1 row)

C2 =

Row 1: K1, *K2tog, repeat from * to end (8 sts).

Row 2: *P2tog, repeat from * to end (4 sts).

Row 3: *Kf&b, repeat from * to end (8 sts).

Row 4: P1, *pf&b, repeat from * to end (15 sts).

C1 = K2 rows.

C2 = work 12 rows in stocking stitch.

C1 = K2 rows

C2 = repeat Rows 1-4 above

C1 = K2 rows

C2 = work 6 rows in stocking stitch.

C1 = K2 rows then cast off purl wise to the edge.

To finish:

Join the side seam, stuffing the centre of the cracker lightly. Then thread yarn through the cracker and pull it tightly, taking a few stitches at each end, to tighten the ends.

Sew on your chosen embellishment or embroider


Using a 2.5mm crochet hook make 30 chain and form into a hanging loop. Sew this to the top of the cracker.

Knitted Christmas Tree

Suitable for intermediate level

Pattern designed by :

(Starts at the base of the tree)

Cast on 8 in green.

Row 1: P (8)

Row 2: [KFB] x 8 (16)

Row 3: P (16)

Row 4: KFB, K1] x 8 (24)

Row 5: P (24)

Row 6: [KFB, K2] x 8 (32)

Row 7: P (32)

Row 8: [KFB, K3] x 8 (40)

Row 9: P (40)

Row 10: P (40) This purl row forms the fold at the base

Row 11: P (40)

Row 12: [K2TOG, K8] x 4 (36)

Row 13: P (36)

Row 14: K (36)

Row 15: P (36)

Row 16: [K2TOG, K4] x 6 (30)

Row 17: P (30)

Row 18: K (30)

Row 19: P (30)

Row 20: [K2TOG, K3] x 6 (24)

Row 21: P (24)

Row 22: K (24)

Row 23: P (24)

Row 24: [K2TOG, K2] x 6 (18)

Row 25: P (18)

Row 26: K (18)

Row 27: P (18)

Row 28: [K2TOG, K1] x 6 (12)

Row 29: P (12)

Row 30: K (12)

Row 31: P (12)

Row 32: K2TOG] x 6 (6)

Row 33: P (6)

Row 34: K (6)

Row 35: P (6)

Row 36: [K2TOG] x 3 (3)

Cut the thread and using a wool needle pull the thread through the three remaining stitches on the needle/ Remove the needle and pull the thread tight, gather and secure.


CO 8 in red (or contrasting colour for base).

Row 1: P (8)

Row 2: [KFB] x 8 (16)

Row 3: P (16)

Row 4: [KFB, K1] x 8 (24)

Row 5: P (24)

Row 6: P (24) …… This purl row forms the fold at the base

Row 7: P (24)

Row 8: K (24)

Row 9: P (24)

Row 10: K2, [KFB, K5] x 3, KFB, K3 (28)

Row 11: P (28)

Row 12: K (28)

Row 13: P (28)

Cast off all stitches

Making up …

Use the same yarn used to knit the tree and the base and sew all the seams.

Tie any knots on the inside (as these will not be seen when the tree is completed).

Using the cast off tail, sew the tree seam from the top to the fold at the base (row 10). Stuff the tree through the gap in the bottom and sew up.
Sew up and stuff base, and sew the base to the tree.
Decorate the tree as you wish - you may wish to use buttons or beads.

Mini Sweater decoration for the Christmas tree.

Intermediate - Advanced

History of the Sweater

When most people, especially non-knitters, think of knitting, the image of a sweater pops up in their minds. Actually, the sweater as a knitted garment developed in Victorian times. It is believed that the sweater began with 19th century British fishermen, who needed a garment that would keep them relatively dry at work. Wool repels water and is the only natural fibre that retains its ability to keep the wearer worn even when wet and, at some point, wives devised a form of pullover for their men. There has been a rumour circulating for a long time about the different cable and Celtic stitch patterns being developed by each knitter so that if her husband/father/son was lost at sea, their washed-up bodies could be identified. Most experts view that as a myth, though. Tattoos, however, do seem to have been originally devised by sailors for similar reasons. At any rate, Guernsey, Aran, and Fair Isle patterns, all fairly to extremely intricate, developed relatively quickly after about 1870.

