There are patterns for knitted miser’s purses that go back at least to the 1840’s. I think the earliest knitting book I’ve read is from the 1840’s, and nearly every one that I’ve read from then through the 1890’s has at least one pattern for one. They’re not usually called miser’s purses, though; usually it’s simply “purse” or sometimes “long purse.”
There are patterns for purses knit flat and patterns for purses knit in the round. As of 1849, Esther Copley was advising that it was much easier to knit them in the round in The Comprehensive Knitting Book
, which is one of my favorites. The pattern in Butterick’s The Art of Knitting
of 1892 is given in the round but gives the option to knit it flat and sew it up as well.
There are patterns for purses knit with beads. These are mostly regularly spaced individual beads or small motifs, or they have little loops of beads. There are patterns for crocheted purses that have a lot more beads and much more intricate and even pictorial patterns.
What I have not found is a pattern for a purse knit in the round with beads. In the patterns I’ve read that have beads, the beads are added in a purl row. A purl stitch is worked, a bead is brought up close to the needle on the working yarn, and another purl stitch is worked. This makes it easy to add the beads. It is not, however, conducive to working in the round where stocking stitch is done without purling. The only place I think I’ve seen plain knitting with beads is in Jane Gauguin’s 1847 book The Lady’s Work Book
There are modern references for knitting with beads that have methods where you place a bead in front of a slipped stitch or where you knit a stitch by pushing the bead through the previous stitch, but I haven’t seen any period information about them. Jane Gauguin comes the closest, but I don’t find where she says anything about pushing the bead through the stitch in the row below.
From my own experimentation with the push the bead through the stitch below method, I’ve determined a couple of things. First, the beads stay on the surface of the fabric much better if you knit the stitch above a beaded stitch (in the next row) through the back loop. Knitting in the regular way seems to make the bead shift into and out of the fabric quite a bit. Sometimes they like to nearly disappear. Knitting through the back loop seems to keep them reliably on the surface so they don’t slide to the wrong side. Second, it’s not fun to try to bead a solid area when knitting stockinette in the round. The crochet patterns do it regularly, but it’s not much fun getting a bead through a stitch that already has a bead on it, particularly when knitting through the back loop. The size 11/0 beads are bigger than the #30 cotton, 4/0 needle stitches too, which made it look messy. In a brief search, I couldn’t find any design hints for designing beading patterns that suggested leaving plain rows between beaded rows, but it seems like a good recommendation. I notice that most of the patterns I’ve seen do leave plain rows. The only exception I know of off-hand is the knitted star bag that koshka_the_cat
did, but it’s just one bead so it wouldn’t be too bad.
I’ve noted among museum pieces most of the ones dated to the 1880’s are round on both ends and the earlier ones are rounded on one end and squared on the other. There are some interesting ones that are like two mini-purses that are held together with a group of strings. I don’t know if either of those was a fad, but the 1892 book I’ve used a fair bit has one square end and one rounded end, but that book is full of patterns that were originally published elsewhere going back at least as far as 1877.
Now the practical bit – what am I going to do? I like knitting in the round, and I want to do my beads with the push the bead through the stitch below method. I also found a really cute crocheted purse with a shamrock pattern on it. It’s got a star at one end and an interesting fringe thing at the other end.
I’ve charted it, allowing a plain row after each beaded row, and have a spool of green silk beading cord and a flock of gilt seed beads. Last night I started stringing the beads. Tonight I should be able to finish stringing the beads, and I’m hoping I’ll have enough time to cast on and start knitting. I’m really excited about the project right now, and I’m planning to let myself work on it tonight and tomorrow night then get back to my petticoat ruffles on Friday.
Of course, I haven’t read all the knitting pattern books there are or were so there may be more information that I haven’t come across yet. Feel free to take my opinions and observations with a grain of salt. I’d love to hear if anyone has more information.