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How To Make a Reticule

This little reticule was first featured as a project in Petersen’s Magazine in 1857. As you can see from the
Regency fashion plate, it is a style that was popular even then. By definition, a reticule (or ridicule as they
were sometimes called) was a small purse. They became popular in the late 18th century when narrow gown styles
prevented the installation of pockets.

This is a very pretty design for a reticule. Materials: green silk, purple morocco [fine soft kid as from
gloves
] and pasteboard. Cut the bottom out of pasteboard the size you wish, and cover it with the morocco,
bringing the morocco a little up the sides as a finish, the pasteboard having first been turned up for that
purpose. Then sew on the four pieces of silk, and complete with a drawing string of sewing silk below to match the
silk of the bag.

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Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

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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: http://www.gancedo.eu/content/pine-apple-bag

KNIT A PINEAPPLE PURSE:
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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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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