Reins for children? Can’t imagine what I’m talking about? Today, people have talked about leashes for their children … to use to keep them from wondering away. Well, Victorian women had the same problem. BUT… these reins weren’t used for that. No, not at all.
So what where they used for? They were used by children to play make-believe. Victorian children loved to play at being a horse and driving a cart pulled by a horse. After all, that is what they saw everyday … horses used to pull carts, buggies or ridden to get from place to place as well as used to pull plows and other work machines. It sparked their imagination and mothers would gladly knit them to keep the children busy while she attended to other activities.
The chiildren's reins immediately below were found in The Dictionary of Needlework: An Encyclopedia of Artistic, Plain, and Fancy Needlework, 1882.
Very nice crochet reins can be made by crocheting round the curtain cord till you get them the right thickness for the armholes and then making the straps of strips of double crochet two inches wide.
In working the double crochet always work through 2 loops of the stitch in the previous row, it is firmer.
The following two articles are for those who knit or use braid. These were found in Mrs. Leach's Fancy Work Basket, dated 1877.
Materials: curtain or picture cord, scarlet braid and scarlet worsted (or you can make them all braid), and a pair of knitting needles. No. 14, if you knit.
Take a piece of cord and sew the end of it into a round, large enough for an armhole to slip easily over the arm when the child is dressed for play, and now twist the cord round the circle again, so that the armhole is made of double cord; keep it flat.
Now bind this circle of double cord firmly round and round with the braid, and fasten the end off securely. Make another armhole the same way.
Unite the two across the chest by a strip of braid or a knitted piece.
Make the knitted piece thus:
Cast on 16 stitches, knit plain like a garter till long enough to go across the chest,
Cast off and fasten to each armhole.
Now knit a piece in the same way, but 1 3/4 or 2 yards long; fasten each end to the back of an armhole.
Finish by sewing from two to six of the little penny bells on the shoulder of each armhole very firmly to the braid, and if liked, a few across the front strap.
For a child with a delicate chest make the front strap four inches wide.
Materials required : — 6 ozs. scarlet alloa yarn, 2 bone knitting pins No. 10, 1 yard of stout even box cord, 2 brass rings, size of half a crown, some flannel list, and 6 toy bells at one halfpenny each.
These are made in plain knitting or garter stitch, in 4 different pieces, viz., chest piece, reins, and 2 pieces for the armholes.
Commence by casting on loosely, but evenly, 25 stitches for the front or chest-piece, and knit plain for nine or ten inches, always slipping the 1st stitch to keep the work firm at the edge.
For armholes—cast on in the same way 10 stitches, and knit plain for 13 inches, then cast off. Work 2 pieces in this way.
For the reins—cast on in the same way 10 stitches, and knit plain for a length of 2S yards, or 3 yards if wished longer; always slip the 1st stitch.
Now the pieces are all completed. You must cut 2 pieces of cord 1 inch longer than the knitted pieces for armholes, then bind them over with the list, to prevent the cord cutting through the work; you must bind them evenly.
Before joining up, lay the piece of knitting over the cord, and slip 1 of the brass rings over it all, cord and knitting, then join the cord very strongly together, then the piece of knitting, and sew both edges together neatly with scarlet wool,
taking care the ring will slip very easy all round; do both armholes in this manner.
Then sew the chest-piece to each armhole, making the seam of cord and work go under the arm, then you slip the ends of the reins, or long piece of knitting, into each of the rings, and join the 2 ends together.
Sew 1 bell on to the top of each shoulder, and 3 more along the centre of front, and 1 below the centre of the 3 bells above, when the reins will be completed.
If liked, the name of the child, or a fancy horse could be worked in cross stitch on the front; in that case, the bells could be arranged to the taste of the worker.
As with all Victorian patterns and instructions printed here on this site, many of the items needed for these projects are no longer available. It is up to the reader to substitute materials as needed.