Lace Knitting: Borders

Lace borders might seem really old-fashioned, but to me they're absolutely beautiful and a wonderful use of a knitter's time and effort.

The drawing at right, Vandyke Border, was taken from Weldon's Practical Knitter, How to Knit Useful Articles for Ladies, Gentlemen & Children. In an effort to bring needlework to the emerging middle class, Weldon's, a British paper pattern company of the Victorian era, began to publish monthly newsletters devoted to various crafts (beading, knitting, crochet, patchwork, and the like). These newsletters were typically 14 pages and cost 2 pence. Later, they were collected into book form, titled Weldon's Practical Needlework.


Weldon's is full of seemingly old-fashioned knitting patterns, but in reality, it's an invaluable resource for historical patterns that can be knit and worn today just as well as they could in the

My great-gramma used to practice tatting, making yards and yards of fabulous lace borders. She sewed them onto hankies, pillowcases, slips, petticoats, and anything else she wanted to pretty up a bit. The beautiful Vandyke Border reminds me of those lovely lace borders. The pattern is below, but there are a few things to note before you start knitting.

1. Weldon's Practical Knitter expected you to know some stuff about knitting! There are no measurements, gauge requirements, yarn suggestions, or needle sizes noted. The pattern does mention "cotton" in the third sentence, though, and since this is a lace pattern, perhaps crochet cotton or laceweight cotton or linen would work. My great-gramma's borders were all knit with cotton, so it seems a good bet. Whatever yarn you choose, start with needles a little bigger than the yarn calls for, as you usually do when knitting a lace pattern, and then swatch to see how it looks.

2. Like the border is cast on on the left edge and knitted sideways, which is pretty common for borders, and in my opinion, it's a better way to do this because you don't have to cast on a bazillion stitches. Those Victorians were pretty smart.

3. I love the chain-stitch edge described at the beginning of the pattern. Basically you slip 1 with yarn in front at the beginning of every odd row. I know that this does make a nice border because I use used it in a scarf I just finished.

4. All of the even rows are supposed to be knit "plain." Hmm. Looking at the illustration, "plain" looks to be garter stitch. You can see the garter ridges at the top of the illustration. Pretty!

Here's the pattern, exactly as written in Weldon's Practical Knitter:

Vandyke Border.

Cast on 15 stitches. Knit 1 plain row. When directed to slip a stitch insert the needle with the cotton to the front as if about to purl, and pass the cotton to the back before knitting the second stitch; this produces a nice chain-like edge along the top of the border. 1st pattern row—Slip 1, knit 4, make 1 and knit 2 together four times, make 1, knit 2. 2nd row—Plain. 3rd row—Slip 1, knit 5, make 1 and knit 2 together four times, make 1, knit 2. 4th row—Plain. 5th row—Slip 1, knit 6, make one and knit 2 together four times, make 1, knit 2. 6th row—Plain. 7th row—Slip 1, knit 7, make 1 and knit 2 together four times, make 1, knit 2. 8th row—Plain. 9th row—slip 1, knit 5, knit 2 together, make 1 and knit 2 together five times, knit 1.10th row—Plain. 11th row—slip 1, knit 4, knit 2 together, make 1 and knit 2 together five time, knit 1. 12th row—Plain. 13th row—Slip 1, knit 3, knit 2 together, make 1 and knit 2 together five times, knit 1. 14th row—Plain. 15th row—Slip 1, knit2, knit 2 together, make 1 and knit 2 together five times, knit 1. 16th row—Plain. Repeat from the first row for the length required.

If I were you, I'd copy and paste the pattern into a Word doc or something and put spaces between each row! Much easier to read, yes?

Here's the link to a chart that vintage knitting expert Laurie Sundstrom worked up for you; it's really helpful!

I love the idea of making lace-trimmed hankies or pillowcases and giving them as gifts. If you want to give knitted gifts, these are lovely little items that will be saved for years, just like we've saved Great-Gramma Sheehan's treasures.

Have fun, and check out the rest of the patterns in the new eBook Weldon's Practical Knitter, Series 10!


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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!

15 thoughts on “Lace Knitting: Borders

  1. Dear Kathleen-
    as a tatter as well as a knitter, I can tell you a knitted edge is not at all – in any way – like tatting. Your great-grandma put tatting on hankies and other linens because the density of tatting – about four times denser than knitting – makes it crisp, even without starch. Knitted edgings tend to be softer and they drape. Of all the needle (and shuttle) arts, knitting uses the least amount of thread or yarn to cover the greatest amount of space, tatting the most. Crochet falls somewhere in the middle, but tatting is denser than crochet as well. It’s another reason why you’d never see a tatted sweater, but tatted tablecloths, hanky edges and pillowcase edges are still around.
    Best, Karey Solomon / Tatting Times / Graceful Arts Fiber Studio

  2. I love the idea of doing borders for a number of reasons. Even 15 inches of the Vandyke border would look so cool on a pillow or a garment. And this kind of knitting is so much more portable (and lighter!!!) than even knitting a sock. I’m all about reducing the weight of the stuff I carry on a day to day basis….and I keep thinking I’ve got to get into carrying super-small projects in my tote just to make daily load less painful. What do you think?

  3. I’ve tried to knit this and its not coming out right. I was wondering if you have tried it. When i get to row 3 there is not enough stitches to complete the row.


  4. I’m Kathleen’s “expert” 🙂 Tried the pattern and it IS correct as written. I’ve sent Kathleen a chart I wrote for the Van Dyke Border, which may help you visually see what to do. Those rows of written instructions are killers to today’s knitters!

    Vintage Knits

  5. Takes me back to my youth reading these patterns. While not from the Victorian era I was taught to call all “knit” stitches plain stitches by a grandmother who was. The idea she explained was to differentiate from the entire idea of knitting which can mean any stitch at all. So I had to learn to say “work” a row rather than “knit a row” after moving to the US to avoid confusing people.

    Terminology can change meaning quickly or slowly but it is fun to watch the process.

  6. I like the idea of knitted (and crocheted) lace trims, but I find this one a little plain. I like figures like leaves and swirls in lace. There are other sources of antique patterns too, not just Weldon’s. The publisher Storey has reprinted many patterns from the past, that were originally distributed as leaflets from yarn companies.

  7. To add to what I said, even though this trim is rather plain, it would look nice as the border on the ends of a scarf/stole or around a triangular shawl in the place of a fringe. I wonder how it would look on the ends of a seafoam stitch scarf, given that it’s also garter stitch-based and has waves?

  8. To make a really STUNNING set of pillowcases, make the case out of 100% linen and then add this border in a perfectly matching cotton thread. THAT would make any new bride swoon!

  9. The written pattern is not correct, I tried it twice and it didn’t have enough stitches. The chart says to cast on 16 st not 15, and do YO instead of M1. i suggest using the chart not the written instructions.