BFL Yarn Loves Lace… try Old Shale!

Although I consider myself a “baby beginner knitter,” I love lace! I’m really fascinated by it; by knowing how to execute a few different kinds of stitches, you can create something so beautiful.

It’s not too bad, really… a few yarn overs, knit 2 or 3 togethers, slip slip knit, pass slipped stitch over, etc. If you can do these, you can knit some lace!

Bluefaced Leicester fiber spins up so wonderfully, and it has such great qualities as a yarn. It can spin very fine for lace knitting, if you want… or it can spin up so soft and airy in a sport weight, DK weight, or chunky weight. The yarns have great drape and feel.

No one says you must only knit lace with really tiny diameter “lace weight yarn”…. GO for the chunky stuff too! The effects are awesome! Lace weight yarns give you the gossamer, cobwebby beauty of traditional lace… but heavier weight yarns give lace a hip, modern look… really textural and interesting in its own way.

The easiest lace to start with is the very old traditional Shetland pattern, Old Shale. I have just discovered that Old Shale is technically NOT the same pattern as Feather & Fan, although for years I thought it was one in the same, with the names being used interchangeably. Old Shale is from “shael,” meaning “shell” in the Shetland dialect. It is also called Old Shell.

Visit this link for an excellent explanation of Old Shale, from Elizabeth Lovick on her website Northern Lace by Elizabeth Lovick, Fiber Life in Orkney (entry called Feather and Fan versus Old Shale, posted March 12, 2010.). She also explains about knitting the Old Shale pattern back and forth, in the round, or as an edging.

Winter is creeping up now in the Northern Hemisphere, and everywhere scarves, shawls, and wraps are popular… even in the warmer climates! Here in Texas, I’m seeing lots of cool-looking scarves coming out for winter. If you like to knit, spin up some BFL fiber or buy some BFL yarn and give lace a try! Try Old Shale if you never tried lace before.

Visit our Classifieds section to find BFL yarns and fiber for purchase.

The basic classic Old Shale (or Old Shell) pattern:

Work over a multiple of 18 sts + 2. This lace pattern has a 4 row repeat.

Row 1 (right side):  Knit across
Row 2: Stocking (or Stockinette) stitch across  (i.e., Purl across if you are working flat, or Knit across if working in the round)
Row 3: K1, *[K2 tog] 3 times, [yo, k1] 6 times, [k2 tog] 3 times, rep from * to last st, K1
Row 4: Reverse stocking stitch across  (i.e., Knit across if you are working flat, or Purl across if working in the round)

Old Shale is a scrunchy, soft pattern, with just the right amount of holes and texture for visual interest. It’s great for scarves, shawls, wraps, throws and afghans, baby blankets, and trims.

It’s great for beginners because once you get the easy 4 row repeat down, you can knit this pattern and still hold a conversation with your friends at the same time!

Lace Knitting Tip: Knitting lace in the more intricate patterns requires some concentration and no interruptions… and best practice is to insert a “life line” (a different color yarn run through every stitch on a row, like a stitch holder) through a completed perfect row.

Do it every so many rows in case you mess up some stitches. That way, if you do make a mistake, you can rip out your row(s) back down to your “life line” row, where you last left your “perfect” row of stitches.

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