So, I have finished the first of two Siberian Cuffs following Miss Lambert’s pattern from My Knitting Book (1843). For my first try, I cast on 64 stitches holding the yarn double and the cuffs were very wide and not at all what would expect for a wrist warmer/cuff. I wondered if maybe, when Miss Lambert said to cast on 64 stitches, she meant that there would be 64 loops but only 32 stitches since the yarn is held double. I frogged my work and restarted with much better results! (Note to self, remember this for other patterns in her book).
The cuff is 7″ x 3″. Note that it is still on the needles as Miss Lambert does not give any instructions for casting off or assembly of the cuff. I like the look and feel of the stitch pattern and the frequent colour changes keep you busy but there are a lot of ends to sew in for such a small project! This pattern would work nicely with a gradient yarn or a multi-coloured yarn with long colour changes so there aren’t so many ends to sew in.
These cuffs were such a simple and quick project once everything was translated into modern day knitting terms, but I don`t feel like I am finished. The pattern incomplete, perhaps because Miss Lambert had a lot of faith in her reader`s creativity and knowledge of knitting. Unsatisfied with the results so far, I took a look through some other knitting manuals of the time and found some similar patterns (or receipts as they were sometimes called) that provided more information.
The Lady`s Assistant in Knitting, Netting and Crochet Work, by Mrs. Gaugain (I.G.Gaugain, and Ackermann & Co. Strand, London, 1842) includes a pattern for `Warm Knit Cuffs, for Wearing Above the Gown Sleeves.` She suggests shades of grey so mimic Chinchilla fur. The pattern itself is slightly different but one of the stitch patterns is similar to Miss Lambert`s. As you can see from the image from her book of a pair of cuffs (included in the colour plates at the front of the book), they should have a snug fit – I am glad I went back and reknit the cuff for a closer fit.
Mrs. Gaugain provides detailed instructions for assembly of the cuff:
“After being cast off, sew the two sides together, the sides being much shorter than the cast-on and cast-off rows; having sewn this up, fold the knitting so that the seam comes in the centre of the knitting on one side, which will be the wrong side of the Cuff, the right side having no seam. By this means the Cuff is now double; then sew up the cast on rows together.” (p.204)
In 1847, Mary Jane Cooper published a book called The New Guide to Knitting and Crochet (published by J.S. Cooper, Royal Marine Library, Marine Parade Hastings and Parry, Blenkarn and Co., London). She also suggests choosing colours in the shades of sable or chinchilla and sewing the cuffs together so they will look like they were knit double. In her 1849 book, The Comprehensive Knitting-Book (London, William Tegg and CO., Cheapside.. 1849), Esther Copley discusses various types of cuffs and how they were made. She provides a pattern for “Warm Double Cuffs — Sometimes known as Siberian Cuffs” (p. 164), the details of several different stitch patterns for the cuffs and also indicates that they are worked in the shades of sable or chinchilla.
So now I know that these types of cuffs were meant to be worn on top of the sleeves of a gown, add warmth and mimic the look of furs that were popular with royalty and the wealthy people at the time. I still don’t know whether Siberian refers to the origin of the furs being mimicked or the stitch itself.
My feeling is that the pattern provided by Miss Lambert is incomplete and the shading should be repeated in reverse to complete the effect. I didn`t expect to be doubting and deviating from the pattern on my first attempt at a Victorian knitting pattern but I think it needs to be done in order to have a usable piece of clothing at the end of the project. I will continue on by knitting the shades in reverse, casting off and assembling the cuff as indicated by Mrs. Gaugain, Ms. Cooper and Ms. Copley. Wish me luck!