Monday, 14 January 2013

American Overshoes or Bag Slippers

This pattern comes from Weldon’s Practical Knitter, Number 60, Fifteenth Series (1890). It is also published in Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume 5, Interweave Press, 2001.

“These shoes, which are made exactly in the shape of a bag, are intended to draw over a kid boot for extra warmth when travelling. The Americans wear them over their boots for walking in frosty weather as the roughness of the wool upon the icy ground is a sure preventative against slipping. They are also useful as bedroom slippers...”
The original pattern calls for “Scotch fingering, or single Berlin wool, and a pair of No. 12 steel knitting needles (modern equivalent 2.25mm/US 2.) Ribbon for a bow or rosette on each overshoe is also suggested. The top of the finished knitting is folded double and stitched down, and the selvedges sewn together “to form the front of the shoe.” The lower part is then sewn closed to form a sole of the shoe.
I knit the overshoe on the suggested needle size using Knit Picks Palette in Pimento and Black but it came out very small, narrow and rectangular than the slightly more squat bag-shaped one in the illustration.  Mine would fit a child’s shoe as it measures 6” long and 2”across, both flat. The pattern states that these overshoes would “fit quite closely on any sized foot by reason of the elasticity of the knitting” but larger needles and thicker wool would be needed to make an adult’s overshoe.

All quotations are from Weldon’s Practical Needlework, Volume Five, Interweave Press, 2001


=Tamar said...

Maybe they expected it to be stretched way out of shape to go over an adult woman's shoe, and the skimpy width meant less sewing.
I have trouble believing they lasted very long anyway, though I don't doubt that some people used them under icy conditions. If I seriously intended to use such a thing I would use the coarsest and toughest yarn I could get cheaply, not the fine and expensive stuff Weldon's seems to be recommending for the fashionistas.

One More Stitch said...

I agree. When I finish this current run of Things That Must Be Completed, I am planning to try making these overshoes or one of the others I have patterns for in a much coarser wool, just to try them out. I still think that they would be slippery and soggy. My guess is that they were best used in the carriage, in church or even at home although I would avoid staircases when wearing them! For the former two uses, they would work well with those portable foot warmers filled with hot coals.