Friday, March 08, 2013

Here Is Some Pretty For You

Last weekend I taught a day of lace (History, Methods and Styles of Lace followed by Lace Edgings: Before, During, and After) to a gung-ho group of students. One of them brought a surprise: a box of nineteenth-century knitted lace stockings.

I thought you might like to see them, and though I'm still learning to love the camera that lives in my new telephone I was able to take some tolerable photographs during our intermezzo.

feet-cables-lace

They are family pieces. The knitter (who prefers to remain anonymous) says they were made by her great-grandmother (who was married in 1819) for her grandmother–a sweet and all-too-rare example of a knitter's handiwork being lovingly preserved and properly documented.

All are white cotton. There are knee-highs and thigh-highs. The knee-highs have ribbed tops.

tops-ribbed

The thigh-highs were obviously extra-special: turned-over picot hems, lacy tops, and then a row of eyelets just below for threading a ribbon tie.

top-leaf

top-diagonals

The leg patterns were beautifully varied and the workmanship was impeccable.

leg-multipattern

leg-diamond

And how to do you make a gorgeous gift like this even more special? You knit the recipient's initials and the date into it.

leg-initials

Notice that the initials are upside-down, just under the fancy leaf-lace top. I wonder if this was intentional (so that the wearer would see them when she pulled them on) or whether the knitter was halfway through when she realized what she'd done; and then decided she was absolutely not going to start over again. Hey, it happens.

Nineteenth-century knitters...knitters just like you and me.

Less Impressive Socks

The new Knitty is out, and as ever my column is in it. This time, by coincidence I wrote about a Victorian sock. A kid's sock. A flat kid's sock. A flat kid's sock knit from an 1870 pattern I just absolutely hated.

Blow Me, Thou Winter Wind

And the crabbiness continues over at the Lion Brand Yarn blog, where I wrote about spring, or the lack thereof; and drew a spring chicken.

Is this any way for a grown man to make a living?


40 comments:

Jeanne B. said...

Yes, by golly, this is absolutely the best way for a grown man (or woman) to make a living. :-) The 19th Century socks are so beautiful; I'm glad they were treasured for so long by the family.

Betsy said...

Franklin, what fiber are they made of? The pictures make them look like cotton.
And, btw, what Jeanne said - Yes, this is the best way for you to make a living! Thanks :)

Rachel Proffitt said...

Oh wow, these are absolutely lovely!

Heather said...

thanks for sharing these socks. They are gorgeous. What a lovely family heirloom.

Renee Anne said...

Those socks are absolutely gorgeous, even with the repair work that's needed! It reminds me that I should treasure my grandmother's wedding dress even more as it was handmade (probably by her mother or sister - she wasn't much of a seamstress until after she got married).

Doc Anne said...

I'm glad you make your living like you do so you can share the lovelies. I am humbled by those beautiful socks, love is evident in every stitch. Do you really think the knitter who did such perfect socks would make such an error? Of course the initials and date are to be seen by tge wearer! One more hint of how much she was loved.

kmkat said...

With your mad knitting skillz and marvelous photographs, perhaps (pretty please?) you could reverse engineer those stockings into a pattern for the rest of us mere mortal knitters. I'd buy it.

Oh, and we run out if milk here in Wisconsin, too, but we drive o get it. Uphill and through 16" of snow...

janna said...

I am very happy that this is how you make your living! And the socks are so beautiful. It's just amazing that they have been cherished for this long.

janetcc said...

these are impressive. 1883: none were designed to be seen.

Rachelle said...

OMG, thigh high stockings in cotton? The knitter must have loved her very much, that would be murder on the hands! Lovely work.

steel breeze said...

Loved your Beeton article in Knitty - I have a copy of her "Complete Book of Needlework", bought from a chain in the UK that sells test print runs at bargain prices - I think it cost me something daft like £1.50, so a very thick paperback for the price of a fancy coffee. Pretty sure that sock rings a bell, too. Never had the nerve to try any of the patterns out yet. Poor Mrs Beeton must be turning in her grave somewhere.

The Foggy Knitter said...

Steel Breeze - Mrs Beeton is buried in West Norwood cemetery in South London, I remember being taken to see her grave as a kid (great day trips we went on!)

Love these stockings, they are utterly gorgeous and I am so glad they are so treasured.

Marlene aka Ouma Miaau said...

What a lovely way to make a living! Also, look how it brings people from over the globe together on something so basic, but so good. Those socks are fantastic, I am sure, I would not have made them. Most probably made in fine cotton, took forever! I was recently given a pattern book published in 1970 called 'Mon Tricot' knitting dictionary. AND featuring 1030 pattern stitches in knitting, crochet and hairpin crochet. Now that's something too!

margene said...

