My dear reader, over the past year I have endeavored to create a historical wardrobe to wear everyday based upon the fashions of the 1890’s through to the 1900’s. This of course has been a slow process, but one that I have greatly enjoyed! At this point, I am ready to add a very sensible staple piece to my wardrobe, a black wool walking skirt.
In the 1890’s, you can see shift in the ‘ideal silhouette’ from the protruding bustle skirts to the puffed sleeved bodices, nipped-in-waist, and bell-shaped skirts. This was to be the era of readily available ready-to-wear clothing, female independence, the New Woman, bicycles, sports wear, the Gibson Girl, and new technologies. In essence, this was a transitional decade from the rigidity of the Victorian era to the New Century. (Franklin, 2019)
With more women joining the workforce and engaged in athletic activities at the turn of the century, these women needed an outfit that was practical, comfortable, and casual to wear. This gave rise to the skirt and shirtwaist (blouse) combination. As we look at this ensemble with our modern sense of what we deem as comfortable and practical, a long, full skirt doesn’t appear to fit the bill. However, for these women transitioning away from the bustles and hoops of the previous decades, wearing a skirt that doesn’t require either (except for some light padding to support the weight of the pleats or gathers in the back of the skirt) is very practical indeed! Not to mention, the hemline of the skirt could either be at a fashionable full length or up to ankle length for practicality.
In the middle of 2020 we made the decision to move our small family back to Illinois to be closer to family during the pandemic. We were thrilled to find this old farmhouse in the countryside built about 1903. The summer and fall were splendid as we got to know our knew home. I baked an apple pie using the apples from our apple tree to celebrate the autumn equinox and made a jar of blackberry jam using the berries I harvested from our blackberry bushes. And now winter has settled in and we are experiencing our first bout of cold weather in our new home.
We have learned quickly that our windows are a bit drafty and certain rooms are a bit colder than the others, depending upon which side of the house the wind is blowing on. In our small family, it appears that I am the only one who gets cold rather easily; our daughter is as warm blooded as her papa! Having a cooler house during the winter doesn’t bother me too much because I can put all of my knitted goodies to good use during this time of the year. However, my hands and my fingers tend to freeze, even when the rest of me is bundled up! To help keep my hands warm while I go about my daily tasks, I’ve decided to knit up a pair of muffatees.
Muffatees is a tube of fabric sewn up the side with a hole left open for your thumb. This can be made of warm cloth or it can be easily knit up. After browsing the interwebs, I was eventually led to The Workwoman’s Guide by A Lady for a pattern to make a pair of muffatees. This manual, first published in 1838, contains “Instructions to the inexperienced in cutting out and completing those articles of wearing apparel, &c., which are usually made at home; also, explanations on upholstery, straw-platting, bonnet-making, knitting, &c.” In it I was able to find several different patterns for knitting a pair of muffatees.
Below I will include an image of the original instructions and my interpretation of the pattern to suit my needs. This pattern is great for any beginner knitters and I will provide optional pattern designs too.