The Heroines of Jane Austen Knits

Editors' note: We’ve invited Amy Clarke Moore, the editor of Spin-Off magazine (as well as the special issue, Jane Austen Knits), to tell us a little about the latest issue of Jane Austen Knits, due out on the newsstands in early June.

A Book Cover for Edmund by Melissa J. Armstrong, inspired by Mansfield Park's heroine, Fanny Price.

It is a truth universally acknowledged . . . that my love for all things Jane Austen is only surpassed by my love for textiles. I have the great good fortune to be able to combine those loves into one publication—Jane Austen Knits. With our premier issue that came out last fall, we speculated about how Jane Austen must have been a knitter given the ubiquitous nature of knitting at that time and her economic situation (as the spinster daughter of a clergyman). In this new issue, other aspects of textiles during the Regency era (1790­–1820) are explored—such as how one went about acquiring new clothing in the late 1700s in England and the sheep that Reverend George Austen kept.

Evergreen Lace Shawl by Sherri Sulkowski

Like the 2011 issue, the Summer 2012 issue includes more than 30 patterns for knitting inspired by Jane Austen’s novels. It intrigued me that as we were selecting designs for last year’s issue, many of the patterns were inspired by Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, Catherine Morland, and Anne Elliot, but one heroine was left unsung. For that reason, I was thrilled as we were selecting projects for the Summer 2012 issue of Jane Austen Knits that several of the designers noticed that Fanny Price was sadly neglected in our 2011 premier issue—and they rose in defense of Fanny, wanting to make sure her voice was heard in the 2012 issue.

Sotherton by Kathleen Dames

It is the personal connections to the stories that give these knitted garments depth—each one tells a story with yarn. How often in our lives as knitters do we use yarn to communicate rich narratives? Jane Austen playfully dismisses the importance of fashion in her letters to her sister, Cassandra, and yet the details of wearing and making garments are contained in nearly every letter that survived. We—in this era of ready-made clothing—have to stretch a bit, though, to really grasp the importance of cloth and garment-making at the turn of the nineteenth century, just as the Industrial Revolution literally was changing the way cloth was made. But as knitters, our understanding is probably greater than that of the average twenty-first-century person—we know the pleasure of making something from scratch as well as the disappointment when things don’t go as planned. We can only hope that with hard work and persistence, as well as a bit of luck, we’ll achieve the same potential bright futures with our knitting endeavors as Jane Austen’s heroines gain at the end of her novels.

Happy knitting,