Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Another fine lace Unst Shawl

The Hinnywaar  is finished and I love the patterning of it. More pictures, including of my lace grafting journey if you are interested are here (blog  posts of 26 July 20, 3 Aug 20) 

So on to the next one. I have chosen the Burrafirth shawl (1) it is of similar size, it might even be a little smaller but the pattern is steeped in meaning (and memories of Unst) for us as we have not been able to go this year. With things as they are with Covid-19 all plans have to be fluid. 

For this shawl I have naturally dyed Jamieson:and Smith’s  Supreme lace yarn with Golden Rod from my garden. This shawl is a trial to see how the dyed yarn knits up. It is the finest yarn I have dyed to date, by natural dyeing. I measured the wpi after dyeing for that NM 1/16 yarn  and it came to be 60wpi. 

So the project bag is repacked (blog post of 6 Sept 20), the yarn is prepared and the pattern is chosen. Since I worked out how to graft the previous shawl I decided that I would not start another shawl without having worked out how I would do the lace graft. So I looked at the pattern and  worked out which 2 rows I would construct during the graft,  checking that this would work for each lace edging, the middle grafting would be garter stitch grafting. I wanted to check that one of these 2 central constructed rows did not involve a row of eyelets. Once  decided I then set about drawing out the 4 stages for each pair of stitches (one from the front needle and one from the back). 

Section of the graft crib sheet.

I knitted a piece of the lace edging  as it would be elsewhere on the shawl. Then I examined carefully where the graft would be so I had an example of what this looks like with knitting rather than a graft. 

The knitted lace edging - the graft will be done at the the narrowest point, marked as on the photo. 

I then knitted  a sample of lace edging for each of the front and back needles and finished 2 rows short as I would form these 2 rows during the graft. 

So then I worked through my crib sheet for the graft. 

 Trial graft

So now I feel nearly fully prepared to knit the shawl, I will do the bit marked again! 

The yarn is knitting up well, despite being naturally dyed and I am very much looking forward to being able to wear it, to coordinate with my Harris Tweed skirt! ( see blog post of 3Sept20)  

These photos show the first part. I have just stretched the knitting out a bit when dry. It has not yet been blocked and from experience I know any unevenness will look less when blocked. 

Lace edging and part of the border

The lace edging  (Norik waves pattern) is knitted first then stitches are knitted up. This  right hand corner is worked by short rows as is traditional in these Unst Heritage Lace Patterns (2)

The yellow pins show the line where I picked up the cast on row from waste yarn in working the second short row corner, apologies for using yellow pins! 

One set of the Burrafirth Trowie Caerds (3) 

  1. Like the Hinnywaar shawl, this Burrafirth is one of the series designed in Unst and sold for the Unst Heritage Museum, designed by Hazel Laurenson. The grafting method i will use is all thanks to Joni Coniglio. If you search for her name you will find more details of her brilliant instructions. 
  2. For lovers of Unst like us Norik Waves will bring  back memories of a fascinating beach  in the north of the island 
  3. Shetland dialect  for ‘ferns’

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Fine Lace Knitting - essential kit

I thought it might be a good idea to show what are the essential items in my lace knitting project bag. I am sure others have different items and it would be good to see these. I seem to have 20 items in my bag! 

First of all the project bag. It is of a particular size for two reasons. I made it from a vintage chair back from a set of identical ones that I found when going through my aunt’s things after she died. She was a very good needlewoman. I also made it large enough to take my magnetic board. This was the first bag I made like this and I have since improved the zip placement. I used blackout curtain lining for the inside, to help prevent pointed needles going through the bag. This has worked very well and there have been no mishaps and given that it has near daily use that is better than I hoped for. 

The magnetic sheet. This was bought for embroidery many years ago but is perfect for all sorts of charted lace knitting. (You will note I have a bag for lace and a bag of other knitting (code for fair isle usually). I make a copy of the part of the knitting pattern  I am currently working on and have a number of magnetic strips. For example in the last lace shawl I could see the edging chart and the centre of the shawl chart on the same side. When I finish knitting for a session I leave the magnetic strip showing the last knitting row completed.

Yarn for knitting in progress. 

Knitting needles, the sleeve around the needles is my design and indicates the needle size to me

Propelling Pencil with rubber on the end. I write on my knitting sheets, so I can mark off the last row completed and and if I am doing repeats, I can keep account of those too. 

Small working notebook

This is where I record day to day things, I do write down the last row completed and the time and date, this is a back up in case the sheets move. I also keep a note of anything else relevant here, ie yarn used, amount needed, where the spare yarn is stored, date I started etc. 

I keep this notebook in a plastic bag as this one is a spiral notebook. I prefer these but don’t want any accidents with the wire spiral and the knitting or spare yarn. 

Needle ends

Essential for leaving my knitting, I love these special handmade ones from Shetland Museum. (1)

Temporary needle ends

ie. twisted up elastic bands . I keep a supply of small plastic bands in their own container and some already knotted  together for when needed. 

