Sunday, 11 March 2012

Acorn Emery Cushion from Weldon’s

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if one is in possession of the largest collection of needles in the universe, one must be in want of (read tempted to begin) new projects all of the time, which prodigiously encourages the condition commonly known as Startitis. A New Year’s sorting and clearing out of my knitting, quilting and needlework projects revealed, therefore, an extremely large number of sewing, stitching, quilting, and, most of all, knitting wips, most of those historical reproductions. Since the beginning of 2012, I have managed to finish eleven reproductions and one pair of modern socks but this year simply must be The Year of Completion. Some of the projects date back quite a few years, others are far more recent. Many make up a collection of small household objects and accessories for clothing from the 19th century, begun out of curiosity and, since they were small, “I could always go back and finish them quickly” - except I did not do that.

One of the first to be finished in 2012 is this sweet little pincushion, knit in the shape of an acorn. This pattern comes from Weldon’s Practical Knitter, Number 125, Thirty-First Series (1896) which may also be found in the facsimile version of Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 11, Interweave Press, 2004.

The original pattern called for “pale and dark green knitting silk” and “four steel needles No. 18” whose modern equivalent is 1.25mm/US 0000. I used DMC Mouliné Spécial 25 embroidery floss, in two shades of green 167 for the “pale” and 934 for the “dark,” knitting with all six strands at once. This probably made a larger cushion than one made with 19th century knitting silk.

As with most 19th century patterns, there is no gauge/tension stated in the pattern which is written entirely in text, and there are no charts. There is, however, an illustration. There are also no stated finished measurements except for the stalk (see below.) My acorn measures 2 ¾” long (from the base of the stem down to the tip) and just over 3 ¼” wide under the dark cap.

The acorn is knit in one piece from the bottom up to the cap and is supposed to be filled with emery. The pattern suggests making a small sack in “pale green silk” for the inside filling to avoid leakage through the knitted acorn. I neither made a sack nor used emery but stuffed my acorn with washed fleece. The stem was crocheted with a 1.75mm crochet hook and, although no size was stated for the hook, the stalk should measure “3/4 to 1 inch in length.”

I have been reading 19th century patterns for years, and have come to the conclusion that many of them, in edition after edition, were borrowed from one another which is the most polite way of saying purloined, re-written or updated in fashion. By the last two decades of the century, however, Weldon’s Practical Knitter Series, expanded the selection of clothing and the household items also offer a broader, as well as a recognizable collection of choices. Instead of a short paragraph of general instructions reliant on a basic knowledge of the construction of all sorts of clothing, the patterns have become more detailed, often a row by row, with usually reliable artistic illustrations, and, sometimes, quite chatty. This pattern opens with a recommendation for the acorn-shaped cushion as “a change from the inevitable and not too convenient strawberry which once formed the contents of part of every work-basket. The model before us has no inconvenient beads to get in the way of the needles, and is quite easily made.” There is some purchasing advice as well, namely “If a worker has no knitting silk among her stores, filoselle has the advantage of cheapness, as two complete balls of knitting silk would cost more, and but a very small proportion of each would be used.” Furthermore, “Made in large numbers (in knitting silk) for bazaars, these acorns would find a ready sale, as they are novel, pretty and practical.” The end of the pattern has guidelines for stuffing and shaping “the little cushion,” and not “getting the acorn too long and narrow in shape,” creating that nice rounded bottom. I, unfortunately, could not round out my acorn cushion, so it is rather long and narrow in shape, no matter how much I squashed the stuffing into the end. Perhaps this is a case of the illustration being not quite accurate? If I made this pincushion again, I would knit the bottom more loosely, and that, might allow for the stuffing to expand the width.

Note: All quotations are from the facsimile edition of Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 11, published by Interweave Press, 2004.


Lynn S. said...

That's adorable. I should like one filled with emery, myself. Actually, I should like one, period. Fill it with fleece around something a little heavy--a marble or something--and make it into a pendant. :)

One More Stitch said...

That is a good idea! I am making so many of these little household items that I won't really use - they are just for textile demonstrations. It would be nice to put them to some other use so they don't have to live in storage boxes!

queen of string said...

Would the emery serve to sharpen pins as they were inserted as well as holding them. Where would you find emery?

One More Stitch said...

Yes, the emery was for sharpening. I am have not done any research about shopping for emery but it must have been easily available as Weldon's suggested it as a matter of fact. If one was in the city or a town, it may have been available from a dry goods or general merchandise shop.

Depending on where one lived, emery or a home recipe like it, might have been locally accessible, too.

Good question that needs more work!

One More Stitch said...

P.S. Forgot to say that your parsnip recipe looks so yummy! I love parsnips so I will be trying this one out. I like to mash and whip them with potatoes for that minty zing, and sometimes add carrots to the mix.