This section is from the "The Ladies' Work-Table Book: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America" book, by Margaret Vincent. Also available from Amazon: The Ladies' Work Table: Domestic Needlework in Nineteenth-Century America.
Before entering upon the immediate subject of this chapter, we wish to make a few remarks; which, we trust, will be acceptable to our fair readers.
The art of knitting is supposed to have been invented by the Spanish ; and would doubtless form, in connection with needlework, an agreeable relaxation, amid the stiff formality and unvarying mechanical movements which made up, for the most part, the lives of the ancient female nobility of that peninsula. The Scotch also lay claim to the invention, but we think upon no sufficient authority. Knitted silk-hose were first worn in England by Henry VIII., and we are told that a present of a pair of long knitted silk stockings, of Spanish manufacture, was presented to the young prince (EdwardVI.),by Sir Thomas Gresham, and was graciously received, as a gift of some importance. Clumsy and unsightly cloth-hose had been previously worn: and, though we are told by Howel, that Queen Elizabeth was presented with a pair of black knitted silk stockings, by Mistress Montague, her silk-woman, yet her maids of honor were not allowed to wear an article of dress, which her royal pride deemed only suited to regal magnificence. We believe the first pair of knitted stockings, ever made in England, were the production of one William Rider, an apprentice, residing on London Bridge; who, having accidentally seen a pair of knitted worsted stockings, while detained on some business, at the house of one of the Italian merchants, made a pair of a similar kind, which he presented to the Earl of. Pembroke, 1564. The stocking-frame was the invention of Mr. W. Lee., M. A , who had been expelled from Cambridge, for marrying, in contravention to the statutes of the university. Himself and his wife, it seems, were reduced to the necessity of depending upon the skill of the latter, in the art of knitting, for their subsistence; and as necessity is the parent of invention, Mr. Lee, by carefully watching the motion of the needles, was enabled, in 1589, to invent the stocking-frame ; which has been the source of much advantage to others, though there is reason to believe the contrivance was of little service to the original proprietor. Since its first intoduction, knitting has been applied to a vast variety of purposes, and. has been improved to an extent almost beyond belief. It has furnished to the blind, the indigent, and almost destitute Irish cottage girl, the means pleasure and profit at the same time. Many ladies, including some in the rank of royalty, have employed their hours of leisure in the fabrication of articles, the produce of which have gone to the funds of charity, and have tendered to the alleviation of at least some of
" The numerous ills that flesh is heir to;" and amongst those, the labors of the Hon. Mrs. Wingfield, upon the estates of Lord de Vesci, in Ireland, ought not to be forgotten. To Cast on the Loops or Stitches. - Take the material in ihe right hand, and twist it round the little finger, bring it under the next two, and pass it over the fore finger. Then take the end in the left hand, (holding the needle in the right,) wrap it round the little finger, and thence bring it over the thumb, and round the two fore fingers. By this process the young learner will find that she has formed a loop: she must then bring the needle under the lower thread of the material, and above that which is over the fore finger of the right hand under the needle, which must be brought down through the loop, and the thread which is in the left hand, being drawn tight, completes the operation. This process must be repeated as many times as there are stitches cast on.
The needle must be put through the cast-on stitch, and the material turned over it, which is to be taken up, and the under loop, or stitch, is to be let off. This is called plain stitch, and is to be continued until one round is completed.
Pearl Stitch - Called also seam, ribbed, and turn stitch, is formed by knitting with the material- before the needle; and instead of bringing the needle over the upper thread, it is brought under it.
To Rib, is to knit plain and pearled stitches alternately. Three plain, and three pearled, is generally the rule.
This means bringing the material round the needle, forward.
This is to decrease the number of stitches by knitting two together, so as to form only one loop.
This is to increase the number of stitches, and is effected by knitting one stitch as usual, and then omitting to slip out the left hand needle, and to pass the material forward and form a second stitch, putting the needle under the stitch. Care must be taken to put the thread back when the additional stitch is finished.
Knit a pearl stitch every alternate row.
A Row, means the stitches from one end of the needle to the other; and a round, the whole of the stitches on two, three, or more needles. Note, in cas tingon a stocking, there must always be an odd stitch cast on for the seam.
To bring the thread forward, means to pass it between the needles toward the person of the operator.
A Loop Stitch, is made by passing the thread before the needle. In knitting the succeeding loop, it will take its proper place.
A Slip Stitch, is made by passing it from one needle to another without knitting it.
This term refers to fastening the end of the material, when it is necessary to do so during the progress of the work. The best way is to place the two ends contrarywise to each other, and knit a few stitches with both.
This is done by knitting two stitches, passing the first over the second, and so proceeding to the last stitch, which is to be made secure by passing thread through it.
Welts, are rounds of alternate plain and ribbed stitches, done at the top of stockings, and are designed to prevent their twisting or curling up.
Sometimes knitting is done in rows of plain and pearl stitches, or in a variety of neat and fanciful patterns. Scarcely any kind of work is susceptible of so much variety, or can be applied to so many ornamental fabrics or uses in domestic economy. The fair votary of this art must be careful neither to knit too tight or too loose. A medium, which will soon be acquired by care and practice, is the best, and shows the various kinds of work to the best advantage. The young lady should take care to preserve her needles entirely free from rust, and to handle the materials of her work with as delicate a touch as possible.
Having thus given instructions in the common rudiments of this useful art, we proceed to give plain directions for some of the most beautiful.