Wrapped in Lace: A Wonderful History

Granny Cheyne's Shetland Shawl from Wrapped in Lace by Margaret Stove

In the past few months, I've written quite a bit about lace shawls from Estonia.

I got a new book today, called Wrapped in Lace, which includes the patterns and history of lace shawls from all over the world; while Estonian lace is certainly a big part of the lace world, there's lace tradition from other corners of the Earth, too.

One of the most interesting things about Wrapped in Lace is all of the history that author Margaret Stove includes in the book. One of my favorite shawl patterns is called Granny Cheyne's Shetland Shawl, and it was inspired by a fabulous story.

Here is Margaret's story.

An Heirloom Lives On
by Margaret Stove

An unexpected phone call in 2005 from the owner of an antique Shetland shawl opened up an opportunity to use the skills I had acquired over the years.

The owner of a damaged but complex shawl asked me to fix a family heirloom by restoring it as closely as possible to to its original state. According to the family, the shawl was likely more than 100 years old and was knitted by Mrs. Cheyne.

Mrs. Cheyne's family records show that she arrived in New Zealand with other family members, landing at Port Chalmers, Dunedin, in 1874. The yarn used for the original shawl was handspun using a fine local New Zealand-grown fleece that closely resembled wool the spinner used when she lived in the Shetland Islands.

Because of its age, I decided to consult a textile museum for the appropriate procedure to ensure this shawl could continue to give pleasure not only to present but also to future generations.

Mrs. Cheyne's shawl as Margaret received it, before restoration.
Mrs. Cheyne's shawl after repairs were completed.

The textile curator of the Museum of New Zealand assured me that, as the shawl was privately owned, it was up to the owner to decide whether it was to be conserved (which would entail measures to protect it from further deterioration) or restored (which would allow new documented work and materials to be introduced into the shawl).

The owner decide on the latter plan, and the project to restore the shawl began.

I decided that in addition to restoring the piece I would work out the process used by the knitter of this very complex pattern so that I could restore it as closely as possible to its original state.

The pattern itself, although complex in appearance, was mostly made up of identifiable pattern units common to Shetland knitting. There was one exception: a motif that represented the large fern shape in the border.

I soon discovered that there would not be enough rows to complete the interconnecting motifs using the traditional recorded versions of the motifs. The wool in the shawl had become slightly matted  over its lifetime, and It was only after gently easing out a more robust area that I discovered extra stitches added into the construction of this motif that required extra rows to bring the motif to a point.

After this discovery, everything fell into place.

In the process of restoring the shawl, Margaret charted out the whole pattern, Granny Cheyne's Shetland Shawl, which she includes in the book. It's a beautiful piece that brings history alive.

This is just one of many fascinating stories you'll enjoy in Wrapped in Lace.

New Zealand Tribute to Orenburg by Margaret Stove                      


P.S. For a taste of what's available in Wrapped in Lace , Margaret wrote a pattern inspired by the lace of Orenberg, Estonia, which is available for free! The free pattern, pictured at right, is called New Zealand Tribute to Orenburg, so click on the link and download yours today.

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