A Sontag by Any Other Name

When historic patterns are on Raverly’s Hot Right Now page, my day is made. This happened last week when the Ladies’ Knitted Hug-Me-Tight, or Zouave Jacket made it to page 1 on Hot Right Now. As any good history nerd would do, I followed the link and started reading the book where it was originally published, made available online at archive.org.  The book was The Art of Knitting published in 1892 by the Butterick Publishing Company.

From my quick flip through, it appears to be a fascinating publication.  The first part is what we might call a Stitch Dictionary, with many interesting lace work and other stitch patterns to follow.  The chapters that follow look at different articles of knitwear, tips on how to work them, and patterns that one could make, provided that knitter is fluent in patterns from the 19th century.

My quick flipping was interrupted in the Useful Articles for Children’s Wear chapter as one pattern provided was for a Child’s Chest Protector.  Here’s the image accompanying the pattern:

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Child’s Chest Protector, The Art of Knitting, p. 112; accessed from archive.org

Why did this pattern catch my eye? Because it looks awfully similar to Godey’s Sontag, a pattern I’ve made so many times now I can basically knit it in my sleep.

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Originally from Godey’s; image from http://katedaviesdesigns.com/2013/06/28/sontag/

 

 

The ‘Child’s Chest Protector’ has incorporated the garter ridge into the actual design and pattern notes, rather than with Godey’s where the border (garter ridge or otherwise) was added after the main piece was completed.

The pattern reads:

To begin the protector – Cast on 30 stitches and knit back and forth plain until there are 7 rows

To make the first row of blocks – after finishing the first row, turn and knit as follows: knit 10, purl 5, knit 5, purl 5, knit 5 (in knitting the rows, 5 stitches must be knit plain at each site of every row, in order to firm the boder seen in the engraving). Turn

Knit 10, p 5, k5, p5, k5. Turn

K 10, p 5, k 5, p 5, k 5. Turn

Knit back and forth in this order until there are 6 rows, each formed by knitting across and back. This completed the first set of blocks.

To begin the second set of blocks – (These blocks must alternate with those of the first set). Knit 5, then widen by knitting a stitch out of the next stitch, but to not slip it off the needle; then purl out of this same stitch and slip it off; purl 4, k 5, p 5, k 5, now purl 1 out of the next stitch, but do not slip it off the needle, to widen, and then knit 5. Turn.

K 7, but do not slip off the last stitch; p 5, k 5, p 5, k 7 but do not slip the last stitch off the needle; p 1, k 5. Turn.

Complete this set of blocks after this manner, widening as described at each side between the blocks and border. Then make a set of blocks to correspond with the first set, widening as in the second set, and so on until the widest part of the protector is reached.

To make the Tabs – when the neck edge is reached (in the protector illustrated) pass all the stitches of the border at one side and those of 6 blocks onto another needle; then bind off the stitches of 4 blocks for the neck-edge. Now continue the knitting after the manner directed, to form the tab at one side, making the plain border at each side of the tab and narrowing at the outer border instead of widening as before. Complete for the other tab to correspond.

For the outer Edge – Use Angora wool and crochet shells along the border as follows: 1 single crochet and 2 doubles all in the same space, selecting the spaces so that the shells will be perfectly flat. Fasten ties of ribbon at the sides as seen in the engraving, to tie the protector about the waist.

 

There are slight differences to the patterns – Godey’s has an increase of one stitch every row while Art of Knitting increases 2 stitches every other row; as well, once you reach the arms, or ‘tabs,’ Godey’s has you decreasing on the inner edge while Art of Knitting decreases on the outer edge.  These slight changes aside, following either pattern will result in a garment which will keep your torso warm while your arms are free to move about as you want.

If 100 year old patterns are your thing, or if you’re simply interested in an old read, I’d recommend checking out The Art of Knitting, available to view online.

Warm Woolen Wonderfulness

A number of months ago, I completed my Woolen Undersleeves.  The pattern is from 1862 from Godey’s Ladies Book, and like with other historical patterns, I had to muddle my way through the historic lingo when creating my own undersleeves. I created these undersleeves to wear with my historic costume for work, knowing they would come in handy during any outreach I have to do in the cold weather.

