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Netting Instructions from Beeton’s Book of Needlework

“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are….They all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”
-Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley notes “netting”as one of the common accomplishments of young ladies. It is, as Isabella Beeton, Victorian Household Maven, explains, “one of the prettiest and one of the easiest accomplishments of a lady. The materials are simple, while the effects produced by good netting are most elegant and of great durability. One great advantage of netting is that each stitch is finished and independent of the next, so that if an accident happens to one stitch it does not, as in crochet or knitting, spoil the whole work.” The following instructions are from Beeton’s Book of Needlwork, published in 1870.

Isabella Beeton's books and articles are invaluable in researching life and practices of the mid 19th century.
Isabella Beeton’s books and articles are invaluable in researching life and practices of the mid 19th century.

Continue reading Netting Instructions from Beeton’s Book of Needlework

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Knit a Pineapple Purse

pineapple purse

The Pineapple Purse:

This  Pineapple shaped reticule resides in the Kyoto Museum’s 1800-1810 collection. In describing this bag, the museum comments,

This small bag (called “reticule” at that time) was elaborately and three-dimensionally knitted into the shape of a pineapple. Motifs of pineapples and other exotic articles associated with the tropics became popular because of the influence of Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife Joséphine, the then fashion leader, who was from the Island of Martinique.

It is absolutely charming and amazingly, the instructions for a similar looking reticule appeared in  The Lady’s Assistant for Executing Useful and Fancy Designs in Knitting Netting, and Crochet Work by Mrs. Jane Gaugain in 1841. Those instructions have been reproduced below, though recently, a new, updated pattern for this purse has been created from the original pattern. The updated pattern and photos of the completed project can be found here:

This pinapple purse is knit to imitate the natural colour of the fruit as much as possible, still keeping the bag as bright in hues as consistency will permit. The top part is worked in four shades of green, of seven rows each, commencing with lightest, and working in succession to dark. This represents the leaves. The centre, or fruit part, is worked in shades of yellow, down to a rich brown, four in number, beginning with the lightest, and working 36 rounds of each; again with green finish as described in the working receipt.

The cast-on row looks handsome with a row of gilt beads; also on the centre stitch of each knob of fruit part there should be a bead, but it may be omitted if not wished. The green part for leaves is worked on right side, and is the right or outside part; the centre part of bag is like the wrong side of knitting, as well as the green part, at bottom. When the bag is finished, it is drawn at the termination of the top leaves; the bottom is finished with a bunch of green satin ribbon, rounded at the points like leaves.

Working Receipt.

Cast on with light-green common-sized purse twist on No. 19 wires, 96 on first wire, 96 on second wire, and 128 on third wire; work a plain round after the cast-on round.

1st Round, P6, 0, P, 0, P6, A; repeat all round.

2nd Round, *P6, 0, P, O, P6, A; repeat all round.

Repeat as second round 5 more rounds.

2nd Shade of Green.

8th Round, repeat as second round 7 more rounds.

* Observe you have here seven plain stitches before you make an open stitch, the first of which has nothing to do with the six plain, merely work it off before the six, as it is one of those three you knit into one, and will be required to finish the A on the last wire j the beginning and ending of every wire during the working of green will be the same as this.

3rd Shade of Green. 16th Round, repeat as second round 7 more rounds.

4tth Shade of Green.

24th Round, repeat as second round 7 more rounds.

32nd Round, with light yellow, turn and work a plain round. It is necessary here to observe, the A of the yellow must be transposed so as to come directly under the 0, P, 0, of green. Should you have more loops than six before taking in the three loops, lift them on to the right hand wire; do the same with the other two wires; having done so, you have not again to change any of the loops off the wires, as the following receipt is so arranged,—

33rd Round, P6, A, P6, 0, P, 0; repeat all round.

34th Round, P5, A, P6, 0, P, 0, P; repeat all round.

35th Bound, P4, A, P6, 0, P, 0, P2; repeat all round.

36th Round, P3, A, P6, 0, P, 0, P3; repeat all round.

37th Round, P2, A, P6, 0, P, O, P4; repeat all round.

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Repeat from 32nd to 49th round twice with third yellow

Repeat from 32nd to 49th round twice with fourth yellow; (if wished to be longer, add what is required in this shade.)

Repeat with each shade of green once from 32 to 49th round

P6, A, all round} Repeat these two rounds till the bag is almost closed, then draw
Plain, all round } it together with a needle.
This bag may be worked in shades of Berlin wool, on No. 16 wires.

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Mrs. Cassandra Austen

The Austen family enjoyed word games. This particular game involved creating a verse based on a preset list of rhyming words (in this case: verse, sorow hearse, purse and tomorrow). It was very popular in France during the mid 1700’s, also known as the Age of Wit. These particular verses were written by Jane’s mother, Cassandra Austen and George Knight (Jane’s nephew) at Chawton in 1820. Try your hand at playing this game with a group of friends with your own list of words.

