I love lace for several reasons. It can look spectacular, whilst also being surprisingly warm. You often get about twice the size of project for the yarn and knitting time invested (although there is a serious uptick in the amount of concentration required). You can also bust the budget on the yarn, because if you’re using laceweight you can get so much in one skein that you can knit a whole shawl from it, so it doesn’t seem remotely unreasonable to spend £25 or so on a skein.
At the extreme end you get the amazing wedding-ring shawls which are knitted in a weight of yarn called – entirely appropriately – cobweb-weight. They’re called wedding ring shawls because they are so fine that the whole shawl can be passed through a wedding ring. These are true heirloom pieces – not exactly grab-one-from-the-shelf-as-you-nip-to-the-corner-shop type wraps. I’ve got a cone of this weight of yarn sitting in my stash, which has been there since about 2008 when I first started lace-knitting. For comparison, this is the cobweb-weight sitting next to some ‘normal’ laceweight, which is already pretty skinny:
I’m working up to knitting something from this. When I make a shawl I most often chart the patterns from scratch myself, but this stuff deserves the best pattern I can manage. There’s a pattern in Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Lace called The Unst Lace Shawl and this yarn’s earmarked for that. Possibly by the time the Eldest Daughter is old enough to inherit it, I’ll have made her an heirloom.
So these are some of my lace projects, in no particular order…
First ever baby shawl
This one went to Best Friend In Australia and was the first shawl I knitted. I didn’t really know much about shawl construction at this point and the ancient Patons pattern I used was very much a beginner’s pattern. It was knitted in the extremely-forgiving Patons Fairytale 2ply and was constructed in the traditional ‘hap’ form (which I’ve used a lot since) of a central panel, then knitted-outwards borders that increase at the corners, then a knitted-on edging around the outside. You can see that there is a hard edge around the central panel where I used a firm (rather than temporary) cast-on and also did not know about slipping edge stitches to make picking-up easier.
Feather-and-fan cot blanket
This one also went to Australia! Feather and fan is a classic lace pattern – you can do it either in stocking stitch or with a ridge of garter stitch. It pulls the edges of the shawl or blanket into a nice scalloped shape. I did it in stripes, for some reason that at this distance I cannot fathom.
Leaf and trellis stole
This was my first ‘proper’ lace – from Jane Sowerby’s excellent book Victorian Lace. I’d do a couple of things differently now – I’d probably knit it on slightly smaller needles so it has more density and I’d add another repeat to the centre so it’s more of a stole than a scarf. But it wasn’t bad for a first attempt.
Horseshoe cot blanket
This is another one I made up using a traditional pattern (this one from Heirloom Lace). The pattern is horseshoe, and the before and after pictures show the difference blocking can make to lace.
Field of flowers shawl
Named for its central pattern, this shawl features one of the traditional baby blanket motifs – the tree of life. (It was also the very first thing I ever blogged about.) I somewhat regretted the frilled edging I plumped for, as by the time I reached the end of the frill, each round had 2,800 stitches and was taking about 90 minutes. It was my first attempt at designing a hap shawl myself and charting a lace pattern for a border.
Candlelight shawl for baby 1
Again named for its central pattern, this one was a further improvement over the Field of Flowers shawl in that I did a proper knitted-on edging. I didn’t get to grips so well with fitting the motifs into the border-space though, so there are some awkward half-trees at the corners. Although I don’t have a ‘hard’ edge at the line between the central panel and the border, it’s not quite as defined as I would like it to be. There are also a few too many repeats of the border at the corners – you have to have a bit extra so there’s enough to go round the corner but the bunching shows there are too many.
I used the feather-and-fan pattern again for this cashmere scarf for my mother-in-law. This time I used the ‘razorshell’ style, which has one row of garter-stitch creating a ridge across the pattern. The thing I was most happy about, though, was that it was a bit short for a scarf when I finished it, but blocking got another 11″ out of it.
Catspaw shawl for baby 3
(yes, baby 2 missed out… He got this instead)
Definitely my best hap shawl to date. The transition from centre to border is well-marked but not hard-edged. The patterns fit well within the border and there are a good number of them. Blogged here as well. I’m quite proud of this one, actually. Apparently I never got around to blogging the finished article, so here it is.
Beaded Pi shawl
This was A Pig. No two ways about it. It started life as a sampler shawl – another of the projects from Jane Sowerby’s excellent Victorian Lace Today, but as became clear horribly late in proceedings (ie after I had knitted the entire – enormous and tedious – centre section and got most of the way through the border) I did not have enough yarn to finish it. A mistake due to some basic maths that there is no excuse for. So it was rewound. Then it became destined to be a Pi shawl, which itself had to be restarted half a dozen times because I could not get to grips with the central circular cast-on. However, we got there in the end. I have never properly blocked or worn it. If I ever do get around to wearing it I will post pictures.
And finally, the Alpine Lace shawl
This is also from Victorian Lace today. It was going quite well until I made a mistake, then made a mistake that compounded the original mistake by an order of magnitude, then made a third mistake that multiplied both by about a googolplex. It is now a ball of yarn again. However, I plan to reknit it using the same pattern because I really do ever so like it, but am treating myself to a new needle to do it with. The KnitPro circular needles have a little hole that is very handy for using to pull a lifeline through the yarn. I am telling myself that this will make all the difference.