Sunday, February 4, 2018

Godey's 1862 Opera Hood

Last Sunday night I cast on 90 stitches on a whim, wondering if I had enough green yarn leftover to make the contrast stripes from the 1862 Opera Hood from Godey's

I worked on it here and there over the week and since it is a basic pattern that alternates every 5 rows it was fast and mindless work. I worked on it more than doing any kind of sewing since I could put it down and pick it up whenever I needed and it made me feel like I was making progress on something! 

The instructions call for 9 finished stripes of magneta and 8 of white. For my version the green was used in place of the magneta and light grey in place of the white. All went without mishap until I was working on the 8th stripe of green. Thanks to a certain little kitty, who ruined a good few yards of this yarn early one morning by using the yarn ball as a toy, I ran completely out of yarn about 20 stitches too soon. I was determined to finish that 8th row, though, and unwilling to make the opera hood shorter than it was supposed to be. I ended up cutting off a few of the tails that I left when joining the grey to the green and piecing them to the yarn so I had enough to finish that last row. UGH. Not fun. 
Finished stripes, before blocking. 

After blocking. 
So I had only 8 stripes of green. I knit another grey stripe and so had 8 stripes of green and 8 of grey. I wished then that I had started the knitting with grey so as to have 9 stripes of grey and 8 of green. I came to the conclusion that I could add a little border to the top of the cap, to take the place of a knitted grey stripe. That way, I'd end up with 9 grey stripes. I added a shell border to the edge and I was pleased with the look. 

The last thing to do was to add ties. I hemmed the last of my light green silk into ribbon ties and fastened them to the gathered sides of the cap. I added a little bow of 3 loops at the top of the ties, as per the illustration of the similar Godey's 1858 Sortie Cap.  

Now, my finished hood does NOT perfectly represent the hood in the original pattern. For one thing, of course, the crocheted border is my own deviation from the instructions. But I found that the illustration shows 10 dark stripes and 9 light ones on the cap instead of the 9/8 it calls for in the written text. Oh well - a quirk? Perhaps the pattern assumed you would already have knit one light and dark stripe before starting to count the next 9 and 8. 

I'm still vastly pleased with my finished hood and think this is the one I will reach for most often when doing living history. It's warm, it's subdued, and it is more flattering, I think, than other styles of hoods and bonnets. 

I did discover while making this that I am knitting my stitches wrong! I have often had problems with items coming out a little bit small and now that I know I am making crossed stitches my problem is explained. 
 I hate doing full front photos since it always makes me feel awkward
and put on the spot, but I wanted to show how the hood looks from the direct front.
So often a design that looks one way from a side or back view looks so
different from the front. 
I struggled and struggled to teach myself to knit as a young teen, holing myself up in my bedroom for hours at a time and poring over a rather outdated knitting how-to book from the library. I still remember those baby blue aluminum knitting needles I bought back then! Haha. Knitting just *did not* make sense to me and it was months of trying here and there before I finally managed to figure it out. Or so I thought. I wrap my thread clockwise instead of counter clockwise, resulting in twisted stitches and garments that pull slightly and are a little small!

Good to know, though. Thanks to huge advances in information sharing since those years in the early 2000's I have a whole internet full of videos and step by step tutorials on how to make stitches the correct way. I'm very excited about making some more things and seeing how the new techniques work out for me!

My sewing this week was a bit underwhelming. Mainly patching jeans for the boys and making a set of new seersucker curtains for my 8 year olds room (and a matching pillowcase! there was just enough fabric for it). I ordered some linen for boys 1860's summer suits and that should come in this week. I have some modern stuff I want to do for daily wear which isn't as cool as historic clothing but still enjoyable to work on. 



  1. I like how wide your ties are! I want to make wider ties on my next hood, I think. (I'm making one for my mom at present.) I've done a couple with narrower ribbon, and one with crocheted ties. Not sure how accurate the crochet is, though. It looks reasonably authentic, but I haven't seen a pattern example of it.

  2. Sarah, I have been knitting for 60 years now and throw my yarn with my right hand. I have always wrapped my yarn clockwise with no issues. I will knit up a swatch to see how it looks going counter clockwise. Thanks for the info.

  3. That's precisely why I knit-what you said about being able to pick it up whenever and feel like you're making progress.Not only do you FEEL like you are, you are. It's real. I don't sew much anymore, but I do knit things that are usable and lovely and it feels so good to me to make something.
    I learned to knit same way as you, but thank goodness I didn't learn an incorrect technique...I'm just slow. I'd like to learn another way to hold everything that might work faster for me, but so far I've had no luck. I did just finish my first pair of socks ever-for the new baby so itty bitty ones-and I am so pleased.

  4. Also, the hood is lovely. It looks very well on you with your eyes.

  5. What size needles did you use?


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!