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This weekend, I had my first opportunity to use the undersleeves.  My co-workers and amazing volunteers and I got dressed in our Victorian finest and marched in our local Santa Claus Parade.  After a very warm Friday, the temperatures dipped on Saturday, much more appropriate for Christmas weather. Undersleeves were a necessity.

I am very happy to report that I was able to 5+ kilometres in the chilly weather, and thanks to my woolen undersleeves, I was very toasty warm.  I can happily report, the undersleeves were a success.

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Victorian finest, complete with my Sontag and undersleeves.

The pattern I used was from Godey’s Ladies Book, 1862

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For the modern interpretation of the pattern, please read my original post.

 

Sontag 2 – The Return of the Bosom Friend

Remember that time I knit a wrap from an 1860s pattern? It was called a Sontag. Sontag, you say? What a strange name! Well, I looked into the history of this garment here.  And this is my finished Sontag:

Well, my needles have been busy for the past few weeks, making a Sontag for a co-worker. The beauty of making a project a second time, especially if that second time is a commission, is that you have the chance to improve upon what you did the first time around. I’m very happy with my Sontag and it has kept me warm when I’ve needed a few extra layers with my costume for work, but I also knew there were things I would change if I was to ever make it again. This is my chance.

Firstly, the basket weave.  The Sontag’s fabric is a 5×5 basket weave made up of alternating knits and purls, increasing one stitch at the beginning of each row, or, as Godey directs:

Cast on thirty-five stitches, knit five stitches forwards and five backwards, thus forming the blocks; knit five lines in this way, widening one stitch at the commencement of each line. Knit the second row of blocks alternate with the first.

Don’t you love 19th century patterns.

When I knit this the first time, I worked my increases the same as the stitches before it, like so:

detail basket

The basket weave looks off by the sides of the wrap. Only when you’re really looking at it can you see, and perhaps it’s me being picky, but this has always been something I would change about my Sontag. For Sontag 2, I did.

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Look at those new stitches, worked opposite to the ones beside them, continuing with the established basket weave pattern. Much happier.

When making the Sontag, the back is made first, and then the fronts, one side at a time. Again, the pattern wasn’t overly clear on how to go about the decreases:

…Knit up one front, narrowing one stitch on the inside every fourth line for six blocks; narrow every other line for the next six blocks; then narrow every line till you come to a point.

Clear as mud, right.

When I made my the first time, I narrowed every fourth line for 200 rows.  I kept measuring the length of the front against myself, and once I determined it was long enough to wrap around me, I narrowed every other row until 4 stitches remained, using those 4 stitches to make an i-cord 20″ long. The fronts are certainly long enough, wrapping all the way around to the middle of my back. The way I worked the decreases was another thing I would change if I was to make another Sontag, so change I did.

This time, I decreased every 4 row for 120 rows, then decreased every other row until only 4 stitches remain, and again made a 20″ i-cord using those stitches.  Measuring against myself again, this time the fronts come to their ‘point’ around my sides, which I think will make a more attractive wrap.

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My first Sontag, underneath, and the new Sontag on top; note the length difference and shape difference because of the different decreases. Also note the prominence of the coffee mug. Important stuff when knitting.

Front number 1 is done, and I’m 5 rows into the second front. I’ll have this completed in the next few weeks, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to revisit this pattern and improve upon what I’ve done.

Want to make your own Sontag? Awesome! Check out the pattern on Ravelry! Or, here’s a copy of the pattern from the January 1860 Godey’s Ladies Book.

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Originally from Godey’s; image from http://katedaviesdesigns.com/2013/06/28/sontag/

The Idea of North and Lawren Harris

He was born into a family of industrialists, but he became renowned for art, landscapes, and capturing an idea of ‘The North.’

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Lawren Harris; photo from the Archives of Ontario

Lawren Harris was born in 1885 in Brantford, Ontario; he is of the same Harris Family of Massey-Harris (later Massey Ferguson), which at one time was the largest agricultural equipment maker in the British Empire. Harris received a good education, studying at the University of Toronto, and later in Berlin. All this time, he developed an interest in art. In the early 1910s, he befriended JEH MacDonald and Tom Thomson; in less than a decade, Harris and MacDonald would be two members of the noted Group of Seven. That Thomson was a member of the Group of Seven is a common misconception as Thomson died in 1917 before the official formation. His influence upon those painters cannot be understated, as he was passionate about the ‘great outdoors’ and about capturing the Canadian landscape on canvas. After their first show at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1920, the Group of Seven began identifying themselves as being in the ‘landscape school of art.’

