Friday, 9 November 2007

Shetland Lace

Not sure how it's got to be 9th November already! I've finished knitting and grafting my Arctic Lace scarf but am waiting to wash and stretch it until I've completed another scarf, as it's just as easy to do two as one.

The new scarf is from Sarah Don's book The Art of Shetland Lace, in new shale pattern. This book, which is sadly out of print, is a treasure trove of the traditional lace patterns of the Shetland Isles. It can be quite difficult to use, though, because all the patterns are written out and inevitably there are one or two mistakes. I'm longing to try some of the more complicated patterns, such as Rose Lace, and Hexagon with Spider Pattern, but long lines of instructions such as K4, *O, T, K15, T, O, K1. Rep. from * to last 4 sts, O, K4 etc. etc. are rather daunting. I'm thinking about charting these patterns to make them easier to knit. Never thought I'd be saying that: until this year I was pretty anti-chart but Donna Druchunas' book Arctic Lace has convinced me otherwise. They definitely make lace knitting easier, like bamboo needles!

For this scarf I'm experimenting with different colours using Jamieson's Ultra: traditional Mogit (a mid-brown) for the background with stripes in yellow, Natural white, Sholmit grey and blue. The coloured stripes work really well as they create lovely wavy lines across the fabric. I've changed the pattern a bit to make a longer scarf which I think will suit the open lace design - this one is knitted on 4 mm needles rather than the more usual 3.25 or 3.75 mm.

There's something very special about these Shetland patterns, their long history and the way they reflect the landscape they come from. I've been lucky enough to visit Shetland twice this year, once in January and again in June. Watching waves break onto the beautiful long sandy beaches at St Ninian's Bay it's easy to see where the inspiration for traditional patterns like Print O' the Wave, Horseshoe, and Old Shale came from. The finest lace was knitted on very thin knitting needles called "wires" and a shawl could fit through a wedding ring. There is a lovely tradition in which the two mothers of an engaged couple would knit separate pieces that would be grafted together just before the wedding. It's great that these patterns can be adapted for modern use now that lace is fashionable again.