I’m aware that crazy skinny yarn isn’t for everyone, but since March we’ve noticed an uptick in purchases of skinny yarn.
Maybe it’s the weather. As temperatures rise some knitters prefer not to have a big lapful of heavy wool. It may also be that with less time spent commuting and being social, more time is made available to focus on projects that call for greater attention to detail.
I’ve recently chatted with a few customers about why they are tackling big lace projects. Some have replied that lace is and always has been their jam. Some say they have more time to devote to knitting while staying home and they’ve always wanted to tackle a big hardcore lace project. One knitter mentioned that learning a new skill keeps her mind and hands busy. All of these make perfect sense to me.
The first time I fell hard for lace was when Victorian Lace Today was published in November of 2006. I had been knitting for just a year. This was in the pre-Ravelry days and I was on a list forum run by Amy Detjen. The author of VLT, Jane Sowerby, was also on the forum and was most gracious answering questions as I recall. This book still holds a special place in my knitting library, and I’ve poured over it numerous times. While it may be 15 years old the designs are still appealing, partly due to the beautiful setting and photographs. Add in that Ms. Sowerby also handspun a lot of the yarns for the patterns showcased and you can understand her love of the craft.
A few months later a friend asked if I had a copy of A Gathering of Lace by Meg Swansen. I fell hard again. Beautiful lace shawls in a wide array of shapes, socks, a tam, vests and tops all beautifully photographed. Who among us lace knitters has not dreamed of knitting Dale Long’s Shetland Tea Shawl? It is still on my Must Knit list.
While I’ve designed several shawls using Estonian lace techniques, I turned to the older Shetland lace a few years ago. Not only are they beautiful, but the traditional Shetland shawls are an interesting challenge. Generally, they are knitted lace, large, worked in very fine yarn, but it was the construction method that was intriguing to me. The very first one I saw in progress was at a meeting of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers, and Dyers we attended while we were there. A lovely older woman threw her in-progress shawl in the floor for me to see how the construction was done. Finally, I could wrap my head around the method as I crawled on my hands and knees spreading it out. I knew I had to knit one, so I designed the Applecross Highland Shawl.
You might have noticed I wrote knitted lace, not lace knitting. What’s the difference? Knitted lace has patterning on both sides of the fabric. Lace knitting has rest rows. I try not to get too caught up in the policing of knitting terms but anyone who has knit a shawl from cobweb, gossamer, or fine laceweight yarn with patterning on both sides of the fabric will let you know that there is a distinct difference. And they are correct. The patterns that call for the skinniest of yarns will knock your socks off, but not if they are knit in sock yarn.
For those of you who are jonesing to knit several large shawls from the traditional Shetland wool we have on hand a few 600+ gram cones of Jamieson & Smith cobweb in white. That’s approximately 9000-10,000 yards. It’s a sizeable cone that yields enough yarn for three maybe four large Shetland shawls. If you’re unlikely to undertake more than one shawl using 2500+ yards of cobweb yarn we also have a nice selection of Jamieson & Smith Shetland Supreme 1 ply cobweb balls (438 yards / 25 grams), J&S 2 ply Lace Weight yarn in a variety of colors (185 yards / 25 grams), our own hand-dyed North Pasture Alpaca in 5 packs (2450 yards / 225 grams), and of course Lost City Silk (1000 yards / 90 grams).
If you want to get your lace geek on, below are four books that I highly recommend. The last you can purchase from our website.
A Gathering of Lace by Meg Swansen published in April 2005 published by XRX Books (available from XRX or Schoolhouse Press) https://www.schoolhousepress.com/books/lace.html
Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby published in November 2006 by XRX Books Books (available from XRX or Schoolhouse Press) https://www.knittinguniverse.com/store/items
Shetland Lace by Gladys Amedro 1993 (out of print but sometimes available used on Amazon)
Gladys Amedro Vintage Lace Collection from Jamieson & Smith and available HERE.