History of Lace: Shetland Lace Knitting

Before I start in about the topic as I have it titled, I want to say that I do knit and I do enjoy it, but not for the same reasons as I enjoy spinning.  Knitting for me has always been a means to an end. If I wanted a sweater that was unique, I would have to knit it myself.  The process of knitting has never thrilled me, but I still knit.  I believe that makes me a product knitter, correct?

Spinning, now that is a different story.  I love the WHOLE process of fiber, from helping out on shearing day to hand processing and spinning the fiber from which I picked right off the sheep.  There is something very basic and primal in it for me, very pre-industrial revolution.  We could call that old school, though it would be more like centuries-old school.

That said, I may have to back up and tell you that I am falling in LOVE with the process of lace knitting.  There is something about the way the pattern works itself with numbers and it becomes a new and interesting journey through each row.  There is nothing dismissive about working a lace row. You must be alert and attentive to each ssk, k2tog, or yo.  If you take your eye off the road for one moment, you will find yourself lost in the forest of missed stitches and dropped yarn overs, then tinking your way to back get on the road again.  Most knitters would call that a challenge, I call it an exhilarating joy ride with wool.

My Shetland Lace Knitting class was a success.  The instructor, Gudrun Johnston, was excellent in her style of teaching, giving a bit of history behind the Shetland lace as the 10 students in class worked to finish the first part of the mini shawl in garter stitch.  As Kathy Cadigan described it, “It was aces.”  So very true.

It felt natural and easy to knit the rows, read the chart, and follow the concept of the first stitch being a yarn over.  It just fascinated me that by doing a yarn over at the beginning of each odd row that these beautiful loops formed for later picking up for the next section of the shawl.  In my mind it was brilliant and that is when I knew I was hooked.

It has only been a handful of days since the class and the completion of my sweet little shawl, though enough time that I started on the Homin Shawl by Gudrun Johnston as my next lace project.


I wonder why, after all of these years of knitting, that I now crave more information on this lace. I want to know it all, the how, what, why and which sheep.  Who were the folks behind those knitting pins, working away on the delicate yarns to create the most beautiful of knitted pieces?

I hope to share with you what I find along the way in my search for more information.

To start off, I want to share the KBTH Lace Virtual Conference PDF, dated March 2006, “The Same, but Different: Shetland Lace in a European Context by Elizabeth Lovick.  Grab a cup of tea and spend a few minutes reading the presentation. Not only does it give you some history and terminology, but insight to motifs and patterns as well.


My rearranged workstation board.

Happy lace knitting.


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