The stockings are so beautiful they made me want to cry. They were knit with cotton, not the easiest fiber to knit. I can see my grandmother (or mother) knitting my initials into something as a way of saying "remember who you are".
You do crabbiness so well.

thegeorg said...

Beautiful! Can we see that heel closer up?

Anonymous said...

Well Your commentary on winter, is well received, didn't that blasted groundhog predict an early spring? One of your neighbors to the north , I am tired of hearing snowmobiles, till late in the evening zooming through the park. We have had a few fall through the ice on Lake Wisconsin, The knitting is grand.

FiberQat said...

Those stockings are beautiful. What a treat to share. Thanks for sharing them with us.

Dianna said...

Long may you knit and write.

Emm said...

"Blow Me, Thou Winter Wind"

I love it when you go all literary! (Beautiful socks.)

Rainy Daisy said...

Zut alors, these are beautiful. And in the picture, the look like they could have been knit 10 years ago, not... (...carry the square root...?) 130 years ago. Bless that family for taking such good care of them. (And for the record, I think just knitting that tiny ribbing for that long in that skinny cotton yarn would about kill me. We were a tougher breed back then).

cheers!
Daisy

Vickie said...

Thanks so much to your student for sharing these stockings; and for you for sharing the photos.

Rebecca said...

I also inherited a box of cotton stockings knitted by my ancestors. Check out this sweet lace cuff and the knitter's name in beads (upside-down! so that the wearer could look down and be reminded of her own name, I guess): http://www.flickr.com/photos/bewildery/5193760752/

Anonymous said...

An indecent way to make a living would be telling other people how to live their lives. Just sayin'.

soxanne said...

Absolutely awesome!

Steph VW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carie said...

Oh those are gorgeous; they make me want to knit lacey thigh highs for myself however impractical that might be!

DianeV said...

It is ABSOLUTELY the way for a grown man to make a living!!! You are lifting spirits, inspiring love of beautiful things and challenging us with wittiness requiring at least a little contemplation! Thank you!!!

Seanna Lea said...

These are amazing. I cannot imagine knitting socks with cotton. I just do not love the fiber enough to make up for the beauty of the product. Now a fine white wool...

Pretty Knitty said...

THANK YOU FOR SHARING THESE!!! I am such a fan of this stuff...it's why I started knitting socks! I know that I can buy socks (much cheaper than I can knit them, in fact), but a part of me wanted so desperately to be able to do it in the old way...not that I thought I would knit all my socks (which I now do, in fact), but just so I could maintain that connection to the knitters who had gone before me, knitting for their families out of both necessity and love. Suddenly, I feel the urge to knit the year and some initials into all of my socks...I've gone completely 'round the bend (and I love that, in fact)!

Anonymous said...

Did you get to measure the gauge on the stockings? Would you say they were fingering weight/

Anonymous said...

Only one word can sum up those socks - WOW! Thanks to you and the student for sharing these beauties. - Joe-in Wyoming

Jade Falcon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jade Falcon said...

There are far worse ways to make a living. At least with knitting, you can comfort yourself by petting your yarn, or stabbing the annoyance with your needles.

Noel Lynne Figart said...

I'm going to guess the upsidedown part was because stockings like these were generally folded over a garter. Possibly so that the initials would be right side up afterwards.

Amy said...

These are wonderful! Wonderful! I love every word of this post. But try as I may, I can't work out how the knitter's great-grandmother could have been married in 1819. Even if your student is 80, thus born in 1933, and her mother was 40 years older (1893) and her mother was 40 years older than that (1853), it seems unlikely that her mother was married in 1819 (34 years earlier). Maybe the great-grandmother was born in 1819, or perhaps there is another generation in there? Or two? In any case, it's wonderful that the family has treasured the stockings all these years.

Colleen said...

The BeetOn's kids' socks are intriguing. But the part about "sew up like a gusset" proves the idea of "everyone knew, so we don't need to explain". When I saw that line, I knew exactly what it meant, before even looking at your unsewn up sock. I make Colonial Reproduction Clothing, and shirts and shifts have gussets, which continue well into the 19th C. You stick the little square folded into a triangle into the corner, sew each of the main pieces to the side of the gusset, as far as the gusset goes, then finish sewing up the main piece's seam. Easy....once you have done it a few times! The first time, it is sort of brain-sploody! But...if you have never made these sorts of garments, what is obvious to one who has, is nonsense to you! And this sock isn't an easy way to learn it, either. It looks lovely, ough, you did a terrific job kludging the leg!

Bookworm said...

I second (or third or whatever) that request for patterns, especially the 1st pair, and particularly the lacey cable panels between the regular cables.

I would also like the diamond pattern, the one with the big hole in it, the next-to-last picture. The lacy parts that connect the diamonds look like diagonal twisted stitches connecting diagonal knitted chains. How was that done??

Anonymous said...

Mrs Beeton's recipes too are notorious for errors, missed steps and inaccurate instructions.

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