Recommended by simplicity

The information about purse molds provided by Frances Lambert in 1842 (illustrated in the blog logo; see the preceding post) doesn’t describe their use in particular detail. Her remarks about the way stitches are formed on the round knitting loom are fully consistent with the current use of that implement. Other sources to be discussed here describe its occurrence before 1842.

Lambert has this to say about the cup mold.

“On the other mould or cup a very pretty bourse en feston may be made, either with two coloured silks, or silk and gold. Since the introduction of crochet, however, these moulds have not been much used.”

Anna Barbara van Meerten-Schilperoort published instructions for a group of six purses in the 1823 volume of the Dutch monthly periodical, Penélopé. These describe four different techniques: simple (also called ‘buttonhole’) looping, loom knitting, netting, and crochet (the earliest known use of that term to designate a craft). She presents two basic variations of simple looping; closed- and openwork, both combining silk and metal threads. A further variant of closed work substitutes beads for the metal thread. Simple looping is seen in extant purses from the 17th- and 18th centuries (often taken to be ordinary crochet — providing a good example of the historiographic loopholes that give this blog its name and scope) and is found in a wide range of additional contexts both far earlier and in the present day.

The next blog entry will be a translation of the Penélopé instructions for the openwork purse using the cup mold. I’ve tried to retain as much as possible of the stylistic flavor of the original without obscuring its meaning but have consistently modernized the punctuation and changed instructions in the form “One makes a stitch…” to a direct “Make a stitch…”  Translations of the other instructions are in the queue for later posts. The author introduces them all with:

“Look here my Lady Friends! A collection of different types of purses, none of them being very difficult or expensive. They recommend themselves all the more by their simplicity and grace.”

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