MKB 40: A Pence Jug, or Purse

Wahoo! I have reached the 40th pattern in Miss Lambert’s My Knitting Book (1843, First Series)!The pattern is for A Pence Jug or Purse. A pence jug is a small knitted purse that was used for storage of coins. These little projects were common in the Victorian era and patterns for pence jugs can be found in many publications at the time. Pence hugs experienced a revival during the First World War in the UK for saving coins to support the war effort.

This pattern has been interpreted (or translated?) from Miss Lambert’s words into modern knitting language by the inestimable Franklin Habit (Pence Jug). In his Knitty.com article, Franklin provides a lovely description of his view of Miss Lambert, which I have reproduced in part below.

Miss Lambert (as she was known to her public) was a leading light among the first wave of needlework writers who began to publish in the early 1840s. She comes across in her works as devoted, above all, to the twin Victorian virtues of Order and Method.

(Franklin Habit, knitty.com)

I was curious to see how my interpretation compares with Franklin’s so I gave it a try directly from Miss Lambert’s wording in the book, with the goal of comparing my finished object with Franklin’s when I’m done.

Miss Lambert calls for “five needles, No. 20, with claret and green German wool.” In my experience with this book, German wool (or Berlin wool) was roughly equivalent to what we would call fingering weight yarn today. She also suggests that the pattern may be knit up in silk but does no specify whether she means netting silk or a heavier weight of silk. I decided to stick with wool and used 2.0mm needles and the magic loop method.

When I compare my project to Franklin’s interpretation, the neck of the jug seems longer and it looks like we interpreted the spout portion of the pattern a bit differently. Other than that it looks pretty similar, although in my version the body of the jug is a solid colour as I didn’t see instructions to change the colour in Miss Lamberts pattern. Since it’s basically the same so I will direct you to Franklin’s interpretation instead of rewriting it here.

The jug doesn’t stand well when it’s empty but looked great once I filled it up with coins. It sits on my windowsill, a nice piece of history I can see every day.

Have you ever made a pence jug? I’d love to hear about your experience!

References

Lesley O’Connell Edwards, Oct 18, 2017, A Passion for Pence Jugs, Piecework Magazine.

Franklin Habit, Winter 2008, Stitches in Time, Knitty Magazine.

Knitting Now and Then Blog, Dec 15, 2014, A Victorian Pence Jug.

MKB 39: Pretty Stitch For a Purse

The 39th pattern in Miss Lambert’s My Knitting Book (1843, First Series) is for a Pretty Stitch for a Purse. The pattern calls for Size 22 needles on the Lambert Filiere, which is equivalent to approximately 1.75mm needles. The pattern also suggests using medium netting silk.

More About Netting Silk

Also called silk twist or purse twist, netting silks were available in several weights (light, medium, coarse). An ad for Corticelli purse twist describes it as a “three cord thread of special spin and twist” that was available in over 20 colours. The ad also claims that “purses made with genuine Corticelli purse twist will last a lifetime.” Another ad from 1896 states “there are in existence today purses nearly half a century ago of Purse Silk still preserving a in remarkable degree their beauty.”

I was unable to find a resource that specifically lists the modern day equivalents for fine, medium and coarse netting silk; however in a Piecework article Ava Coleman described how she recreated a pineapple purse that called for “second size netting silk” and No. 23 needles. She worked the project using 1mm needles and Silk Bella (a 0.21mm, 3 ply twisted silk filament thread). In my previous post, a reader shared that Purely Silk thread in size F or FF is the closest modern day equivalent to netting silk she has found based on examination of historical pieces. I am so glad to have found a few ideas to try out the next time Miss Lambert calls for netting silk!

Knitting the Pattern

The pattern comprises one set up row followed by four rows repeated until the project is the desired length. The pattern is worked over an even number of stitches and my interpretation is below.

