Estonian Lace Up Close
We asked Laura Hulslander, project editor of Interweave Knits, Knitscene, and Love of Knitting, our sister magazines, to share her thoughts on a project from PieceWork’s May/June 2016 Lace issue. Here’s Laura!
Estonian knitted lace is one of the highest levels of knitting a knitter can achieve. With gorgeous lace patterns inspired by flowers and leaves, a handknit Estonian shawl is destined to become an heirloom. There is also a stitch unique to Estonian patterns—the nupp, a small textured stitch that adds a bit of contrast to the airy laciness. Nupp means “bud,” and the stitch is often used to represent budding flowers in patterns such as Lily of the Valley. They also frame lace patterns beautifully, like on the edging of Linda’s September 1981 Haapsalu Scarf to Knit in the May/June 2016 issue of PieceWork. The heavier stitch adds weight to the pattern, both artistically and physically—scarves and shawls were originally sold by weight, so nupps were a clever way to add value to a knitter’s work!
Many knitters are intimidated by nupps; when talking about Estonian knitting with newer lace knitters, they always mention nupps. “How do you work them?” and “They’re too tight!” are two common comments. There are loads of suggestions for working them with a crochet hook or working a bobble instead. Some knitters prefer to replace nupps with beads or skip them entirely. However, I think the classic approach is best. There’s something neat about using a technique unique to a particular region. While I may never visit Estonia, I can knit a shawl or scarf following their traditions; it’s armchair traveling at its finest.
To help you overcome any apprehension you may have about nupps, we’ve created a short video to show how to work them. We break the nupp stitch into simple steps and show you how to loosen up your stitches to make it easier to work. Also, Content Strategist Lisa Shroyer gives some background on Estonian knitter Linda Elgas and Nancy Bush’s interpretation of her beautiful scarf, also featured in the May/June special Lace issue. I hope you will be inspired to knit an heirloom Estonian scarf of your very own.