I’ve spent the past few days doing some spring cleaning, in hopes that it will work some sympathetic magic and make Spring come a little faster. Alas, the only weather-related result so far has been yet another snowfall – accompanied by thunder, no less – so it’s safe to say my magic isn’t working. I do, however, have a much better-organized stash and a tidier work room.
I have a habit of stashing WIPs and found objects amongst the yarn, and one of the things I dug out of the cedar chest was this pair of hand-knit socks (click any of these pictures to embiggen):
I found them at a farmer’s market in Springville NY; there was a vendor in the flea market with a table full of old textiles. I’m not much of a textile collector, but these Victorian stockings utterly blew my mind, so I shelled out the handsome sum of $5 to acquire them.
They’re knit from fine white cotton. The gauge is tight and firm: 57 stitches over 4″ (14.25 SPI) and 79 rows over 4″ (19.75 RPI). I needed a magnifying glass.
It took me a little time and careful examination to appreciate the finer points of their construction. They’re knit from the cuff down, with a pretty picot edge – this gives the top hem the maximum amount of stretch possible, which is never very much with cotton… the knitter made a clever choice. The combination of lace and cables in the cuff is lovely. The beginning of each round is marked with a purl stitch on alternate rows, forming a graceful seam down the back and showing the knitter where to place her decreases.
There is a decorative column of garter stitch on the edges of the heel flap; I don’t know if it serves a practical purpose or was a strictly decorative touch. The toe is round and seamless, ending with 8 tiny stitches drawn up tightly.
The cuff is marked with a pair of initials in pink cross stitch: these stockings were knit for M.E., and the letters are oriented so that they are right-side up when the wearer looks down at them, as is customary with socks of this era. And we can tell that they were knitted by somebody else for M.E. – because on one of the stockings, worked in a very subtle mix of purls and knits, you can see the initial E.
Who was M.E.? The stockings are for a small-footed person, and unlike kilt hose, the tops are not meant to be folded down; this tells us they were for a woman or girl. The knitter was highly skilled, and spent a great amount of time making these fine stockings – they would have been a special gift indeed, and they show very little wear. Perhaps they were a wedding gift? At this great remove of time and history, the only thing we can know is that E. cared enough for M.E. to create something so beautiful and intricate, and M.E. treasured them enough to carefully put them away and save them.
They may look like stockings to the rest of the world… but knitters will know what they really are: thousands of tiny stitches of love, frozen in time.