Sunday, July 29, 2012

Stockings Unstumped!

One of the best things about living in the greater D.C. area is that there is an unbelievable wealth of curatorial expertise here. I know a few people who study costume, so I sent out my stocking inquiry in case one of them could tell me whether the socks were hand knit or frame knit. Fortuitously, a friend of a friend had been to some sort of gathering where frame knitted stockings were a major topic. My friend, Mary Doering, and her friend, Carol Kregloh, and I had already planned to meet up for a "costume party" (we brought old clothes to study and then we went to an exhibit of paintings with period costumes), so the right person arrived in my network of connections at the right time. Mary is a collector who uses her costumes to help small museums install clothing exhibits, and she also teaches courses on costume for the Smithsonian's decorative arts program with George Mason University. Carol is a costume specialist at the National Museum of American History, and she has a vast mental library of clothing knowledge, including a volume on the history of socks. 
Carol Kregloh's expert hands show me what I need to know to recognize how the stockings were made.

The raised rows of stitches are knit, and there is no seam allowance. This rules out frame construction.

Detail of the edge finish on the stocking.  
Here's what I learned: The stockings are completely hand knit. Frame knit stockings have a seam where they are sewn closed, not knit closed. If my socks were made on a frame, they would have a seam allowance where the two sides met. The line of stitches on my stockings that looks like a seam is not a seam allowance, and it is knit, not sewn. I think Carol said that the raised stitch line was used to help with row counting, though I'm not sure I fully understood that part. As for the inscribed date "1819", both Mary and Carol were of the opinion that this indicated something commemorative. For example, the stockings may have been made especially for a wedding. They told me the date is really rare. Rare is good. Happy me!

I am so grateful. Both Mary and Carol were so generous with their expertise, and of course I'm grateful for having received the gift of the stockings in the first place. With this kind of support, I'm hopeful that I can really put my collections to good use.  

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