Tiny ( size 1.5 mm) double pointed knitting needles. These are used when I need to take back from a mistake or where the yarn falls apart on me. This rarely happens but in my last  ball of yarn I  had a few breaks! If the needles are near me I tend not to need them! You will see they have their own tiny needle holder, I inherited this from my Husband’s mother and only recently did I realise what it was! 

A container for my yarn stitch markers. I have a range of colours and find yarn stitch markers do not catch and are not heavy compared to the fine lace knitting. Made for me by a friend. 

A container for my odd lengths of yarn, again made for me by a friend. 

A set of sewing needles, some of these are quite substantial and I keep one threaded with yarn at all times. Then if a stitch runs down away from me, I can catch it with the needle and get a yarn loop in it before much harm is done. 

A latch hook, such a useful tool for working up any dropped stitch, this is one of my knitting machine tools. 

Baby powder - if my hands or the knitting needs a bit of help to move along the needles.

Knitting belt 

I always knit with a knitting belt since being taught how to use one, the advantages are tremendous. 

A fine bag to keep any completed pieces of knitting safe and clean.

Pillow case for knitting in progress also which sits on my lap when I am knitting

Pair of scissors - if I need to cut any more stitch markers for example 

A butterfly of yarn -  similar in diameter to the yarn I am knitting with. In case I need a length of the same yarn, eg waste cast on knitting or to duplicate stitch a section of yarn that I think might give way - another insurance policy. If it is in the bag it is very unlikely I will need it. 

Emery Board for the inevitable rough nails that lace knitting finds! 

What’s in your lace knitting project bag? 

Thursday, 3 September 2020

More Dyeing from the Garden

More dyeing from the garden 

The Golden Rod (Solidago giganticea) has made a tremendous show in the garden this year, possibly because I completely cleared the beds in the spring and removed every scrap of ground elder and bindweed root I could. They have grown very tall but withstood the recent winds well. 

I have been intending to use them more for dyeing and this year seemed the time to do that. I also intended to try natural dyeing with Jamieson and Smith cobweb yarn and also their finer Supreme yarn.(1) I have seen the supreme dyed but this seemed to be using acid dyes. Using natural dyes is more difficult as the yarn is heated to a higher temperature for much longer than is the case with the relatively easy acid dyeing. I also wanted a rich solid colour.  I am going to use these fine yarns  for knitting fine Shetland Lace oblong shawls. To me the pattern of the motifs is what must stand out in fine lace and this must not be camouflaged by random dyed yarn. 

So as usual when trying something different a series of trials was needed. I decided initially to use the slow cooker for the mordanting and the dyeing of these fine yarns and some fleece, thinking that I would protect them from the prolonged higher temperature. After the mordanting I dyed the  fleece by my normal method with modifications and the skeins would be dyed in the slow cooker. The result of this experiment was striking, the colour of the skeins, both of cobweb and supreme, from the slow cooker was pale and insignificant. The fleece from the modified normal method using a pan on the hob gave a much stronger colour. But perhaps it was the fleece that was dyeing a better colour anyway! 

More trials were needed so I started again, fresh dye material, etc with fresh skeins and still did the mordanting in the slow cooker but this time dyed the cobweb and supreme by my modified normal method. 

All the skeins by both methods dyed very evenly. I feared the fine yarns might felt with the heating they were subjected to- in scouring, mordanting and dyeing. However, there was no hint of felting  for either the cobweb or supreme yarns. 

The conclusion from this was that I would be using my modified normal method of heating the fibres in a pan for further dyeing of cobweb or supreme fine fibres.

I wanted to dye, with Golden Rod , enough yarn for another Unst Shetland shawl in the series designed by Hazel Laurenson and available from Unst  Heritage Centre. I also wanted to get a variation of the yellow by using an additive after dyeing and decided to use iron to give a moss green. This would be used for a pattern in the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers  book ‘A Legacy of Shetland Lace’.

I decided to dye the supreme in just Golden Rod dye and the cobweb in the Golden  Rod and iron. I would dye 50g of each yarn. 

I am pleased with both of these sets of dye and both will enable me to knit a fine lace shawl that matches my Harris Tweed skirt. 

Now for the next dye extraction. This will be Rosemary and Oregano! 


  1. The cobweb yarn is from a cone of optic white NM 1/14.5 and 33wpi (after dyeing) and the Supreme is NM 1/16 and 60wpi (after dyeing). Both are from Jamieson and Smith, Lerwick, Shetland.
  2. A Legacy of Shetland Lace, is in my mind an excellent book. The patterns in the book have been donated by members and thus it is Shetland lace designed by Shetland spinners and knitters. Each piece in the book, there are 21, are of varying (and indicated levels of difficulty)  and clearly state who is  the designer. It is also nice to read about each of the designers and to read their advice in grafting, blocking etc.