Counterpane Pillow

Recreating the pattern of a knit counterpane bureau scarf from the collection of the Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol is a fascinating trip through vintage knitting patterns and traditions.

Counterpanes – white bed coverlets or bedspreads – were quite popular in the mid-1800s and into the 1900s and were traditionally made from white or cream-coloured cotton yarn that was so readily available at that time.

heirloom counterpane dresser scarf
The inspiration. This photo shows the upper-left corner of the original heirloom knit counterpane bureau scarf in the collection of the Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol. (Photo courtesy of the Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol)

The knitted 1890 counterpane bureau scarf in the museum collection consists of three components: 3 squares made up of 4 triangles each, a leaf panel below the assembled squares, and a pointed, saw-tooth edging. The four triangles are knit separately then crocheted together. The squares each measure 12″ by 12″; the leaf panel measures 8″ by 48″.

There are a wide variety of research materials out there for vintage pattern enthusiasts: books, stitch encyclopedias, websites and blogs, magazines, as well as other stitchers, writers and researchers who are also working on pattern recreations.

counterpane pillow
Re-created counterpane leaf pattern in the form of a pillow.

In all of our research, we were unable to find an exact pattern for the museum counterpane bureau scarf. But, what we did find was a leaf pattern in one book, a triangle counterpane pattern in another, and then a similar edging in another resource. Essentially, we are attempting to reverse engineer the piece, writing the pattern after examining the item, counting the stitches, looking at the placement of the increases and decreases and so on.

After some trial and error, trying various needles sizes and yarn types and weights, we settled on recreating the pattern in locally sourced worsted-weight wool from Steele Wool Farm.

The pattern is available for download from our site for those of you interested in trying it out.

I’m still working at writing the multiple leaf lace panel pattern as mentioned above.