LACE FOR ALL SEASONS
Written by Rosemary Eribé
There comes a time for many ladies, when even the thought of warm knitwear brings on perspiration! My new theory, based on observation, is that knitted lace could have been invented by women to lessen this “overheating” problem that occurs at a certain time in life. I find that lightweight lace in 100% merino wool absorbs moisture, is naturally stretchy and so comfortable worn either as a base layer or for looking smart. I now own two lace cardigans that I wear almost daily throughout the year and in all weathers. They are my firm favourites due to their comfort, durability and self-cleaning. After airing, they do not smell! The ERIBÉ lace garments and shawls are knitted in the finest merino wool spun in Italy for softness and lightness. Our inspiration comes from The Shetland Islands where they handknit lace shawls in Shetland yarn calling them ‘haps” Our own intricate “Happs” cardigans and pullovers feature 6 lace patterns intertwined together. If you look closely you will notice we have been inspired by feathers and leaves, just like the Shetland knitters who drew on the nature that surrounded them and translated them into stitches.
A brief History of Lace:
Lace has been hand knit in Scotland for hundreds of years. It began with women who worked from their homes, often in small cottages or even whilst out walking. Their challenge was to firstly spin the often coarse wool in order to make it fine enough to make these delicate and elaborate large shawls. Young women spent time learning how to spin and knit in preparation for making their own lace to be used for their anticipated wedding and then later, to wrap their babies in. Eventually, lace knitting was mechanised and used for interiors as well as underwear due to its unique structure that traps air which adds insulation and warmth. The city of Dundee became an important machine manufacturer of lace and Scotland still produces beautiful traditional lace. Here is an example of an amazing lace manufacturer based in Ayrshire: www.mybtextiles.com. Take a look at some of their gorgeous collections!
The lace technique consists of elaborate hand knitted openwork, made on two needles using 1 or 2 ply yarn. The patterns used in Shetland lace were inspired by nature: beach shells, fishing nets, flowers and feathers and translated into lace patterns. The Shetland knitting was so delicate, it was said that a Wedding Shawl, made from a million stitches, could be drawn through a wedding ring. The first and most important step was to evenly hand spin as fine as possibly. Ideally using the softest wool from a lamb’s breast, where the wool is newest and finest.
Lace knitting is not as difficult as people may think! No special technique is involved. Anyone who can knit basic stitches can try lace. The most common and easiest to knit lace structure is stocking stitch-based. This is where the patterning takes place only on the first knit (right side) row. The second and all even rows are purl-based. When the eyelets (holes) are arranged diagonally and are adjacent to a decrease which follows the same diagonal direction, the space between the holes is spanned by a herringbone cross link of 2 strands. This is known as "faggoting" and is one of the most open styles of pattern.
For those of you who would like to learn more about Shetland lace knitting today, why not read this blog by Sheila Fowlie: http://www.shetlandlaceshawls.co.uk/blog/. Sheila is an expert lace knitter on the Shetland Islands. If you would like to have a go at learning how to knit lace vist https://kcguild.org.uk/sharing-knowledge/lace-knitting/lace-knitting-beginners/.
See below an example of Sheila Fowlie's work, this beautiful rose lace patterned shawl