Throughout the 1920s, Harris and MacDonald, along with Frank Johnston, Franklin Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson, F.H. Varley, and Arthur Lismer (and later A.J. Casson and Edwin Holgate) would commit the Canadian landscape to canvas like no other artists previously. Pieces created by these artists are held at major art galleries throughout the country and abroad, with major collections housed at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, and the McMichael Art Gallery in Kleinburg, ON.

In the early 1930s, the group felt it was no longer necessary to exhibit as a formal group, and the individual artists continued with their work to great success.  Harris moved to New Hampshire and later New Mexico before moving to Vancouver, BC in 1940, where he would remain until his death in 1970; he is buried on the grounds of the McMichael Art Gallery.

As long as I have known about art and was old enough to recognize and appreciate major works, I have known about the Group of Seven. The mystery of Tom Thomson’s death fascinated me with every trip to Algonquin; their artwork is a favourite when seen in galleries; their pieces and themes were explored as I took my Canadian Studies degree. The artwork by Lawren Harris has always stood out to me, the stark colours he uses, the forms, the simplicity yet complexities (yes, I know that is very contradictory!) in his landscapes. When I learned of a touring exhibition featuring Harris’s artwork, I could hardly wait for it to make its way to Toronto; to learn that the exhibition was curated by Steve Martin, yes the banjo playing comedian Steve Martin, it added to the excitement for the show.

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In mid-July, on one of the hottest days thus far of the summer, I made my way to the Art Gallery of Ontario. The exhibit is different from what toured in the US, expanded to include a Toronto theme, exploring an area called ‘The Ward,’ where Harris spend his formative years.  The Ward, formally the St. John’s Ward, is a neighbourhood bound by College Street, Queen Street, Yonge Street, and University Avenue; today, the Eaton Centre, Toronto City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square and other prominent shops and buildings are found here, but in the 1910s when Harris called it home, it was an impoverished area where recent immigrants would commonly settle.  Divided into three themes, the first and third explored the Ward, first looking at its history, utilizing Harris’ works contrasting with photography from the time, and the third featured contemporary artists examining the changes to the Ward both geographically and socially.  The second theme explored the ‘Idea of North’ and Harris’ iconic works which capture the Canadian landscape.

It is difficult to imagine the centre of Toronto from another time, as the Eaton Centre and City Hall are so dominant in that space, but Harris’ depictions from the Ward helped bring this time and place to life, using bright colours, or dull when appropriate, and the use of figures help put the viewer in the scene.

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I was especially struck by the following image, which again was new to me before this exhibit. Haven’t we all been this poor soul at one time or another?

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Lawren Harris: Approaching Storm, 1911; on loan from a private collection

As I moved through the exhibition, it dawned on me why I’m so drawn to Harris and his art: not only are the forms, shapes, and landscapes he captures, but I am so very drawn to the colours he uses. Blues, greys, teals, purples, whites. His striking colour use is very impactful. The knitter in me kept walking around the space just imagining skeins of yarn dyed with the colours of  Lake and Mountains.

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Lawren Harris: Lake and Mountains, 1928; Art Gallery of Ontario Collection

My iPhone photographs do not do justice to seeing the paintings in person. If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, or are planning a visit before September 18, make the Art Gallery of Ontario and The Idea of North a must-visit.

The Earl Kitchener and His Stitch

If you’re a sock knitter, or at least have made a pair or two, you may be familiar with the Kitchener Stitch, a common form of grafting, creating a seamless toe.  To a novice knitter, the Kitchener stitch may appear to be challenging, but once you get the hang of it, the Kitchener stitch is fairly straight forward.  I actually like doing the Kitchener stitch – call me strange, but I find it relaxing and somewhat gratifying. Knit, purl, purl, knit, repeating over and over until the sock is complete.

