A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Knitted Lace or Lace Knitting, Which Is It?

Now this question is sure to get different answers from different people, so I am referring you on at the outset to Sharon Miller, author of Heirloom Knitting. In her section on grading the patterns, she defines "knitted lace" as more complex patterns that have pattern changes every row, instead of a purl-across "rest" row. I learned of Sharon's book and fantastically elaborate website through the EZasPi Yahoo group, a large and prolific group of knitters who set up a list through their interest in Elizabeth Zimmerman's Pi Shawl pattern.

In late September, Marguerite posted a notice that the group was going to offer a free online workshop on Shetland Lace Knitting, taught by Liz Lovick. I was pulled in right away, even though I couldn't keep up on my current lists or my current projects. You see, I have been charmed by the romance of the Wedding Ring Shawls ever since I first read about them, back when I was in my early teens, from a copy of Mary Thomas' Knitting Book I had checked out of the library. In fact, in one of my many pattern folders, I still have the photocopied pages, which I used twelve or so years ago, when I made a circular shawl out of sport weight brown alpaca, incorporating traditional Shetland patterns. The Old Shell (also called Old Shale) pattern is still one of my favorites. That shawl could benefit from dampening and redressing out to its original dimensions... but it is still with me and I still love it.

Well, all of these romantic notions won't pay the bills, so I couldn't just go on a month-long retreat, take a vow of silence, and madly knit a Wedding Ring Shawl. I did sign on, and begin downloading Liz's files as she placed them in the group folder. I didn't desire yet another scarf, having made myself a beautiful diamond design one in deep garnet merino a few years back, and being the recipient of Marguerite's contest for the Backyard Leaves scarf in lettuce green this spring. I did think it would be fun to experiment with a few of the patterns Liz had posted for the scarf, though.

Since I was busy making washcloths for Cloths for Katrina, I used the Horseshoe lace pattern for a pink one.
This pattern is an intermediate-level one, as it allows a "rest" row of purling following each pattern row. More advanced patterns require you to be increasing and decreasing and chart-reading your way across each row.

This is another washcloth, made in the Chequered Acre pattern.
I had done one in Old Shale earlier, and mailed it off... washcloths are a great vehicle to try new patterns, and since you are working "at gauge" rather than the lacemaker's technique of using very fine yarns with a larger gauge needle, then "dressing" the finished lace by dampening, stretching, pinning, framing, even starching and ironing to accentuate the design, these cloths actually resemble the patterns pretty closely without any fuss. I loved Liz Lovick's quote in the workshop materials "Warning: As with all knitted lace, your piece will look scraggy until it is washed and stretched or ironed. Have faith!!"

This example is definitely lace knitting, the addition of a lacy element every tenth row, using yarn overs and decreases to create the holes...
However, it is still a lace knitting challenge, and a skill builder, as you are using very fine yarn on larger needles than usual.

The Shetland Lace Workshop is winding down, and I am trying to resist the pressure to feel bad, as many workshop participants are posting their contest entries, both small and grand, while I have only a few washcloths to show. I remind myself that just accessing information from the Internet does not automatically put me into competition with other knitters, that I knit for my own sake and at my own pace, and all this knowledge can be put to use when it best suits me, but I still feel a little pang or two at not having the time to sit down and turn out some fabulous lace creation.

With that thought in mind, I finally decided to get started on this pattern, so I carried the yarn around while I fiddled with a few hats (that story will be the subject of tomorrow's post "A Tale of Two Hats"), and then started it last night.

Does this really count as lace? I don't think so, even though Fiber Trends calls the pattern garter eyelet lace... it is a very easy 8-row pattern, with only 2 of those rows involving creating the eyelets, and it is designed to be a reversible narrow stole, increasing from a point to the midback at the neck, then decreasing to the other point. I will probably use it a lot, but it doesn't appear that it will need "dressing" like real knitted lace, to show off the pattern. Did you notice that I got myself another ebony circular needle, just to make this lovely scarf from the birthday gift alpaca Margene sent me?
I am enjoying the process of this lovely alpaca slipping through my hands, to the accompaniment of the clicking of the ebony needles, and am planning to make the Feather and Fan shawl from A Gathering of Lace later this winter, pushing myself into using a true laceweight after the warm-ups with fingering/sock and sport weight yarns. I just love lace....


Blogger Marguerite said...

That pink horseshoe lace washcloth is the prettiest washcloth I've ever seen.

Glad you're having fun with the Shetland Lace.

7:19 PM  
Blogger FaeryCrafty said...

Isn't lace fun! I just love it :)

7:25 PM  
Blogger margene said...

Does it really matter? As someone said to me, 'what makes her an expert and why do have to label it?' I think it's all a little confusing and silly. That said lace is pure process no matter the label and it is gorgeous knitting.
Enjoy knitting the alpaca and I can't wait to see you wearing it.

11:22 AM  
Blogger KnitNana said...

Feather & Fan! Ah, now you'll put me to shame AGAIN!!! ;) I wish I felt I could join you in this one, we could email progress back and forth, but alas, I'm committed to Kiri, to Diamond Fantasy, to Flower Basket, to Faroese, to Leaf Lace, to Peacock Feathers...I think there are at least 1-3 others...Oh yes, must finish Queen of Hearts (almost done!)
What IS this fascination with lace? It's gripped us both! And I truly should do as you, and make small samples as dishcloths - and even scarves...(Ostrich Plumes, Branching Out...)

8:34 AM  
Blogger Janis said...

Birdsong, this was quite an educational post. Thank you for so many examples. I did a double-take when I saw the eyelet mohair scarf because I have recently knit four nearly identical mohair scarves in different colors: three for holiday gifts and one for a charity gift. It sure is a fast and easy project - and the mohair, even when knit so airily is surprisingly warm!

8:33 PM  

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