May 21st, 2008

me and my vulture

Red silk garters

Actually, I have no idea what to write.

The trip really was great, but I am in a very disassociative mood, and everything is annoying me right now - probably because I'm tired and wish I didn't have a job.

Mind you, that describes 90% of us, so I really don't have any room to complain, do I?

So, let me talk about one of the things I actually went to the MFA Boston to investigate - the knitted silk garters.

First of all, like I said yesterday, they are defnitely knitted in the round - Gen suggested that they might have been knitted with two needles using an alternating stitch, but I think they are knitted on four (with a fifth travelling needle) to acommodate the double line of white decoration that goes the length of each garter. They are roughly 66" long and 2" wide (width of the knitted round laid flat, which would make the actual width if cut apart roughly 4"), and knit 20 stitches to the inch, which allows for the delicate floral pictographic design that travels vertically along each side.

They are red and white silk, and the tassels are of the same material, appearing wrapped and wound around a (very light) wooden core. (I'm sorry - I'll need to write for permission to post my pictures, and they're mostly only useful for charting the pattern and designing the tassels, which I want to try myself.)

The tightness of the stitch and the silk mean that even if the garter was pulled quite tight, it really wouldn't stretch that much - the thinner ends are the parts designed to tie, with the main part of the garter wrapping around the knee, maybe above and below.

Actually, there are a few ways in which these garters would work; cross-gartering (which works better with the high canions of the late 16th century), and double-wrapped around the knee, as well as a large bow or a small. Though these garters are not as large or ostentatious as some of the more outrageous garters bows seen on the aristocracy throughout this period, there are some images of more staid garters that are more the width of the red silk ones (though without the tassels - I haven't found a tasseled picture yet, but I'm still looking). 

Looking at the tassels, I might be tempted to say that they are earlier 17th century rather than later, because the tassels are very similar to the tassels on the pink sprang garters dated late 16th/early 17th century, but that might be a mistake, as passementerie continues to be popular for quite a while.  I think it is probably safer to look at the way garters are portrayed in paintings and engravings to get an idea of when these particular pieces might have been worn - and the narrow width combined with the fine materials makes me think they might be first quarter 17th century. 

Who knows?  My instinct is earlier, because they bear a remarkable resemblance to the early 17th century knitted jackets cathgracewas examining, but to be honest, they're the only knitted garters I've ever found.  There are rumours of others, but as we found with the pink and green garters, there are other possible methods of manufacture that can be confused with knitting.  Fortunately, in the case of our little red friends, they are clearly knit.

I am so going to try this out.