Yards of Knitted Edgings

The remarkable thing about knitting, I think, is that there are so few basic moves and so many possible outcomes. Knit, purl; knit in back of stitch; yarn over; knit two (or more) together. Slip something over something else. Have I forgotten any? Master the moves and you can knit anything.

I thought of that recently when I was looking at Ladies’ Needlework: Knitting; Tales and Poetry: A Melange of Instructions and Amusement. (Yes, that whole thing is the title.) It was first published in 1849 and contains “17 Patterns, An Enigma*, Poems & More.” Indeed.

My favorite patterns are the ones for knitted edgings. These are particularly appealing because they are knitted along the narrow edge. That is, you cast on a few stitches and knit the pattern rows until you achieve the length you want. This seems much preferable to casting on the length you want (good luck getting that right) and knitting just a few interminably long rows. One especially pretty one requires casting on 11 stitches, and there are only eight rows in the repeat:

Cast on 11 stitches.

1st row. Knit 2, forward twice, 2 together, knit 5, forward, knit 2.

2nd row. Forward, 2 together, forward, purl 1, forward, purl 2 together, knit 5, purl 1, knit 2.

3rd row. Knit 7, 2 together, forward, knit 3, forward, knit 2.

4th row. Forward, 2 together, forward, purl 5, forward, purl 2 together, knit 3, 2 together, knit 1.

5th row. Knit 2, forward twice, 2 together twice, forward, knit 7, forward, knit 2.

6th row. Forward, 2 together, forward, purl 9, forward, purl 2 together, knit 1, purl 1, knit 2.

7th row. Knit 8, leave the first of the stitches on the left hand pin, and slip the next seven stitches over it, forward, knit 3.

8th row. Forward, take 2 together, knit 7, 2 together, knit 1.

Russell Lace

Given that it was published in England more than 150 years ago, isn’t it wonderful how clearly it communicates? (Well, you have to assume that “2 together” means “knit 2 together” and that “forward” means “yarn over.") But can’t you just imagine a woman of the early Victorian era sitting in her parlor knitting yards of this very thing? The name of the pattern is Russell Lace. We don’t know why.  



*The answer to the Enigma is “A Crochet [hook].” What do you suppose the Enigma is? I can tell you it involves “erratic and eccentric movements.” The poems are a hoot, too.