Thursday, 21 February 2008

Beginning The Garment

The Garment is being made to fit a volunteer model. It is being knit in parts that will be seamlessly joined or the stitches picked up and continually knit. Here is the first part, the lower left leg, on double pointed needles, in the round.
Stephen Maturin's garment was made by Matthew Paris "who was once a framework knitter." It is described as "a single tight dull-brown garment." If the fabric of it had been made on a frame, it may have been knitted in large pieces and then cut, fitted and sewn to fit Stephen's body in the manner of stocking construction of the time. Paris may also have knit by hand pieces more or less to scale and fitted those to Stephen. The garment is described as one piece but that does not mean that it was a continual piece of knitted fabric or hand knitting. I lean towards this theory of construction as Stephen tells Jack that Paris "is working on one for you at present." This suggests that Paris already has the pieces of knitted fabric or may be still hand knitting pieces that he intends to fit to Jack. Of course, this never happens and there is, unfortunately, no further mention of this style of "deeply rational" garment again. I like to think that the pieces intended for Jack were recycled into gloves, mittens, caps and comforters or perhaps some knitted under shirts for Paris's mates.

Stockings in this era were also hand knit, often with a purl stitch on the outside marking the back seam on every or alternate rows. This seam stitch is visible in the photo from the inside of the piece, appearing as a knit stitch. The stocking tops usually had bands of garter stitch rows at the top, sometimes several, in the area that went over the knee and were held up with garters made of woven tape, ribbons or straps above or below the knee.* I have taken the usual garter stitch edging and used it for the lower edge of the leg as I have also found this kind of edging on mitts, gloves and jackets or undergarments from this time. This part actually goes over the foot but can be rolled back to the ankle. Stephen states that he can withdraw his head "entirely" and "the same applies to the feet and the hands" suggesting some extra length at all of the ends. This piece will be gradually widened either side of the seam as it approaches the ankle and continues up the leg.

*Coming soon: two pairs of reproduction stockings including Stephen Maturin's blue worsted pair

All quotations are from Post Captain, Chapter Twelve

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