Saturday, 20 April 2019

France Lambert's Opera Cap

Knitting an Opera Cap

As part of my MA History research I've been looking at a 1843 copy of Miss France Lambert's The hand-book of needlework (John Murray: London) held in the Valda Cowie collection within the University of Reading Special Collections. The book contains several wood-cut illustrations. In order to understand how realistic the illustrations are, I've followed the recipe for knitting an Opera Cap that has this illustration taken the from New York Public Library copy digitised by Google and available via the Hathi Trust website:


There are multiple digital copies available on the internet. The New York Library digitised copy via the Hathi Trust website: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433006773919;view=2up;seq=400 The recipe for the Opera Cap is on pages 375-8 in the New York Public Library edition.

The image shows a scalloped edge surrounding 7 pattern repeated stripes in two colour. After following the recipe the finished cap looks like this:


There is similarity to the illustration though if I tried to replicate the illustration without the recipe then the resulting cap would use a completely different recipe.

As with most Victorian knitting instructions there is an element of experimentation and knowledge expected. The instruction to hem the fancy edges created a yfk2tog picot trim that is common in patterns today, but not yet standard terminology back in 1843. Here is a photo of the reverse of the edge showing the picot edge hem, the reverse of the lace pattern, and one of the braids attached to a corner.


Keeping with the heritage of the project the yarn used is Cochno Farm wool available from the University of Glasgow shop. The wool was created as part of the University's Knitting in the round: hand-knitted textiles and the economies of craft in Scotland project.

Here's a copy of my translation of the pattern

4mm knitting needles (strictly speaking no. 10 is 3.5mm but used 4mm as that works best with the DK yarn I’m using).

Double-knit wool – I’ve used 2 balls of 50g Cochno Farm wool in natural and pink. 

Cast on 74 stitches in white

Border
Purl (74)
Knit (74)
Change to pink. Purl (74)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (74)
Change to white. Purl (74)
Knit (74)
Purl (74)
Knit (74)

1st division (pink)
Purl (74)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (72)
Knit
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (72)

2nd division (white)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (70)
Knit, decreasing 2 stitches at each end (66)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (64)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (64)

3rd division (pink)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (62)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (60)
Knit (60)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (60)

4th (white)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (58)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (56)
Knit (56)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (56)

5th (pink)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (54)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (52)
Knit (52)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (52)

6th (white)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (50)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (48)
Knit (48)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (48)

7th (pink)
Purl, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (46)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (44)
Knit (44)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (44)

8th (white) 
Purl (44)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (42)
Knit (42)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (42)

9th (pink)
Purl (42)
Knit, decreasing 1 stitch at each end (40)
Knit (40)
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end (40)

You should have 40 stitches

Pick up 30 stitches each side (30 + 40 + 30). Knit a border along all three remaining sides to match the border along the cast-on edge:

Change to white. Knit
Purl
Knit
Change to pink. Purl
*yarn forward, k2tog*, repeat to end
Change to white. Purl
Knit
Purl

Cast-off loosely

Wash, block and steam.
Make up the cap by folding over the edge at the yf2tog row and sew edge to body to make a picot-edge hem.
Make up plaits or use ribbons and attach at the 4 corners. Place over the head and tie behind and under the chin.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Knitting Teacher's Assistant

The Knitting Teacher's Assistant is a small 32 page booklet that was produced in the nineteenth century to aid teaching knitting in schools. The booklet uses a question-and-answer dialogue to discuss all the instructions and actions required to complete a knitted sock. There is a table at the back of the booklet with multiple sock sizes with the required stitch count in order to achieve each size.

The booklet was published by Hatchards, who have an archive, but haven't responded to my requests for information about when the booklet was printed and how many copies were produced. Therefore, the data is patchy, and based on copies that exist in libraries and archives that have been catalogued.

The earliest copy that I have seen is a facsimile of an 1817 publication that was produced by Robin Stokes (sadly the website no longer exists). The added information page at the front of the copy noted that this was a facsimile of Robin's personal copy (location unknown).

According to the library catalogue at the University of Melbourne, Australia, they have an 1819 edition.

The University of Reading has an 1836 publication of the seventh edition of Knitting Teacher's Assistant in the Special Collections held at the Museum for English Rural Life in the Children's Collection. The British Library also has a copy with the same year and edition.
V&A Museum

The V&A Museum has what looks to be the same content, with the title The National Society's Instructions on Needlework and Knitting and it contains a knitted sampler. The summary suggests it 'was the first British publication of this type on knitting' but their copy is 1838 and second edition, whereas the University of Reading copy is 1836 and seventh edition.
University of Southampton

The Knitting Reference Library at the Winchester campus of the University of Southampton has an 1881 publication from Richard Rutt's collection which has been digitised and is available through Archive.org.

If you know of any earlier copies, please leave a comment with the details.