Why d’you ask me to scribble in verse

When my heart’s full of trouble and sorrow?

The cause I will briefly rehearse,

I’m in debt, with a sad empty purse,

And the bailiffs will seize me tomorrow.

C. A.

I’ve said it in prose, and I’ll say it in verse,

That riches bring comfort and poverty sorrow,

That it’s better to ride in a coach than a hearse,

That it’s better to fill than to empty your purse,

And to feast well to-day than to fast till to-morrow.


To mutton I am not averse,

But veal I eat with sorrow,

So from my cradle to my hearse

For calves I’d never draw my purse

For lambs I would to-morrow.

G. K.

I hate your French tragedies written in verse,

They fill me with laughter, not sorrow;

What Racine has written, let Talma rehearse,

The notions I’ve formed he would never disperse,

Though he laboured from now till to-morrow.

G. K.

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On the Important Subject of Dress and Fashion

On the Important Subject of Dress and Fashion we cannot do better than quote an

opinion from the eighth volume of the “Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine.” The writer there

says, “Let people write, talk, lecture, satirize, as they may, it cannot be denied that,

whatever is the prevailing mode in attire, let it intrinsically be ever so absurd, it will

never look as ridiculous as another, or as any other, which, however convenient, comfortable,

or even becoming, is totally opposite in style to that generally worn.”

In purchasing articles of wearing apparel, whether it be a silk dress, a bonnet,

shawl, or riband, it is well for the buyer to consider three things: I. That it be not too

expensive for her purse. II. That its colour harmonize with her complexion, and its size and

pattern with her figure. III. That its tint allow of its being worn with the other garments

she possesses. The quaint Fuller observes, that the good wife is none of our dainty dames,

who love to appear in a variety of suits every day new, as if a gown, like a stratagem in

war, were to be used but once. But our good wife sets up a sail according to the keel of her

husband’s estate; and, if of high parentage, she doth not so remember what she was by birth,

that she forgets what she is by match.

To Brunettes, or those ladies having dark complexions, silks of a grave hue are adapted.

For Blondes, or those having fair complexions, lighter colours are preferable, as the richer,

deeper hues are too overpowering for the latter. The colours which go best together are green

with violet; gold-colour with dark crimson or lilac; pale blue with scarlet; pink with black

or white; and gray with scarlet or pink. A cold colour generally requires a warm tint to give

life to it. Gray and pale blue, for instance, do not combine well, both being cold colours.

The Dress of the Mistress should always be adapted to her circumstances, and be varied

with different occasions. Thus, at breakfast she should be attired in a very neat and simple

manner, wearing no ornaments. If this dress should decidedly pertain only to the breakfast-

hour, and be specially suited for such domestic occupations as usually follow that meal, then

it would be well to exchange it before the time for receiving visitors, if the mistress be in

the habit of doing so. It is still to be remembered, however, that, in changing the dress,

jewellery and ornaments are not to be worn until the full dress for dinner is assumed.

Further information and hints on the subject of the toilet will appear under the department

of the Lady’s Maid.

The advice of Polonius to his son Laertes, in Shakspeare’s tragedy of “Hamlet,” is most

excellent; and although given to one of the male sex, will equally apply to a “fayre ladye:”—


Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;

For the apparel oft proclaims the man.

Isabella Mary Beeton (née Mayson) (12 March 1836 – 6 February 1865),

universally known as Mrs Beeton, was the English author of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household

Management (1861), and is one of the most famous cookery writers. This article is

excerpted from that book. In the forward, Mrs. Beeton has this to say of her


I must frankly own, that if I had known, beforehand, that this book would have cost me the

labour which it has, I should never have been courageous enough to commence it. What moved

me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering

which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement. I have always thought

that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked

dinners and untidy ways.

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The Reticule

“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”

“Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know anyone who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard of a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.
Pride and Prejudice, chapter 8

Because the straight lines of Regency gowns did not provide room for pockets, women were forced to carry necessary items in small drawstring bags called reticules. Precursor to today’s purse, the reticule provided a place to store important things (small parcels, spare change, the ever-present handkerchief, a small mirror, perhaps a snuffbox [all the rage during at the time] or powder, smelling salts, and a love-letter or two) close at hand.

Reticules could be made of fabric coordinating with a particular gown or ensemble; some had papier mache bases and fabric tops. Toward the end of the Regency, they began using clasps as an alternative to the drawstring. Reticules frequently featured beading or embroidery and could be quite elaborate.

One other type of purse that was popular, was the “Miser’s” or “Stocking” purse. Shaped like a tube (or sock) it had an opening in the center. When held in the middle you had two pockets in which to hold spare change. Rings slid down from the center to keep each side closed. Making purses was a popular pastime, as they could be knitted, netted or crocheted.

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