Sunday, 16 December 2012

For Those Who Can't Define Steampunk, But Know It When They See It

Are you into steampunk? Which, in case you've never heard of it, is a movement involving the creation of clothes, art, fiction, furnishings and other items in a way that blends Victorian, science fictional, and fantastical elements. Steampunk creates a sort of alternate history, or looked at another way, is the future as the Victorians might have imagined it. I'm not into steampunk, although I find steampunk theme outfits and items a lot of fun to look at. But those who are into steampunk must nearly all be into crafting as well, as they'd have to be in order to acquire such elaborate, fitted, unusual costumes at a reasonable cost. And I'm sure making stuff is a big part of the subculture's attraction. Yes, a lot of steampunk enthusiasts just glue some gears on a doily and call it a day, but some aficionados bring an incredible level of skill, effort, ingenuity, and artistry to their work.

When I got the idea to google steampunk knitting, I found that a lot of the boot toppers, fingerless gloves, elaborate collars and other accessories that I see so many patterns for and that tend to look somewhat absurd and pointless when worn with contemporary clothing suddenly make perfect sense when worn with a steampunk costume. Perhaps it is due to steampunk's influence that we're seeing so many Victorian-inspired accessories in mainstream knitting magazines right now. Mainstream designers have a long history of drawing inspiration from subcultures, but there's an authenticity and specificity to the subculture's use of an idea that does tend to get lost in translation when the concept goes mainstream.

Here's a small selection of well-designed steampunk knitting projects I've come across. Some are very wearable by contemporary standards, and I've included links to patterns or to the website where the pattern could be bought whenever there was something along those lines to be linked to.

The designer of the cardigan above, called the Ruby pattern, says that when she wears her Ruby sweater people stop her in the street to ask her about it. I believe it.

Truly lovely capelet.

This hooded cowl is one of the items that could conceivably be worn in daily life, if you have the neck length to carry if off. I'd think many steampunkers choose projects with an eye to what will do double duty.

This ruffled collar is one of those items that bemuse me when offered in a mainstream knitting mag, but that I suddenly get very enthusiastic about when I think of it as a part of a steampunk outfit.

I'm really impressed with the quality of this top hat. The "handmade look" is one thing, the "homemade look" quite another. Nothing about this hat says homemade.

A trio of fingerless glove designs. The first two are pretty wearable for everyday use, the "Tudor Rose" gloves probably aren't, unless you have a very whimsical, playful personal style and everyone in your life has just learned to roll with it, but they are so fanciful and well-designed and pretty that they're a pleasure just to look at.

Spats seem to be a popular knitting project among steampunkers. I suppose they hide the fact that one's shoes aren't exactly steampunk canon.

This picture obviously isn't styled in a steampunk manner, yet these lace stockings are quite suitable for a steampunk costume. And it works the other way too. Many of the more overtly steampunk projects on Ravelry aren't getting knitted in a steampunk style by the Ravelry members who've been knitting their own versions.

Perhaps inevitably, there's a book of steampunk knitting patterns, and it's so beautiful I'm rather lusting after it myself. I mean, just look at that cover. Needles and Artifice is available from Cooperative Press in both digital and print form. And the remaining five patterns are all from the book.

This picture looks like it might have been taken for Vogue Knitting. This cap is wearable for every day, and the collar could be carried off by the right person.

I would totally wear this.

I must admit, writing this post made me want to play dress up so I could put on an outfit like this one.

Doesn't look too comfortable, but I can see some steampunk enthusiasts becoming even more so upon seeing this.

This a pattern for when you want to be steampunk from the inside out, and/or if you want to seduce your steampunk boyfriend right out of his waistcoat and spats. The top is totally wearable as a little summer top. The bloomers you probably couldn't carry off as street wear without looking odd, but then if you're making these bloomers for yourself, you probably don't mind looking a little odd even in everyday dress.


  1. Check out the patterns on Ravelry. The search I did was just knitting.

    Karen aka purplepenguin on Ravelry

  2. Where did you get the book of steampunk patterns last time I looked it wasn't released