Comments on the knitting of Oma's Lace

May 11, 1997

The Rules of Doily Knitting

This pattern violates the standard mathematical rules for knitting circular pieces. The rule of thumb is that for a knitted piece to lie flat, it must increase at about eight stitches every other row. If a piece increases more slowly than that, it will "cup." If it increases faster, it will "ruffle." Severe blocking and starching can defeat these tendencies for awhile, but the piece will eventually relax and show its built-in shape.

Some of the most beautiful and creative lace patterns violate this rule slightly here and there, relying on the natural stretchiness and flexibility of the fabric to make up the difference. This pattern goes even farther: it increases 50% faster than it ought to -- 24 increases every fourth round, where the rules allow only 16 increases.

The only thing that allows this pattern to work is the fact that it is knitted in a thread that is very fine relative to the size of the needles. If you cannot find thread fine enough to work this pattern as specified, you may start from the Feather and Fan Cloth pattern, which has 16 repeats of the pattern, rather than 24, and continue following the chart for Oma's Lace beginning with Round 2a.

The Thread

I have worked this in #60 cotton thread on size 1 (US) needles (2.25 - 2.5mm), and it works well. Two 290-meter spools took me to within 3 rounds of the end of the pattern as given here. The first ball ran out on round 6b, and the second on round 9c. I wondered why Oma stopped where she did -- in the middle of a set of increase rounds -- and now I think I know why: she ran out of thread!

This pattern also works in #30 cotton on size 4 needles (3.5mm). Presumably, #50 on 2's and #40 on 3's would work. #60 thread is about the same thickness as sewing threads. I've never seen anything that fine in a standard crafts store. Thread this fine and finer, as well as the needles to work it with, are sold by Patternworks and Lacis, and probably other suppliers.

The Source of the Pattern

This is a reconstruction of a knitted lace centerpiece originally knitted by Annie Marie Doenicke Knoll, possibly in the 1950's, maybe earlier. Her grandson, Pat Knoll, kindly lent the piece to me until I could work out the pattern. After a couple of false starts -- chiefly due to the problem cited in the first comment -- I succeeded in reconstructing it as it was knitted by Mrs. Knoll.

I have recently (okay, yesterday) discovered a very similar pattern in a classic collection of patterns, The Knitted Lace Patterns of Christine Duchrow, vol. III, which I just bought from the Needle Arts Book Shoppe. Pattern #57(4), on page 11, has a slightly different center portion and -- perhaps you guessed it! -- 16 repeats in the feather-and-fan portion.

Feather-and-fan portion, written out

I don't use written-out patterns if I can use a chart, but for those who do, here it is:

x2 = 2 times, etc.

1a: (k1, yo) x2; k2tog x3; yo, k1, yo
1b: (k1, yo) x2; k1, k2tog x3; yo, k1, yo
1c: (k1, yo) x2; k1, k2tog x3, k1; yo, k1, yo

2a: (k1, yo) x3; k2tog x4; yo, k1, yo
2b: (k1, yo) x3; k1, k2tog x4; yo, k1, yo
2c: (k1, yo) x3; k1, k2tog x4, k1; yo, k1, yo

3a: (k1, yo) x3; k2tog x5; (yo, k1) x2, yo
3b: (k1, yo) x3; k1, k2tog x5; (yo, k1) x2, yo
3c: (k1, yo) x3; k1, k2tog x5, k1; (yo, k1) x2, yo

4a: (k1, yo) x4; k2tog x6; (yo, k1) x2, yo
4b: (k1, yo) x4; k1, k2tog x6; (yo, k1) x2, yo
4c: (k1, yo) x4; k1, k2tog x6, k1; (yo, k1) x2, yo

5a: (k1, yo) x4; k2tog x7; (yo, k1) x3, yo
5b: (k1, yo) x4; k1, k2tog x7; (yo, k1) x3, yo
5c: (k1, yo) x4; k1, k2tog x7, k1; (yo, k1) x3, yo

6a: (k1, yo) x5; k2tog x8; (yo, k1) x3, yo
6b: (k1, yo) x5; k1, k2tog x8; (yo, k1) x3, yo
6c: (k1, yo) x5; k1, k2tog x8, k1; (yo, k1) x3, yo

7a: (k1, yo) x5; k2tog x9; (yo, k1) x4, yo
7b: (k1, yo) x5; k1, k2tog x9; (yo, k1) x4, yo
7c: (k1, yo) x5; k1, k2tog x9, k1; (yo, k1) x4, yo

8a: (k1, yo) x6; k2tog x10; (yo, k1) x4, yo
8b: (k1, yo) x6; k1, k2tog x10; (yo, k1) x4, yo
8c: (k1, yo) x6; k1, k2tog x10, k1; (yo, k1) x4, yo

9a: (k1, yo) x6; k2tog x11; (yo, k1) x5, yo
9b: (k1, yo) x6; k1, k2tog x11; (yo, k1) x5, yo
9c: (k1, yo) x6; k1, k2tog x11, k1; (yo, k1) x5, yo