Dear Jane

I have all these half finished entries that I swear are not just another post about a new pattern, but I haven’t finished any of them. So you get another post about another new pattern this time.

This one is rather special to me. The Sanguine Gryphon’s winter collection has a literary theme, and I have a book addiction. I feel so clichéd in this, but like so many female knitters about my age, I love Jane Austen’s writing. I read her books over and over again without losing enjoyment in the process. (I tend to gain enjoyment, actually, because I also read essays on Jane Austen and gain context that helps me appreciate new aspects of her writing. No one ever accused me of being anything other than a giant nerd.) When the call came out for literary themed patterns, it was to Jane Austen I first turned.

When I think of Regency fashion, a lot of the standouts for me are the garments that didn’t really outlive the era. Ladies’ turbans are an interesting colonial relic that I find intriguing and distinctly of the period. (In the novella Cranford, published in 1851, Elizabeth Gaskell uses the turban style hat as a way of depicting a character’s age and her distance from trends in fashion. An elderly lady longs for a beautiful turban of the sort that was popular in her youth, and which she never got. Her young houseguest is appalled at the idea, finding it grotesque, and buys her a staid cap instead.) Unlike a true turban, Regency turbans for ladies were sewn into shape, so they did not need to be wrapped each time a woman wanted to put on a headdress.

The turban style hat was part of a general Romantic and Neoclassical trend toward Orientalism in which the eastern world was depicted as both incredibly exotic and exciting and also somehow accessible. Artists such as Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres depicted the Orient in ways that blurred the familiar with the alluringly alien. His obviously Western models, posed as odalisques, or female slaves, lounged in ambiguously Asian settings – supposedly Turkish bath houses or harems. In the literary world of roughly the same period, Thomas Moore would publish an Oriental romance, Lalla-Rookh, and the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge would publish his Oriental poem Kubla Khan.

As Xanadu, with its stately pleasure dome, was becoming a favorite subject for the critics to disparage, India was under the control of the British East India Company, and had been since the mid 18th century. This was a long enough period of time that Indian Englishmen had become commonplace, and India held an exciting but familiar place in the public imagination. Jane Austen had herself an Indian cousin, the romantic and tragic Eliza Hancock, upon whom she may have based some of her more sensational characters. In cooperation with the British Navy, the East India Company, starting in the mid 18th century, but escalating in the early 19th, drove east from its base in India, expanding its colonial empire into central Asia.

All of this context is to say that the turban as a fashionable accessory did not arise out of the blue and my interest in it arose out of its place in history as well as literature. Jane Austen refers to a turban in Northanger Abbey (published in 1817, but actually the earliest finished of Austen’s novels) and tellingly puts the words to the pen of Isabella Thorpe, a character with a taste for the trendy and new. My turban, however, was designed for Jane Fairfax of Emma, a character who might not be enamored of its ostentation, but who certainly, to my mind, deserved a little levity and fashionable respite from her difficult existence. Jane is introduced through her letters to her aunt, and while Emma takes her time to warm up to the character, it’s clear that Jane’s creator greatly admires her, hence the name Dear Jane.

OK, I’ve blathered on for five paragraphs now without even getting to any of the details of this design in specific! The pattern is knit in Sanguine Gryphon Codex, which is a gorgeous and wonderful yarn to work with. It’s a blend of Blue Faced Leicester wool and silk, and the result is a warm, soft, shiny, drapey yarn that knits up like a dream. The pattern was designed specifically with this yarn in mind, to take advantage of that drape and sheen. The construction is different from anything I’ve previously designed. It starts with a long ribbon knit in Tunisian rib, and then the hat stitches are picked up from the ribbon and knit up with large, strategically place eyelets throughout for the threading through of the dangling ribbon ends. The rather disturbing picture below shows what the hat looks like when the ribbon is unlaced.

(Said picture is the most looked at of the batch I uploaded to Flickr. Apparently y’all like looking at weird creepy pictures.)

Further details:

To fit 20 (22.5)”/51 (57) cm circumference at brim

Finished Measurements
17 (19)”/43 (48) cm at brim
10 (10.75)”/26 (28) cm in height, not including ribbon

The Sanguine Gryphon ‘Codex’, 4 oz/234 yd, 52% silk/48% Blue-faced Leicester wool, 2 (2) skeins, shown in Mary Crickett

US 4/3.5 mm needles, straight or circular
US 6/4 mm needles, 16” circular, or size needed to obtain gauge
US 6/4 mm double pointed needles OR long circular needle for Magic Loop

19 sts and 27 rows = 4”/10 cm in St st on US 6 needles

3 Split stitch markers OR waste yarn
Tapestry Needle

You can purchase this pattern at The Sanguine Gryphon website! Be sure to check out the other patterns in the winter collection as well. There are some real beauties! I’ll save prototype pictures for another post.


11 Responses to “Dear Jane”

  1. Kristen@TheFrugalGirl Says:

    Ooh, the Knitting Kninja said, “Y’all”!

    • Kristen Says:

      Oh, I LOVE the word y’all. It fills a much needed place in the English language! We don’t have a you-specific and a you-general, and that can make it so confusing. I am not going to advocate for a return to thou (you-familiar) but I do feel like English would be less confusing if those were distinct.

  2. mick Says:

    Very cool! And I loved the history lesson on women’s fashion. I’m not sure if you’re into them, but my two professors wrote books on women’s fashion and what it signals in Edith Wharton and Emily Dickinson. You can find them on Amazon at these two links (and I particularly loved the Wharton one).

    • Kristen Says:

      Eeee! New books to look at! Thank you; both of these look fascinating. I’m not a Dickinson fan, but I love Edith Wharton, and even without a specific interest in Dickinson, this sounds really interesting.

  3. Rebecca Says:

    Wowee kazowie batman – knitting and historical fashion background as well – you hit on my 2 favs…love the interesting construction and the yarn – I am a big fan of the buggas, gaia and kypria, and now will have to check out their codex…have up till now put it off by saying I would need more than 1 skein to make anything – but you’ve burst that bubble…
    have a great holiday and thanks for sharing!

  4. thea Says:

    Love it – the story, the thought behind it and the construction. Not to mention the creepy weird pic.

    Totally imaginative and completely wearable!!

  5. marciano guerrero Says:

    Nicely done! Though I wouldn’t know what to do with knitting weaponry (other than skewer a turkey), I enjoyed reading the article which is rich in literary allusions. I’m sending the link of your site to my wife (Mary Duffy) who is fashionista and has written several book of fashion. Thanks, again!

  6. theherocomplex Says:

    I love this entry! Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen and knitting — it’s a dream! I’m tempted to knit a Dear Jane in a rusty orange with a brown ribbon…

  7. Jodi Says:

    Jane Austen AND knitting. Almost too much awesome to have in one place. 😉

  8. the Lady Says:

    Dude- what woman DOESN’T love Jane Austen? After Colin Firth, there was no going back for anyone. Yum Yum.

  9. the Lady Says:

    laugh your butt off. i did.

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