I had honestly never given any thought to the name, but really, why would I have?  That’s the technique, and it creates a lovely finish to my sock.  But a few weeks ago, I followed a link from the Knitty Blog to a YouTube video, the Secret History of Knitting, where they discuss knitting and World War I.  Well, wasn’t my mind blown when the connection was made – it’s the Kitchener stitch after Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener. *insert sound effect of mind being blown*

Who is the Earl Kitchener?

Born in 1850 in Ireland, Horatio Herbert Kitchener would go on to become a high ranking official in the British army, seeing action in the Franco-Prussian War, the Mahdist War, the Second Boer War, and the First World War.  His image has become a piece of propaganda history as his face was immortalized on the “Your Country Needs You” poster.

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He died in 1916 when the HMS Hampshire, a ship he was sailing on, was sunk by a German mine off the Orkneys (near the Northern Isles of Scotland).

Aspects around Kitchener’s involvement with his ‘stitch’ remain uncertain.  Some claim that Kitchener himself helped to design a sock pattern that included a new seamless method of grafting the toe, however, others say that Kitchener’s actual involvement is rooted more in lore than fact.  Indeed, knitting historian Richard Rutt claims that this grafting technique (known commonly as Kitchener Stitch) was invented around 1880.  Later, in 1918, Vogue magazine published a sock pattern with a grafted toe and called it the Kitchener sock, crediting Lord Kitchener for being a war effort champion, but Vogue did not claim he was the pattern ‘designer.’

I do have to ponder, why would a senior officer in the British army invent a knitting stitch?  One would think he would have more to occupy his time with, what with the largest conflict to date raging on. Kitchener was a strong advocate for the Red Cross and the homefront initiatives, including knitting, and he was concerned that having a seam at the toe could contribute to or worsen soldiers’ foot issues.

Whether he actually invented the stitch or not, sock knitters everywhere are grateful for the stitch that bears his name, the perfect way to finish off your sock.


*Did You Know: Kitchener, Ontario was named in honour of Earl Kitchener.  He died at a time when anti-German sentiments were at a peak in the then-named City of Berlin.  To try to dispel these sentiments, the city was renamed in honour of the popular and recently fallen Field Marshal.


Thanks to Knitty for sharing this video and getting me thinking about the Kitchener Stitch – the article that sparked this thinking is HERE.

There was a fantastic discussion on Ravelry outlining basic info on Kitchener, his comparison to Uncle Sam, and, of course, the ‘Stitch’ and that can be read HERE.

The BBC has a short yet succinct bio of Horatio Herbert Kitchener where can be read HERE.

Finally, other bloggers have looked into Kitchener and his namesake stitch, and you could read about it HERE and HERE (to share only a few of the many sites out there).

Godey’s Undersleeves

Last week, I shared an abbreviated history of undersleeves.  If you haven’t given it a read, click the link, give it a read, then head on back here! Don’t worry, I’ve got time!

A few months back, I found this pattern in Godey’s Ladies Book, and I knew that woolen undersleeves were just the thing my Victorian costume needed, especially since in March, we have a table at a local maple syrup festival, which means talking to people dressed in 1860s fashion, in the cold. Because, Canada.

It was a few months between pattern discovery and casting on because of holiday knitting.  I was DETERMINED to finish my dad’s sweater and all the other wonderful gifts before starting new selfish knitting.  Once I got going with the undersleeves, they were a fast project with a lot of garter stitch, a great mindless project to work on.

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Godey’s Knitted Undersleeves Pattern, 1862.  Click the image to be directed to archive.org, the source of the pattern.

The pattern reads:

Materials: A large pair of boxwood knitting needles, one-quarter of a pound of white and six ounces of a pretty share of violet single Berlin wood.

