Friday, May 20, 2011

Trying to figure out garters

As I said, the only thing I knew about garters was a brief glance at what I thought was Eleonora of Toledo's garters in PoF4. Turns out those aren't even garters. They are explained to be silk ties for her hands in the coffin according to The Cultural World of Eleanora di Toledo, Duchess of Florence and Sienna by Konrad Eisenbichler. Instead, I found this pair of plaid pink and green garters done in sprang. It's rather nifty that you can see the ends of the top one curling and twisting in the corkscrew that is one of the hallmarks of sprang. They are Italian and dated between 1575 and 1600. The time and place are perfect and even the color is right to go with my green stockings and pink drawers. The only problem is my sprang skills are in their infancy.

I own Peter Collingwood's book, The Techniques of Sprang: Plaiting on Stretched Threads and I've done a couple of very small samples but that's about the extent of my experience. In skimming Collingwood, it appears that the garters are probably done with double twist interlinking with a warp of two colors. (Page 98 if you're following along.) There's also a stripe in there. Really beautiful. Not something I think I'm capable of yet. Really, really tempting to try however. That's the reason I so rarely finish things as I tend to go off in some new research direction and want to learn a new skill. Doing the authentic garters is going to have to go in the same compartment as doing the embroidered needlecase. Something to try later. It would actually be a perfect project for Kingdom Arts and Sciences next year or possibly the following year.

Just as an added interesting tidbit, did you know George Washington wore sprang sashes in many of his portraits? 18th century military sashes were commonly made from sprang. I was fascinated when I first ran across that information in Collingwood. If you know about sprang at all its normally in reference to Iron Age hairnets so realizing that it was still popular that recently is sort of a jolt.

Sprang garters aren't going to happen, so I went looking for other options. Thanks to Larsdatter I ran across this great pair of either Italian or Spanish 17th century knitted garters with birds, hearts, flowers and figures patterned in. It also has fabulous tassels. The sprang pair has tassels as well, with some gilt hardware. That's some really detailed colorwork in fine silk thread with itty bitty needles. Not sure that will happen either but it has given me some ideas. Basically what needs to happen is a fancy narrow ware of some kind. I've done fingerloop braiding and a variety of other types of braids, plaits, and weaves. Something has got to be both fast and fancy, even if I just embroider a thick twill tape or something similar. I also definitely want tassels.


  1. I massively <3 those knitted garters!!! (And I agree - tassels are a must.....)

  2. The red knitted ones are seriously charming. I especially like the shaping that makes the ties thinner. The sort of notch probably helps keep them tied. I'm becoming more and more tempted to make them work. Probably can't do something quite that complex, but I should be able to pull off a motif or two.