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The Art of Knitted Lace

Apr 16, 2014

What is it about lace that captivates and intrigues us? It's light and delicate, charming and ladylike. In short, it's beautiful.


Detail of the Old Shale border on Evelyn A. Clark's elegant square shawl

Máire Treanor's Clones lace
crocheted christening bonnet
For me, lace knitting is the height of accomplishment. In theory, knitting lace is simply combining increases and decreases to create a pattern with yarn, but really, it's much more than that.

Knitting lace creates a connection with all of the lace knitters from the past. According to the Lace Guild, what we now think of as lace started appearing in the early 1500s. Just think of the hours that women have spent creating lace; from the famed Venetian lacemakers to the knitters, crocheters, tatters, and bobbin lace makers of today, there have been people creating this beautiful artform for centuries.

The new issue of PieceWork magazine is devoted to the love of lace. Here's Editor Jeane Hutchins to tell you all about it.

Magnificent Lace

Since the September/October 1993 issue, some 200 articles and projects on lace have appeared in PieceWork, and two issues devoted solely to lace—January/February 2001 and July/August 2005—predated the launching of our annual special lace issues. Welcome to the seventh of these annual tributes to the gossamer delight!

The following excerpt from Jules Kliot's "The Enigma of Lace" (January/February 2001) captures the spell that lace has cast over so many throughout the ages:

Lace was not an isolated creation, it was the expression of artists; it was the challenge for the botanist, who developed the finest of all linen plants; it was the challenge for the technicians who learned to spin the finest of threads; it was the challenge for the pattern maker to make the intricate pierced patterns, carefully planning the course of every thread and deciding the placement of every stitch (numbering into the hundreds for every square inch); and it was the challenge for the lacemaker who put it all together into the glorious pieces destined for the courts of kings and the messengers of God.

In this issue, you'll discover lace traditions from England, Ireland, Italy, Russia, India, America, and Japan. Articles and projects cover knitted, tatted (both needle and shuttle), crocheted, and bobbin lace.

Isabella Campagnol's "Invisible Lacemakers" takes you to Venetian monasteries in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, where nuns (and even some repenting prostitutes) produced exquisite lace. Isabella notes, "Monastic authorities encouraged the practice of needlework for the acclaim that it bestowed on the monastery, because it offered purpose to the nuns' otherwise dull existence, and, not least, for the profits derived from the sale of its lace, which were essential in maintaining the monasteries." Just one more illustration of the powers of lace.

Queen Victoria's Lace Stockings
by Debbie O'Neill
Lace as a means of survival is the focus of Christopher Phillips's "Victoria's Passion," as he relates how the queen's commissions for lace from localities that had fallen on hard times "often provided income that was much welcomed." These royal commissions extended throughout the United Kingdom even as far as Malta, an island nation in the Mediterranean that was part of the British Empire from 1800 to 1964. Whatever the form of lace—bobbin, needle, knitted, or crocheted—Victoria championed them all.

Enjoy this special issue. I hope it will make you want to wrap yourself up in lace!

And be sure to subscribe to PieceWork so you don't miss any upcoming special issues like this one.

P.S. What's your favorite type of lace pattern to knit? Leave a comment and tell us!

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doire wrote
on Apr 21, 2014 6:24 PM

I'm a novice with lace to be sure, but agree with Moni7 re combining leaves and lace and socks. Have you seen the gorgeous sock pattern in The Knitter;s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes???  She combines them both!!  I've knitted these socks 2x using luscious Swan's Island yarn. Hope you enjoy this link. Click on the book and you can flip thru the pattern.

ddipsy wrote
on Apr 20, 2014 5:31 PM

I have two favorite kinds of  knitting lace patterns.  The first is an overall slightly layerd & round bottomed pattern.  I make christening gowns with this pattern.  It is continuous one inch high  lace with each pattern being caught  at the above completed pattern (ergo, layered.)    My next favorite is making lace squares with a cross in the middle.  I then join the squares to make an alter covering.  I top it off with a lace edge of the gregorian era.

cwg wrote
on Apr 16, 2014 9:41 PM

it's interesting that you comment "think of the hours that women have spent creating lace."  In fact, for many years -- until the modern age, in fact -- knitting was a "man only" production. It was a guild, to which women were excluded.

And even today men, such as I, spend many hours and weeks producing very intricate lacework.

Moni7 wrote
on Apr 16, 2014 12:36 PM

My favorite type of lace pattern to knit is leaves. It was the first type of lace my mom taught me to knit 35+ years ago. Even now, when I look through patterns, I always seem to go for the lace ones before cable. And what a joy to have lace with cable, even better!