The Shetland Project

i have been planning this post for a while, and now that i am ready, i am oddly scared. i am scared you will think i am silly, if not slightly obsessive compulsive. but its time i got my blog back on track, in terms of blogging about knitting, (sorry, i have not been a very good blogger lately), and its time i got my lace knitting on track.

that, after all, is what this project is about. i am relatively  new to lace knitting, my first project was The Shetland Triangle, knitted in 2008, and that remains one of my favourite patterns. my large red 8ply shetland triangle is one of my favourite knitted items. i have no doubt i will go back and make another one of these at some point.

i tried to broaden my lace knitting horizons with projects from books like ‘victorian lace today’ and ‘knitted lace of estonia’ but i always struggled. i made mistakes, forgot where i was in charts, frogged more than i finished. now of course, i knit lace with a lifeline, and that helps, but i feel like my lace knitting, as a potential area for much Growth As A Knitter, needed some coherency. some structure. i felt like i was just mucking around, and i wanted to get serious.

because i am a book worm, and a historian by training, i couldnt help but be interested in the background to the lace i was knitting. when i went to england and saw some in the victoria and albert museum, i realised what a long tradition i was unwittingly part of, and how i really should be trying to do it justice. and after my few lace experiments, i realised it was particularly shetland lace i was most interested in. im not sure why, something about its simplicity, that it was practical but also beautiful, that it had a particular set of skills and techniques,  that it had a history. so i set out on some research. i bought and borrowed books, and i read, and thought and daydreamed, and have finally come up with a plan.

first, i had to get the right materials. (i think most of us can relate to that no?!). when i had done enough reading, and knew what i wanted to do,  i rushed out of the house in the middle of a conversation to pick up a special shetland lace project book:

i wanted to document every part of this process, not for any real reason other than i wanted to it BE a process. to not be about that incessant rush we have as knitters sometimes to get things finished, but to go slow, and learn along the way. so i am putting in the book all the tips and techniques i find useful, and have set out my goals and plans, and  made a list of the projects i really want to do, and ideas about the yarn that will go with them. i think there are quite a few years worth of knitting here!

the overall plan is to start simple and build up, and to use as many traditional patterns and construction techniques as i can. i have plans for mostly square and round shawls, no triangles here (mostly because i already have two, and there are modern patterns in triangles i still want to try). i have categorised the patterns according to level of difficulty, and am building up to something on cobweb yarn (that i am going to get proper shetland wool for) and possibly, one day, something of my own design. im hoping along the way that one of these might be good enough to enter a show, but i dont have any expectations, the plan is just to get better and learn more. other patterns (all ravelry links) include miss lamberts shetland pattern, the shetland tea shawl, a cap or circular shawl, and the christening chrysalis.

my first project, at missfee’s suggestion, is elizabeth zimmerman’s stonington shawl. it has no cast on or off edges, starts with a garter stitch increasing square, and a simple lace border. i have the perfect yarn for it, also courtesy of missfee, this lovely plain white 3 ply pure wool.

i had a bit of an anxiety attack when i realised that all of this wool is one big bundle that has come apart into three sections:

and i sought some advice about how to handle it. i decided to cut it into the three distinct parts and wind them each separately, and use spit splices to rejoin them along the way:

the smallest bundle made a lovely little ball that is for swatches:

oh yes, i am swatching. i am not known for my swatching practices, and oddly, i know with lace its probably far less important than with most other kinds of knitting, but again, its about the process. my first swatch was on 4.5mm needles and i got 21 stitches to 10 cm rather than the required 20:

i think i will do another one on 4mm needles just to make sure, although this is a smaller needle than the pattern suggests. EZ also gives a tip about knitting a whole shawl in miniature as a swatch, and i am going to do this because i know when i first knitted socks, a baby sock was a great way to introduce quickly all the required technical elements. and if EZ says to do it, its probably a good idea.

so i will be blogging all the details here as i go, and i hope that you enjoy the process as much as i will.

let the journey begin!

k xx


About DrK

researcher, knitter, dog lover View all posts by DrK

18 responses to “The Shetland Project

  • Ailsa

    Oh wow. I knew you were up to something, but I didn’t realise the scale nor detail of your plans.

    How wonderful. I can’t wait to see this project unfurl.

  • Bells

    You bet I will! I’m we’ll all watch in wonder and amazement. Yes it’s obsessive but in the best possible way. I freaking LOVE this. What an adventure. I’ve looked at stonington many times. Will be happy to see you do it!

  • justthreadtwiddling

    How wonderful and how very disciplined. I keep thinking about starting a notebook or knitting journal but thinking is as far as it’s gotten. I have also been looking at lace patterns trying to choose my next project. I’ll be watching your progress eagerly.

  • missfee

    WOW I am super impressed

    and so glad you are keeping notes – this is pretty much once of the level 3 certificates you are doing here.

    I just join you on that particular shawl too…..

  • missfee

    just might

    one day I will learn to both proof read and write well

  • jp

    Wow, your discipline and dedication and considered approach is incredibly inspiring.

    I will be cheering you along as you go.

  • LynS

    I love your project – from the beauty of your bright red project book, through the historical research, to the diligent swatching. So admirably thorough. A real project – and the Stonington Shawl is worthy of such planning and dedication.

  • jennifer

    You are an inspiration to us all, with your organisation and your lovely red accoutrements. I am so proud of you, and wish you well on your Shetland journey.

  • shellauw

    Wow! I’ve looking at the Stonington Shawl and been daunted.

    I really can’t wait to see see your progress, and read about your journey. 🙂

  • Rose Red

    I love this project and so admire you in your thoroughness and approach (not to mention of course the fab-o red notebook). I think it’s so great, I can’t wait to read more and see your swatches and watch your lace projects grow. LOVE!

  • Anna

    Oh, goody! I am so looking forward to hearing about your process! I think that process details are so much more interesting for me at the moment than lots and lots of finished projects. It helps me to know that I’m on the right track in my own process, and also how achievable different projects might be. So thank you for sharing with us!

  • GeekKnitter

    Oh, I shall look forward to this so much!

    I find lace to be some of my favorite knitting. All that focuses attention seems to relax me in a way that’s hard to explain.

  • Sue

    Like everyone else I am in awe of your organisation and dedication. What a fabulous idea! i shall so enjoy following your progress and look forward to seeing the finished objects! Good luck!

  • Jan

    I’ve never been much of a note taker, but a few months ago I bought a lovely Moleskine notebook and am amazed at the number of times I make an entry. Like you, suggestions, idea, tips, books, projects. However your is devoted to Shetland where mine covers many areas. I think you’ll enjoy doing this and find it really helpful too. What a great idea.

  • Jodi

    I am L-O-V-E-ing all things lace right now. Verdaia was my first, and now I’ve cast it on again. Echo Flowers was kind of a bust — for no good reason except we just couldn’t learn to respect each other. Can’t wait to try lace with beads. I’ve already got some to match the awesome yarn Bells sent me as a blog prize. I’m thinking maybe Haruni or Frozen Leaves. Decisions! Decisions! I admire your organized approach. But such things are so far beyond me. I seem to repel organization somehow. Best of luck and can’t wait to see what you start first. 🙂

  • donna lee

    I am right there with you on this journey. I love knitting lace. It is so satisfying and frustrating at the same time.

  • Leonie

    I’m coming along for the virtual ride, blog away!!!

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