Traditional Lace

Lace:  n.~  /lās/ A fine open fabric, typically one of cotton or silk, made by looping, twisting, or knitting thread in patterns.

Lace in the most traditional sense of the word is knitting in the form of matching increases and decreases to cause an open airy textile. The basis of all knit lace is faggoting. Faggoting is a traditional two row lace with a three stitch repeat. You work your selvedge stitch(es) followed by: yo, k2tog, knit {selvedge stitches}. The following row would be: {Selvedge  stitch(es)} yo, p2tog, purl {Selvedge stitch(es)}.

This creates an alternating ladder effect; resulting in an extremely lacy, delicate textile. Faggoting by it’s lonesome tends to curl, so it is most often found within a larger lace pattern, or paired with another stitch, such as a garter or stockinette, to maintain structural selvedges.

Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby has this to say about faggoting in regards to Understanding Lace (page 17) :

If you are new to lace knitting you could use this pattern [faggoting] as a starting point; it is repetitive and will enable you to observe the formation of the stitches. First knit a small swatch of the faggoting pattern. On row 2, notice that the purl-1 after the purl-2-together is purled into the yarn-over on the previous row. Also, the first stitch of a knit-2-together or purl-2-together group is always a little looser than the one that follows, and it slants to the left. If you learn to recognize the stitches in this way, it will help with more difficult patterns which you will tackle later. Although lace looks complicated, it is really about being aware of the slant of the stitches, (to the right or to the left), and the position of yarn-overs. If you understand the formation of a stitch pattern, you can recognize when it goes wrong and learn to put it right. The most common mistake is the omission of a yarn-over. If this occurs, pick up the thread between the two adjacent stitches to provide the missing stitch.

Having said that, what we think of as “traditional” in today’s terms, may conjure up lace from the Shetland isles, Estonian lace,  Norwegian lopi patterns, even possibly your grandmothers doilys. Lace has worked it’s way through history and into almost every culture in the world. I like to think that these patterns that have been passed down through generations, the movements bred into our fingers are as natural to us as the color of our hair. Imagine a time and place where you started knitting as soon as you could hold the needles and yarn. By the time you were progressing through puberty, you could knit with the best of them. You may not be able to voice your pattern, or how to turn a heel, but you left the work to your fingers, adept and skilled at the task at hand; not unlike many of us feel today in front of a keyboard, or texting on a cell phone.

When beginning your journey into the domain that is knitted lace, start with the root of things. Try a faggoting stitch, learn to read your knitting. Begin to feel that yarn between your fingers, and let them do the work. After a while you will find that it becomes a natural rhythm, that is a wonderful time to branch off into lacework, traditional or otherwise.

 

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