Godey’s Lady’s Book – 1855 – Top February, Bottom December – One a Reticule, One a Work-Basket
On a recent flipping through of the 1855 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book , I came across first the image of a crochet reticule, the an image of a work-basket. Flipping back and forth, the illustrated similarities were obvious. All I could think was “Thanks Godey’s. This is going to cause some new researcher quite the bit of confusion.”
The directions confirm both the reticule and the work-basket have a cardboard structure. In the case of the reticule, it is covered in crochet satin cord, trimmed in satin ribbon quilled or ruched. The work-basket has a cardboard bottom, that is covered with satin on the exterior, wadded satin on the interior. The sides being a “filet“, which appears to be a chenille covered wire frame. This piece, too, is trimmed with a ruche of quilled ribbon at the top. Both are lined.
Lady’s Reticule. – Crochet.
(see Plate on page 104.)
Materials. – Fourteen yards cerise satin cord, two and a half yards satin ribbon, three-quarters of an inch wide, to match, yard saranet, a small piece of cardboard, and three skeins of coarse black crochet silk; also two yards of fine cord, gold, cerise, and black.
With the crochet silk work on the end of the satin cord thus: * 1 sc over the cord, 1 ch, *; repeat until half a yard is done, then close it round, and work on it, holding the satin cord in, * 1 sc, 1 ch, * all round, until the whole of the cord is used; then cover a bit of card-board three inches wide, and long enough to fit the bag, with sarsnet on both sides; and put a piece of silk at the top, with runnings for strings. The silk, as well as the lower part of the bag, should be lined, and a quilling of ribbon of ribbon put at the top and bottom of the crochet work, to finish it. Box-plaiting is the best way of doing this ribbon, and the fancy cord is run in the centre, to hide the stitches.
A Christmas Gift.
(See Blue Plate in front of Book.)
Materials. – A single strip of filet* forms the sides of the basket, the wires of which must be previously covered by chenille, twisted closely round them. To the outside of this the filet is sewed at the top and bottom, and the ends joined at one of the wires. A piece of card-board, covered with silk on one side, and with wadded satin on the other, forms the bottom. A fancy cord, of a color to correspond with those of the embroidery, covers the sewing of filet; and a ruche of quilled ribbon, with a gold thread laid on in the centre, trims the top.
This is a good time to talk about wording – In modern conversation, we often use the word “reticule” to mean the equivalant of a modern carryall purse. This causes some confusion about what a purse is and what a bag is. A purse has a specific purpose. A purse carries coin money. A Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language in 1850 defines a “reticule” as “A small work-bag, or net; reticle. – in a telescope, a net-work dividing the field of view into a series of small, equal squares.” and a “reticle” as “a small net; a bag; a reticule.” A reticule/reticle is a small bag for carrying things*. A work-bag has a specific purpose. A work-bag carries sewing and needle-work items.
Looking at the dictionary definition, we could surmise that the above reticule is actually a work-bag.
*As a bag for carrying, reticules were an accessory of popularity in the Regency era when skirts were slim. In the 1840s and 1850s, skirts had long since regained their volume, making room for pockets, both as a separate accessory and attached directly to skirts. The need, even the desire for a reticule subsided.