1840 bosom friend

Yesterday I mentioned that I had  been working on a knitting project all Christmas afternoon.  I did finish it and this is my post about it.

It is called a bosom friend.  I got the pattern from the Dreamstress (http://thedreamstress.com/). She in turn got it from a women’s publication called the 1840 Workwoman’s Guide, which gives complete instructions for a knitted bosom scarf:

Set on your pin seventy stitches, and knit in imitation knitting for about 100 rows, when knit twenty-five stitches for the next row, after which take another pin and fasten off the next twenty stitches, the knit the next twenty-five stitches on another pin.

Continue knitting the twenty-five stitches on one pin in the same stitch, fastening off one stitch at the beginning and the end of each row, next to the middle, which forms the hollowing round the neck .  When the stitches are reduced to four fasten off.

Do the same with the other pin containing twenty-five stitches, and fasten off.

Sew white ribbon to the corners to hang it round the neck.

Some persons do not hollow out bosom friends, but knit them square or oblong.

There was considerable debate on the dreamstress’ blog over what was meant by imitation knitting.  Based on the pattern prior to this one, it was decided the pattern was k1, p1, k1, p1, repeated to the end of the row.  The next row was p1, k1, p1, k1 repeated to the end of the row.  These two rows were repeated through out the project.

What alternating and staggered knit purl looks like.

The first of the two intentions of the bosom buddy was to keep a ladies “girls” warm.  This pattern effectively creates a waffle texture with the little dents holding in the heat.  The second intension was to help the ladies who were lacking in the bosom department (scandalous!)  I think this pattern would add some bulk.

 
When making this I used Lion Brand Yarn which is 100% wool and medium weight.  I chose the natural color.  I set on my pins (4.5 mm needles or size 7 needles) 70 stitches (cast on 70 stitches) and I knit in the pattern for 100 rows. 
 

knitting at about the 80th row

 Once the 100 rows are complete you knit the first 25 stitches of the 101 row in pattern.

knit in pattern the next 25 stitches

The next part of the instructions talks about using other needles but I didn’t need to.  Maybe our needles are longer? Anyway, on the same needles I cast off 20 stitches.

20 stitches cast off

 On the remaining stitches, knit in pattern for each row.  Decrease one stitch on each row at the edge nearest the cast off stitches.

Perhaps you can see the gentle slope on part on right hand side.

Continue in this manner until you have four stitches left.

Down to 4 stitches

This is where the pattern tells you to cast off.  But I have a big neck and thought adding a bit of length would help.  So I added 8 rows with the four stitches then I cast off.

My extra 8 rows.

In hind site, that extra 8 rows made no difference.  I could have gotten the same effect by making sure my ribbon was long enough.  I cut off the wool once my casting off was done and reattached near the 20 cast off stitches on the other side.

Reattached wool

I did the same thing to this side as to the other side so that they mirrored each other. I then attached lengths of ribbon to the ends.  I chose a narrower ribbon as I figured the lady may not have wanted to advertise she was using such devices to enhance her figure.  The whole thing would have been discretely hidden under her clothes.  I suppose a larger bow peeking out at the back of the neck would have been pretty as well.

Ties attached.

It does look a bit like a bib.  I’m guessing it wasn’t intended to be seen so it doesn’t matter.  I don’t have a 1840s outfit to show this with.  Thank you Dreamstress…now you’ve made sure I must have another dress on my to-do list!  My 1895 dinner gown is on my dress form so I slipped it on to that.  (Totally wrong era I know….)  On an open neck evening gown you would see part of the friend.  Once the lady arrived at the party, it would be easy enough to remove. 

The bosom friend on Trudy

 I would think that for daytime wear, it would go on under the clothes and there it would remain until the dress came off.  A lady would choose to wear it if she intended to be in a cold place all day or if she was willing to be hot all day in favor of looking more endowed.   False advertising if you will.

I had a devil of a time getting that thing not to buckle up in the front and to lay flat.  (Perhaps I need to block the thing…) I got it so for the picture by not tieing the ribbons tight.  I had to force myself to think outside of my new millennium box (which is freezing in Canada) and not try to get that wool all around my neck.  When I loosened the ribbon I found the wool “padded” the shoulders of Trudy giving her a more sloped shoulder than I’m used to. Then I recalled, there was an era that liked that sloped shoulder look.  Any experts out there able to confirm that for the 1840’s?  Also, my next big project is an 1850s dress.  Anyone know if ladies would have worn this in the 50s?  I’m thinking a middle-aged woman might have (which is what I am). 
 
That’s all for today.  Enjoy your Boxing Day folks.  I haven’t decided on tomorrows topic yet so you will have to wait and see.

2 thoughts on “1840 bosom friend

  1. Oh yay! It’s great to see it made up!

    Interesting that you noted the slope-shouldered effect. The 1830s and 1840s were definitely the slope-shouldered era – just check out this 1837 engraving of Queen Victoria: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victoria1837Engraving.jpg

    I’ve not found a post 1840 mention of bosom friends, though I imagine older women would have worn them. They definitely were used earlier than 1840 though, so you could wear it with a Regency dress if you have one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s