Jane Austen Knits. Again!

Soutache Spencer by Annie Modesitt

It happened again. I was innocently sitting on my couch at about 11 p.m., thinking that I needed to go to bed. "One more flip through the guide," I thought, and lo and behold, Sense and Sensibility. "Record it." I said to myself, so I did. I also sat there and watched it. I'm its prisoner, I tell you! I can not resist Jane Austen in any form.

The new issue of Jane Austen Knits is out, and you, like me, won't be able to put it down. Here's editor Amy Clarke Moore to tell you all about it!

Kellynch Tunic by Anne Podlesak, left, and Emma's Overdress by Heather Zoppetti, right
A Sensible Shawl by Celeste Young

Inspired by Jane

"Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes herself and her daughter. I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest-there is no occasion for anything more. Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved." —Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, Chapter XXIX.

As a lover of textiles, I'm really intrigued at how Jane Austen uses some of the details of dress to paint a portrait of her characters. She does it with such a subtle hand—at least for her modern readership.

Most likely her descriptions of clothing gave clearer hints and insights into lifestyles and situations of her characters to her contemporary readers. They would have known the steps involved in having a new dress made up for a ball, that owning a white muslin dress meant employing servants to keep it pristinely white, or that miles of lace on a gown equated to wealth and connections during times when supplies were limited by war.

" ‘Oh my dear,' continued Mrs. Bennet, ‘I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome! And his sisters are charming women. I never in my life saw anything more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace upon Mrs. Hurst's gown . . .' " —Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Chapter III.

Though I imagine that Jane Austen had Mrs. Bennet exclaiming about the lace on Mrs. Hurst's gown to illustrate the former's shallow nature (as well as the wealth of the latter, for that matter), I would really love the opportunity to examine that lace in detail.

I try to visualize what it must have looked like—perhaps it was intricate handmade bobbin lace from handspun linen. Even Jane Austen, busy with her writing, took time to contemplate lace as more than a literary device. She drew a simple line drawing in a letter to her sister, Cassandra, illustrating a bit of lace that appears on her cloak.

A Sensible Shawl, back view

With this, our third special issue of Jane Austen Knits (and with issues four and five in the works), we've been able to delve into these questions concerning textiles from the Regency era. In fact, as we asked questions such as "What kind of knitting yarn would Jane Austen have encountered?" or "How did Regency-era ladies learn about fashion trends?" more questions arose than were answered, leading to ideas for articles in future issues.

It is as if we've been tending a garden—small, but abundant in color and heavenly scents. Each time we move a bulb, we discover more bulbs emerging.

Join me in discovering more beautiful blossoms—download a digital copy of Jane Austen Knits today, or pre-order the printed edition!

Happy knitting,

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