I recently found a reasonably priced copy of a very interesting book
This is the first volume of Jane Gaugain’s Lady’s Assistant, in the 1842 edition. I have been intrigued by Gaugain for a while. I read about her a few years ago in Richard Rutt’s History of Handknitting as well as, more recently, in Jane Sowerby’s book on Victorian Lace. Gaugain popularised knitting and crochet among Britain’s middling and upper ranks, devising a unique system of pattern notation. The class politics of the Lady’s Assistant are very interesting indeed, as is the focus on elegance, rather than speed. . .
Despite the groundbreaking nature of Gaugain’s work — her Lady’s Assistant went through 22 editions — not much is known about her, or, indeed about the popularity of knitting in mid-nineteenth century Edinburgh (where Gaugain lived. . . and so do I). Gaugain ran a large shop on George Street, then (as now) a prestigious spot in the New Town, where she sold notions and yarn, as well as teaching knitting, netting and crochet. So anyway, I intend to spend some quality time with Gaugain and (as if I didn’t have enough to do) have set meself a wee project to retrace her Edinburgh steps, check out some of her techniques and patterns, and explore, in more general terms the culture of knitting in middle class, mid-nineteenth century Edinburgh. More of all this soon. . .