1846 Lace Mystery

I’ve mentioned before my latest inspiration to learn to knit lace.  One day I spent searching all over Ravelry for knitted lace patterns, and was surprised that there was almost nothing.  I know it must be possible, and was commonly done, because I’ve read in Victorian and Edwardian novels about ladies knitting lace, but sadly, today, crochet seems to dominate the practice.

I did at last find something satisfactory, called “1846 Point Lace Edging” and was pleased to find that the lady who had created the pattern had gotten it out of a book called Knitting, Crochet, And Netting, With Twelve Illustrations on Project Gutenberg.

As soon as I got some satisfactory yarn, I cast-on and began trying the pattern.

However (and this is probably my fault) I could not get it to work.  It begins with “cast-on 17 sts” and yet the first line of knitting only has 15!  After failing with it for awhile, I thought I might look on Ravelry for errata and found a link to her blog post about the pattern.

On her blog, she wrote that she had knitted up the original pattern, which looks like this:

Pins No. 19, boar’s head cotton 34, cast on 15 stitches.

1st row—Knit 2, make 1, (knit 2 together twice,) make 1, knit 1, make 1, knit 2 together, knit 2, make 1, knit 1, make 1, knit 3.

2nd row—Make 1, knit 2 together, knit 1, make 1, knit 3, make 1, knit 3 together, make 1, knit 3, make 1, knit 2 together, knit 1, make 1, knit 2 together.

3rd row—Knit 2, make 1, knit 2 together, make 1, knit 2 together, knit 1, knit 2 together, make 1, knit 1, make 1, knit 2 together, knit 2, make 1, knit 4.

ect.  (the pattern continues).

It was a puzzle, because when knitted back-and-forth according to how modern folks would read the pattern, it turns out awful and muddled, and not lace at all.  She couldn’t figure it out, and so created her own pattern sort of based on what the original pattern was.

This absolutely intrigued me…a puzzle!  A mystery!  I immediately had a theory I wanted to test out – all the lace patterns I’ve knitted into various garments always have a row of purling (or knit if in the round) between the lace rows.  Could this old pattern have assumed the knitter knew to purl back every other row?

Having translated so many recipes from the 1930’s French cookbook, I know that old instructions assume WAY more knowledge and freedom of thought than modern ones, where people trust that they will be properly led and guided every step of the way (preferably with pictures, or perhaps a youtube video).

I had to test my theory.  I was visiting with a couple of friends, and in the midst of an intense discussion on abortion rights and the miracle of life, I knitted up the pattern several times.

It seemed to work out, actually, only on row 11 (or maybe it was row 9…I’ve forgotten now) there was a problem.  You end up with the wrong number of stitches to continue. 

My friend, at one point, commented on how I kept frogging it, and so I told her about the puzzle, and how hard it was to find knitted lace patterns.  She answered me by holding up a crochet hook.

“But I don’t know how to crochet!” I told her.  She said that was silly, because there are so many youtube videos showing you how.  So I had to admit that actually I was enjoying solving the mystery.

When I got home, I wrote the pattern up into graph paper, and added what was missing from the erroneous row.  Actually the pattern knitted up fine after that.  It wasn’t quite as pretty as the lace pattern on Ravelry, but it did work out.  Curious to test it out again, I tried the next pattern in the same book, called “Scallop Edging.”

It also worked out until row 13, where you end up with two extra stitches.  Also the pattern is not so clear as it tells you to simply repeat rows where you have more stitches than the row you are repeating, and it is an odd number.  It’s not a big deal, but it isn’t clear how to center the yarn overs (which I assumed was what was meant by “make 1”).

I drew this pattern onto graph paper as well, and made the necessary corrections.  I knitted it out several times so far, as you can see, although it really needs blocked properly before I can show off the pattern.

If I have time (this is a very big IF) I will try to write up the corrected pattern to share next week.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lucky Day says:

    Puzzles are great. I hope to not snuff out my children's love of puzzles and mystery.


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