Tuesday, 5 November 2019

The stockings from the Texel Wreck

A selection of the reconstructed stockings
I recently attended the Knitting History Symposium in Leiden. What follows is taken from my notes and therefore may not accurately reflect what was said.

Much of the time was spent looking at the work done by Chrystel Brandenburgh and her group on the Texel stocking finds. There was a lot about the Texel wreck in the newspapers back in 2015-6 when it was discovered. The wreck is off the island of Texel in the Wadden Sea and is designated number BZN17. There was a lot of conjecture at the time about the ship and its contents, and who they belonged to. It now thought to have been an armed Dutch merchant vessel, which sank around 1645-1660.

The project that Chrystel spoke about aimed to use volunteer knitters to produce reconstructions of the silk stockings. So far 27 of these reconstructions have been produced, using different silks, needles and techniques to try and match the originals. 

The wooden board the stockings were stretched on
The original stockings were examined using a high definition microscope. It was discovered that the silk is reeled, not spun. They were knitted in the round with an intricate clock. The knitter participants started off by making test swatches using two sizes of needles, 0.7 mm and 1.0 mm. Three types of silk were used, two of these still had the gum (sericin) attached. The gauge was 83 wales and 100 courses per 10 cm. The stocking was 63 cm long and the foot length is 24 cm.

It was discovered that the gummed silk was easier to work than the degummed silk. Degumming involved boiling in salt water. When degummed the stocking was then stretched over a wooden board, this technique existed in the seventeenth century, and they can be seen here in the background of Diderot's entry on stocking knitters, in his Encyclopedie. The degummed knitting then appeared more regular. 

The first reconstruction took around 360 hours to knit a stocking. Experience halved the time taken to knit the stockings, but this was still between 120 and 150 hours work per stocking. A pattern has been produced and is available from Ravelry for €9 at https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/17th-century-silk-stockings There also a blog posting from one of the participants at https://www.ravelry.com/projects/buitendijkm/17th-century-silk-stockings

Later on in the day Geeske Krusman talked about wearing the reconstructions. She and another person (Suzanna?, sorry her name is not in my notes) each wore a pair of the reconstructed stockings with reproduction 17th century shoes, one pair with heels and one pair flat. They also used four pairs of garters. One pair of stockings were worn for 139 hours and show no traces of wear, the other pair were washed on three occasions with no damage. Geeske has an Academia page and usually puts up her talks on that. https://independent.academia.edu/GeesKrus

Some of the dyed stockings
Since the stockings were knitted undyed there was also a paper by Art Proaño Gaibor on reproducing seventeenth century dye recipes, particularly black, from the Burgundian-Hapsburg Netherlands. These were then tested on some of the reconstructed stockings.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Book review: The Pocket: a hidden history of women's lives 1660-1900

The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, 1660–1900 by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux. Yale University Press, 2019, £35.  ISBN  9780300239072, 264 pages, 200 colour illustrations.
Back in 2006 Barbara Burman and Seth Denbo published a little 40 page pamphlet entitled Pockets of History: the secret life of an everyday object, this was to accompany an exhibition at the Bath Museum, and was the result of a research project which examined 300 surviving pockets. The online resource resulting from that project is still available at https://vads.ac.uk/collections/POCKETS.html. This book starts with the work done then and expands it. 

This book by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux looks beyond the object itself to who owned pockets, what they put in them, and how they regarded them. They have gathered information given in trials, mainly at the Old Bailey for the theft of pockets, in letters, diaries, and wide range of other written sources. As well as photographs of originals, there are satirical prints, and paintings of pockets being worn, and the array of items they contained. 

In the chapter “work’d pockets to my intire satisfaction” the authors examine who made pockets, what materials they used, and how they decorated them. Several other chapters examine what was kept in the pockets, and how they might reflect the owner’s interests and work. Examples of this  include Dorothy Wordsworth who loved to go on “botanical walks” and in 1800 purchased two botanical pocket microscopes, while lower down the social scale a farmer’s wife who traded in cheese and butter at Bristol market was knocked from her horse in 1736 and her pocket containing the 9s 8d she had earned was cut off. 

The book is full of tit bits, and has pages and pages of references at the back for those who would like to explore further.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

“For my neck” – tippets and palatines.

