Today we welcome the Ladies of Mischief
Textile Arts — A Fascinating Frontier that Weds Form to Function and Design to Desire
By Blue Stocking-Reads For The Ladies of Mischief
From the shimmer of a fine silk to the rough heft of homespun wool to the smallest and laciest of unmentionables, textiles bind our lives together. And not just ours: Human beings have been weaving and stitching, spinning and sewing, for millennia, back to prehistoric days and up to today. The Egyptians had their thin, fine linen shifts, and the Romans their bulky, urine-bleached wool togas (imagine that overwhelming smell on a hot day!) — although they only wore them on special occasions. And the Byzantine and Chinese courts dazzled with all the pageantry that legions of cloth artists could provide. From hundreds of types of tassels at the height of the French court to the intricate lace of Holland, textile arts had already reached an incredibly high level when “just” done by hand. By the time of the French Revolution, industrial-style factories with huge looms already existed to feed the ever-growing needs of the mercantile class. The march of the machine only intensified through the true age of steam and beyond.
But factory-issued doesn’t spell the end of handmade! The ladies of the Victorian era were indefatigable crafters, knitting and crocheting and tatting lace, creating dresses from patterns found in popular magazines like Peterson’s. (Go ahead and look through a recent issue of Cosmo to find a pattern for a handmade morning dress with lace collar. Go ahead. We’ll stay right here and wait for you to get back.)
Imagine reading an instruction for a knitted piece that said, simply: “cast on sufficient stitches for piece, knit in pattern to completion, bind off in pattern.” That’s the rawest pattern you may ever see!
Yet if a lady knew what she was doing — through years of expertise and practice — she could take that minimalist pattern and create something useful and beautiful.
The ladies of Mischief is a collective of knitters, crafters, artists, and steampunk enthusiasts who are creating a book to explore the amalgamation of knitting and steampunk. We are working hard to have this work completed by the spring.
The patterns in our book are more like the most fantastic, intricate creations the Victorians could dream of — complicated and delicate, beautiful and fine. Don’t worry — we will walk you through each step, row by row and line by line.
You won’t need a hand-cranked home sock machine, as some Victorian ladies used (although don’t let us discourage you from getting one… and modifying it to according to own designs, of course!).
All you need are the same forthright spirit of adventure that rises up to meet the call: “I am a puzzle to be solved, a pattern to be plumbed and understood, a challenge to be met!”
Join us in new adventures and let’s make textile history together!
~The Ladies of Mischief