Category Archives: Lacy Scarf


Thank you to everyone who wrote to say that they liked the level of detail in these posts. I blush a bit. I’m writing a blog that I’d find interesting to read. But my mom’s main point is taken – not every post need be essay length. I’ll try to make things a bit more readable, perhaps splitting longer thoughts over two or more days.

Lacy Scarf

I ran into a temporary snag on the lacy scarf pattern, but I think I’ve beaten the problem.

I chose a bunch of texture patterns thatI thought would lookgood together. Lots of play among them on diamonds and sharp diagonals. My idea was to knit a pattern panel at each end of the scarf, and use a simpler, coordinating pattern between them for the scarf body, with the entire piece trimmed with a killer edging.

I drafted up my patterns, and swatched each one. Here’s where the mistake came in. I’ve got**just enough**yarn with no chance of getting more, so I swatched each pattern in turn by itself, ripping back and re-using the yarn between swatches. Each looked great on its own, so I cast on and began the piece as a whole. End pattern #1 worked fine. The welted eyelet divider looked fine. But the simpler plain diamond pattern for the scarf body was wrong, wrong, wrong. The proportions of the diamonds just didn’t fit the proportions of the end pattern. They fought, and the piece looked way too busy.

So in a Wile E.Coyote moment, it was back to the drawing board. I decided to go with a contrasting pattern/texture. I had played with the rick-rack rib stitch in the Zen scarf pattern. It looked nice enough in a large gauge, but the texture didn’t really come out. I decided to play with it some more. I separated each column of the zig-zag by a column of p1, k1, p1. I like the look and I think that it’s enough different from the first panel to stand on its own:

Thinking on the edging I’ve graphed out, I think am going to have the same problem. I’ll scout around today to see if I can find something narrower that has a coordinating presentation.

The yarn is wonderful. It’s a hand-spun super-soft Merino wool, labeled as laceweight, but actually closer to fingering. (I’ll add a yarn review after the project is finished and blocked). It’s fromGreenwood Hill Farm, asmall producer here in Massachusetts, and is my souvenier from this year’s Gore Place Sheepshearing Festival. It’s a rustic-looking two-ply yarn in that there are thick and thin/tightly spun and looser spun, fluffysections on each ply. This makes a very informal feeling bit of lacy knitting – snuggly rather than crisp. (You can see some o the slubby, puffy sections in the piece above – look at the top corner of the top leftmost diamond.) It knits up evenly, there’s none of the kinking back on itself I’ve found in some other small-production hand-spun yarns. One minor annoyance – there was quite a bit of tiny, sharp vegetable fragments in the first third of my skein – about one thorn or spriglet every two inches. I understand the logistical problems/economics ofwhy these shards remain.I don’t expect this type of sheep-to-knitterenterprise to produce pristine yarn; but it’s a minor pain to keep the tweezers on hand to pull out the stickers as one knits. In spite of the rustic look and occasional tiny thorn, thisyarn slides like butter and feels like a cloud. It’s the absolute poster-child for non-itchy natural Merino. I’ve got about 400 yards, enough for a very short overlap style inside-the-coat scarf (as opposed to a wrap-around-the-neck grand scarf). If it performs as I expect it will, I’ll be trying out their sport weight real soon.

Another departure from my original idea: At first, I was going to work this scarf like I didmy Kombu Scarf – starting with a strip of edging, picking up along its spine, then working the edgings at the same time as the scarf body. I decided to work it differently this time, just for the sake of the challenge.

I am going to knit the entire center strip, end to end. Then starting in the scarf’s center (the part usually at the back of the neck), I’ll knit on the edging. I willcalculate the length of each edgingrepeat, so I should be able to work in an even number to the corner. If the edging I end up using is narrow and flexibleenough, I might be able towrap the corner easily, working an extra iteration on the cornerto avoid cupping. If it ends up being too wide for that I think I’ll try mitering the corner with short-rowsto makea nice, finished end. Remember,both approaches are"in theory." I’m not quite sure how I’ll go aboutthe cornersyet. In the mean time, I’ll just keep knitting the center strip.