This warm and pretty article is comprised of two kinds of wool, and is knitted to form two small and one large puff.  It is nearly entirely made of plain knitting, and is therefore quickly done.  It is best when knitted loosely, to give it a very elastic appearance.  It is worked in the following manner, and is commenced from the bottom by casting on 36 stitches in white wood, and knitting twelve rows.  The violet wool is then joined on and 24 rows knitted with this color.  After these are completed the commencement of the work should be taken up upon the needle to form the first puff.  The white wool must then be joined on and 2 rows worked, the first knitting two stitches together to fasten the puff.  Two rows of violet and 1 of white, and 23 rows of violet are then worked.  After the bank is worked the second puff is commenced in the same manner as the first, with the white wool.  This puff is also fastened like the other, and 2 rows of violet, 2 of white, and 1 of violet worked for the band.  For the third puff, which is the largest, 40 rows must be worked with the violet wool, and in the first row 24 stitches must be made, so that at the end of the row there are 60 stitches on the needle.  This increase is made by knitting 2 stitches into 1 stitch at intervals along the row.  After the 40 rows are completed, join on the white wool and knit 1 row, taking 2 stitches together, and so decreasing the number till there are only 30 stitches left on the needle.  The top of the sleeve is then knitted to form ribs, which is done by knitting 1 stitch plain and 1 stitch purl alternatively to the end of the row.  After knitting 24 rows in the same manner the sleeve will be the required size; it should then be cast off and sewn together on the wrong side, with some of the same colored wool.  The colors may be altered to any the worker may like, such as pink, scarlet, blue, or green.

What a set of directions!

I followed the instructions to the best that I could understand them. It started very easy with casting on and knitting plain.  I was thrown for a complete loop, however, when it said: “After these are completed the commencement of the work should be taken up upon the needle to form the first puff.  The white wool must then be joined on and 2 rows worked, the first knitting two stitches together to fasten the puff.” What in the what?

Here’s how I interpreted this – I picked up stitches along the cast on edge, and knit two together across the row.

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L-R: fabric before ‘taken up upon…’ instructions; picking up stitches along cast on edge (two pictures); knitting two together; the completed ‘puff’

And for the second puff, “commenced in the same manner as the first,” I picked up stitches on the wrong side and knit two together across the row.

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Top to bottom: fabric before second puff; picking up white stitches on the wrong side; preparing to knit two together.

The first two puffs and how to construct them was really the only challenging part of this project.  The rest of if, increasing, plain knitting, decreasing, ribbing, was all very straight forward.  I did make my own adjustment for the top arm band, however.  Before each puff, there is a lovely striping of the white and purple, which doesn’t seem to have continued for the top band.  The pattern says to switch to white and nowhere does it say to switch back.  So for consistency and to match with the rest of the undersleeve, I knit two rows of white, two of violet, two of white, then the remainder in violet, so to match the rest of the undersleeve’s patterning.

When I started making these, I had no idea we were going to be enjoying such a mild Spring.  Previously at this outdoor maple syrup festival, we had to wear layers on top of layers and hope that the mercury didn’t dip too low, so warm woolen undersleeves would have been a perfect addition for this event.  The temperature for this past Saturday was in the teens (Celsius, because, remember, Canada), a perfect early Spring day.  The woolen undersleeves weren’t required, but they are the perfect addition to my Victorian costume for when the weather gets cold again.


Here is my written interpretation of this pattern, including my modern needles and yarn used.

Yarn: Cascade 220, white and Cascade 220 Heather Purple Brown (but really, you can use any worsted weight in whichever colours float your boat)7

Needles: 4.5mm (Size 7US)

Cast on 36 stitches

First Puff

  • Knit 12 rows (garter), using white
  • Switch to the Purple Yarn; Knit 24 rows (garter)
  • Next Row, with white yarn, pick up stitches along cast on edge, one at a time, and knit picked up stitch with a stitch on the needle (k2tog = 1 c/o st and 1 live st) – knit across needle in this manner (36 stitches on needle)
  • Next Row – knit across with white

Band

  • Knit 2 rows, garter, in purple
  • Knit 2 rows, garter, in white
  • Knit 24 rows, garter, in purple

Puff 2

  • Knit 12 rows, garter, in white
  • Knit 24 rows, garter, in purple
  • Next row, with white yarn, pick up stitches along the 1st row of white which was knit for puff 2, from the wrong side, one at a time, and knit picked up stitch with a stitch on the needle (k2tog = 1 picked up stitch and 1 live stitch) – knit in this manner across the needle (36 stitches on needle)
  • Next row (WS) – knit across in white, garter
  • Knit 2 rows, garter, in purple
  • Knit 2 rows, garter, in white

