Shetland Lace Knitting

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Shetland Lace Knitting is a particular style of knitting that developed in the Shetland Islands and was one of the main exports of the Island during the early part of the last century.  The work of the very talented knitters of the Shetlands is world renown and still very popular to this day.

Fine Shetland Lace is knitted from specific area of the fleece produced on the Islands and it usually very fine, the wool has a beautiful halo and is very soft.  The majority of knitting stitch patterns are worked on a garter stitch base so the shawls do tend to be reversible (i.e., they look good on both sides rather than having one 'right' side). 

Unblocked Lace Knitting Little Secret by A Passion For Lace (on Ravelrey)

© Knitting Naturally | Alice Maud Stole

Shetland Lace Knitting is Kind of a Family Thing for me...

There are several different styles of lace knitting, because of my family background my favourite style is Shetland lace knitting (my Grandfather was a Shetlander).  This knitting style is characterised by very fine wool - preferably wool spun from the neck of Shetland sheep if you are a purist and most stitch patterns are knit rows - no purl rows.

Shetland lace knitting techniques are used to create beautifully fine baby shawls (that will fit through a wedding ring), wedding shawls or veils, haps and stoles and scarves. 

"A Hap is essentially a wrap which is used to keep you warm, of course they come in many shapes and sizes but traditional Shetland Haps are square with a centre panel, a patterned surround (usually feather and fan lace) and an edging."

Jamieson and Smith Blog

Traditionally Shetland Lace is knitted on long straight needles (the tradition began before circular needles become readily available) and often the knitter will use a knitting belt or a knitting stick and long double pointed needles so that they can work on their knitting as they move (walk) around the Island.  

These knitting tools also enable the Shetland knitters to knit incredibly fast (three or four stitches per second). Believe me, I am nowhere near that fast!

Most of the Shetland Lace knitting that I do is with relatively fine wool - 2 ply from an Australian supplier or finer yarns that I purchase from overseas suppliers with listings on Etsy or eBay.  

I also buy some lovely fine wool (2/30) from in the UK and of course if you want real shetland wool, you can't go past Jamieson and Smith in the Shetlands.

Shetland Lace Knitting Patterns

If you are looking for Shetland Lace patterns Ravelry is a good source for patterns by modern designers, and you will find quite a few listings for pdf versions of old published patterns from the 1940s, 50s and 60s on Etsy.  Some have written instructions only, some have knitting charts only  and some will have both.

The type of pattern you use will come down to personal preference. I used to prefer written instructions until I started experimenting with this style of knitting.  When you are working a complicated true lace pattern over 10 to 20 (or more) rows where every row is a pattern row and all of them are different to all the others  you very quickly see the value of knitting from a chart!

Usually if a pattern I want to knit is not charted, I will create one from the written instructions.

© Knitting Naturally | My Alice Maud Chart

The stitch pattern I used in the stole pictured above is quite old, it was created for a shawl that was given to Queen Victoria for one of her daughters.  Before I started knitting I charted the pattern using Excel and printed it out (the chart in the pattern I had was too small for me to see clearly on a train) and then laminated it so that I could take it with me and knit from in on the way to work.

This particular stitch pattern is worked over 36 stitches and 20 rows, and each row is different.  It is firmly stuck in my head now but I still need the chart if I get a bit lost or if I am starting a new piece and need to remind myself how the establishment rows are worked.

© Knitting Naturally | My Knitting

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