The past two days’ posts aside, I have been making progress on bothmy lacy scarf andmy fulled pillow. Knitting on the pillow is almost done. I’ve got maybe one more evening of garter stitch left. This weekend I intend on fulling it when I do laundry. I’m rushing a bit on it because I want to be sure to be able to full it completely before I have to leave this washing machine behind (it was a negotiated sacrifice in my house sale). I’m afraid the older hand-me-down machine at the new house might not be up to the challenge.

On the lacy scarf, I’ve finished re-graphing the patterns I intend on trying out. I’m working on modifying them a bit so that they play off each other better. I’m also narrowing the edging by either messing with or eliminating the double column of faggotting shown in the pattern original.

For those new to the term, faggotting is a true lace knitting stitch, in whichincreases and decreases occuron every row (as opposed to a lacy knitting stitch, in which rowscontaining increases and decreases alternate with plain knitted or purled rows). One common form of this effect when worked in the flat takes only two stitches and two rows for the entire repeat. Row 1 would be an endless repeat of the (YO, SSK) unit. The accompanying Row 2 would be an endless repeat of (YO P2tog).

So? Why is it called "faggotting" anyway? [Warning. This is a Kim-theory, so go chip yourself an enormous grain of salt before reading on.]

It’s not immediately evident why the name stuck to this particular knitting texture stitch.In historical usage, faggots are bundles of sticks – especially twiggy sticks used as kindling or cheap firewood. Nothing much looks bundledif you examine justknitted pieces. But if you look at those pieces in in the context of other needlework contemporary to the Great Whitework Cotton Knitting Craze of the mid to late 1800s the reasoning is pretty clear.

Withdrawn thread embroidery was one of those contemporaryneedlework styles. Commonly used for hemming or decorative insertions, it can range from the pretty simple to the amazingly complex. The sampler below shows several withdrawn thread patterns spanning several different substyles (the lacy white-on-white bits). Disclaimer and attribution: this sampler isn’t my own work, it’s a piece in the collection of the National Academy of Needle Artsthat I found doing a Google image search. I didn’t find a more exact attribution on their website for it. Great work though!

The topthree little bands on the sampler are the most widely known and used forms of the technique. The others, while nifty aren’t as often seen. The two most common names for this substyle that includes the top three are "Italian Hemstitching" and "Faggotting." The multicolor bands are double running stitch (aka Holbein Stitch or Spanish Stitch).

You can see in the openwork bandsthat the horizontal threads of the linen groundweresnipped at the left and right, then teased out. The cut ends were secured with stitches, usually before any cutting took place. The remaining vertical threads were bundled tightly with tiny hemming stitches that tie the fabric threads together like little bunches of sticks. In the more complex forms on this sampler, these bundleswere further embellished with threads woven in among them, orwere subdivided and/or twisted by additional stitching.

The second strip of the sampler with it’s running VVVVVs is the most interesting one for knitters. Compare the zig-zag pattern of one often-seen type ofknitted faggotting:

The zig-zags produced by faggotting in knitting mimic thegroups of verticalscreatedin withdrawn thread hemstitching. That’s where the bundle idea came in, andfrom where I believe the knitting stitchborrowed its name. This snippet is excerpted from Lewis’ Knitting Lace, p. 146 (Yow! I just saw the used bookprice. Ineed to update my insuranceto cover my library!)


Having finished the poncho yesterday, I scuff around with what little yarn remains here in the house (my stash being stowed in the storage cubby pending our upcoming move.)

At theGore Place SheepshearingFestival last month I bought two skeins of hand-spunfine gaugeMerinofrom Greenwood Hill Farm. Each is around200 yards so I have about 400 yardstotal. In my opinion it’s more like a light fingering weight than a truelace weight. I bought them with a lacy scarf in mind. No pattern in particular. I thought I’d noodle out one on my own.

I’ve decided to make a piece with two fancy ends, a rather plain but coordinating lacy middle, andtrimmed all the way around with a killer edging.

