Victorian Crafting: What is an Antimacassar

Dear Readers,

I have recently been working on translating some Victorian knitting and Crochet patterns into instructions that my contemporary crafters might be able to follow. As I go about my research and collection of Victorian era women’s magazines I do sometimes come across words which are foreign to me. I thought that I would begin to share them here with you.

Today’s word is Antimacassar.

The Collins dictionary definition is:

Noun. cloth covering the back and arms of chairs etc to prevent soiling  or as decoration (C19: anti + macassar )

The C19 means 19th Century if you didn’t know.

So I went further and had a look at what macassar meant. Again this definition is from the Collins Dictionary

Macassar – Macassar oil –  an oily preparation formerly put on the hair to make it smooth and shiny.

And so now the picture begins to make more sense. The antimacassar is a covering made of some sort of fabric, in the case of my patterns predominantly crochet, which is used to protect furniture from hair oil. And no doubt also as a form of decoration. Now that I think about it I have definitly seen modern variations of these in aeroplanes and on busses, I just didn’t know what to call them!

Here are some pictures that I found.


This is an image with a crochet Antimacassar. The image is from Bristol Museums.


This is a fabric and lace Antimacassar. Photo from Wiki.

I hope that you enjoyed this post.

Peace and Love,

13 thoughts on “Victorian Crafting: What is an Antimacassar

  1. You know… I have been (slightly) curious about why those things were called antimacassar, but evidently not curious enough to look it up. Thank you for doing the work and explaining. I actually have a hand towel on the back of my favorite solid-color chair for this purpose – not because I put any oil on my hair, but I figure the natural oils in my hair will transfer to it with repeated use, so I’m buying myself some time with my own (rather dull-looking) antimacassar.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes I agree, I was thinking of making some for my house but then I realised that our couches are fake leather (we didn’t buy them they came with the house when we bought it) and I dont think that they would stay on.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh yes I can totally relate to that! I have been in my great aunts house and I remeber that they kept falling down. hehe. Wierd how I have experience of them but I only learned the correct term recently!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Gosh I haven’t heard talk of antimacassars in years. My grandma and great aunt used to have them on their arm chairs and my sister and I used to get told off for not sitting still and pulling them off 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow that sounds amazing! I have never heard of different hair colours producing different amounts of oil, but my father and I tend to have oilier hair than my sister and my mother. For us isn’t more genetics than hair colour. 🤣

    Liked by 2 people

  6. When I was a child my mother had crocheted antimacassars with a dragon motif for the back of the armchairs. She said it was because my father’s ginger hair produced a lot of oil. I have the pattern she used and always fancied using it for something as they are rather splendid Chinese dragons.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. how interesting – and not Victorian 19C, but Italy in mid-to-late 20C, I do remember lace “antimacassar” on my maternal grandparents’ tall comfy armchairs set in front of the TV, similar to your last two pictures – though no idea what the word is in Italian, so you put me onto a quest!

    Liked by 2 people

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