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.

Spinning: Crafting your own supplies!

Knitting hats, jumpers, mittens, and socks are what most knitters take on as projects.  What about lace knitting?  Shetland lace knitting to be exact.

I signed up for a Shetland Lace knitting class taught by Gudrun Johnston at Tolt Yarn and Wool, Carnation, WA, that happens tomorrow.  The lovely ladies at Tolt Yarn and Wool mentioned the class to me when I had stopped in last month on my way to visit the kids up at college.  I thanked them for the information, made my purchase and went on my way.

A few days later, after pondering the class, I rang them up to see if there were any spots left. Indeed there was and I signed up for the class.

Last weekend I decided since I did not buy any lace or fingering weight yarn per the class supply list, that I would spin my own yarn.  I did and I think it will do just fine.


A very full bobbin of plied wool.  I spun the singles on my Jensen while watching many episodes of Dr. Who.   I spent a few hours over two nights plying the singles on my Hansen eSpinner.

IMG_3187 665 yards 2-ply merino, fingering weight.

Let’s hope that I learn some good lace knitting tips and tricks tomorrow.

History Makers: Tames Alan

Today was Lace Day for the Lacemakers of Puget Sound.  It was held at the Kent Commons – Green River room, Kent, Washington.  It was a lovely presentation.

Tames Alan is a performer and historical consultant living in Washington.  She has about 25 presentations available and today she presented From the Streets of Shakespeare to the Court of Elizabeth.

Tames Alan 1

Here she talks of the daily life of a lower middle class woman.  Between costumes, she took a few minutes to answer any questions.  Of course, I had to ask about the fabric of the clothing they wore during this period.  Wool or wool/linen.  I want to know more because I cannot imagine everyone had a weaving loom within their cottage to clothe their family.  Tames said as a lower middle class woman, you would have two shifts.  One you wore for the first six days of the week and on Sunday, when you attended church services, you wore your second one that was to be clean or you would be fined.  Very little clothing, very poor conditions.  Fleas, vermin, bed bugs, eck!  You bathed twice in your life then, once when born and the other time when you were married, but that was more of a sprinkling.  They wore caps to keep their head warm since their hair fell out due to not bathing.  They were afraid that they would die from bathing since they would have to do so in the river and it was contaminated with waste.  I would have taken my chances by collecting rainwater and boiling it in my one kettle.

Then she changed into the following attire in front of us, always wearing the white shift.

Tames Alan 2

You would wear 14 skirts with your clothing weighing in around 80 pounds.  She told us of the conditions of the time and it made me thankful that I live when I do.

It was a wonderful performance.  Please check out her website, Living History Lectures to learn more.


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