A Guide to the Patterns of Christine Duchrow

Judy Gibson, 5 Sept 1999
Christine Duchrow was a German designer of knitted lace who published about 100 leaflets of lace patterns during the early decades of the 20th Century (Schurch 1997). She was among the first lace designers to use charts instead of written instructions in her patterns. Facsimiles of her leaflets have been republished in three volumes called The Knitted Lace Patterns of Christine Duchrow, published and edited by Jules and Kaethe Kliot.

Because these are photographic facsimiles, the instructions have not been translated from German, and the charts remain in Duchrow's idiosyncratic notation. The introductory pages by the editors include an explanation of the chart symbols and a wordlist of some of the key words. But it's still pretty baffling terrain, even to those who are comfortable knitting from charts. Here's my attempt at a sort of roadmap to finding your way around in these texts.

The Layout of the Pamphlets

Each of the pamphlets is self-contained in four, or occasionally one or two more, pages. Each contains patterns for about four to six different objects -- sometimes more -- often with several variations on a single design. The cover of the pamphlet has photos of each of the objects and the title "Musterblätter fur Deutsche Spitzen-Strick-Kunst (Pattern Leaflet for German Lace Knit Art), von (by) Frau Christine Duchrow, Berlin-Templehof." The leaflet number is in the upper left corner. Descriptive text and knitting charts for each of the objects are contained on the following few pages.

The statement "Gesetzlich geschutzt" (registered, apparently a copyright statement) is on some of the covers. According to editor Jules Kliot (pers. comm.), the patterns themselves are now out of copyright, though the visual representations as reproduced in the books are protected, and permission from the publisher would be required to publish copies of the charts. Credit to Duchrow as designer, and acknowledgement of the books as source material, when transcribing or translating the patterns is courteous, but not a legal obligation.

The Elements of the Patterns

In order to follow one of these patterns, you need to find all of its parts. There is a photo on the cover, identified with a number and a title, and often with a description of the size. For each object there is a concise set of instructions in a box somewhere in the pamphlet. The boxes are labeled with the same title that's under the photo, and a line saying "Abbildung (figure) Nr. 2," or whatever the number on the cover photo is.

This instruction set gives the general outline for working the piece. Below the title is a line saying what size yarn it's knitted in (sometimes vague: "fine yarn"), and what size it is. Then there are a series of numbered steps. The first tells how many stitches to cast on, and how to work the first couple of rounds. The following steps tell which portions to work of which charts, and give any special instructions you'll need. This can be fairly complex if there are many variations on a single design. You may knit sections of many different charts; the instructions will tell you which rounds of which charts to knit. It ends with instructions for crocheting off and blocking.

The Charts

The charts are generally labeled with the title of the object (though not always), and always with a chart number, a Roman numeral. If the chart won't fit on one page, it's divided into parts labeled A and B. Example: Typensatz IIA (Chart IIA).

Inset into the chart somewhere will be explanatory notes for that chart, labeled "Anmerkungen" (Notes). These contain any amplification needed in interpreting the chart, and will be noted on the chart at the line they are needed, with a notation like, "siehe Anm. 2" (see Note 2). Sometimes the set of notes goes with more than one chart: "Anmerkungen zu den Typensatzen 1-4" (Notes to charts 1-4).

Because the notes are full German sentences, it will be useful to have a dictionary handy. I recommend Knitting Languages (Heathman, 1996), which is a wordlist of knitting terms in ten languages. I write in additional words as I decipher them; there's plenty of space. A regular German-English dictionary may be useful as well.

As is standard in modern lace charts, these charts are read from the bottom to the top. The rows in circular knitting read right to left; alternate rows in back-and-forth knitting are left to right. The number of the round is given at the right. Generally any round not charted is knitted plain; there will be a marginal note saying so -- "Alle Zwischentouren rechts" (All the between rounds knitted) -- or giving alternative instructions, for example "Ohne Zwischentouren" (without between rounds, that is, all rounds charted).

Next to the first round you'll find instructions for getting started, for example:
Anfang: 8 Maschen Anschlag, 1 Runde rechts, dann die 2. Runde
Start: 8 stitches cast-on, 1 round knit, then (work) the 2nd round (of the chart).

The symbols Duchrow uses on her charts are usually the first letter of the German word for a stitch, so r for rechts (knit) and l for links (purl), etc. These are listed in the front of the book. The heavy lines between squares have no significance for how the chart is worked; they're there to outline the design elements you see in the object--petals, leaves, lines of yo's, and so on. Where there is a series of plain knit stitches, she writes "15 rechts" instead of charting the 15 stitches. Similarly, she'll combine several rounds of plain knitting as "3 Runden rechts" or "3 Touren rechts."

The instructions for crocheting off the last round are given in squares at the top of the chart. Apparently the lower squares show how many stitches to crochet together--my guess is that "3" means take 3, "a" means take 2, and "r" means take 1--and the higher squares show how many stitches to chain in between. However, in many instances this interpretation does not result in a proper match with the remaining number of stitches in the repeat or line up properly with design elements, so perhaps there's some other explanation.

Some Phrases Used in Charts

Typensatz 4
Chart 4
Abbildung Nr. 2
Figure no. 2
Diese Zwischentouren 2-12 rechts
The even (between) rounds 2-12 knit plain
Von Tour 45 an: ohne Zwischentouren
From round 45 on: without plain rounds between (all rounds charted)
Jetzt folgen Tour 47-58 noch einmal
Now repeat rounds 47-58 once more
Dann wiederholung dieser Typenriehen
Then repeat these pattern rows (in a section where the pattern repeats twice per overall repeat, i.e., 12 times per round instead of 6)
Aus 2 mal unschlagen stets 1 links, 1 rechts stricken
Where there are 2 yo's, make one purl and one knit
Siehe Anm. 1
See note 1 (in box with chart)
184 Maschen in der Runde
184 stitches in the round
u. s. w. -- und so wieder
and so forth
Numbers followed by a period are ordinals
1. = first 2. = second etc.

Some Vocabulary

Objects

Decke = doily or cloth; Deckchen = little doily; tischdecke = tablecloth; mitteldecke = centerpiece; kleines decke = small cloth; tellerdeckchen = placemat (some seem to be coasters); teetisch-decke = tea cloth; zacken rand = border with points; spitzen-kragen = lace collar

Size

gross (the b-like German letter I'm typing as ss) = large, size; klein/kleines = small; mittelgrosse = midsize; ca. = about (abbrev. for circa); 40 bis 60 cm = 40 to 60 cm

Shape and elements

runde = round; ovales = oval; bogenform = curved shape; zacke = point; borte = border; mittelstern = central star; blatter = leaf; blumen = flowers

References

Duchrow, Christine. 1993?-1995. The Knitted Lace Patterns of Christine Duchrow, vols. 1-3. Jules and Kaethe Kliot, eds. Lacis Publications, Berkeley, CA.

Heathman, Margaret.1996. Knitting Languages. Schoolhouse Press, Pittsville, WI.

Kliot, Jules. 1999. Personal communication by email, 3 Sept. 1999.

Schurch, Charlene Tompkins. 1997. Christine Duchrow and Art Pattern Knitting. Piecework, January/February 1997, pp. 34-38.

Booksellers

Needlearts Book Shoppe -- http://www.needleartsbookshop.com
Moonrise -- http://pages.ivillage.com/stmoonrise/
Lacis -- http://www.lacis.com

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Judy Gibson
Descanso, California
Email to jgibson (at) cts (dot) com