I decided to poke around the Knitting Reference Library created on December 23, 2015 by the Library Digitisation Unit of the University of Southampton. It’s a digitized and cataloged collection of books, catalogs, journals, and magazines about knitting, as well as knitting patterns. The books, patterns, and journals are available on site at the Southampton Library and the patterns accessible online are a selection of those they own that allowed copyright clearance. They currently have works representing a publication range from 1840 to 2012, and aim to continue adding new materials that “reflect the revival of interest in the many aspects of this art, craft and fashion.”
The sources themselves you browse through the “Collection” tab next to “About”. At the moment, there are two overarching collections (“Knitting patterns” and “Victorian knitting Manuals”) made up of the 307 items listed as “Texts”. There is a search bar and various filters you can apply to the larger collection, similar to that of a library catalog’s search UI. You can display your results either as thumbnails or a single list.
I decided to filter by “patterns” and search for a “hat”. My search resulted in a Men’s football 4 ply cardigan pattern from the 1950’s by Mary Maxim, not quite my goal. The search function latched on to the fact that in the description there is a section for “Props used in illustration” which included a hat. I tried again with “waistcoat” because I saw it in many titles while I was browsing before, and found 12 results that were more reasonable. The same was true for “cardigan”.
Because there’s no filter for type of garment, I think knitters could use these patterns but perhaps wouldn’t come specifically to this collection to find the cardigan pattern of their dreams. The site encourages feedback on each entry through a reviews section and ability to “favorite”. How many reviews or “favorites” an entry gets is displayed along with the thumbnail on the main collection page. Entries can also be freely downloaded in different formats (PDF, kindle, torrent, etc.) which further encourages practical use. I think the presentation is such that it would best be used by first browsing the whole collection and then picking those books and patterns you wish to download and use offline. Academics, on the other hand, can easily filter by date published or by creator, depending on their research goals.