I swatched on several size needles, and decided I liked the way that lacy stitches felt when knit on a US #6. (That’s an argument that this stuff is trulyfingering weight, because I like lace weight knit on #3s.) Gauge is hard to estimate because I haven’t decided on pattern stitches yet, but I’m not worried about making a scarf fit. The various lacypatterns I played with worked up at between 5.5 and 5 stitches per inch, so I know roughly how wide a pattern I should be looking for to make a scarf of around 5 inches in diameter.

To that end I started paging through some of my knitting books and stitch dictionaries today. I found several things that had elements I liked. First, I found a wide diamond band in Lewis’ Knitting Lace (pattern #42). Nice wide diamond frames, filled with a smaller diamond pattern in the center. It’s a 12-stitch repeat, with 2 stitches before and one stitch after the end repeats. That’s 15 total for one repeat. Narrow, but I’m planning on adding an edging.

To complement the diamond pattern, I’m looking at a couple of simple lace grounds. Right now the leading candidate is a mini leaf pattern from Walker 1 (p.215, #3 in the set), but I’m not sure it will work out. I’d like to use a divider to set this pattern off from the diamonds. I’ve always liked a plain row of YO, K2tog framed by garter stitch welts.

Finally we get to the killer edging. I’m looking at Heirloom Knitting by Miller, the Victorian Zigzag Edging on p. 125. That’s a WIDE piece as written – 20 stitches at cast-on, widening to 26. I might have to eliminate some of the openwork on the attachment side to slim it down some.

The next step is to swatch a bit with each of the given patterns. Before I do that however, I’m going to redraft them using a uniform symbol set and put all the patterns I intend to try out on one sheet of paper. It’s easy enough to adapt to each book’s ideosyncratic style of stitch representation, but it’s a pain to switch gears between systems and flop all those heavyvolumes around while I’m knitting.

I give no guarantee that this process will lead to an Actual Design. I begin two or three of these for every one that ends up as an on-the-needles project.

In the mean time just to have something mindless on the needles for last night’s and tonight’s weekend sofa movies, I took my other Sheepshearing Festival acquisition and cast on for another felted pillow similar to the one I did in Manos del Uruguaywool. This one is also done in the rustic Nick’s Meadow Farm yarn I’ve mentioned before. The pale blue, light moss green, and light butter yellow skeins together cost less than one skein of Manos.

The movies that accompany this excercise in autopilot garter stitch? Last night it was Master and Commander. Tonight it’s John Cleese in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. If you like either adventure stories or Jane Austin, you’ll enjoy the series of books from which the former was adapted. The movies skipped over the whole drawing-room/social manners side of O’Brian’s books, especially the rivalries in love that divide the two lead characters. As for the Shrew – it’s so non-PC it’s over the top, but it’s also one of my favorite plays. I’m really looking forward to seeing Cleese as Petruchio, and finding out how the actors cast as Katherine and Grumio stand up to him.

Back to knitting. Thumbing through my stitch books I lighted againupon Indian Cross Stitch (Walker I, p. 112), a variant on enlongated stitches. I used itinmy Suede T. It seems that in just the past three months, I’ve seen elongated stitches, including this oneand Seafoam (Walker II, p. 21 ) all over the place,including the latest Interweave Knits and Knitters, Berroco’s patterns, and Lana Grossa’s patterns. Given the long lead time of both magazine and yarn makers’ pattern development cycles, it’s always interesting to see the same idea hit multiple sources at the same time. Shadow knitting cropped up in parallel issues of IK and Knitters a while back. Lacy knitting featuring lily of the valley-inspired textures is another recurring theme (IK led the pack with Forest Path last summer).

About the only explanations for this parallelism I can come up withare that the designing knitting community is quite small; some things are natural fits (elongated stitches work well with ribbons, ribbons are hot right now); and many designers draw inspiration from the same fashion industry sources (deconstructed/slashed looks were big on the runways two seasons ago, and it takes a season or two for runway ideas to percolate into retailknitting patterns.)

So far most sources talk about doing the elongated stitches do them with the multiple wrap method. Can a revival of Condo Knittingbe far behind?

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