Thursday, 2 June 2011

Crocheted Reticule with Silk Ribbons

from the Collections of the Textile Museum
(Borås, Sweden)

I continue my venture into modern times with another 19th-20th century textile: A crocheted reticule bag from the collections of Textilmuseet (the Textile Museum), where I work. 
 Reticule bag, front and back. Textilmuseet, inv. no: BM54958

Small, fancy purses like this one became fashionable towards the end of the 18th century, during the Regency era (and still survive today in the form of evening bags). They were popular DIY projects – early crochet books and ladies' magazines from the 19th century are full of instructions on how to make them. There are some claims that the word reticule comes from ”ridicule”, because these bags ”were considered a bit silly”. As far as I can tell, this is just a linguistic misconception. Reticule is derived from the Latin word reticulum, which means ”small net” or a ”small mesh bag”. The word ridicule is derived from a completely different Latin word. 

Silly or not, this particular reticule bag (inventory number BM54958) was donated to our museum in 1973, but it's from the turn of the last century or thereabouts. It's crocheted with an ecru-coloured cotton yarn and has red silk ribbons threaded into the crocheted piece. There are two small silk pom-poms attached to one side and it's closed with drawstring. The lining is a simple cotton satin fabric. 

 Close-up of the pom-poms

 Close-up of the lining, drawstring and the finishing edge (reverse side)

The yarn roughly matches the modern yarn size Nm 12/3, which is what I used for my reproduction bag, together with a 1.25 mm crochet hook. I was a little sloppy with the tension and had to add another pattern repeat to my bag to get the final proportions right. Other than that, I did everything like it was done on the original. On the later pieces, like the pouch for my mobile below, I managed the correct tension just fine without changing the hook.

When I had finished the crochet part of the bag, I went out to buy some silk ribbons. And found out just how difficult it is to get hold of satin ribbons made of real silk in Sweden today: it's basically impossible. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to materials, so I refused the only available alternative - polyester ribbons - and made my own out of a piece of silk fabric instead. Of course, my ribbons don't have have the selvedges of a band woven to the correct width; they are just flattened tubes with a seam running down the back, but they still look much nicer than cheap polyester. The ribbons on the original reticule are wider than the openings they're are threaded through, giving the bag a lively, slightly puffy look. I made mine narrower to get a perfect fit instead, since I didn't want them to twist and bulge and accidentally end up showing the seam...

 My own version of the reticule

I also made a little pouch for my mobile, with fulled wool instead of silk ribbons. The wool was sturdy enough on its own and it didn't need to be lined.

A pretty cover for an ugly phone
If anyone would like to make their own reticule bag, the Swedish pattern I made is sold in the museum shop for 35 SEK. For those of you who don't read Swedish, here's the English translation, for free:

Crocheted Reticule Bag, c. 1900 - Pattern

(I haven't test-crocheted the translated version, so if anything sounds strange or doesn't work like it's supposed to, please let me know!)


Esther said...

That looks lovely, have added to my Ravelry queue in the hopes of making one shortly. I do a live roleplay game this would be perfect for some of the characters.

Arachne said...

Thank you, Esther! It's a wonderful little bag (I use it for paperbacks, to keep them from getting mangled in my bag when I travel to and from work). Please let me know if you find any mistakes in the pattern - I had the Swedish version tested by a friend, but you never know what might sneak in there when you translate something...

Jacqueline said...

How beautiful and so timely for me. I and my husband attend a historic renactment rendezvous every fall. I was looking for a reticule pattern to take with me. Thanks