Lucy, Countess of Carlisle. Ham House © National Trust

Originally a tippet was, according to the Oxford English Dictionary a “hanging part of dress, formerly worn, either attached to and forming part of the hood, head-dress, or sleeve, or loose, as a scarf or the like.” Certain the term was widely used in the medieval period for the long tail to a hood, so that Chaucer’s Reeve wore “his tipet wounden about his heed.” Randle Holme in his Academy of Armory (iii. 12/1) writes that “The Tippet hangs from the hinder part of the Crown, and reacheth backwards to the ground,” he also considered it part of the French hood which survived from the sixteenth century into the seventeenth century where,  “A French Hood ...having the Flap or Tippet hanging down the wearers Back, may be termed a Mourning-hood.”

The second meaning given for a tippet in the OED is “A garment, usually of fur or wool, covering the shoulders, or the neck and shoulders; a cape or short cloak, often with hanging ends.” Costume historians have often used this term for things in the seventeenth century that were worn around the neck, especially if made of fur, but until the 1670s such items seem to be referred to only by the type of fur and how they were worn.

In 1639, when Lady Verney writes to her husband regarding a portrait she is having done by Van Dyck she says “I have some sables with the clasp of them set with dimons, if those that I am pictuerde in were don so, I think it would look very well in the picture.” While many of Van Dyck’s portraits show women with a silk or fabric scarf on the shoulder a few, by him or his circle or followers, show this type of fur. An example with a jewelled clasp, such as Lady Verney mentions, is shown in the portrait of Lady Lucy Percy (1599–1660), Countess of Carlisle in the National Trust collection at Ham House (above right) with another copy of the same portrait at Petworth House. When on the 22nd October 1640 Rachel, Countess of Bath purchases “a sable for my neck £8 10s 0d,” she is probably planning to wear it more in the style of Hollar’s 1644 depiction of a Lady in Winter clothing.
Hollar. Winter from his Seasons, 1644

By the time of Gregory King's Table of the Annual Consumption of Apparell in 1688, the use of the word tippet for some form of neck or shoulder covering is confirmed. King places tippets and palatines together and estimates the annual consumption of these at 50,000. The tippets could still be fur, the London Gazette in 1686 has “Lost a sable tippet with scarlet and silver strings to it” (London Gazette no. 2115/4), but not always as another listed in the Gazette as lost shows, “Left in a Hackney-Coach.., a Wainscot Tippet-Box with 2 Tippets, one Sable,..the other black Ribbond.” (London Gazette, No. 2980/4, 1694)

By the 1680s and 1690s these tippets had become highly fashionable, and could be very expensive. Another letter in the Verney Memoirs, dating to 1690, asks “I beg that I may have a tipit bought me, since every gentelwoman has one as makes any show in the world. It will cost £5” This is the high end of the market; they were being purchased for considerably less the further you go down the social scale.  Mary Draper, the daughter of a Derbyshire gentleman, when living in Lichfield purchased in 1691 “for a tippet and a string 16s.” By 1702 James Osburne, a linen draper in Lincoln had in his stock “6 tippets at 12d each” and “some silk tippets and round scaves value 18s 4d” 

The palatine, with which King bracketed the tippet, may have been much the same thing, sometimes being listed as a palatine tippet. Weiss has stated that term came into use at the French court when Liselotte von der Pfalz wore what she in her letters called her zibeline. Liselotte married Louis XIV’s brother Philippe d’Orléans in 1671, and wrote that at first she was ridiculed for wearing it, but it soon became fashionable, and since she was from the Palatinate, the French referred to it as a palatine. This style can be seen around the neck of the lady in the French fashion print by de St Jean, Femme de qualite en deshabille d'hyver 1694.

Other mid 17th century portraits with neck/shoulder furs
Anne Villiers (d.1654), 'Lady Dalkeith', Later Countess of Morton. After Anthony van Dyck, National Trust, Penrhyn Castle
Elizabeth Dormer (1610 or after–1635), Marchioness of Worcester. After Anthony van Dyck, National Trust, Powis Castle
Mary Hill (1615–1686), Lady Killigrew. After Anthony van Dyck, National Trust, Belton House