A Lace Knitting Challenge

Maikell Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia

I have a friend who knits the most beautiful lace shawls. One day I asked her where she wore them, and she said "Oh, wherever—usually to Alberson's and Costco, actually, because I don't go anywhere fancy." I loved that answer so much—what a great attitude. Another friend who's a beader employs the same philosophy: she wears her creations with dresses and sweatpants alike.

One of the reasons I've never attempted a lace shawl is for the very reason that I think I have nowhere to wear it, so I'm going to adopt my friends' attitudes and go for it!

My very favorite lace patterns are the Haapsalu lace knitting designs from Estonia, presented in Nancy Bush's wonderful book Knitted Lace of Estonia.

Normally, I wouldn't tackle this type of lace project because it just looks too hard—I've knit plenty of lace scarves and a couple of sweaters, but never an Estonian lace project. (And I've never knitted with actual lace-weight yarn alone—it seems so fragile!) But the new edition of Knitted Lace of Estonia contains a DVD (also sold separately), which really demystifies Estonian lace! And the yarn is tougher than I though, too.

As I was watching I kept thinking, "I can do that. That's not so hard. Oh, that's how you do that!" Nancy is a world-renowned teacher, and I can see why. She's got such a calm presence; it's obvious she's both a master knitter and a master teacher.

Now I know that Estonian lace isn't too hard for me, and I'll bet it's not too hard for you, either! I'm going to challenge myself to knit the Maikell Shawl, at left. I think this could be the project that keeps me company all fall and winter as I work on it between sweater projects.

It's made with the traditional Haapsalu construction method—the stitches for the center panel are cast on and worked to the desired length, then the stitches are bound off on the wrong side. The lace edge is then knitted in two parts, each of which is sewn separately onto the center panel. Nancy used a shawl she purchased in Haapsalu as her inspiration for this shawl design; to learn the details of this type of construction, she had many lessons during her visits to Estonia.

Even though it's a big project when it's done and blocked, as I'm working on it the shawl can be scrunched down into a little project bag and carried on my wrist—just like the knitters in Haapsalu do! In fact, lace shawl knitters say that the finest shawls can be passed through a wedding ring when they're finished. Now that's an exquisitely  fine shawl!

Instead of me blathering on and on about Knitted Lace of Estonia and the new DVD lesson, here's Nancy herself!

Want to join me in my challenge?Just choose a project from Knitted Lace of Estonia and get started!


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