Row 1: Knit to end

Row 2: K1, * K2tog, repeat from * to last stitch, K1

Row 3: K1, * K1, pick up stitch from row below, repeat from * to end of row, K1

Row 4: Knit to end

Row 5: Purl to end

Repeat Rows 2 to 5 until the desired length is reached

Bind off

I initially tried the pattern using lace weight yarn and small needles but my hands just wouldn’t let me do it. Not to be defeated, I knit up a sample using sock yarn and 2.0mm needles. Far easier on my hands and as a bonus, it is easier to see the stitch pattern.

The resulting fabric has a lovely texture! I think this stitch pattern would make a gorgeous cushion cover or cowl in a chunkier yarn.

Resources

A Vintage Beaded Pineapple Purse and an Adaptation, Piecework Magazine, January/February 2012 by Ava T. Coleman

How to Use Florence Knitting Silk, Nanotuck Silk Co., 1886.

MKB 38: A Purse

Today’s post is all about the 38th pattern in Miss Lambert’s My Knitting Book (1843, first series). The pattern is simply named A Purse and it marks the beginning of a section of the book that focuses on stitches for purses. The stitch pattern itself is quite straightforward; the pattern is based on the assumption that the knitter knows what the finished product will look like as there is no illustration and no guidance as to the finished size of the project. While I am sure knitters in the 1840s had an idea in mind for a gentleman’s purse, this is not a fashion that has prevailed until 2020!

Working up the Pattern

The pattern calls for No. 20 needles and coarse netting silk. While No. 20 needles on the Lambert Filiere are approximately equal to a 2mm needle size (see here for details), I was not sure what type of material would be equivalent to coarse netting silk. Based on the needle size, I decided to use a silk/merino fingering weight yarn and settled into some research into netting silk while I started working on my gentleman’s purse. Normally I would chart the pattern next, but in this case, it was so straightforward I didn’t think a chart was needed. My interpretation of the pattern is as follows:

Repeat [ssk, yo, p1] until the end of the row and every row is the same.

After some research (see below), I decided Miss Lambert might have been thinking of a miser’s purse for a gentleman so I worked the pattern for about 5 inches, cast off and blocked the rectangle. I sewed the purse up with two closed ends and a slit in the middle to create a miser’s purse.

About Netting Silk

Although I chose to use a fingering weight yarn, I was very curious about netting silk and what the modern day equivalent might be. In another of Miss Lambert’s books The Handbook of Needlework, published in 1846, she states that “netting silks, or purse twists, are too well known to need description” but does note that they come in a variety of sizes (coarse and fine) and colours. She also highlights the superiority of French silks over those produced in England at the time. I’ll keep looking for modern day equivalents and will post what I find next time.

Purses of the Victorian Era

Gentleman’s purse may have referred to a long stocking purse, which were used by both men and women in the 1800s. These purses were worn folded over the belt and could be kept in a secure location. Simple versions of these types of purses were commonly made as gifts or for charity; and they were “commonly knitted as love tokens and given to sweethearts” (Black, 2012, p. 49).

The miser’s purse was one type of stocking purse and it had quite an ingeneous design for such a simple object. The purse is a tube, closed at both ends and with a vertical opening in the centre. Coins of different dominations could be placed at the two ends of the purse and they were secured in place using metal rings. Sometimes, miser’s purses had two different ends (rounded, square, beaded, tassled etc.) and the Victorian gentleman (or gentlewoman) could tell by touch which side contained the coins that they needed. The miser’s purse was also known as a hookers, almoners (or aumonières), and wallets, or long, stocking, ring, or string purse. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, this video shows show how a miser’s purse was constructed and used: The Miser’s Purse, Demo by Laura Camerlengo.

Engineering Knits also has a great video about her journey creating a miser’s purse: Victorian Purse || Historical Knitting. Check out her account for other great Victorian projects!

References

Sandy Black. 2012. Knitting – Fashion, Industry and Craft.

Gwen Blakeley Kinsler. 2014. The Ingenious Miser’s Purse. Piecework Magazine.

Susan J. Jerome. 2020. The Fascinating Miser’s Bag. Piecework Magazine.

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