You’ve probably figured out by now, even if you’re new here, that I like history. And textiles. And in particular, textile history.
Several years ago, back near the start of this blog, I lived in Italy for a brief period while studying textile conservation. While there, I developed a keen interest in the burial stockings of Eleonora di Toledo, and began a project to reconstruct them as part of my thesis.
My studies abroad ended before the reconstruction did, and now that I’m in a slightly better position in terms of access to yarn, I’d like to have another go at it. My goal is to create two pairs–one that is as precise a replica as I can make, and another that is wearable using modern techniques (because I am not 4’9″ and 90lbs fully dressed in court garb).
What I need help with is this: Some time ago, the Italian state produced a website (archiviomedici.costume-textiles.com) with thousands of photos of the conservation of the burial garments. Unfortunately, that site is no longer available. I was able to track it down using the Way Back Machine, but they didn’t have any of the photos archived.
I have tried emailing Palazzo Pitti, which currently houses the collection, but they are closed and I don’t know if anyone is monitoring their email, or if they will bother replying to an English message with badly translated Italian.
I have scoured the internet, downloaded dozens of papers, but I still can’t find the key information I need. Specifically, this:
- the gauge the socks are knit at (stitches per inch/cm)
- The dimensions of the stockings (length of toe, foot, heel, and calf; diameter of foot and calf)
- Specific construction information. I have found various sources that say the stockings were knit flat with some kind of strange origami at the heel before being sewn along the bottom of the foot. However, I haven’t found reliable sources that specify how this was done, and to me, this doesn’t make sense as circular knitting was known long before flat knitting, so why make socks for someone that rich more uncomfortable?
I have tried reaching out on Twitter to no avail, so if anyone has any contacts in the museum community who can help me out, please let me know. In part I’m creating this post so that I have someplace static to link back to with my questions, but I would love it if anyone has access to photos that weren’t taken through glass, or that aren’t grainy. I think the objects are currently in storage while the gallery undergoes some renovation, so I would be especially excited if I could contact a member of the conservation team to ask questions and get specific photographs.
Thank you in advance for any help you can offer! You can leave comments below, or contact me at KnotMagickKnitter (at) Gmail (dot) com, subject line: Eleonora Stockings.
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