Costuming progress: 1870s shawl

I have a pattern for a shawl that appeared in Beeton’s Book of Needlework (1870).  To see it in its original form  you need to scroll down to 323.–Knitted Neckerchief in Black Shetland Wool.

The instructions do not say how heavy a wool or thick a needle to use.  (This becomes a theme in this pattern…missing instructions.)  So I assumed they used a real wool at an average thickness and the most common needle size of our time.

I used a white wool of medium bulk (4) and size 5 1/2 metric (8 American) needles.  Then I had to try to figure out what the instructions meant. To get this….

The original instructions say: This three-cornered neckerchief is knitted in the following pattern (commencing at the corner).  So far so good.

Then it says: 1st row: slip 1, make 1, knit 2 together, inserting the needle into the back part of the stitch, slip 1, make 1, knit 2 together.  What the heck is make 1?  And so I began my quest to make sense of these instruction and rewrite them so they made sense to me.  Hope they make sense to you too.

Cast on 6 stitches.  (Note the original instructions don’t tell you that…I had to figure it out!)

Row 1 *slip the next stitch onto the next needle, yarn over, knit 2 together by inserting the needle into the back of the stitch*.  Repeat from * to * till the end of the row.

Row 2 Knit 1, purl to the end of the row.

Repeat rows 1 and 2, adding a stitch at the beginning and end of each row 1 until the shawl is at 300 stitches.  And cast off.

Now here is the tricky part…you want to create a pattern that looks like small cables weaving back and forth vertically.  Like this….

Because each row 1 started with adding a stitch at the beginning (or because I screwed up somewhere in the previous rows) I found that for some reason, I couldn’t always start off with the same stitch each time or it would mess up the pattern.  So at the beginning of each row 1 I would add the stitch for the increase and then I would look for the hole in the previous row.  The hole is where the knit 2 goes (to close the hole).  I would count forwards along the needle (knit 2, slip stitch, knit 2 slip stitch) to the beginning of the needle so that I could figure out what stitch I needed to start with.  Also, when I did the purl row I made sure that every third purl was on the yarn over stitch.  (I suspect that I dropped a few of those yarn overs and that created mistakes that messed up my row 1 pattern.)  Let me know if this works out for you.

I finished the main body of the shawl this weekend, and if you don’t look to closely it looks pretty good.  If you do look closely, there are some obvious mistakes.  If you click on the photo above, I’m sure you will see them fairly quickly.

Once the body was done, I started on the lace portion.  I almost gave up.  If I knit exactly what I read, I ended up with something that DID NOT LOOK LIKE LACE!  It looked like crap.  Many times the instructions for the row were done and I still had stitches left on my needle that hadn’t been worked.  I tried at least 10 times and ended up in frustration.  I packed her in and went to bed in a snit.

The next morning I looked at it and decided to approach it like one of those dumb math questions I used to get in school.  “If you are on a train and it is travelling 200 miles an hour up hill how much food do you need for a 4 day journey….”  You know the ones.  Every last one of them made no sense and had you asking “Why the H-E-double hockey sticks do I need to know this?”

I basically looked at each odd-numbered row and said “I have X number of stitches on my needle.  In order to work out the pattern written in the next odd-numbered row I need to add/subtract X number of stitches and I will do that here.”  You shall reap the benefit of my migraine and I shall give you the instructions in modern terms…minus all the typos, missing instructions and confusing wordings.  At the end of each row I will put in brackets how many stitches you should have on your needle when you are done so you can check to make sure you are not messing up.

Cast on 22 stitches.

Row 1: Slip 1, knit 11, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit 6 (21)

Row 2: Slip 1, purl 6, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch (you do that by not pulling the stitch off of the first needle after you do the knit stitch. You move the wool forward into the purl position, make the purl and then slide the stitch off.) Purl 13. (22)

Row 3: Slip 1, knit 2 together, knit 8, *knit 2 together, yarn over*, repeat *to* once more, knit 2 together knit 5 (20)

Row 4: Slip 1, purl 5, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 13 (21)

Row 5: Slip 1, knit 2 together, knit 6, *knit 2 together, yarn over*, repeat *to* 2  more times, knit 2 together knit 4 (19)

Row 6: Slip 1, purl 8, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 9 (20)

Row 7: Slip 1, knit 2 together, knit 4, *knit 2 together, yarn over*, repeat *to* 3  more times, knit 2 together knit 3 (18)

Row 8: Slip 1, purl 3, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 13 (19)

Row 9: Slip 1, knit 2 together, knit 2, *knit 2 together, yarn over*, repeat *to* 4  more times, knit 2 together knit 2 (17)

Row 10: Slip 1, purl 10, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 5 (18)

Row 11: Slip 1, knit 2 together,  *knit 2 together, yarn over*, repeat *to* 5  more times, knit 2 together knit 1 (16)

Row 12: Slip 1, purl 1, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 13 (17)

Row 13: Slip 1, yarn over, knit 2, *knit 2 together, yarn over*, repeat *to* 4 more times, knit 2 together knit 2 (17)

Row 14: Slip 1, purl 10, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 5 (18)

Row 15: Slip 1, yarn over, knit 4, *knit 2 together, yarn over*, repeat *to* 3 more times, knit 2 together knit 3 (18)

Row 16: Slip 1, purl 3, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 13 (19)

Row 17: Slip 1, yarn over, knit 6, *knit 2 together, yarn over*, repeat *to* 2 more times, knit 2 together knit 4 (19)

Row 18: Slip 1, purl 8, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 9 (20)

Row 19: Slip 1, yarn over, knit 8, *knit 2 together, yarn over*, repeat *to* 1 more time, knit 2 together knit 5 (21)

Row 20: Slip 1, purl 5, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 13 (21)

Row 21: Slip 1, yarn over, knit 10, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit 6 (21)

Row 22: Slip 1, purl 6, knit 1 AND purl 1 in the next stitch, purl 13 (22)

Row 23: Slip 1, yarn over, knit 12, knit 2 together, knit 7 (22)

Row 24: purl 22 (22)

Repeat the 24 rows until the lace is long enough to sew around the shawl.  If you try this, let me know how it worked out for you and let me know if I need to change something.  God knows I don’t someone else frustrated because my instructions don’t make sense!I think my piece looks like the drawing on the original.

The original instructions say you can make the bit that goes near the neck narrower if you like.  Of course they don’t tell you how to do that.  If I decide to do that and figure out how I will update this post.

 

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2 thoughts on “Costuming progress: 1870s shawl

  1. An interesting post! I have no experience of making lace as complex looking as that in the picture in the book but I think the wool would likely be thinner than what you have used on a thinner wires – Shetland black wool used would have been undyed also coming from black Shetland sheep. I use lace weight Shetland wool and there is also 2 ply Shetland jumper weight wool – fingering. I have a old stole knitted in Shetland wool colour ‘moorit’ which is knitted in 3 ply.
    You have got my interest – I shall maybe ask a lady here to have a look at the pattern as there are quite a few lace knitters local to me here in the Shetland Islands!

    • Wanda B. Victorian says:

      Thanks for your insite! As I said, I had nothing to go on for wool and needle thickness so I just went with what is common now (and easy to get my hands on). As it gets cold here, I’m good with the heavier weight, but as I have been knitting the lace, I have been thinking it is pretty and I may make it in crochet thread as a trim for something.

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