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Hester

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When Woolgirl asked me to design a capelet inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, I was intrigued by the idea of interpreting a Romantic novel in a knit that would be wearable and relevant to modern knitters. Although firmly rooted in the Puritan culture, Hester Prynne remains one of the most important and enigmatic female characters in American literature. Some call her the embodiment of deep contradictions - guilt and honesty, sin and holiness, sex and chastity – it is this schism of values that keeps Hester interesting to modern readers.

The novel is set in the 1600’s in Puritan Boston and at a first glance the Puritan fashion of that time may seem rather sober and uninteresting, with bland colors and without much ornamentation. However, beautiful lace and embroidered edgings were often found on clothes of wealthier men and women and on the special clothes reserved for church attendance. Hester’s love of ornamentation is evidenced from the beginning of the novel by the gold embellishment of the letter ‘A’ and by the fact that she supported herself and her daughter by doing embroidery work.

Capes of all shapes and sizes were an important part of everyone’s attire and I tried to imagine what sort of garment Hester would wear: smaller in scale and simple in shape, with just a touch of ornamentation. To start with, I added simple lace inserts to stockinette background and then added a few beads to the lace for interest. The lace also incorporates seed stitch for texture, which is echoed by the seed stitch border along the bottom edge. I used an I-cord along the front and a hidden closure at the front neck to maintain the capelet’s clean lines and to give it extra structure.

The Hester pattern is now available as Ravelry download.

This pattern was originally published as part of the Classic Writers (The Romantics) Knitting Club from Woolgirl in March 2012.

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