The wearing of sweaters as casual wear in the general population seems to have evolved as a result of the wardrobes of 2 English military heroes. The cardigan was popularised by the 7th Earl of Cardigan, James Brudenell, who lead the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade on 25th October 1854. The Earl favoured close fitting jackets after which the sweater is modeled.

The raglan sleeve came about because Lord Raglan, Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, another Crimean War officer, lost his arm and needed a coat that he could get into and out of without assistance. His tailor designed the slanted, wider sleeve opening to accommodate his injury.

Until the 1920s, knitted sweaters were utilitarian or athletic items, not fashion statements. This all changed with Patou and Chanel in the 1920s, and with Schiaparelli in the 1930s. By 1933, Pringle of Scotland was making fashionable sweaters of cashmere, and they introduced the twin set shortly thereafter.

It took Hollywood to make the sweater a star. In 1937 Lana Turner appeared in They Won’t Forget wearing a tight sweater. The Sweater Girl was born! In 1940, American designer Claire Potter included decorated evening sweaters in her collection. A year later, Mainbocher took British-made cashmere cardigans and decorated them for evening wear. Sometimes they were made as part of a dress ensemble, with the lining of the sweater matching the dress. They were decorated with beads, sequins, metal studs and fabric trim. This started a trend for decorated sweaters that continued into the 1960s.

The evening sweater was an important part of the 1950s wardrobe. These sweaters were decorated in various ways: sequins, embroidery, appliqué, lace, beads, rhinestones and huge fur collars. A sweater would often exhibit a combination of these decorations. Many were lined in sheer, light-weight silk, sometimes with a layer of lace between the sweater and the silk.

Cashmere also became very popular for day. Many women had a twin set or two. A twin set was a pullover, often sleeveless or with short sleeves, and a matching cardigan. Sometimes the two pieces contrasted with coordinating trim. The sweaters often had jewel necklines to complement the string of pearls that many women wore with them.

From the 1940s and into the 1950s, teenage girls would wear their (or their mothers’) cardigans backward, buttoned up the back. College girls of the period bought twin sets as an important part of their college wardrobes.

Cashmere sweaters were knitted not only in lovely solid colours, they were also in intarsia designs. Argyles were popular, as were flowers, butterflies and other designs from mature. There were often pretty details such as collars, matching mother-of-pearl buttons and contrasting satin trim. Most 1950s sweaters had three-quarter, or bracelet, length sleeves. This sleeve length remained popular into the early 60s. Later in the decade, sleeves lengthened to cover the wrist.

Pattern by ArtYarn.

Any weight and the appropriate yarn for the needles.

Recommended double knit yarn and size 3mm needles to obtain size of samples provided.

Jumper body:

Cast on 20 sts.

Work in K1, P1 rib for 2 rows.

Continue in stocking stitch (knit 1 row, purl 1 row) for 18 rows. = 20 rows.

Row 21: knit 6 sts, cast off center 8 sts, knit remaining 6 sts,

Row 22: purl to neck hole, turn work and cast on 8 sts, turn work and purl to the end.

Row23 - 40: continue in stocking stitch.

Row 41 & 42: K1, p1 rib

Cast off all stitches.


Starting on 13th row up on front side, pick up 14 sts along the edge.

Work in stocking stitch for 14 rows starting on a purl row dec. 1 st each edge (p2tog) on rows 5 and 11 only.

Work 2 rows in K1, p1 and cast off.

Repeat for other sleeve on opposite edge.
Use your imagination to embellish the sweater as you wish and sew up sleeve seams and side seams and place on your tree 

Abbreviations for all patterns

RS - right side

WS - wrong side

st / sts - stitch / stitches

K - knit

P - purl

dec - decrease

Sl 1 - slip one stitch

K2tog - knit two stitches together

P2tog - purl two stitches together

kf&b - knit into the front and back of the stitch

pf&b - Purl into the front and back of the stitch
[…] = Repeat the stitches in square brackets by the number indicated.

(…) = The number in round brackets indicates the number of stitches per row.