A Lace Knitting Challenge

Maikell Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia

I have a friend who knits the most beautiful lace shawls. One day I asked her where she wore them, and she said "Oh, wherever—usually to Alberson's and Costco, actually, because I don't go anywhere fancy." I loved that answer so much—what a great attitude. Another friend who's a beader employs the same philosophy: she wears her creations with dresses and sweatpants alike.

One of the reasons I've never attempted a lace shawl is for the very reason that I think I have nowhere to wear it, so I'm going to adopt my friends' attitudes and go for it!

My very favorite lace patterns are the Haapsalu lace knitting designs from Estonia, presented in Nancy Bush's wonderful book Knitted Lace of Estonia.

Normally, I wouldn't tackle this type of lace project because it just looks too hard—I've knit plenty of lace scarves and a couple of sweaters, but never an Estonian lace project. (And I've never knitted with actual lace-weight yarn alone—it seems so fragile!) But the new edition of Knitted Lace of Estonia contains a DVD (also sold separately), which really demystifies Estonian lace! And the yarn is tougher than I though, too.

As I was watching I kept thinking, "I can do that. That's not so hard. Oh, that's how you do that!" Nancy is a world-renowned teacher, and I can see why. She's got such a calm presence; it's obvious she's both a master knitter and a master teacher.

Now I know that Estonian lace isn't too hard for me, and I'll bet it's not too hard for you, either! I'm going to challenge myself to knit the Maikell Shawl, at left. I think this could be the project that keeps me company all fall and winter as I work on it between sweater projects.

It's made with the traditional Haapsalu construction method—the stitches for the center panel are cast on and worked to the desired length, then the stitches are bound off on the wrong side. The lace edge is then knitted in two parts, each of which is sewn separately onto the center panel. Nancy used a shawl she purchased in Haapsalu as her inspiration for this shawl design; to learn the details of this type of construction, she had many lessons during her visits to Estonia.

Even though it's a big project when it's done and blocked, as I'm working on it the shawl can be scrunched down into a little project bag and carried on my wrist—just like the knitters in Haapsalu do! In fact, lace shawl knitters say that the finest shawls can be passed through a wedding ring when they're finished. Now that's an exquisitely  fine shawl!

Instead of me blathering on and on about Knitted Lace of Estonia and the new DVD lesson, here's Nancy herself!

Want to join me in my challenge?Just choose a project from Knitted Lace of Estonia and get started!


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Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

11 thoughts on “A Lace Knitting Challenge

  1. I am working on the Leaf and Nupp Shawl with yarn I originally purchased for my mom. She was always cold; I then realized this fingering weight yarn wouldn’t work. Someone else will benefit from my “mistake”.

  2. My ultramarine blue Fountain Pen Shawl (IK Spring 2009, I believe) was the best thing I could have ever knit! I was unsure at first of where I would wear it but I wear it almost daily. It’s warm and cozy and looks very cool slung over my shoulders sort of off-center, like the model for the Fountain Pen. I made it from pure knitting desperation- I couldn’t afford yarn for a sweater but was bound and determined to make something big and warm. Laceweights are big bang for little buck…I fell in love and am now planning my second shawl 🙂

  3. I did knit this shawl for my wife – and substituted half of the nupps with beads – very lovely.

    I also knit a bridal veil for my daughter. it is approx. 80″ in diameter (circular) and made from silk thread – also with 4,900+ beads. And it does fit through a wedding band.


  4. Don’t be afraid to tackle this shawl, Kathleen. I just finished as a prayer shawl for a very dear friend. My nupps weren’t perfect to begin with but they got better as I went. It was a fun project.

  5. Speaking of Lace Knitting Challenges…did Classic Elite Yarn underestimate the bandwidth requirements of advertising on your website and offering a free pattern download through your newsletters? Because when I try to go to their site, all I get is a message that says:
    509 Bandwidth Limit Exceeded
    The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.

    Will this be resolved soon? Sure it’s not a Haapsalu lace shawl, but I’d like to knit the lovely Schooner…

  6. I have this book, but haven’t yet tried out any of the patterns as I’m currently trying out a lace chart I’ve done from a Russian pattern. The Estonian patterns are beautiful though.

  7. To SadaC:

    I downloaded the pattern just fine. It is lovely, and I love the larger gauge, too.

    Try accessing the site through a different browser that you tried before. I used Goggle Chrome and Explorer, and it worked in both of those. You might have a weird setting in your current browser that’s messing things up.

    Here’s the URL to the pattern on the Classic Elite site, too: http://www.classiceliteyarns.com/pdf/CEY_Schooner.pdf

    Good luck!


  8. Have ordered the DVD (already have the book). Thanks for offering it separately.

    Problem: None of the links in your email newsletter *ever* work! Very frustrating – using IE and Windows XP

  9. Just finished my first Estonia shawl and it turned out beautiful. I did the Madli’s pattern and used Alpaca with a Twist yarn. I was a little afraid at first, but now having done one, I am ready for more.

  10. I ordered the book/DVD by Nancy Bush … and know I’ll enjoy having it — whether I knit anything or not.

    Kathleen, thank you for all the information and help.

    How many of you are doing the Estonian lace challenge??

  11. I bought the DVD Knitted Lace of Estonian to be part of the Lace Challange.
    Inside front cover of DVD gives you a address on Knitting Daily to get the free pattern for the Lily of the Valley shawl It does not take me to it. Where can I find it .
    Im copying the link from the inside front jacket sleeve on case.