MKB 37: Cable Knitting

After what feels like an incredibly long time, I have emerged from the doily patterns and can move on to a new book section. The thirty-seventh pattern in Miss Lambert’s My Knitting Book is for Cable Knitting, which provides instructions on creating a cable. This is a fairly basic pattern and concept, and although the instructions provided by Miss Lambert are clear, they are also relatively cumbersome.

Eighth row—Slip three stitches on to a third needle, always keeping that needle in front; knit the next three stitches; then knit the three stitches that were slipped on the third needle; take the third needle again, and slip three more stitches on it, keeping it as before in front, and knit the next three stitches; then knit the three stitches slipped on the third needle; continue the same to the end of the row.

My Knitting Book (1843), p. 55

To show this visually, I created a chart for the stitch pattern:

I briefly considered skipping this pattern because it is so elementary, but I decided to knit up a small sample for the sake of completeness. I used some leftover fingering weight yarn, a combination of silk and wool, giving it a lovely shine. With 2mm needles, I cast on 42 stitches to allow for five repeats and a three stitch garter edging on each side of the sample. I wasn’t really thinking and forgot about how much cables “pull-in” the knitting, so my small piece became quite tiny!

The resulting fabric has a surprisingly lovely texture, more like waves or ripples in the sand than “just” cables. The texture was more pronounced pre-blocking, and I think if I choose to use this pattern in the future, I would either avoid blocking or block very gently to preserve the texture. I also think the silk in the fibre gives the fabric some shine that enhances the stitch pattern.

Coming up next is a gentleman’s purse, which might take a while to complete. Wish me luck!

MKB 36: Shell Pattern

The 36th pattern in Miss Lambert’s unillustrated knitting manual, My Knitting Book (First Series, 1843), is the last of twelve stitch patterns for d’oyleys (doilies) and other household items (e.g. fish napkins, tidies, basket napkins). The pattern is called XII. Shell Pattern and is essentially a feather and fan stitch. The written design is reasonably straightforward, comprising just four rows:

Like with some of the other stitch patterns in this book, I made a few changes to the written pattern for symmetry substituting left-leaning increases (e.g. ssk) for some of the right-leaning decreases called for in the written pattern (e.g. k2tog).

I cast on 56 stitches for my sample to allow for two repeats of the pattern and a three stitch garter border on each side. I used fingering weight yarn and 2mm needles.

The result is what we might today call a feather and fan or old shale pattern. According to Barbara Walker, this is a traditional and “famous old Shetland pattern” and “in the Shetland Isles, no two families of knitters work the pattern alike” (A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (1998, p. 205). She also notes that the name “old shale” is said to be related to the ripple pattern that a wave makes in the sand. It is also interesting that in Barbara Walker’s version of the pattern, she uses only k2tog and no ssk.

I was curious to know when Shetland knitting became popular in England and discovered that its popularity soared when Queen Victoria became interested in this lace style in the 1840s. In her role as an embroideress to Queen Victoria and proprietor of a needlework emporium in London, Miss Lambert was likely up to date on the Queen’s preferences regarding fashion and could reflect this in her publications.

I have a blanket made in the 1970s that is a feather and fan pattern and I never really thought about how old the actual stitch pattern might be. Now I know that it has been around for over 177 years!

MKB 35: Diamond Pattern

As promised, I am back again with a sample of the 35th pattern in Miss Lambert’s My Knitting Book (First Series) published in 1843: XI. Diamond Pattern. The Diamond Pattern is the eleventh of the twelve patterns Miss Lambert has provided that she describes as suitable for “d’oyleys, tidies, fish or basket napkins” that “may also be adapted with a change of material, for shawls, counterpanes, bags and many other articles.”

When I created a chart for the stitch pattern, I modified the design slightly from how it was initially written (click here). I changed knit two together (K2tog, a right-leaning decrease) to a slip-slip knit (SSK, a left-leaning decrease) in some places to enhance the look and symmetry of the diamonds. I also added two rows at the end of the chart to close off the diamonds to match up with the setup rows.

My interpretation of the Diamond Pattern is provided below. The pattern has an eight stitch repeat, and you will work rows 1 to 4 once, repeat rows 5 to 12 until you have reached the desired length, and then work rows 13 and 14 once.

For my sample, I used some leftover fingering weight yarn and 2mm needles. I cast on 46 sts to allow for five repeats of the pattern and a 3 st garter border on each side. I did five repeats before doing the two finishing rows.

I think this is yet another lovely pattern from Miss Lambert’s book that would look amazing in a lighter or heavier weight yarn. Have you tried this pattern before? How did it turn out for you? I would love to see photos if you do give it a try!

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