Sunday, 24 February 2013

Knit Bag in Shades

This little knitted handbag comes from The Lady’s Assistant in Knitting, Netting and Crochet Work, Volume II by Mrs. Jane Gaugain, London: Gaugain & Ackerman, 1842. The heading on the page of the pattern (350) is The Lady’s Work Book.

The pattern suggests that the bag “looks well either knit in shades of common sized purse silk or Berlin wool or 13 shades of pink…” and is to be “cast on… four wires No. 18” (1.25mm/ US 0000) and “work with a fifth.”

I used four of the above size of needles and thirteen shades of pink Paternayan Persian Wool - 906,910,901, 912, 913, 914, 945,933,932, 915, 907, 946, 947. The stitch sequence was a simple, repetitive lace one, easily memorized. The handle was knit separately and flat, in five double-stranded shades of pink and a different stitch the colour sequence specifically laid out in the pattern. The edges of the handle were then turned in and stitched closed and to the bag. 

In spite of the lacy quality of the pattern, the knitted material of the bag is quite dense and handle strong, probably because of the effect made by such small sized needles. I mention this as there is no suggestion of lining the bag, which, of course, is an option but is often mentioned in other patterns from the 19th century.

My little bag measures flat 5” across and 5 ¼” long (to the end of one of the “points.”) 

A bag like this was sold in an Ebay auction ( Knit in shades of green, it was accompanied by a note stating that it was knit by the novelist Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) for Caroline Herschel (1830-1909), granddaughter of the astromer, Sir Frederick William Herschel (1738-1822.) The entry calls it a “child’s bag” but it is, in fact, a handbag designed for adult women. This information was a further incentive for the project as I have long enjoyed Edgeworth’s works, and the recepient’s distinguished namesake and great-aunt, Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) has also long been a figure of interest to me. 

I wanted to knit my bag in greens, too, as green is my favourite colour. Neither my stash of stichery wool nor my local needlework shop, however, could provide me with the gradations I needed (and I had to see the shades in person) so fate decreed that I was to reproduce the bag in Mrs. Gaugain’s recommended palette.

Further discussion of the Edgeworth/Herschell bag may be found in the archives of the HistoricKnit group on Yahoo (


Anonymous said...

This is a lovely spring-bag, you have a nice dress to go with it (sorry, my English ain't good).

I like the additional information about the bag very much, you can see it travel through the ages:)

One More Stitch said...

Thank you for your kind words. It is, indeed, very like a spring bag with all of those glorious pinks - I had not thought of that before!