Scrolled Stockings? Not in Jane Austen’s Drawers

March 4, 2011 at 4:51 am (books, fashion) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Early in  My Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park (sent a review copy, I’m closing in on page 50), the author makes mention of “scrolled” socks worn by a costumed-character she terms “The Janeite”. Few might know what is being discussed at this point, but students of 18th and 19th century costume, or knitters (like me) who have worked socks, especially the lovely Bavarian and Austrian patterns, know well what the author alludes to. The correct term Cindy Jones was looking for is “CLOCK“.

Here’s the quote: She “raise[d] her skirt, revealing a scrolling design just above the ankle that would have been a tattoo except it was woven into the thick white stocking that covered her legs like something surgery patients wear.”

As a stocking tapers to the ankle, the only way to accomplish this is through decreasing — “clocks” evolved to be decorative and also functional at this narrowing point.

A nice knitting primer for stockings can be found here: http://www.marariley.net/knitting/stocking.htm

I have a pair of handknitted stockings I made years ago from an Austrian pattern:

It’s amazingly difficult to photograph one’s own leg!

The cables go down the entire stocking in this example, but you can see the small two-stitch cable that terminates beneath the elaborate cable just below the ankle bone. This is the area of Jones’ “scrolling”.

The Germans and Austrians — with their Dirndls and Lederhosen — have some wonderful stockings, highly patterned from top to bottom. Mine are simple in comparison to some I could display here. The yarns tend nowadays to be of heavier wool (mine are all worsted weight wools), which of course would not have the been the case for Jane Austen — or my Mary and Emma. Their stockings would have been fine-gauge. I did once make a Guernsey sweater on size 0 or 1 needles, so I know well how long it would take to knit something simple, like a pair of stockings in a fine wool.

* * *

  • Author Lesley-Anne McLeod has a lengthy, interesting, and link-filled Blogspot on this very topic.
  • The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia has a black silk pair (harder to view, therefore) that were never worn!
  • Heritage Studio actually has a pair, from the 19th century, for sale! In this case, the clocks are embroidered on after the stocking was made. Take a look at the fascinating up-close photo.

NB: if anyone out there is interested in some knitting pointers, just ask. Stockings are easier to knit than you think.

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9 November 1829

November 9, 2008 at 8:16 pm (a day in the life) (, , , , )

On this day, Charles Smith writes in his pocket diary: “Came up from Tring to London with Mary & the two children–”

The printed diary marks this day – a Monday that year – as a Bank Holiday; the Smiths, however, had been on holiday and on the continent. A whirlwind tour of the Rhine and part of Switzerland that leaves me breathless every time I read about it.

rhine-fallsIn Mary’s diary, the trip is a litany of places; but at least she took time to write about “having seen for the first time the beautiful scenery of the Rhine”! As a lover of all things deutsch, I willingly listen to everyone’s reaction to the likes of a Grand Tour of the German Lands (so few English ventured in that direction… All the more reason to adore Mrs Trollope’s Vienna and the Austrians (1838) vol. 1 [Bentley, London]; vol. 1 &  vol. 2 [Galignani, Paris]). While Mary’s jottings sounded sparse, little did I know until I read through Charles’ description of the trip just how little could actually be recorded: his diary lists only the places by name!

So how lovely to recently come across a short account left by young Drummond Smith of this very trip (Drummond and Spencer accompanied Sir Charles and Lady Smith). What incessant rain they encountered! And that made me really wonder about nineteenth-century carriage travel – especially when seeing they donned “cloaks and umbrellas” for one entire day’s ride. And these poor drenched people on the road for twelve and fourteen hours! How Drummond howls about the state of some of the roads in the Low Countries, and the deadly pace of the horses (sometimes as little as five miles per hour). Food for thought, indeed…

Charles was not a well man, and he came home from this trip – as you read – to consult his London doctor, then spend a little time with the in-laws at Roehampton Grove. Winter is settling in by the time they return to Suttons, and Essex experiences a “fine frosty day” only ten days later.

The Smiths had left from the Tower on September 9, departing on the Steam Packet LORD MELVILLE. Two days before, Charles noted: “I came up to London & got the Passport, the Austrian Minister refused to sign it because it was obtained from the French and not from the English Minister.” Oh dear… Bureaucratic redtape! A more poignant entry the next day: “Mary and the children came up from Suttons, the little {ones} went on to Tring and were separated from their Mother for the first time–”

Drummond comments that in Aix la Chapelle they toasted Little Charles’ second birthday (September 15) with Champagne — which made them all sleep rather ill that night. Mary includes the news that “Several heavy storms” happened during the day. Drummond leaves to return to England in early October; he enters Cambridge University that fall. The trip ends for Mary and Charles on the 4th of November, and Charles draws this charming family portrait: “We arrived at Tring from London and found the dear children well and excessively improved especially the Baby whom I should not have recognized — Saw Emma’s Baby who with herself was thriving well — My Mother & Sisters were delightfully well & very glad to see us-”

Emma’s baby (her first), Cholmeley, was christened on the 6th and Charles stood godfather; the other godparents were Mrs Leigh Perrot and Mr Edward Knight, though both were “represented by deputy”. Mr Edward Austen christened his own son, at Tring Church.

By the way, Drummond was unimpressed by the Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen (pictured; courtesy of www.ancestryimages.com); he thought they were not high enough and would benefit from being placed one on top of the other.

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