Puff 3

  • With purple, *KF&B, K1* across needle (54 stitches)
  • Next row, KF&B 3 times, knit to last three stitches, KF&B 3 times (60 sts)
  • Knit 40 rows, garter, in purple

Top band

  • With white, *K2tog, K1* across needle (40 sts)
  • Next row (WS) – *K1, P1* rep, with white
  • Next 2 rows, *K1, P1,* purple
  • Next 2 rows, *K1, P1,* white
  • Knit 18 rows,  *K1, P1,* purple

Cast off in pattern

Seam together

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Undersleeves

Every so often, my job requires that I dress like a Victorian.  When I first started, fresh out of museum studies and thrilled to be employed, I remember a slight feeling of embarrassment and nervousness the first time I donned the costume.  I think it was mostly my own insecurities and anxieties working their way out, but after time and NUMEROUS occasions, I’m quite comfortable in my ‘pioneer’ dress and am quite happy to wear it as the time sees fit.

The dress I wear was made by me, under Grandma’s careful supervision, over two years ago, and recently, I’ve been adding to my accessories through various historic knitting patterns.  I completed by Sontag last Spring, and my Sortie Cap was a very fast knit over a weekend last summer. Since the holiday knitting season ended, I’ve been slowly working away at another historic pattern which will keep my arms very warm, as I’ve been knitting myself a pair of undersleeves.

I’m still working on undersleeve #2, and I’ll share the project, photos, and my own edits and notes in a future post, but I thought for today, I’d share a little history on this accessory, because until I started working in the Museum field, I had never heard of undersleeves before.  The name seems straight forward, but what is the history of this accessory?

Undersleeves were commonly worn during the mid 1800s, an essential part of any woman’s fashion.  They were detachable, which made laundering easier – and laundry was no easy task during the Victorian era. As much as I long for aspects of the past, I am very thankful for my modern washer and dryer. Hot water, harsh soaps, washboards and wringers – no thank you. Typically white or off-white, undersleeves helped to keep body oils off the fabric of dresses, which were commonly made from wool or silk, materials which couldn’t be washed.  Undersleeves served to be both purposeful for protecting the fabric as well as decorative.

Many museums have undersleeves in their collection, and quite often they are trimmed with lace or other delicate stitching.  When fashions changed, as fashions inevitably do, undersleeves were a simple way to change up the look of a dress rather than with a new dress entirely.  The undersleeves would also change seasonally; warm weather would see sleeves made from light-weight white fabrics such as organdy, while cotton and other heavier materials could be used to help stave off the cold.  The pattern I am making from Godey’s is for wool undersleeves, clearly intended for cold weather wear.

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Cotton Undersleeves, c. 1850, in the collection of the Met Museum
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Linen Undersleeve, c. 1840, in the collection of the Museums of  Mississauga
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Undersleeves, c. 1906, in the collection of the Canadian Museum of History

The styles of these accessories also varied, from those that required pinning to the interior of the dress sleeve, ones which gathered at the wrist and those that were open and loose at the wrist.  Not only could the material change for the season, but Peterson’s, another Lady’s publication from the era, discussed how undersleeves could change for wear throughout the day.

White undersleeves for morning wear are made with a deep linin cuff, fastened with three studs, either comprised of precious stones, or of gold.  For evening wear, the cuff is made of lace and embroidered insertion; but fullings of any description are now never employed, as the under-sleeve should be as flat as possible.

~Peterson’s Magazine, 1863.

Undersleeves, after a number of decades, fell out of fashion, but one can still find many sewing or knitting patterns for making your own.  Coming next week, the Godey’s pattern I followed when knitting my woolen undersleeves, my interpretation of the pattern, and my finished sleeves. Stay tuned!

 


When researching this post, I referred to a few sources, including:

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History, Volume 3, 1801 to Present, edited by Jill Condra; accessed: https://goo.gl/npaeZg

Oshawa Express, ‘Under sleeves, a unique piece of clothing,’ J. Weymark; accessed: http://goo.gl/WYbzxL

Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900,  Joan L. Severa; accessed: https://goo.gl/gI30oL