Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 31 2013 01:00PM

I’m not a knitter, but for years I’ve been intrigued by the “Jane Austen Knits” link that keeps popping up in my Google alert, one in a long line of products claiming a connection to the valuable Jane Austen Brand.


Apparently, this year’s edition of the single-issue magazine contains thirty-one patterns for knitted items of clothing somehow “inspired by the novels of Jane Austen and the Regency era within which she lived”; illustrations show beautiful shawls, spencers and gloves, plus a fetching little reticule and a waistcoat worthy of Mr. Knightley. (I’m skeptical that these items have much to do with the books, beyond resembling things that Austen’s characters might have worn, but never mind.)


The issue is also said to feature historical articles, including one on pincushions and thread-cases in Persuasion. Those are among the items that Nurse Rooke teaches Mrs. Smith to make, to keep her busy and supplement her meager income.


I can’t remember if we know whether Jane Austen herself was a knitter, though it seems quite possible; in his famous 1870 Memoir of Jane Austen, her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh tells us that “her needlework both plain and ornamental was excellent, and might almost have put a sewing machine to shame.”


If you’ve tried these patterns, do tell us whether they’re worthy of Jane Austen.


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