05 September 2009 @ 08:31 pm
I know there are a few people on my friends list who have read Patrick O'Brian's novels about Stephen Maturin and Jack Aubrey. They are, quite frankly, absolutely delightful, as well as being dramatic and thoughtful and never ever lazily written. They are a superb series.

Stephen Maturin is a doctor, and so a deeply scientific man. He's also a spy and Irish and speaks Gaelic (among a dozen other languages) and has a strangely developed sense of compassion mixed with worldliness -- Stephen Maturin may, in fact, exist in four dimensions, rather than the usual three. Thus he is, on the whole, rather strange. I don't even think you could say that he marches to the beat of a different drum, because I don't think he marches to the beat of a drum at all. Stephen marches to the beat of . . . good lord, a barometer, maybe. The clink of dissection pins as they fall into a metal basin. A drum? That would be pedestrian.

So, what does this have to do with knitting? In Post Captain, Stephen appears in this rather perplexing garment, of which he is intensely proud, but of which everybody else is . . . well, certainly not proud. Confused, maybe. Amused. Horrified. Jack Aubrey refers to it as "subhuman" and "that vile thing". The Garment is brown, knitted, and covers Stephen from neck to ankle. It's like a union suit, but singularly ugly. It allows him to retract his head into the collar like a turtle, and was knit according to Stephen's design by another character in the series. Stephen describes it as:

"My wool garment? You have noticed it, have you? I had forgot, or I should have pointed it out. Have you ever seen anything so deeply rational?"

Deeply rational. No wonder Stephen is so enthused!

He also assures Jack that he is having one made for him. Fortunately for Jack, it never comes to be.

A Raveler, Knit1805, has been working on a recreation of the garment for a (one assumes) willing volunteer. She's discussing the process thoroughly on her blog, as well with many other very lovely historic knitting projects. She talks about it from her very first post, but the next post has more detail, and really shows The Garment in its full horror. She's also been talking about it Lesser of Two Needles, the Aubrey-Maturin series group on Ravelry. Unfortunately, you have to be a Ravelry member to read those posts. Here is one of the threads.

I cannot wait to see the final product. I expect it to be absolutely breathtaking, if only because it is, in fact, the most deeply rational garment I have ever seen.