It seems that back in Victorian times, silk was the fiber of choice to knit with. Silk undervests, stockings, mittens, lace–you name it, it was knit with silk. I made the mistake of trying to knit with silk when I first learned how to knit (like the very next day after I had just learned to knit, purl and cast on–I really should have known better) nearly 4 years ago and it ended in a disaster of EPIC proportions. I still break out in a sweat whenever I think about The Incident That Shall Not Be Named, Unless You Want To Die. Anyway, so when I found this out, I was a little anxious. I knew my knitting skills had progressed enough to where I wouldn’t have to worry about a second disaster, so I was all prepared to meet the challenge head on. Then my challenge met my wallet, and my wallet bitch-slapped my challenge straight into a future month or year where I’ll actually have lots of money to spend.
Turns out that over 120 years later, 100% silk laceweight yarn is expensive (When I mean expensive, I mean at least $50 a skein expensive and it would take 2-4 skeins to make anything besides a pair of mittens or a bag) Too expensive for my budget and grand knitting ideas, so while I’ve been able to buy the correct needle sizes, I have been unable to buy the correct yarn fiber. My mom finally told me what colors she preferred, so armed with this information I hit up my local yarn store hoping to find some cobweb lace yarn (cobweb means it’s super skinny) that wasn’t alpaca (too fuzzy) or expensive.
At first I was annoyed that my mom had chosen such blah colors (light grey and cream), but when I located some undyed (which happens to be cream colored, yesssssss!)100% merino lace weight yarn for only 6.95 a skein, I immediately felt much better and scooped up 3 of them pronto. I had also picked up a pair of size 0000 (1.25mm) needles, so I was now ready to begin my next Victorian knitting project–a pair of lady’s stockings. Actually, a pair of “Lady’s Ribbed Stockings no. 2″ to be exact.
Last month I had purchased a great pamphlet titled “Weldon’s Practical Stocking Knitter (Third Series)” that was originally published in 1886. At first I wanted to make the “Gentleman’s Bicycle Stockings” because they had cables in them, but then I got hold of my senses and figured that it would be hard enough knitting with such small needles, why add cabling tiny yarn to the mix? Plus, I’m pretty sure back in Victorian times any ladies who would wear stockings intended for gentlemen would be heartily frowned upon, and I thought it’d be more accurate to keep gender stereotypes intact.
American Idol was coming on, and it was a 2 hour show last night, so I figured it’d be the perfect time to sit down and cast on for the stockings. Imagine my intense dismay when the 2 hours flew by and this is all I had to show for it.
Knitting Victorian stockings isn’t necessarily hard, I discovered especially since they’re pretty much made exactly the way top down socks are made today (just a lot longer and with decreases for calf shaping), but with such small needles and tiny yarn it takes forever. And the worst part is that once I finish the first one, I’ll have to make one more! I just can’t win.