Another Historic Knit – The Sortie Cap

I did the thing again guys… I found a historic pattern on Ravelry and made it.  This time, I made a Sortie Cap.

Sortie Cap
Sortie Cap

Compared to the challenges the Sontag presented, this Sortie Cap was such a quick knit.  I started it on a Friday night (wild and crazy life I lead, I know), and finished it later on Saturday.  In a nutshell, you knit 9 alternating rows of stockinette and reverse stockinette, then, before you cast off, you drop (yes drop) every alternate stitch, so when you cast off, you are casting off half the stitches.  Work the dropped stitches to the cast on edge, and you are left with an open and gauzy finished object.  I was simply amazed at how the piece grew in length after dropping the stitches.  I need to get better at photographing my work in progress because a before and after photo would have been great to insert here…

After initially completing it with i-cords to tie in the back, I removed them and replaced them with ribbon, like the pattern called for.  I’m rather happy with how the piece turned out, even though it is a little large for my head.  That’s okay.  Bobby pins will keep it in place while I’m wearing it.

The pattern came from another Godey’s magazine, this time it dates to 1858.  Many thanks goes to koshka-the-cat.com for sharing this pattern, along with her notes on knitting it. While I knew that it came from the right time period, I wanted to know more about the history of this accessory.

I started with my good friend Google and searched for ‘Sortie.’  It comes from the French for ‘exit.’  In military terms, a ‘sortie’ is a sudden deployment of a unit, usually for a specific mission.  The cap was intended to be worn by a woman; I highly doubt there is a military association with this accessory.  So I searched for other examples of ‘sortie’ clothing.

November 1855’s Godey’s featured an illustration of a Party Hood (or a Sortie de Bas), along with a knitting pattern on making the item.

Party Hood, or Sortie de Bas, from Godey's 1855
Party Hood, or Sortie de Bas, from Godey’s 1855

In 1861, Godey’s again makes reference to a sortie de bas, or opera hood, and later in the year, they wrote about evening party etiquette, saying,

When your guests take leave of you, it will be in the drawing-room, and let that farewell be final.  Do not accompany them to them to the dressing-room, and never stop them in the hall for a last word.  Many ladies do not like to display their sortie du soirée before a crowded room, and you will be keeping their escort waiting.  Say farewell in the parlour, and do not repeat it.

In the 1864 edition of Godey’s, there was a column on “Chitchat on Fashions for February”, where they described “A beautiful sortie de bal,” saying it was “of a new cloth, white lamb’s back, with a silken surface that seems to be covered with fine soutache.  The shape is an improved burnouse, rounded in front, and laid in deep plaits behind.  It is trimmed with a fringe of white chenille and gilt.”

While the common search result for ‘sortie’ is a military action, I believe that the sortie cap, and the sortie du bas, have their etymology in the French root – meaning to go out or an exit.  A sortie cap is a cap that would be worn on an outing.

The cap it rather reminiscent of the fanchon bonnet, fashionable after the 1860s, although it represents a rather simplistic version.  The mid-1800s saw the size of bonnets decrease, and the sortie cap fits in with this fashion.

My Sortie Cap made its debut at an event for work Friday night. The heavens opened up and it ended up pouring as the evening went on, but the event was a success and so was my latest accessory!

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On Saturday I Went a’Frolicing

This weekend was the Toronto Knitters Guild annual Knitters Frolic.  It was the 18th annual event, and my first time attending.  I left with an armful of yarn and a much lighter bank account.

Dozens of vendors attended, including indy dyers and yarn shops, and I was impressed at how geographically diverse it was!  There were plenty of vendors from the GTA, but also from the east coast and British Columbia!  I spent some time browsing in the morning, and in the afternoon, I met with a friend who I know from my LYS’s knitting circle, and we discovered we were each other’s yarn-enablers!

In actuality, I could have done much, much worse.  I bought more Turtlepurl sock yarn, this time in their Serenity colourway.  Kinda cunning, dontcha think?

Turtlepurl Turtle Toes - Serenity
Turtlepurl Turtle Toes – Serenity

I was also able to pick up a skein of Sweetgeorgia sock yarn for a good price; I had been eyeing this colourway for months now, simply loving the teals and browns.

Sweetgeorgia - Rockwater
Sweetgeorgia – Rockwater

I also fell in love with cotton yarn from Dye-Version, based out of Mississauga.  I debated what colour to buy, and they had so many options to choose from.  I settled on this lovely black and red yarn, two skeins of it with which I’m envisioning making a lovely summer scarf.  We spent time admiring the creativity of the colour names.  Mine is called Vampire Kiss.  So fun.

Dye-Version - Vampire Kiss
Dye-Version – Vampire Kiss

Finally, I was able to buy four skeins of Cascade 220, which is earmarked for making a Sontag.  What is that, you ask?  A Sontag is a style of wrap that was all the rage in the 1860s, named for the singer who popularized it.  I work for a Museum, and on occasion I have to wear a Victorian style costume, and this Sontag will provide extra warmth in the winter months.

Cascade 220 Heathers - Galaxy
Cascade 220 Heathers – Galaxy

The pattern I will use was first written in the 1860s, and another local museum, Pickering Museum Village, updated the pattern and re-wrote it into modern language.  Once I start the project, I’ll update my progress as I knit along.

The link for the PMV pattern can be found here.

Side note, life has been very busy and out-of-routine for the last week or so, so yes, my post is a day late!  My OCD side is rather irked by this inconsistency!!  See you next week blogging friends.