Richard Rutt and Frances Lambert

When Richard Rutt wrote A history of hand knitting he hoped his work would โ€˜be useful in stimulating others to write in greater details and with greater accuracyโ€™ about knitting history.(1) However, Rutt notes that โ€˜Because this is not an academic thesis I have forsworn the full delights of notes and page referencesโ€™ which can be frustrating when using Rutt as a launching point for further research and investigation.(2) Ruttโ€™s work stimulated the focus of my masterโ€™s thesis on the Victorian authors discussed in chapter 5 The Victorian age and the belle รฉpoque due to the brevity of the available information. The last line, โ€˜We know no moreโ€™, of the section on Frances Lambert was an imperative to find out more.(3) To pass it forward to the next generation of researchers here are the relevant citations for the section on Frances Lambert. I hope other researchers can expand on individual sections of Rutt to build up an expanding knowledgebase to stimulate further research.

The Handbook of needlework published by John Murray in 1842 is available from the British Library.(4) The British Library (5) and the Cowie Collection within the University of Reading Special Collections (6) both have copies of the 3rd edition published in 1843. So far I have been unable to locate a copy of the 5th edition published in 1847.

Rutt refers to two American printings of the Handbook of needlework though Lambert is adamant that they are pirated copies and dedicates a paragraph to the subject of piracy in the preface to the 2nd edition. There are multiple copies online that can be found via WorldCat published in Philadelphia and New York. Take care as some editions contain multiple authors combined. For example, the 1854 edition digitized by Cornell University contains both the Handbook of needlework and Gaugainโ€™s Miniature knitting, netting, and crochet book.(7)

Rutt references the Workwoman’s book published in 1838 which has been digitized by the University of California and is available via the Hathi Trust.(8)

Lambert first published My knitting book in 1843.(9) Rutt refers to the second series published in 1845 though I could only find a second series copy in the British Library dated 1846.(10) The 1847 printing of the second series contains reference to being the twenty-third thousand.(11) So far unable to locate a copy of the first volume published in 1847 that contained a reference to forty-two thousand.

Rutt talks about two addresses for Lambertโ€™s shop premises. In the 1838 Kelly’s Post Office directory the address is 7 Conduit Street (12) and in the 1841 and 1843 directories the address is 3 New Burlington Street.(13) The directory entry for 1838 is: โ€˜embroideress to the Queen & repository for fancy needlework & drawingsโ€™. Lambert held a Royal Warrant of Appointment for supplying embroidery and needlework for Queen Victoria.(14)

Rutt ends the section with โ€˜we know no moreโ€™ and now we know considerably more. A full biography for Lambert has been submitted to the Oxford Dictionary of Biography for consideration.

Sally Kentfield


1 Richard Rutt, A History of Hand Knitting / Richard Rutt. (London: Batsford, 1987). p. vi
2 Rutt.
3 Rutt. p. 113
4 Frances Lambert, The Hand-Book of Needlework (London: John Murray, 1842), British Library.
5 Frances Lambert, The Hand-Book of Needlework, 3rd edn (London: John Murray, 1843), British Library.
6 Frances Lambert, The Hand-Book of Needlework, 3rd edn (London: John Murray, 1843), University of Reading Special Collections.
7 Frances Lambert, Handbook of Needlework (Philadelphia: Hazard, 1851), Hathi Trust <>.
8 Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, The Workwomanโ€™s Guide: Containing Instructions to the Inexperienced in Cutting out and Completing Those Articles of Wearing Apparel, &c. Which Are Ususally Made at Homeโ€ฏ: Also, Explanations on Upholstery, Straw-Platting, Bonnet-Making, Knitting, &c (England: Simpkin, Marshall and Co. …, 1838) <> [accessed 2 July 2022].
9 Frances Lambert, My Knitting Book (London: John Murray, 1843) <>.
10 Frances Lambert, My Knitting Book, 2 (London: John Murray, 1846), British Library.
11 Miss. Lambert, My Knitting Book, Second, Twenty-third thousand, 1847, University of Southampton Knitting Reference Library <>.
12 ‘London Post Office Directories’, MF/071, London Metropolitan Archive.
13 ‘London Post Office Directories’, MF/072 and MF/073, London Metropolitan Archive.
14 ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Department: Office of Robes: Letter Booksโ€™, 1837, LC 13/2, The National Archives, Kew.