Catherine Macaulay

I’ve finished three more pairs of “Bluestockings” socks recently, and for some reason I’ve had trouble getting around to blogging about any of them. Maybe it’s the gorgeous weather outside, or the getting ready to go on vacation in six days… the same weather that has made these portable projects just perfect for this summer. But here we are, and I’ll make a little effort.

The second half of June saw me knitting these socks, named “Catherine Macaulay” after the famous lady historian.

This is the one Bluestocking featured in the series so far whom I have actually heard of. It was in reading (well, listening to) the novel The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow. This book was truly excellent. It belongs to the wide body of glorified fan-fiction surrounding Pride and Prejudice, arguably the most popular novel of all time. I’ve read a few other works under this label, and many of them were just weak echoes of the story, attempts to spend more time in the same world without offering any new interpretations on the well-known events therein. The Other Bennet Sister was completely different. It went through the events of the novel, but dug into some of those speculations that fans of the novels must have, and opened them a little wider. It speculated on some of the weaknesses and limitations of favorite characters. And that was only the first part of the novel; it went far beyond with new ideas and speculations, all of which felt very grounded as a historical novel rather than pretending to be regency-era fiction. Best of all, I thought I called the ending in the first few chapters, and I was dead wrong. I love that.

The novel is about Mary Bennet, and includes a good deal about her own self-education in her father’s library. Her favorite author, it turns out is Catherine Macaulay. In the eighteenth century, she wrote a multi-volume history of the British empire from a more reforming perspective than the Tory establishment. She was brave, she did excellent work, and she published as a woman. Mary Bennet, trying to find a place in the world as a plain young woman with intellectual interests, idolized her. I dream of attempting to read Macaulay’s works myself, though this is likely vanity.

I chose to knit these socks for a man. I decided whom the first pair, “Elizabeth Montagu,” would go to, and these would be for that person’s spouse. The yarn was the same – Ranco from Araucania – so it’s nice for them to go together. Said man having probably large-ish feet, knitting them took approximately forever. The pattern has rest rows, but it is a bit fiddly – more so even than the fancy lace pattern on the Montagus. I had to weigh out my yarn carefully to make sure I wasn’t making the legs too long.

This stitch pattern itself is rather interesting. The small lines cabled stitches don’t cross over in the middle. So, depending on the yarn different people use, and how tight the socks are, the pattern might look more like diamonds or more like zig-zags. I think these look more like diamonds. Either way, the pattern seemed appropriately unisex.

Thanks to my husband for modeling these on a cold June day. His were the biggest feet available to me, though still too small for these monster socks. I hope someone likes them at Christmas time.

All right, gotta go catch up on sleep. More laundry and packing await me on the morrow.


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