Knit one, pearl one

Francoise Duparc, Woman knitting

Françoise Duparc, Woman Knitting.

The recipes collected in the books and bundles of papers that I’m researching weren’t only for culinary and medicinal recipes – they ranged over various household activities as well, as I have addressed before in this blog. One area I’ve now seen covered for the first time is knitting. Here’s a ‘recipe’ for ‘little children’s lambswool shoes’:

Cast 17 stitches. Knit 1 row plain. Add a stitch at both ends every other row, till you have 23 stitches. Knit 1 row plain. Add a stitch at the end only, every other row till you have 28 stitches.

Knit 1 row plain. Knit off 16 stitches leaving 12 upon the other pin. Knit 16 rows or 8 pearl. Cast 12 stitches. Knit 2 rows plain. Diminish a stitch only at the end of every other row till you have 23 stitches.

Knit 1 row plain. Diminish a stitch at both ends every other row till you have 17 stitches. Cast off. Fasten on for the ancle. Make 30 stitches including the 12 on the pin. Knit 3 pearls of white, then 4 of colour, then 4 of white then 4 of colour. Cast off.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Knitter asleep

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Knitter Asleep.

And the adults are catered for too, for example here’s how to make lambswool dressing shoes:

Cast 40 stitches. Knit 1 row plain. Add 1 stitch only at one end every other row till you have 50 stitches. Knit 10 rows plain. Cast off 25 stitches for the heel. Knit 10 rows for the toe. Cast on 25 stitches for the other side. Knit 10 rows plain. Diminish 1 stitch at one end only, every other row till you have 40 stitches left. Knit 1 row plain. Cast off. Fasten on for the ancle making 50 stitches round, knit 16 rows. Cast off. Sew it up on the wrong side, & then put on a duffield sole.

They look remarkably similar to modern patterns, although (like recipes for food or medicine at the time) they do require some prior knowledge that isn’t spelled out. For example, ‘Knit 16 rows or 8 pearl’ means (I think!) either 16 rows of knit or 16 of stocking stitch; that is, knit one, purl one. So for the ’3 pearls of white’ etc. later in the pattern, presumably this is actually 6 rows of stocking stitch. There’s no mention of purl in the adult shoes, so were they made in garter stitch, or is stocking stitch implied by the instruction to ‘sew it up on the wrong side’? I don’t know enough about the history of knitting to be sure. I also think I might get rather confused with the ankle fastener, but maybe that’s my dodgy knitting skills.

Anyone fancy giving these a try?

Recipes from Lady Hotham’s recipe book, U DDHO/19/3, Hull History Centre.

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6 thoughts on “Knit one, pearl one

  1. Lovely – and an interesting spelling of ‘purl’! I don’t know enough about the history of knitting either, despite soon blogging about sock-knitting in wartime. You might want to take a look at Kate Davies’ fantastic blog, now called Kate Davies Designs, on wordpress, if you don’t know it already. She combines historical and literary material with being a very talented knitter and designer.

  2. There’s certainly enough there that I can visualise it as a sock without a sole, knit sideways, across the top of the foot with an extra flap at each end that is folded round and the ends sewn together to create the heel. I’m fairly sure the fastening on is about creating the leg of the ‘sock’, from picking up stitches from along the heel edge and knitting upwards in the round.

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