Saturday, November 20, 2010

Small treasures

Thanks for your kind words; internet; the funeral was very sad but it was good to see my far-flung family gathered together in one place again, and it was nice to remember all the excellent things about my late grandfather.

While I was home I stayed at my grandmother's house, which is full of interesting old treasures. My aunt sent me home with these:

treasure trove

It is three and a half pairs of white stockings from 1873 or thereabouts. They all bear the names or initials of their owners at the top of the calf immediately underneath the lace or cabled cuff. Some are elaborately beaded words:


While others are garter-stitched initials that all but disappear against their stockinette background:

garter initials

I'm certain that some of them were knitted by machine, but these ones, at least, appear to have been reknitted by hand from the ankle at some point in their lives:


And this pair, marked 1873, bears the telltale minor unevenness of having been handknitted with a mixed bag of needles in different sizes:


The garter-initialled one, a single sock, is worked at a much looser gauge than the others, so I suspect that it was also knitted by hand.

There's really very little to reverse-engineer here. All of the patterns are very straightforward. The stockings are more or less identical to one another except for their band at the top; they all have one stitch kept in garter at the back of the leg around which the decreases are oriented; they all have spiralling decreases for the toe. They also all have a tiny ribbon stitched into the inside, so that the pairs can be tied up together and no stocking gets separated from its mate, except for the poor garter-initialled singleton.

My favourite thing about them is that they all fit me, which came as a bit of a surprise; the cotton fabric is not stretchy and they look very narrow when they're laid out flat. But they fit me like I had knitted them for myself.


m1k1 said...

I love the instant connection to the past that touching old textiles brings. Does your aunt know of a family tie to these stockings, or do you have collector genes running in your blood?

Rebecca said...

They belonged to relatives of mine! The 1873 ones were my great-great-grandmother's, Friedrike was a relative who isn't a direct ancestor. The initials on the others suggest relations too, but I am not sure who they all were.

I do have collector genes, though. Or packrat genes.

karen said...

those are lovely! it's nice to be able to have that contact with the past, and amazing they fit you. very very cool.


Anonymous said...

How gorgeous, and so great that they've found a home with someone who appreciates them so deeply lo these 137 years later!

Rebecca said...

I was stupidly excited that they fit! It's not like there's any occasion to wear old white cotton stockings, but it was strangely lovely to discover that I inherited a shape from my ancestors.

Hélène Magnússon said...

How fascinating; I love to hear or read stories like that...