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Lace Between the Stars

Jul 9, 2013

I was recently editing a story for a book of Inca folk tales and was struck by the one that mentions the pre-Columbian view of astronomy. Whereas we think of constellations as being patterns of stars, the Incas saw the patterns between the stars. The negative spaces.

Inna Voltchkova's Lacy Triangular Shawl. Photo by Joe Coca.
That’s how I think of lace—patterns of negative spaces defined by connecting threads. At least, that’s how I think of lace conceptually. How I think of it while knitting is something else again.

I confess: as a knitter, I am challenged by lace. I get the yarnovers and ktogs, but nevertheless knit in terror of making a mistake. I know people who can blithely correct mistakes, even mistakes a few rows back. Me, I just gaze in horror and start ripping. Or start over. Or play like it doesn’t matter. Because of this handicap, I tend to shy away from anything more challenging than Old Shale.

I’ve been sorely tempted, though, by the cover design on the latest edition of Knitting Traditions, which focuses on lace.  First of all, it’s rectangular, so I wouldn’t have to worry about shaping and maintaining the pattern. Second, the negative spaces are arranged in a linear way, not all curvy, easy to track and visualize. Third, it is just drop-dead gorgeous.

The Incas and other pre-Columbian artisans made elaborate lace textiles, but they didn’t knit them, because they didn’t knit, period. They either wove or netted them.  What if they could see the scarves and shawls in this issue of Knitting Traditions? I’ll bet they would figure it out.


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