What would Jane think?

Textiles and revolution

Recreating the world of Jane Austen for today with A Sensible Shawl designed by Celeste Young.

Our third special issue of Jane Austen Knits (Fall 2012) is complete and being printed. Digital copies are available for download. It seems funny to utter such phrases together. Kind of like imagining Jane sipping tea and checking Tweets on her iPhone while working on her latest novel at a corner café (instead of having to hide her writing talents from most of her acquaintances). It makes me wonder what her Pinterest board would have looked like. And yet it is fitting to have these incongruous thoughts, because that's what it is like to be a lover of Jane Austen literature and knitting during our day and age. This issue is all about going between worlds—knitting and literature, history and fiction, the imagined and the real world.

As a Jane Austen/textile geek, I got to ask some of my burning questions about how things were made in the Regency era and have them answered by knowledgeable folks. And of course, as a spinner, some of those questions have to do with spinning. I just couldn't resist. I asked Stephenie Gaustad to consider what the yarn in Jane's hands would have looked like, how it would have been made.

And it was a good question. Did you know that Jane Austen's life spanned a very pivotal point in history and that point was all about textiles? Seriously. Yarn. Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, and she died at the very young age of 42 on July 18, 1817. During that time the spinning mule was invented, as was the power loom, the first steam powered textile factory was built, the cotton gin was invented and patented, the Jacquard loom was invented, and latch needles for the knitting machine were patented.

Recreating the world of Jane Austen for today with the Soutache Spencer (left) and Bierdermier Stole both designed by Annie Modesitt.

In response to all this innovation and change in the way yarn and cloth was made, the Luddite movement began. Yep, right around the time that Pride and Prejudice was published, the Luddites were burning down mills and smashing the mechanized looms that had replaced them as skilled workers. There's a reason it was called the Industrial Revolution.

So, in this latest issue of Jane Austen Knits, Stephenie considers whether or not Jane would have had access to the new yarns being produced by mills or if she would have been knitting with yarn spun by a spinner in Steventon or maybe someone within her own household with a penchant for making yarn. It is fun to day dream about these things, isn't it? Pick up an issue and join me.

Happy spinning,

Post a Comment